Before I met Tommy I spent a lot of time dating in hopes of meeting the right man to marry. Mostly blind dates, these were often an obvious mismatch which would end up as stories shared over a bottle of wine with other single friends. We’d laugh, commiserate, and wonder “where all the normal guys had gone?” After awhile I began to tell myself, “Toby, you don’t need to meet a million guys or dates, it only takes one.”
I have often find myself comparing my experiences in the single’s scene to our struggles with fertility. Both take a lot of patience, perseverance, and most importantly a significant measure of luck. Fertility treatments, especially, encourage you to focus on the numbers and statistics: age, hormone levels, follicles, sperm count and quality, ova retrieved and embryos transferred and everyone’s favorite beta levels. At the start of each round ultrasounds, on an almost daily basis, allow you to track the growth and number of eggs, but it is with the retrieval that you know how many can be reached. You then wait patiently for 24 hours to discover how many eggs are fertilized, you wait some more after that-3 or 5 days- to find out the number and quality of mature embryos and if you are lucky, how many will be transferred. Finally, it is a two week wait to find out your Beta level to determine if you are pregnant (and you pray that those levels will continue to increase as they monitor the early stages of the pregnancy).
I find it remarkable that today’s technology offers many more options to people dealing with infertility, yet my experience has been that at times I was lost in the details and forgot the big picture. It’s difficult not to be disappointed when every ultrasound leading up to an egg retrieval indicates that you have plenty of eggs, but on the big day you learn that very few were retrieved-especially since you know that even fewer will fertilize and mature. All you can do is hold your breath and hope for the best.
Last June we went through a round of IVF that was both extremely difficult and disappointing: the cycle was longer than most because of holidays, I became very ill yet still managed to cut my head open while on bed rest, and for all our efforts we ended up with very few eggs and then embryos. So few that the doctor who performed the retrieval – not my regular doctor because in the public system your procedures are performed by whichever doctor is on duty that day – asked me if I was aware that I had endometriosis (all I could do was wonder if he had bothered to read my file before pumping out my eggs!!). We had 5 eggs, this was not a promising number and I was disappointed. I looked at Tommy and said “It only takes one.” It became our mantra. We repeated it as we waited for the rest of the numbers, assuring one another and ourselves, that all we needed was one fertilized egg to hang around in my uterus for 40 weeks and then we’d have a child. For all the positive thinking, that round did not end with a pregnancy.
I was done, we’d have to try some other route to parenthood. Tommy wanted to give it one final chance and encouraged me to try a new doctor- we had already agreed to try IVF for two years and there was still a bit more time. He reminded me that it only has to work once. So at the beginning of August 2014 we started all over again. I can’t say I was optimistic but I did my best to make it as manageable as possible: I pampered myself at a day spa with a massage, continued with acupuncture and generally did my best to take it easy. Throughout, Tommy and I repeated, “it only takes one.”
As I write this post, cradling my sleeping daughter with one hand, I am still in a bit of disbelief that it worked. One egg and one sperm, became one embryo that was transferred into my uterus, and with plenty of luck, it managed to stay around for 39 weeks. Even as my belly grew, I was skeptical as to whether it had actually worked; was there actually a baby on her way? I watched her grow from a dot on a screen under a laboratory microscope until I held her in my arms moments after her birth. Still, I cannot believe that it had worked. In the end it only took one and this one is ours.