path to more children: pregnancy test results

Just received word that my pregnancy test was positive with an hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin is a hormone produced by the embryo after conception) level of 33.6.

This is great news, but I’m still quite skeptical.  For instance, with our first trial of IVF in which we implanted only one embryo, my initial pregnancy test was positive with an hCG level of 22.  I miscarried the day after the test.  With our second trial, which resulted in our twins, my initial pregnancy test had an hCG level of 247.

Now, you can see why I am unconvinced.

Monday morning will be my next test, and the goal is for my hCG level to, at the very least, double every other day from today, therefore, my level needs to be around 135.

My pessimism will not wane until I see and hear two strong heartbeats at our first sonogram.

Whatever the outcome, I accept God’s will.  By virtue of suffering and sadness there is something grander in the midst.

emotional waxing and waning and a botched ivf success rate

The first time we stepped through the doors of our Fertility clinic, Matt and I were optimistic and excited in knowing there could be a solution to our problem.  

Over the following year, I grew in admiration toward the staff because they were helping couples appease their longing for a child when hope was lost, and they were doing it with great success.  During each visit I would stare at the framed magazine article on the waiting room wall that showed our doctor’s award-winning achievements.  I felt honored as a patient, which gave me tremendous confidence that IVF would work for us….and it did.

On our second trial, we successfully had healthy boy/girl twins.  

After some much-needed soul cleansing and boomeranging back into the Catholic Church, I realized the wrongness of IVF.  The production of life in a laboratory in lieu of the marital act of love within a marriage makes it a complete discourtesy to the bond between a husband and wife and a total disregard to the sanctity of human life.  

Now, each time I step through the doors of the Fertility clinic, I experience an emotional waxing and waning.  The anticipation of more twins sends an exhilarating warmth through my soul, and the love that I hold for these children fills me with joy and strength, contrarily, I cling to a deep remorse that I can’t let go of due to putting my children through this cold and inhumane fertility method, just so Matt and I could fulfill our desire to become parents.  It brings me great sorrow when I consider the nine of fourteen children we’ve lost because of this.  I pray that I don’t to add to that list with the three that remain.

At this moment, I’ve just realized that my calculations were incorrect in my earlier post “our path to more children: embryo transfer today!”  I did not count the eight children we created and died before their fifth day.  My mind is still wired as our society’s; to think of them as nothings, trash, non-existents, instead of the human beings that they are.

Also, I want to shed light on the calculations of a typical IVF success rate, which do not include the total number of children created.  Clinics use the number of live births (sometimes clinics won’t wait for the live birth data, or to increase their percentages will use the number of pregnancies instead) divided by the number of procedures performed (cycles or embryo transfers).

In 2013, the year I underwent IVF and birthed our twins, our clinic executed 198 IVF cycles and had a success rate of 100%.  Wow, you might say, but these calculations are extremely misleading.  Let me show you why.

For instance, in our situation, my success rate calculation is as follows:

Matt and I created 14 embryos, with 8 dying before their fifth day.  Prior to this most recent embryo transfer, we transferred 1 embryo, but my pregnancy ended with an early miscarriage.  With our next cycle we transferred 2 embryos and achieved 2 live births (our twins), so the 2 births override the first failed cycle, therefore, my success rate is 100%.  After this recent third cycle, if we achieve one live birth, our rate remains 100%, if we achieve two again, then our success rate will be 133%.  

Ambiguous, right?

Now, for a hypothetical example.

A couple creates 10 embryos, 3 don’t survive to their fifth day, they transfer 2, and freeze the other 5.  The woman has an early miscarriage, both children fail to survive.  Then they transfer 3 embryos, and 1 survives to birth.  They decide to discard the remaining 2.  So two cycles and one live birth equals a success rate of 50% (but a death rate of 90%).

Does this make any sense?  No.  Would anyone use this method, let’s say…for a graduation success rate at a high school?  Would they not include all the drop-outs in their calculation?  That would be falsifying the data, right?  Yes.

That is precisely why the IVF success rate formula is inaccurate and false. They leave out the total number of children created, as if they never existed and produced for nothing.  It is inhumane!

The children we produced through IVF, at the very least, deserve a part in this equation, so here are my revised calculations using this formula (total births divided by the total number of children created):

Again, we created a total of 14 children: 8 children did not survive to the fifth day, 1 did not survive after being transferred into my womb, 2 babies currently reside in my womb, 1 remains in the artificial limbo chamber, and finally our twins.  With all of that said, our success rate is 14% (death rate is 64%; our remaining 3 are still alive).  If the two children inside me are born, our rate will increase to 29%, and if our last one survives, we would be at 36%.

These are the true numbers, but re-calculating our success rate does little to pacify my soul.  In our situation, no matter what happens during this IVF cycle or the next the weight of death will always be more than that of life.  

All of my despair and shame stem from this discernment.

Another note of importance is our clinic has grown so much since our last IVF trial that they underwent an expansion.  Basically, that means my children have more Popsicle companions.  Being fully aware of this makes me divert my eyes to the floor anytime I meet with our doctor, but thankfully, not for very long.

Additionally, I no longer venerate the staff, rather, I would like to grab their sweet smiling faces and shake them back to reality telling them that you may think you are doing something good, but have you ever thought that you are playing god here?  Do you know how you are manipulating human lives? You are freezing and discarding children similar to manufactured turkeys during Thanksgiving season.

I can’t blame them though.  As Jesus said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”  They are all good, tender-hearted people.  I sense their genuine care for every couple that walks through the doors.  They adore my twins that tag along with me to some appointments partly because they know they helped create them.  

