We had a great time in Wisconsin Dells! We stayed at two wonderful resorts and we were in the water so much that we turned into prunes. It is so amazing to me that my four-year-old loves rides way more than I do. He was constantly running up the stairs to go to the next water slide with a huge smile on his face. For the rides that we were able to go on together I would scream and he would laugh at me.
Right before we left the hotel this morning AF started to arrive. Not a pleasant way to end such a fun vacation. On the car ride home I started crying and DH asked what was wrong. I told him that I can't wait for menopause to come. He started light-heartedly laughing at me. I told him that even though at this point I know that we are unable to conceive on our own, it just stinks getting that reminder every month. As we were talking I told him that the cruelest joke of all would be to be a good responder and gets lots of eggs when I cycle, but that all of them would be chromosomally abnormal. To know that I make all of these eggs and that they could all potentially be crappy would not be fun.
About halfway home we took a pit stop to fill up our gas tank. As we were exiting the freeway there was a billboard that said, "Embryos are tiny babies." I read that billboard and pointed it out to DH. It's funny because I have been thinking about this for a few months now. When does life really begin? Does it begin as a thought in your head? Does it begin at conception? Does it begin at implantation? Does it begin when you see a '+' on an HPT? Does it begin when your RE confirms your pregnancy through your beta? Does it begin when you see that beautiful flicker of a heartbeat? Does it begin when the baby would be viable outside of your womb? Does it begin after you deliver at full-term?
You see, I've thought about this a lot. I always thought that life began at conception. ALWAYS. For as long as I remember I thought this. Until I became infertile. Then, I started questioning when conception actually occurs.
The other day L was looking at our wedding pictures and he asked, "where am I in this picture?" I pointed to my head and said, "you were just a thought in mommy's head." He looked at me and said, "how can I be in your head?" I explained that the picture he was looking at was taken on our wedding day and that he wasn't born yet, but that we knew that we wanted him. So, did his life begin then? I mean, I knew that I wanted him, but he wasn't actually conceived until nine months into our marriage. But he was this little thought that grew in my head for so long. And when he was conceived I believe from that moment that he was alive in some way. And then when I saw his heartbeat he was even more alive. And then as I watched him grow via u/s and as my belly got bigger he was even more alive. And as I lay in the hospital in labor for 36 hours and was hooked up to the doppler I heard his steady heartbeat and saw this 9lb 4oz baby on the last u/s I knew that he was even more alive. And once he was delivered via emergency c-section and he cried his first cry and was held up to my face so that I could kiss his plump little cheeks I knew he was alive. A little unstable, but alive. And once he was whisked away to the four medical staff awaiting him to clear the meconium from his lungs and given a bottle in the nursery to increase his blood sugar level, he was alive. You see, from the moment that he was conceived, to me he was alive.
Then I became infertile.
When I look back at the 41 eggs I have had retrieved of which 32 were mature and 26 were fertilized via ICSI, I get confused. If I go according to what the billboard said, "Embryos are tiny babies", I would have to say that I have conceived 26 babies in the last year. And I am still empty-handed. So, is that billboard really true?
I have had 8 embryos transferred and my RE has never technically declared me pregnant. So how could I have conceived 26 babies, transferred 8 embryos and still be empty-handed? If my embryos were tiny babies, then where are they? Were they not viable and, therefore, not babies? Or were they babies that were alive, but then died? I have a really hard time thinking that all 26 babies I have conceived in the past year were babies that were alive. Not because I don't believe that life begins at conception necessarily, but because it just compounds my grief. To know that I conceived so many children that didn't make it.
If I move one step further and say that life begins at implantation and look back at my IF history it hurts just a little less to know that I have had two chemical pregnancies in the last couple of years and, as a result, have two babies that didn't make it, compared to 26 embryos that were conceived and didn't make it. But even those two didn't stick around for long, or at least not long enough to see their heartbeats.
If I move even one step further and say that life begins when you see a heartbeat and I look back at my IF history...well, I guess I wouldn't even need to look back because none of those embryos or chemical pregnancies made it long enough to see a heartbeat. And, that just doesn't sit well with me. To know that I have gone through two fresh and two frozen cycles and to have them completely ignored would be hurtful on so many levels. It would be as if they were discounting my IF journey and everything that DH and I have been through. If we end our IF journey and our arms are still empty I will still feel the loss of the next child that never quite made it to my arms, but whose soul was forever planted alive and well in my head.
I'm not so sure that billboard was right or that it is such a black and white answer to when life begins.
I think at different times I look at this differently. Sometimes I believe that life begins with the thought in my head. Sometimes I think about those 26 embryos. Sometimes I think about the two chemical pregnancies. Sometimes it is just too painful to think. At all.
One thing is for certain...I deserve and so badly want to be a Mom again.