Discovering IVF: The Two Week Wait

The Two Week Wait (the wait between the embryo transfer and pregnancy test) could easily be renamed Hell on Earth. Despite everything I had been through up until this point, this was by far the hardest part for me.  It is just the right blend of hope and fear to send a person almost insane.

After making  it all the way to embryo transfer (ET), where a carefully inserted catheter deposits the most precious of all deliveries directly into your womb, you are then left to wait. A sealed envelope gave us the date on which we should use the pregnancy test we were issued, with a warning not to give in to temptation and do it any sooner. And then off you go.

It was a sunny day the date of our embryo transfer, the Saturday after my egg collection on the Monday. As we left the hospital I felt elated: we had made it this far, and even had two embryos to freeze. Making it all the way to ET meant that we now had a 50:50 chance of success. For the first time I knew, with certainty, that a living embryo was inside my womb. But no sooner had the elation been felt than the first chills of fear and worry began to creep in.

How on earth my brain allowed my body to stand upright after what had just been put inside me, I’ll never know. Immediately it starts, the irrational thinking that will plague the next two weeks of your life. Of course it won’t drop out…right? I’d better just Google it to be sure. Is it ok to walk about? Should I lie still? What about when I go to the toilet? Could it fall out then?  Should I stay active? Should I keep my tummy warm, or not too warm? And that is just THE START!

After the ET I went to a scheduled acupuncture appointment. I had been having acupuncture throughout my treatment and this would be the final time. As I lay on the table I thought of the minuscule blastocyst that now lay somewhere inside my womb. All our hopes lay within something so tiny it was invisible to the eye; and yet in that tiny, tiny thing lay all the information for what could be our child: what colour their eyes would be, how tall they would grow, the shape of their nose, their sex. Away my imagination soared, sending loving thoughts towards the ball of cells residing inside of me. I mentally put my arms around it and told it how welcome it was in my body, I invited it to stay – to stay, and grow, and grow and grow.

Day 1 done, and that wasn’t so bad was it? All I needed to do was focus on how grateful I was to have got this far. I think I managed maybe one more day before I broke down in a sobbing mess. What if it was already over? What if all of this had been for nothing and we were left in the same spot we had begun? What if I had done something that had injured it already?! It was tortuous. I clung to positive affirmations and mantras I’d created, trying to push out the negative thoughts whenever they arose.

And so the following days passed, wildly swinging from optimism to fear. Perhaps the cruelest part of the two week wait is that, generally, women are given progesterone pessaries to increase the chances of success after IVF treatment. The side effects of the progesterone in your system can mimic quite precisely some of the early symptoms of pregnancy, from swollen breasts, to nausea and tiredness. You are of course warned about this by the clinic. Every time I felt a pang in my boobs, or convinced myself that – yes, I do feel a bit sick actually,  a wave of hope rushed through me. Always followed by a shake of the head and a resolution not to get carried away, yet desperately hopeful that it meant something more.

We found ways to distract ourselves; I remember the following weekend we got out the house and went to play crazy golf. We had a great time and almost forgot. Another time we went for a drink – and of course I ordered something soft, just in case – then my mind started at it again. Was it even worth it? What if that little bundle of cells was already gone. The pressure from the weight of the constant wondering and not knowing was immense.

I found a small amount of solace in the fact that we had two more embryos frozen in the lab. So if all this came to nought we would be able to try again with one, or both of them. I was grateful for that small mercy, as not everyone is so lucky. But still, I wanted this so badly. I willed my body to embrace and nurture this one, as I willed that embryo to make herself at home.

And then there were the ‘signs’ – well you look for them don’t you? (I had already given up counting on magpies, so unreliable were they at predicting our fate.) For me, the most prominent & personal sign during this time was a rogue bumble bee. I’d been downstairs meditating and as I went back into the bedroom I saw a dark shadow on the floor. As I got closer I saw it was an enormous, beautiful, fluffy bumble bee struggling along. My heart lifted! Two years previously I had seen the first bumble bee of that year on the day I launched my Sheroes blog – I had always considered it to have been a good omen, and knew how bumble bees were symbolic of the impossible becoming possible (due to how they are able to lift their giant bodies up against all logic!) Could this be a sign? I carefully gathered up the little creature and delivered it to safety outside. Every time I saw a bee after that it was a reminder to stay hopeful. I still wonder if that was the moment that our little embryo implanted into my womb and decided to stay.  I know it sounds completely bonkers, but when you’re in that situation you’ll grasp at anything. Of course, even the beautiful bee didn’t dispel my fear altogether, and the next day I was back to worrying again.

You’re in a position where you don’t want to get your hopes up to much in case they are ultimately to come crushing down on you, but you also know that you should have some optimism: and so like a pendulum you swing between the two.

Time only moves in one direction of course, and soon enough we were climbing into bed the night before we were due to do the pregnancy test. I didn’t know how on all the earth I would EVER be able to pee on that stick. It is totally a case of Schrodinger’s baby: until you know you’re not pregnant there is every chance that you could be: conversely until you know you are, there is just as much chance you’re not. In some ways you’d rather not know, as knowing could mean a permanent end to the hope you’ve been clinging to.

Words can simply never convey how we felt the following morning; awake unusually early of course. We hadn’t shared the date with anyone, as we wanted to have time to digest the news ourselves before sharing our reaction with the small circle of people who knew we’d been having treatment. I sat on the toilet while Alex sat in the doorway to the bathroom. I knew there was no other way to do this other than to rip of the plaster, as it were, and do it quickly.

I peed. I peed on the stick. OK. 3 minutes. We can do this.

“I’m not pregnant. I know I’m not. It hasn’t worked. I know it hasn’t worked.” I repeated these words the whole time we were waiting, mentally trying to prepare myself for the fall that I was now sure was coming. I was shaking and could feel myself getting hotter and hotter. Eventually we had to look. We couldn’t leave it any longer. Alex came over to my side and we turned the stick over together.

Well, you know what we saw. There were two blue lines. TWO! I cried like I’ve never cried, I shouted, I sobbed. I immediately peed on a second stick to see if it would agree! It did! We were pregnant, at last. The thing I had almost given up hope of happening had happened. And again I had that feeling, I knew it was her. It was Luna. She was ready to come and be with us.

I’m writing this in a coffee shop as that precious bundle of cells sleeps beside me, her jaw bouncing gently as she sucks in her sleep. And still I’m pinching myself. I’m trying not to cry, because this is a rather public space, but how can my eyes not well up? Every single second of it was worth it. She is perfect and my heart is more full of love than I thought was possible.


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