In the last post that I wrote about our journey I told the story of how we got our first two embryos transferred. What comes next is probably the worst part of the whole process and that’s because all we can do is wait…and hope.
We were a little naïve going into our first two week wait (2ww), of course we had a 40% chance of it working so we were both pretty upbeat. During this time we were living with my parents as the wreck of a cottage that we bought during our first IVF cycle was now in the throws of being renovated. I suppose living with my parents probably amplified the expectation of all of us. To give you an idea, this is what our house looked like at the time of the transfer…yes that is daylight through an old chimney that we had removed!
C & my dad continued to project manage whilst I took 2 weeks off work and tried not to stress or worry about anything so that our embryos could do their thing and implant. Easier said than done. Thinking about the treatment working consumed every minute of my life for the next two weeks and why wouldn’t it? This was our chance, this was going to be the start of our family.
Dr Google has a lot to answer for and basically I spent the entire first week looking for signs and symptoms that the embryos were implanting. There are handy guides on-line which show you how the embryos are progressing so that you know when implantation is taking place, when certain hormones kick in & of course the earliest point that the pregnancy hormone will show up on a pee stick (pregnancy test for those not familiar with the lingo).
This is one similar to the one I, like most others going through IVF, became obsessed with. Again, more lingo as the dpt means Days Post Transfer. Amazing, I knew each day how it should be developing. So even though the clinic says to wait 2 weeks, technically I can test at 11 days post transfer…but I was told not to do it under any circumstances.
3 Day Transfer
1dpt ..embryo is growing and developing
2dpt… Embryo is now a blastocyst
3dpt….Blastocyst hatches out of shell on this day
4dpt.. Blastocyst attaches to a site on the uterine lining
5dpt.. Implantation begins, as the blastocyst begins to bury in the lining
6dpt.. Implantation process continues and morula buries deeper in the lining
7dpt.. Morula is completely implanted in the lining and has placenta cells & foetal cells
8dpt…Placenta cells begin to secrete HCG in the blood
9dpt…More HCG is produced as foetus develops
10dpt…More HCG is produced as foetus develops
11dpt…HCG levels are now high enough to be immediately detected on HPT
So, 1, 2 & 3 days post 3 day transfer the embryo is doing its thing, no symptoms to spot, just stay relaxed and let it happen. Yeah right. Googling goes into overdrive. Reading stories of others goes through the roof, after all we need hope and bucket loads of it.
From 4 days post transfer I became subdued and withdrawn. I was in my head, I was hoping and praying and I was looking for any sign that my body was giving me that this was working. Trying not to stress about the house, trying not to stress about the treatment. I was doing ok for the first few days. Then the stress levels just started to rise, what if this doesn’t work, how can it not work, what do we do if it doesn’t work. Trying to stay positive when you have no idea what is going on inside your body is pretty impossible. Day 4 hits, the embryo should be implanting. Google everything possible about implantation signs and symptoms. Reading this you may think what an utter load of nonsense, but the desperation, clinging to anything that you think means this has worked drives you literally round the bend. If you google implantation symptoms you get a complete spectrum from feeling nothing through to twinges, pain & even some bleeding. So that’s why I, like most others that go through this, learn to look for any signs we can. What you try not to think about is the negative signs, the period like cramps, oh google that and it can also be positive as the embryo implants.
The two week wait is a complete mind fuck and emotional rollercoaster. There is no other way to describe it. No-one around you has any clue what you are going though, thinking or feeling. They ask how you are and you answer ‘OK’ when actually you are a complete wreck.
The progesterone support that stops early bleeding and supports the lining of the womb also causes side effects that can be confused with early pregnancy signs. Trapped wind or implantation pain? No freaking idea. It sucks you in and spits you out every few minutes. Up then down, high then low, positive then negative.
There seems to be a cycle of hope that comes and goes through the 2ww and mine usually follows the same pattern. Day 1 to 6 post transfer I’ve got this, positive, its working, the embryo is developing, its implanting. Day 7, bam I’m on the floor with negativity. As the date for testing draws closer the anxiety levels, stress, nerves whatever you want to call it, hit the dizzy heights.
