I can’t even tell you how many 400 meter hurdle races I’ve run in my life, but there’s a very distinct pattern to the emotion of my favorite race.
Like every track event it starts with the adrenaline at the starting line, a burst of energy or even a chill as you place your feet in the starting block and give your legs one last shake out. There’s the stillness before the gun goes off that seems far longer than it is.
Then you’re off and facing the first curve and the first hurdle.
You’re confident. At this point there’s no doubting you’ll easily clear all of the hurdles.
But it’s a brutal race. It’s a quarter mile at a full-blown sprint pace with 10 hurdles spread along the way.
When I coached track I always told the 400 runners “I love the 400 because it’s just long enough to make you want to quit and right about the time that feeling hits, you reach the finish line”.
For me, that desire to quit used to hit somewhere around the last straightaway of a hurdle race when I was far enough in to know what I’d already accomplished but tired enough to wonder if I might have trouble with the last hurdle or two.
I’ve never experienced anything like it.
IVF is emotional whiplash. The process, if you’re lucky, is filled with highs, but each one is met with the almost-immediate realization that the next hurdle may take away everything you’ve worked through so far.
Right now, we’re somewhere in the final curve having cleared so many hurdles along the way.
Last week was huge. Russ had surgery on Wednesday and we learned, after months of wondering, that we might actually be able to have a kid (hopefully kids) of his own. I’ve never been so thrilled about anything, but it was followed by the very real fear that my Thursday egg retrieval wouldn’t pan out like it should.
Thursday went well too. They were able to get 19 eggs. 19 eggs! I was IV drunk after the procedure and I think I asked about that number about three times before I believed it.
But here’s the thing, numbers in this process change dramatically. We knew that. So, we reined in our excitement and waited for the Friday phone call about how many embryos we’d have.
16 eggs were mature enough to attempt fertilization. 14 were successfully fertilized.
We started with 14 embryos with the knowledge that the number would again be cut down and probably in a big way. The embryologist estimated five would continue to grow like they should until this week when they would freeze them for later transfer.
The embryologist was correct.
So here we are with a finite number. We have five chances. If you know anything about the statistics of pregnancy and IVF procedures specifically, you know that doesn’t mean five babies.
Though five used to be the number of children I always said I wanted, we’ll be thrilled to have just one and we’ll figure out the sibling thing later, ideally using leftover embryos, if everything works out.
Right now, we’re facing what’s ahead. I get to be normal for a few weeks until I start more shots ahead of the transfer process. I can run and enjoy some beer and just generally feel less like a pin cushion and more like myself.
Those last few hurdles are still there. We don’t know that the embryos will all survive the thawing process and we don’t know that any of them will lead to a successful pregnancy and I’m terrified that we have a maximum number of chances and it’s just five, but we’re also thrilled that it’s not the zero we thought was a very real possibility just 10 days ago.
If my over-the-top metaphor proves true, right about the time this process makes me want to quit, we’ll find some relief.