A dear friend who, along with her partner, is awaiting the just-around-the-corner birth of their twin boys, just sent me this article, “Formerly Infertile,” from the current issue of FitPregnancy magazine. In it, Leslie Goldman expresses so eloquently what so many people feel after finally getting pregnant after months or years of fertility treatments. She writes, “I was certain the worry and pain of infertility would vanish — Poof! — the moment we got our positive result. Instead, my concerns simply shifted from ‘Will I ever get pregnant?’ to ‘Will this pregnancy last?’ “
The morning after I got my maddeningly faint second pink line on my home pregnancy test, I went to the hospital for a blood test to confirm the results. Then I went home and waited by the phone for two hours before the nurse called with the marvelous news that yes, indeed, I was pregnant. I cannot begin to describe the incredible mish-mash of emotions that Penelope and I were feeling in that moment, except to say that all of the happy, excited, thrilled positive emotions were matched and tempered (nearly even cancelled out, alas) by worry, anxiety, fear, and yes, even guilt. One of the Sister-Wives (my pet-name for the mothers of our son’s donor siblings, which I have written about previously here and here) was trying to conceive at the same time I was, and had just gotten her negative test a few days before I got my positive. Even though I had always known that odds were that one of us would succeed first, in that moment, a part of me was sorry, even guilty, that I was the lucky one. I hoped my success wouldn’t discourage her, as hers might have discouraged me (I’m ashamed to admit) had our roles been reversed.
After that first blood test, I had to go back to the hospital every forty-eight hours for repeat blood work to monitor my hCG levels. HCG levels should double every 48-72 hours in the early weeks of pregnancy, and so long as mine did that, I could be assured that this was not a chemical pregnancy and that things appeared to be progressing normally.
Yesterday was my last beta-hCG test. My hCG level had reached 1,500 mlU/mL, and the nurse who called to report my results said that was good enough to stop testing. “You must be relieved,” she said. “You must feel like a pin cushion by now.”
Actually, I told her, I’d happily submit to blood tests every day from now until the baby quickens, if they’d let me. I’m not a masochist — in fact, I have a healthy fear of needles, and I always close my eyes and think of my happy place when the phlebotomist comes near — but these beta tests are currently my only weather report for how things are going in there.
I have an ultrasound scheduled for Friday morning. We might even get to see the baby’s heartbeat, and once we see that, the risk of miscarriage drops precipitously. Even then, I doubt I’ll be able to relax. Goldman says this is normal for the formerly infertile: many of us “report heightened levels of fear and vigilance” throughout our pregnancies. It makes sense: cycle after cycle of failed treatments condition us to disappointment, make us too accustomed to failure and too suspicious of success.
Isn’t that the exact opposite of how it should be? After going through so much to get pregnant, haven’t we earned the right to smooth sailing through a happy and healthy pregnancy?
Of course it doesn’t work that way, so for now, and for the foreseeable future, I wait — though my two week wait is over — and I worry.