What to expect when you’re not expecting XXIII: Purgatory

by Lord Sutch

Someone messaged me and said they admired us for playing out the “horrors” of IVF so publicly so people could a) understand or b) if they were going through it themselves find some comfort that someone else out there knew how they felt.

“Horrors” is a very accurate word. I suspect the adventure that Kim and I are on is very easy to sympathise with, but, and I’m not trying to downplay the wonderful support we have had, it’s very difficult to empathise with if you haven’t been down this path. It can all change so quickly. You’ll be over the moon one moment and literally 24 hours later be in the pits of despair.

When we got the positive test it was lovely. Yay. Success. We can get pregnant. And I wrote that no matter what, we’d always be pleased that we could get at least get to the pregnant stage. Which still stands, but boy we’re in a dark place at the moment.

Because Kim’s HCG levels weren’t where the clinic wanted them to be, we had to do a blood test a few days after the positive test. Usually you get about 10 days post-positive test to bask in your success but not us. So back we trudged to the lab for Kim to get jabbed by yet another needle. Then the excruciating wait for the clinic to call us and let us know, the desperate hope mixed with the fear of failure. And then the phone-call came (one person out of everyone thought my joke about calling  Kim last time was funny so I didn’t dare risk it again). When it came the nurse who called used an equally flat voice to the last one.

“Hi Dave and Kim, how’s it going?”

“Excruciating” we answered.

“Well I’m afraid it’s going to continue to be excruciating because the blood levels haven’t risen as much as we’d like again”.

Kim’s HCG levels had gone from 47 to 140 which is an increase of about 300%. In the period between blood tests it should have gone up 400%. So we’re a quarter behind schedule. This can mean one of three things:

  • It’s just a slow burn and it will catch up
  • We’re heading to miscarriage town
  • It’s an ectopic pregnancy

For the deductive ones of you, you’ll see that two out of those three options aren’t good. We tried in vain to get some certainty from the clinic but they legitimately couldn’t provide it. They said they’d seen results like our results go every possible way.

We’ve spent a lot of time Googling. That also doesn’t provide a lot of certainty. We’ve found stories of pregnancies that have carried on fine with these results and vice versa. We’ve had a lot of people tell us that they’re sure we’ll be fine, that the clinic is probably just painting an overly negative picture to prepare us for the worst.

I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but that just isn’t a helpful thing to say. I don’t think the clinic would do that. They don’t want to inflict mental strain on us unnecessarily, they know how desperate we are. They are giving us as much information as they can. We understand that these wishes are coming with the best of intentions but the best thing you can say right now is “I’m sorry to hear it’s a struggle and we’re hoping for the best”. That’s all, you don’t have to try and give us hope, we’re trying to hold on to that anyway.

I’m withdrawing. And I shouldn’t. But it’s a struggle for me to process this and not be able to do anything. I’m a problem solver by nature, but this is one problem that I can’t solve. Kim told me she could sense me slipping into myself so I need to work on communicating with her more. It’s what gets you through.

Kim is obviously also suffering. She’s got the added burden of also having pregnancy symptoms. Which we know is good – yay still there! –  but also there’s a mentality that the cramps, the aches and pains, the nausea, it could all be for naught. “I hate the fact that I’m getting all these feelings from something that might die” is a horrible thing to hear out of the mouth of the one you love more than anything in the world.

When we get all prosaic about it, we can look at a potential miscarriage as the body’s way of rejecting something that isn’t working properly anyway, it’s a cleansing. So that’s a way to make this a little easier to take – a sort of “if it’s a miscarriage then it wasn’t going to be great anyway” type perspective. Which is really fucking bleak when I look at it on the screen in front of me but it does actually provide some comfort.

So on Tuesday we get to repeat this process again. We go to the blood test lab, Kim will have another needle stuck in her. We’ll sit round fretting and feeling ill waiting to hear. And we’ll get another phone-call from a flat-voiced person to tell us … fuck knows.


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