Today is Day 7 post-retrieval and I just received the call from the clinic about our final number of frozen embryos. I won’t lie – the past 24 hours have been emotionally taxing. I’ve probably felt this way thanks to two things: unrealistic expectations I had for how many embryos we would end with and not preparing myself for the crushing feeling of losing embryos.
On Day 1 post-retrieval, a cheerful nurse called to let us know that a total of 40 eggs were retrieved, 30 of which were mature. Of those 30 eggs, 21 had fertilized. Needless to say, we were delighted.
On Day 3, I braced myself for the number to be lower. To my surprise, the nurse called and confirmed that all 21 of our fertilized eggs were growing and developing normally. She did mention that two were a little slower than the rest, but ultimately the fact that all 21 were still moving forward had me ecstatic. I finally started to breathe easy again.
Day 6 is where things took what felt like a turn. Like the other days, I was glued to my phone all morning. In fact, the only time I put my phone down was to prepare to take a photo to post about our exiting results so far. Of course it was in the 45 seconds that my phone was facing down at the table, on silent, that the call came through.
Trying to call back the busy clinic was futile, so we had to rely on the voicemail left for us by the nurse. In her voicemail, she shared that nine embryos had been biopsied and safely frozen. She also mentioned that this was not to be construed as a final number or final report, stating that they were watching ‘a couple’ more to see if they would make it by Day 7. The emotions that rushed in with this news were overwhelming.
I don’t think I was emotionally prepared for the feelings that would come with being told that we’d lost embryos. I knew ahead of time that it was an expected part of the process, but for whatever reason it just didn’t click. Knowing that 19 unfertilized eggs didn’t progress didn’t phase me. Being told that some embryos failed to progress… that hurt. It left me wondering what happened and why. Was there something I could have changed? Was this something predestined and out of everyone’s control? No amount of rationalizing it made me feel better. It served as a sobering reminder that this journey is going to be tough, and we will likely face hurdles far worse than knowing some of our embryos have arrested their development.
That brings us to today, Day 7. As I waited, the pit in my stomach grew and grew. Nine embryos, I told myself, was a great result. (Telling myself not to feel a sense of defeat was not very effective.) Then the call came in: the nurse told us we had a total of 13 frozen embryos! For reasons we’ll never know, four additional embryos heard the rally cry and got to blastocyst stage just in time. Unfortunately, upon discussion with our doctor, we found out that two of the 13 embryos had poor grading, and were unlikely to be viable. This left us with 11 embryos to move forward with. This is still wonderful news and leaves us incredibly hopeful!
The next step in our little embryos’ journey is to undergo preimplantation genetic testing. This testing will let us know about which embryos are healthiest to progress to a transfer. They will also be screened for a hereditary genetic mutation within our family, likely resulting in 50% of our embryos being deemed abnormal.
In the spring, we met an Intended Mother whose surrogate was due in just a few weeks. When I asked her how relieved she felt to be at the finish line, she said something that struck me as odd at the time. ‘I won’t feel the relief until my baby is in my arms.’ I think I understand what she meant now. I am so excited to know how far we’ve come, and before we had matched with our surrogate or had completed IVF, I thought that I would feel immense relief once we got to this stage. Instead, I feel more anxious than before.
I’m incredibly grateful for the 11 embryos we know have made it so far. I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about what they represent than I thought I would at this stage. Each one provides me with hope in our dreams of building a family, wonder at who they might become, and a newfound sense of fear, because I desperately want each one of them to be healthy. Is this a sneak-peek of what parenthood is going to feel like?