It Takes a Village

ivf_embryo_lavThere were seven people in the room when I conceived my eldest daughter, the most crucial of whom was not my husband.  In fact, Ad Man didn’t really need to be there at all. I’d argue that the most important person in the room was the embryologist who delivered a syringe fitted with a long plastic tube containing four of the cutest little soap bubbles you’ve ever seen.  As IVF doctors tend to have a bit of a God complex, I’m sure my handsome, famous, Beverly Hills fertility doctor would have claimed the title for himself. And, actually, our bank account would provide evidence that he was correct.

In addition to Dr. S and the embryologist, there were two nurses and two additional doctors who were there to learn how to make babies the hard way.  Ad Man was by my side holding my hand, but he could easily have been out eating a slice of pizza, having done his important job days before.  Since then, our potential brood had been plumping up cell by cell and being poked and prodded by a team of doctors who declared them free of genetic diseases and ready for implantation.

Before the crowd gathered around my vagina like mechanics diagnosing an engine problem, Ad Man and I met with Dr. S to discuss the soap bubbles.  The romantic petri dish dance between my eggs (not so gently plucked from my ovaries with a giant needle days before) and Ad Man’s sperm had resulted in two Grade A Large embryos and two others that were puny and a little scraggly around the edges.  We decided to implant all four embryos in hopes that one or two of them would stick.

This was not our first time at the rodeo, however.  We were in our third year of trying to get me properly knocked up.  By this point, I’d already endured countless tests, hundreds of shots, and two previous rounds of in vitro.  After the first round, we were told that my pregnancy test was positive, but my hormone levels were low, so there was a good chance the pregnancy wouldn’t be successful.  It wasn’t.

After the second round of IVF, I knew almost immediately that I was pregnant when my boobs began growing at an alarming rate.  Two weeks later, Dr. S gave us the joyous news…I was indeed pregnant and my enormous breasts were evidence of my raging hormone levels.  Turns out, my raging hormone levels were evidence that I was growing a set of twins in there.  We were ecstatic!  Two babies for the price of one!  We were done with this IVF shit forever!

Unfortunately, our joy was short-lived.  A few weeks into my pregnancy, after we’d already seen the two little heartbeats, we went back to the doctor’s office for another routine ultrasound and discovered that the fluttering heartbeats had stopped. An even more detailed ultrasound confirmed that I’d lost the pregnancy.  The weeks and months after my miscarriage are now a blur.  I went into a deep depression and Ad Man did his best to support me while simultaneously mourning his own loss.

I do remember, though, that it was the love and support of our friends and family (along with antidepressants and the world’s best therapist) that got us through that profound heartbreak.  Ad Man and I had been very open about our struggle with infertility, which we later found out, is a fairly rare thing.  Infertility is often still seen as embarrassing or, at least, deeply private.  In fact, it was only when we opened up to others that a number of our friends shared that they too had experienced, or were struggling with, infertility. Luckily, Ad Man and I are both blabbermouths with no boundaries so we had a team of people cheering us on, including both of our bosses.

One day, Ad Man (who can be a real softie) went into his boss’s office crying after a failed round of IVF.  In a perfect, only-in-L.A. moment, his boss J gave him a big hug and said, “That fucking sucks!  You know what you need?  Xanax.  You want some?”  I’m telling you, you can’t buy that kind of support!

Honestly, it was a relief to be open with our friends because we could rely on them for support and we could laugh with them at the ridiculousness of the whole process. When you’re dealing with infertility, it’s best to just check your humility at the door on the very first day.  By the end of our last round of IVF, Ad Man could give me a shot in the ass just about anywhere and I could have had a vaginal ultrasound in the doctor’s waiting room without blinking an eye.

And, Ad Man was such a trouper.  Subjects that would have made most men hide in a corner, like uterine polyps, low sperm count and masturbating into a cup, just became fodder for amusing dinner party conversation.  (Now, don’t you wish you could party with us?!)  Going into our second round of IVF, Ad Man was happy to discover that, because we lived so close to our fertility clinic, he could make his, ahem, deposit at home and bring it into the clinic rather than having to do the deed on-site.  When he was making the special delivery, he got into the elevator with another guy who looked sheepish, carrying his own bag-o-sperm into the office.  Ad Man took one look at the guy and said, “You brown-baggin’ it too?”  I don’t know if the poor man in the elevator was amused by the question, but it sure has made us and our friends laugh over the years!

Mommy and baby BiggieThose seven people who witnessed Biggie’s conception must have been good luck because it resulted in a blissfully uneventful, successful pregnancy with one healthy baby girl!  Ad Man and I never regretted being so open about our journey even when things went wrong and we had to make some very difficult phone calls.  We found out that it sometimes takes a village to make a baby.  I’m glad we learned that lesson early on because, as others have said time and again, it sure as hell takes a village to raise a child.  I’m just glad that my little band of villagers has always been there to laugh and cry with me (occasionally at the same time), offer me shelter when I’ve locked myself out of the house, take the kids for an afternoon when I’m barely holding on by my fingernails, and to know, without me having to say a word, when an emergency cocktail is in order. What more could a girl want?

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6 thoughts on “It Takes a Village

  1. I love this post Jackie. I remembered Ad Man’s openness about your journey when I was going through my own. Mine didn’t end with beautiful babies, but it did lead to the early discovery of ovarian tumors and a hysterectomy that most assuredly saved my life, so there is still a bright side. But the honesty and humility from people like you and Ad Man were so helpful and I am sure therapeutic for all of us.

    • Oh Heather, you just gave me goosebumps. Thank you so much for your note. I didn’t know about your tumors and I’m so, so thankful that you caught them early and are healthy today! There are many ways to make a family and I have no doubt that, if you and Gordon decide to try another road, you will be successful. Paul and I are always here for you guys! XO

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