Faith, Family, Journal

This is What IVF Pregnancy Looks Like During Season

Six years ago this fall, my coach and I were in the early stages of an IVF pregnancy and football season. Not an easy place to be. Not that I’m complaining. Not in the least. We savored and celebrated every single, solitary shot in the hindquarters at halftime. We did. But more on that in a minute.

After trying for a year to get pregnant (and knowing at my age it was unlikely without intervention) we’d visited a fertility specialist six months earlier. Naively, I’d thought we’d start the process my next cycle. That would put us well past the exhaustion, hormone injections, and morning sickness of a first-trimester IVF pregnancy when football season began.

Boy, was I naive.

First off, I was 47. Which meant my cycle was far from predictable, even if it had all been up to me and my eggs … which it wasn’t.

My doc kindly informed me my eggs were dinosaurs and he didn’t do Jurassic fertility. So I would be using donor eggs … and a site to find our match. Kind of like eHarmony, but for prospective parents looking for open, available ovaries.

Second, IVF takes months to prep and plan for. Months. The game plan is exact and exacting, requiring lots of perfectly-orchestrated moving parts. Her ovaries, my uterus, coach’s swimmers. This was a team effort. And there was no hurry-up, no-huddle offense.

The process was complicated, timely, expensive, and perfectly-choreographed. But eventually we found our donor (anonymously), her ovaries were hyper-stimulated, my uterus was prepped, a couple balls were bobbled… in a good way (sorry, couldn’t help myself), and then… TOUCHDOWN! (times two)

And that’s when the hard part began on my end. My rear end, that is.

We’re talking needles. Lots of them. And vaginal suppositories. And pills. And time.  Lots and lots of time. It was quite the process. All in the midst of football season. Because our embryo transfer occurred scrimmage week. So much for a first-trimester-during-football-season bye.

The nightly shots to my booty were a real pain… (Go ahead. Finish the cliche.) They bruised and burned and gave me an itchy, allergic reaction.

And because I had to receive those shots as close to the same time every single night for ten weeks or so, they became an even bigger pain on Friday nights. So we arranged for them to fall between 8:30 and 9:00 pm. Because halftime.

Away games were hard. At home, I got poked in the floor of my coach’s office on a jacket he chivalrously laid over the spongy, decades-old carpet. But away games…

My coach would scope out the joint pregame, looking for a private (or sometimes semi-private) place for me to drop trou so he could thrust a needle into my bruised, sharpie-circled buttocks. (He’d had our nurse draw him a target. He didn’t want to get it wrong. And he redrew it every night.)

I got poked in a dark hallway outside a gym, within audible distance of the opposing team’s halftime harangue.

I got poked in the back of a Kia Soul, my legs at a cramped, contorted angle while a sweaty linebacker hunted for his mouth guard in the parking lot nearby, blissfully ignorant (thank God) of the pornographic scene not fifteen feet away.  

I got poked in the arse so many times, in so many weird and far-from-wonderful locations. I was a pincushion. But I was pregnant pincushion, so I wasn’t complaining.

Beyond the shots, were the oral medications and vaginal suppositories that turned my underwear periwinkle if I forgot my pantie liners, which I did. A lot. My mind was all floaty and fuzzy from the chemical cocktails doing their job.

There were some days when all of the hormones got to me and I cried. Who am I kidding? They got to me all the time. I cried all the time.

I cried on touchdown runs. I cried on Publix commercials. I once cried when I cleaned the ceiling fan and clumpy caterpillars of dust dropped from the blades. 

But I really cried during the band’s playing of Amazing Grace after every home game. Because the reality of God’s gracious favor hit me like a hurricane every time. Every. Single. Time.

This pregnancy was happening. This was real. And this was all God. I couldn’t take credit. Nor could my husband or good doctor.

God kept us pregnant through dehydration and preeclampsia and advanced maternal age and hospital runs at midnight and a fortnight of sleeping with ice packs on my chest when it felt like the boys were splitting my sternum like a Butterball wishbone.

I believe in God’s perfect timing.

I was 47 when my fertility team tenderly laid our two precious, perfect 5-day blastocytes inside my uterus and coaxed it into successfully incubating two beautiful baby boys, hatched just shy of 35 weeks gestation.

To quote one of my favorite childhood books by PD Eastman: “There’s no nest like an old nest, for a brand new bird” – or two.  

So yes, I believe in God’s perfect timing.

I am by no means trying to make light of infertility or the expensive and excruciating journey that comes with it—a journey so full of loneliness and uncertainty. There are no guarantees.

We were incredibly blessed to get pregnant on our first IVF round. Unbelievably blessed. The statistics were not in our favor.

Most women go through an average of 2.7 IVF cycles and experts recommend going through at least three cycles to increase you pregnancy chances. Even then, the success rates are below 50%.

While the numbers may not sound promising, God’s faithfulness does. And hearing other people’s stories about trying to conceive helps you feel less alone. Because this is a story so many of us share.

There are no guarantees. But there are options.

If you are hitting roadblock after roadblock in your fertility quest, remember that there are generous strangers out there—fertility godmothers if you will—ready to lend their eggs or their wombs, or give their babies up for adoption. Your blessings may come differently, but your blessings will come.

Trust in God’s perfect timing.

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