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The Shock Factor
a blog by Maya Moskin, March 10, 2014
One of the worst feelings, in my humble opinion, is being totally caught off guard, blindsided, or shocked by bad news. I’m the type of gal who appreciates a little fair warning. Living on IF Island for over three years now, I’ve learned to let a lot of that go, because you really never know what to expect. But I kind of wish someone could have warned me a little bit about the shock factor that often happens when things don’t go according to plan.
Our first IVF cycle was pretty dramatic. With low ovarian reserve and a poor response to the stimulation medication, only two out of the nine follicles I started with were growing at the halfway mark. I vividly remember that doctor’s appointment. It was Thanksgiving day 2012 and Noah and I were stopping in for an ultrasound before making our way to Palms Springs for a quiet, restful Turkey Day, since we couldn’t travel to be with family that year. The RE was out of town but phoned in to discuss what was happening.
We actually have a short clip of that appointment on video. You can watch it on my blog , if you’re interested.
What was happening was that I wasn’t responding well to the INSANE amount of medication I was on. I was shocked. Though being a “low responder” was explained to me, I didn’t fully understand it. How can a person not respond to multiple hormones injected straight to the gut? I just couldn’t fathom it, and watching this moment back I can see the drastic drop in my mood from optimism to despair. I don’t know what I was expecting, but not that.
The doctor extended the medication a few days and at aspiration day we had three good quality eggs retrieved, and again we felt optimistic. When all three eggs fertilized I was stressed out trying to figure out if we should transfer two or all three. And then the second shock wave pummeled through. None of the embryos divided properly. A phone call from the doctor saying he was sorry marked the end of our first IVF cycle.
Going through ART procedures are difficult for many reasons. The physical and financial ones are obvious, but for me, the emotional ones are actually the hardest. I truly thought that if I followed my doctor’s directions it would all work out. I would do my part, he would do his, and together we would bypass my biological issues and create a baby. I knew the odds and the statistics but I just didn’t want to believe them. I grew up in a society that values hard work, and getting what you pay for, and was always taught that if I put in the time and effort and did the right thing, it would pay off. These rules don’t apply on IF Island. No rules apply.
Though we have little control over what happens we can try to learn new or better ways to cope. The key for me has been in learning to truly be cautiously optimistic. In being able to hold all the hope and optimism in the world in one hand and the reality of the situation in the other, I can stay a little more grounded, a little more balanced. Trying to stay absolutely present—not regretting anything in the past, or making too many plans for the future, allows me to feel connected to exactly what is happening right now. It allows me to try and make the best decisions I can, and helps me move forward one small step at a time.
I’m still often shocked by what happens in the world of infertility, not just to myself but to all of us who struggle to make a family. The stories I hear and the stuff I've lived through are just that, shocking. Sometimes I’m even shocked, perhaps pleasantly surprised, that I’m still standing. But the feeling of shock doesn’t make me sick to my stomach anymore. I’m not sure if I’m just more accustomed to this roller coaster or if I’ve actually learned to be less reactive. Disappointing situations don’t necessarily get easier, but we do get stronger. We know we may need to cry it out for a while, but we will be able to get back up, find our feet, and keep moving forward.