July 22, 2016 by Katia
The following post is very personal to me, as I share the story of my fertility journey. It is also sponsored by OvaScience, who has a new technology called AUGMENT that can help those struggling with infertility by enhancing egg health and potentially increasing her chances of getting pregnant. You can learn more about this new treatment available in Canada at the end of the post.
I know what limbo feels like. I’ve spent a year wandering around it in search of a way out, always encountering the same landmarks and returning to the same spot to begin the journey anew, still as determined but not quite as whole. I know what limbo looks like and remember every detail of it. Mine was a fertility clinic, yours might present itself differently, but I know they feel just the same. Limbo is defined by its cyclicality, the repetition and the lack of an expiration date. I got stuck there when we were trying to expand our family.
Having conceived our older child on first attempt through IUI (intrauterine insemination) the expectation bar was set pretty high when we started fertility treatments to conceive our second one. The visits to the clinic were a means to an end, a temporary stop on our way to the final destination. I watched in bewilderment as that temporary stop claimed us, establishing its firm hold and not letting go. No matter how vigorously we were running toward our goal, we were still stuck. Turns out distances get cancelled in limbo.
So was time as I knew it. Time was now re-defined as Cycle Monitoring and measured by line-up units. At the beginning of the cycle I’d report to the clinic once a week gradually increasing the frequency of my visits until I’d show up there several days in a row. I’d arrive first thing in the morning on work days, weekends and holidays and wait in different corridors – actual and metaphorical.
Faces were a means of orientation as to where I was in the process and how close I was to hope. Here are some of the regulars, there are some new ones. What happened to the faces I used to see here but don’t anymore? Have they “graduated” and does that put me closer to hope or farther from it? Some faces were covered in tears, others buried in books or magazines or holding a phone to their ear trying to be elsewhere. Some were famous. More faces. Same lab technicians, new doctors, regular receptionist, weekend receptionist, this doctor’s receptionist, that doctor’s receptionist, nurses.
Numbers were everything. Third in the blood work lineup. Number seven for ultrasound and four to see the doctor. Take two pills on the first day and one on the next. You’ve got one egg developing, seven eggs developing, three eggs developing. First round of IUI, second round, third round… fifth. Check back in two weeks. Numbers and calculations were running my life. When will I get to work today? How long will I have to overstay and when will I see my son?
Rituals, routines and shortcuts emerged as a false means of control. Arrive early so you can be there before everyone else. If you find the building door locked just use this code for the buzzer. Walk quickly when you get out of the elevator so you can put your name on the sign-up sheet for the doctor before you join any of the other shorter line-ups.
Among so many variables that I had no control over there was one constant, the determination of my husband and I – two only children – to have that child at any cost, because the first one showed us how much we can love. Because we felt like he deserves it and so do we. It became the axis around which my life revolved.
Enter new variables: one break from cycle monitoring to deal with the stress, an acupuncturist who specialized in fertility, another round of IUI – the fifth one, one short vacation, many pictures and one pregnancy that took. Two overjoyed parents, one oblivious two year-old boy, several important people notified, one belly gaining weight much too quickly as if to catch up with inflated expectations, two new dresses, some hints seeping through my conversations with the boy – would you ever want a brother or a sister?
One harsh “Here’s your baby. Talk to the doctor” from the ultrasound technician handing me the sonogram. Two hours of weak knees and speculation. A book set aside.
One graspable “we’re cautiously optimistic” from the doctor amidst a lot of vagueness.
A missed day at work.
One husband driving back from his workplace to spend the day with me. Countless tears. A trip to the video store to put other thoughts in our heads. An awfully surreal “how are you guys doing today?” from the store clerk. Several Google searches of “slow fetal development week 7”. Lots of questions. Hope and mourning.
One “I’m sorry, honey” from another ultrasound technician a week later. A conversation with the doctor who assured us it had nothing to do with us and that we didn’t do anything wrong. One procedure scheduled. A single piece of information absorbed about how miscarriages can actually be conducive to increasing your fertility in the next cycle. Turns out you can grow hope even when you’re broken.
Back on Cycle Monitoring time. Faces. Some of them familiar, some new. Some of them are now charged with meaning: negative and positive. Same landmarks: a giant fish tank with blue and yellow fish, a kids play area by the reception and the ambivalent thank you note and baby picture wall. Different perspective. Hope and fear of letting hope take over. Rituals and routines are restored but only for a short while. Another round of IUI. Numbers. Throughout my life I could never commit to a lucky one, constantly going back and forth between six and seven. Turns out it was six all along.
And now we’re four.
My story, although there were 6 chapters to get there, closed with a happy ending. But how many others are continuing to count up their tally of attempts? Now there might be a new breakthrough technology to stop the failed cycles from repeating. The AUGMENT treatment, which harnesses your own biology by using your egg precursor cells (immature egg cells found in the protecting lining of your ovaries) to supplement the existing mitochondria in your eggs. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Michelle Dipp, Executive Chairwoman of OvaScience, the global fertility company that developed AUGMENT discusses the fact that one in six couples undergoes fertility treatments and that those often fail due to unhealthy eggs. While many factors contribute to egg health, having adequate levels of mitochondria, or energy inside of the egg is essential for healthy fertilization and embryo development. The AUGMENT treatment uses the energy-producing mitochondria from a patient’s own egg precursor cell, an immature egg cell found in the protective lining of her ovaries – to supplement the existing mitochondria in her egg. The article calls attention to the fascinating fact that these innovative treatments may change the way we view the female “biological clock” as the egg precursor cells don’t seem to change with time and remain fresh and healthy. A heartwarming piece of trivia for myself for finding out that the first baby conceived through the treatment was born last year in Toronto! You can find out more information about the AUGMENT treatment at www.augmenttreatment.com and what clinics in Canada are currently offering the treatment.
This post was sponsored by OvaScience.
OvaScience is a global fertility company dedicated to improving treatment options for women around the world. OvaScience is discovering, developing and commercializing new fertility treatments because we believe women deserve more options. Each OvaScience treatment is based on the Company’s proprietary technology platform that leverages the breakthrough discovery of egg precursor (EggPCSM) cells – immature egg cells found inside the protective ovarian lining. The AUGMENTSM treatment, a fertility option specifically designed to improve egg health, is available in certain IVF clinics in select international regions outside of the United States. OvaScience has commenced a non-commercial preceptorship program with OvaPrimeSM treatment, which could increase a woman’s egg reserve, and is developing the OvaTureSM treatment, a potential next-generation IVF treatment that could help a woman produce healthy, young, fertilizable eggs without hormone injections. OvaScience treatments are not available in the United States.