At around 9 days post transfer on this cycle I was lying in bed trying to sleep, listening to some music to calm me down and the pain started. OMG I felt shooting pains close to my ovaries. Over the next hour of frantically googling on my phone I wound myself up into a complete state. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next week. This process was gruelling both physically and emotionally. I was utterly exhausted.
11dpt I caved and tested. I pee’d on a stick and it was white, blank, nothing. OK so this where the real panic starts to set in. There are 2 camps of people in IVF, the early testers and those that only test on the day they were supposed to. On this cycle I had become an early tester (although 11 days is not early compared to some). Shit, I hadn’t told C, he was going to kill me because I’d promised not to test and worse still it was negative. Google begins again, negative 11dp3dt, positive on test day. Phew, loads of stories of early negatives turning to positives. I thought I had been sneaky enough so C wouldn’t find out, little did I know that I had dropped the corner of the wrapper of the test on the bathroom floor. Luckily it was him that found it! He hung the tiniest piece of wrapper in front of me and said ‘well’? I shook my head, he knew it was negative. The look on his face will never leave me, it was sheer disappointment. We talked briefly & decided it was too early. A hug later and we carried on as though nothing had happened.
2 days later and this cycle went really wrong for us. In the IVF world we go on what’s called knicker checking. So, every time you visit the bathroom you look for bleeding. The afternoon of 13dp3dt and there is was, the bleeding had started. Really light. I cannot even describe the level to which my heart sank when I saw it. This isn’t supposed to happen, the progesterone is supposed to keep the bleeding away. I was physically shaking, this was over for us. How was I going to tell C. My first reaction was not to tell him. Dr Google was called upon again. Stories of spotting 13dp3dt and still getting a positive. There were stories all over the forums and the internet. It wasn’t proper red blood, maybe this would be ok. A few hours later eating tea with C and my parents and it got me, I just broke down. I cried and ran upstairs. I couldn’t cope with it all. Mum followed me and I told her through the tears and sobs that I was bleeding. She asked what Google said and she tried to reassure me that maybe it was normal and that I needed to keep going. Test day wasn’t for another 4 or 5 days. I couldn’t give up, but if the embryos were gone, then they were gone. The next few days became a bit of a blur, I continued with the meds.
15dp3dt I went to our house, the wreck, no one was there. On the way I bought a pregnancy test. I pee’d on the stick, it was negative, white, blank, not pregnant. I knew in my heart it was over. I stayed there for a while and cried. In the silence. I just wanted to be alone. In typical me style, I stopped the tears, threw the test in the bin so it couldn’t be found and went back to my mums. I spent the rest of the day like a zombie. Only 3 more days until official test day and this would be over.
The next day I woke up, bleeding bright red blood. This was it…it was the end of the road. I did a test so I could prove to C it was negative. Of course it was negative. Even though I was 2 days early I made him call the clinic to tell them. I couldn’t make the call. I left C in bed with tears in his eyes, I went downstairs and just started crying to my mum and dad. I told them it hadn’t worked & all I was bothered about was getting upset. I took myself back to bed and C and I sat in silence, tears running down my cheeks, C trying to comfort me whilst he too was silently sobbing.
C called the clinic, they offered condolences and said to call back when we were ready for our next cycle because we had 4 embryos waiting. They offered a counsellor. I said no.
That was it, it was over. Our embryos hadn’t made it, I had failed them, they had at some point perished. I was grief stricken, I went to the house and knocked seven shades out of anything I could find with a hammer. I came off the medication and 2 days later I have never felt pain like it. I had very physical pain as my cycle came to an end, but more lasting pain was my shattered heart. It felt like a piece of me had gone, I knew then that I would never be the same again, everything had changed, the process, the grief, the pain & the heartbreak had changed me.
I haven’t thought about this cycle for a number of years and writing it I had tears in my eyes. The lasting impact is still with me and it always will be. I know I have moved forward but that first cycle not working made me fearful of every future cycle because I knew what it felt like when it didn’t work. The reality is that IVF doesn’t work for everyone. If you have recently been through a cycle and are struggling with the negative outcome then please make sure that you take the time to heal before you try to move forward. Although it feels like you will never feel ok again, you will find the strength to move forward. You do because you have to.