We all began as a clump of cells.
Or, really, just one cell, made from two. A sperm cell and an egg cell, each giving 50% of themselves to create a cell with a unique makeup… maybe not unique in all of history and prehistory, but unique in the here and now. The cell splits into two, then four, then eight, and so on. After five days, the cells with their own unique DNA number in the hundreds, divided into an inner cell mass and an outer layer. The inner cell mass will, assuming everything goes right, eventually become a human being with fingers and toes and lungs and a heart and a brain, and in the brain, a personality and memories and the ability to learn and think and grow.
And all just from a clump of cells.
This is my clump of cells. We’re calling it Peanut.
Back in October, I did a round of IVF that went somewhat horribly awry. My RE decided, for reasons that I still haven’t figured out, to put me on really high doses of medication. It overstimulated my ovaries to the point that they were swollen to the size of apples rather than their usual almond size. I was in amazing pain; my organs had moved and shifted to make room for my giant ovaries, and in moving, they pressed up against my diaphragm and made it hard for me to take a deep breath. I looked like I was six months pregnant, when really, I hadn’t even conceived.
(I’m fat, but not like this; this is me right before I got the period that made this ridiculous bloat go away)
At the end of that cycle, I was supposed to take a final shot, a trigger shot, to push the eggs that had been developing in my ridiculous ovaries into maturity so that they could be harvested and fertilized to create embryos.
The trouble was that in the days leading up to that trigger, I had to take another medication to prevent my ovaries from releasing the eggs too early and making the whole month a waste. That medication did its job too well, and when I took the trigger shot, it did nothing. I went under general anesthesia and woke up just a few minutes later to my doctor apologizing and saying we’d try again the next day, after I took a stronger trigger. That trigger worked, but we only retrieved a handful of eggs out of the 40+ follicles my ovaries had created. And of that handful, only two fertilized.
Two clumps of cells, that’s all. Transferring one at that point would’ve put me in a bad place, physically, so we froze them to transfer later. My family and I went to Disney World, we celebrated Christmas and the New Year. And then, in January, I started the process for a transfer cycle.
Comparatively, it was an easy process. Instead of taking shots every day, I took pills–just seven tiny pills daily, plus a pessary (that’s a suppository in the front!). The side effects were negligible: sore boobs, wonky emotions, minor cramping. After 20 days, I went to the clinic and sat around with my pants off for a while before going into a procedure room. They transferred one of the embryos, one with a perfect score of 4AA. Everything was “perfect.”
But then it wasn’t. The embryo stuck, but then one Thursday morning, I went to the bathroom and saw blood gushing out. A lot of blood. I called into work, called the doctor, and then went to lie down for a couple of hours. When I got up, I sat down on the toilet and heard a splash as a clot of blood and flesh the size of a lemon fell out of me. Tests the next day showed what I already knew: I’d miscarried my perfect embryo.
Ultimately, it was nothing I did or didn’t do. My doctor assured me of that much. My hormone levels were fine, and everything looked good. That particular clump of cells, that hope for a person, had something irreparably damaged about it. It wasn’t viable. And it was gone.
But we decided to try again, and that’s what happened today. Kyle and I left the house around 7 to get to our appointment at 8:45 (we had to drive through awful I-95 traffic, which anyone in Massachusetts can tell you is pure hell). I had a bunch of talismans for luck:
Lucky nails with Carrie Fisher-style “fuck you” fingers (see how they sparkle).
Lucky socks with Princess Leia on them.
A lucky bottle of ranch dressing, an inside joke with some friends also on TTC journeys.
They didn’t make me sit around with my pants off this time; I just changed in a little bathroom and scooted out, awkwardly trying to maintain some dignity while wrapping an oversized paper towel around my midsection. I sat down on the edge of the bed and put my legs up in a pair of stirrups. The nurse squirted some jelly on my lower abdomen and pressed down, showing me and Kyle where my bladder and uterus were. The doctor cranked open the speculum and inserted a catheter to guide the thawed embryo (technically, a blastocyst) up into my uterine lining to implant.
Kyle was excited because he could actually pick out the catheter and embryo on the ultrasound this time, a white line and a bright flash, traveling along the line and into the uterus. Less than a minute later, it was done. I cleaned myself off and tried to exit the room with dignity, but managed to crash into a cart full of instruments on my way. And then we went home, and I took it easy, on doctor’s orders. I slept a lot, then quietly entertained myself until Kyle and Kat and Sam took me out for a belated Mother’s Day dinner.
I don’t know what the clump of cells is doing right now; with any luck, it’s hatching out of its protective casing and burrowing into the uterine lining. With any more luck, I’ll find out that I’m pregnant ten days from now (probably sooner; I’ll definitely be peeing on a stick before then). With the best luck of all, this pregnancy will actually stick, and I’ll be able to write about that journey here, too.
For now, though, I’m PUPO–pregnant until proven otherwise, and all thanks to a clump of cells.