The Road to Stella

On October 9th of 2018, Diego and I woke up at 6am for what would change our lives forever – our frozen embryo transfer. We did not confide this in one another, but we both were feeling the same. We were extremely guarded and had zero expectations. Really, we were going through the motions. This wasn’t our first rodeo. After our last failed transfer, we did not want to get our hopes up and have them shattered, yet again. We were so guarded, that we only told Diego’s parents about this upcoming transfer – and for the simple reason that they work together and he needed time off for appointments (and yes, he went to every single one).

As we pulled up to our IVF clinic, it was time for a shot. Nope, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s not a celebratory tequila shot. See, for an embryo to stick around, you have to prep your body to make it a sticky and welcoming place for it. Once he parked, Diego prepared the progesterone shot that he would inject into my butt cheek. I reclined the passenger seat and lied face down. He shot me up, and that was that. If you’re an IVF veteran, this is no big deal.

We walked into the clinic and checked in. Again, zero emotions. Our nurses and doctor seemed excited, but we knew there was only a 25% chance of this really working out for us. I reluctantly took pictures of Diego and I to document the moment. I did this for two reasons. For one, a tiny glimmer of hope made me believe this would work out and I wanted to remember this moment. And second, I wanted to document this moment anyway in hopes that I can one day share my story to those struggling, too.

Diego and I before our transfer.

When we left the clinic, we knew there was one thing we HAD to do. See, if you’re part of this community, there are several superstitions. One of them is that you HAVE to have McDonald’s french fries immediately after a transfer. The idea is that the saltiness makes the embryo stick around. (My doctor confirmed this is not true – but we do anything to make this work for us.) Our last embryo transfer, McD’s failed us. This time, we decided on Checker’s fries. (Spoiler Alert: They did the trick and Stella stuck around!)

The lucky Checker’s fries.

Then, we embarked on the dreaded TWW (two week wait) that it takes to find out if this worked. During this time, it takes all the effort to not POAS (pee on a stick). By the way, those acronyms? A huge thing in the infertility community. Any who, this transfer I decided to distract myself and surround myself with all of the positivity. I refused to take a pregnancy test – for a long while. I talked to my embryo. I asked it to please stick around. I told it I did not know if I could take another heartbreak. And… I waited. I’m not sure what thoughts were going through Diego’s mind. Men are wired SO differently. But I do know that a lot of his efforts went around making sure I was emotionally and physically OK. He rocked it.

This picture was taken at about 10 days post embryo transfer. I had zero symptoms. We came here to keep our mind off of things.

Then the day came… BETA test day. I can’t remember why, but Diego could not come with me this day. He had to work. Remember the superstitions? On the way to all of my appointments throughout the cycle that led to Stella, I had a set of my own. I would listen to Florence + The Machine’s new album. And on the way home, I would listen to Ariana Grande’s Sweetener album. Don’t ask me why, but it was my coping mechanism. Anyhow, I sobbed on the way to that appointment as I listened to Florence’s sweet voice. I was so sure this transfer had not worked.

I put on my brave face and I walked into my IVF clinic. My favorite nurse, Ana, saw the look in my eyes. IVF nurses do not get enough credit for all that they do. They hold your hand and reassure you through procedures, hug your through the tears, and feel the sadness for you when things do not go as planned. I could really not have done this without them. Ana saw the look in my eyes and told me she knew this was our time. She drew my blood and assured me they would call me later with my results.

I drove home, obviously jamming to Ariana Grande. I worked from home that day. I could not handle receiving bad news while at work. It was late afternoon and the suspense was killing me. I was sure this transfer had not been successful, but I needed to know once and for all. I had no pregnancy tests handy. Now, this is odd for someone who is trying to conceive. But, I really did not want the temptation. However, I drove my butt to the nearest CVS and bought some pee sticks. Can we all talk about the way we feel when handing them to the person at the register? Is that just me?

I took the test. I waited. And…. almost immediately, I saw two pink lines. I was in shock. My entire body shook from excitement. I really wanted to wait to tell Diego in person, but I really could not. As it is, this was no regular pregnancy. We had been trying for four years. We experienced loss and disappointment together. He deserved to know as quickly as I did. I immediately FaceTimed him to show him. We both teared up. This was our moment.

The clearest result we have ever seen.

That afternoon, my nurses all called me on speaker phone, and I could hear the excitement in their voices. They counted to three and yelled, “You’re pregnant!” Just two weeks later, we went to our IVF clinic for our first ultrasound. I was so nervous. Immediately, memories from our first pregnancy came to my mind. I expected the same outcome as last time – no heartbeat. However, there she was – stronger than ever. Seeing that little flicker on the screen was so surreal.

Stella’s second picture – after her embryo picture šŸ™‚

All this said, I am so grateful for science. Without it, we definitely would not be here. As my fellow infertility friends know, the worrying does not end after that first ultrasound. Or the second, or the third. You walk into every ultrasound expecting the worst. Those early weeks, I remember continuously asking Diego: “You think our booger is OK in there?” To which he’d always reassure me. Once I was able to feel her kicks, it was so reassuring. The worry was still there, and it was most definitely hard to enjoy my pregnancy without the fear of loss.

If you’re still in the waiting, I am so sorry. I stand in solidarity with you. I truly hope this sheds some light and hope on your journey.

More to come on our journey, and our teeny embryo that could.

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