They remind me of the employees at Planned Parenthood who actually believe that what they are doing is for the well-being of those in need.  For Planned Parenthood, it might be to help a woman prevent pregnancy or end a crisis pregnancy.  At our Fertility clinic, it’s to grant the desire of children to an infertile couple.  In a sense, both positions of assistance are seemingly good-natured, but at what cost?  Is the cost of even one human life worth it?  Emphatically, NO!!, yet, our culture keeps telling us, Yes.

The culprit of this belief all boils down to the contraceptive revolution.  Once we accepted the idea of recreational sex, enabled by the use of birth control, it was only a matter of time before we viewed pregnancy as a disease and the beginning stages of life as biological waste when inconvenient.  Many women view the children growing in their womb as their property, as something that’s growing and taking up precious space in their body, ruining their dreams of a successful career, hindering their lifestyle.  My body, my choice, right?  Wrong.  

Yes, the child is growing in your body for sustenance, but that child is her own person, made up with the same genetic material on the day of her conception as she will have as an adult.  She has her own rights, and we have no authority to take her life, only God does.

The same is held true for these frozen embryos. Viewing them as property instead of human life makes for an easy decision to discard them when they are no longer wanted.

I perceived my embryos in this way when we began our treatments and I have complete remorse for doing so, conversely, I question if I would have given birth to my twins without this fertility method.  Although, I trust that God gives us His graces despite our faults.  

“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21)

On the day of our embryo transfer, while being prepped in the exam room directly next to the limbo chamber, I couldn’t help but brood over the hundreds of children stuck in there, waiting for a fateful choice of life and love, perpetual coldness or final destruction.  I often pray that their parents choose wisely and that of life.

Also, our exam room received an upgrade since our last trial with a giant screen that showed a live view of our embryos under the microscope before placed in a catheter, which injected them into my uterus.  

When I saw my two children on the screen, even in their little scientific, microscopic, embryonic state, I felt a deep longing to hold them, love them, rub noses with them, kiss them, and tell them that I was infinitely sorry for keeping them locked up in that cold, stagnant, limbo chamber for so long.  It’s no place for a child, no matter how small.

Yes, each time I walk into our clinic, much of my thoughts are conscience-stricken, vice versa, and seemingly hard to believe, I’m extremely grateful for the gifts that I’ve been given, and exhilarated for the road ahead prospectively paved with more little ones under our roof!  

It’s a constant tug-o-war, but my joy wholeheartedly exceeds my guilt.

our path to more children: embryo transfer today!

Today we transferred two of our three children out of their artificial state of limbo and into my, according to my doctor, “photogenic uterus”.

Now, we sit back and wait for our first pregnancy test on October 29, but it will be the first of many tests they need to “pass” until I am confident that they are strong and healthy babies.

We are already beating the odds, according to the success rates of IVF, which is around 20%-35%.  With our current twins, our success rate is 67%, and if these two children grow to be born, our rate will increase to a rare 80%.

As I throw these numbers out, I realize that these statistics mean nothing to God.  They do not apply to His infinite possibilities.  Everything has already been determined according to His plan and all I can do is go along for the ride living each day with love in my heart, using my abilities to show that love, accept His graces and in return be His obedient servant.

I should also be trusting and have faith that God will always provide what I need at the right moment.  He will give my children the strength to fully develop into flourishing and bright-eyed babies if that is His will.  If it isn’t, if one of both of my children do not survive, then I must believe in the goodness of His plan for my family.

Finally, during this time, I can only think of one saint to guide me.  She retained incalculable faith when the Angel Gabriel announced that she would carry the Son of God in her womb through an unexpected virgin pregnancy, and when she witnessed the unjustified pain, suffering, and death of her son.  She was the wife of a carpenter, a stay-at-home mom, and now reigns as the Queen of All Angels and Saints, Our Blessed Virgin Mary.  Please intercede for me through this prayer:

Mary, you have known
the ineffable joy of a holy motherhood;
give me a heart that can transmit an ardent, living
faith.
Sanctify my waiting,
bless this joyful hope that is in me,
grant that the fruit of my womb
may open out in virtue
and in holiness through your working
with that of your divine Son.
Amen.

And I thank all of you for your prayers.  In return, please let me know if I can pray for you!

Godspeed,

Kara

our path to more children: update +

While sitting…I mean running after my twins in the waiting room of our IVF clinic, then telling them not to play in the toilet of the bathroom, then chasing after them in the exam room, undressed from the waist down, trying to hold the thin paper cover over me so I wouldn’t expose everyone when the doctor walked in, and yelling “No, don’t touch that” as they are opening cabinets, pressing buttons on the sonogram machine, lifting the lid of the trash can labeled ‘Biohazard’, I reflected back to a question I often hear myself asking lately “Do we really want more children?

The answer is Yes* despite this stage of ‘tormenting mom to seemingly no end’, I know that there will be an end to it.  Just as women feel terror upon discovering an unexpected pregnancy of their own, I worry, not about the concept of more children, but more about my nurturing.  Will I have the patience and prudence to raise them in a loving way?  

If God grants us the blessing of more children then I have to say Yes because he wouldn’t give me more than what my patience can tolerate, and when I come to that point of desperation I will think of Pope Benedict XVI’s words:

“I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me those trials…then please remember that my strength goes only so far. Don’t overestimate my capacity. Don’t set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me.”


* – it’s not up to us, it’s up to God.  

When we signed ourselves up to do IVF we acted like our own god, taking the matter of conceiving children into our own hands instead of going down a path that respected the sanctity of human life of our children and of us, the parents.

We took a giant leap over the laws of nature, which is of God, and treated our children as nothing more than a piece of food, frozen for later use.  

Additionally, the conjugal and sacrificial love in our marriage was cast aside as we settled to create children in a Petri dish instead of through the marital act in which we fully and intimately give ourselves to each other, body and soul.

Then, after we found success and birthed our twins, we faced a deep moral dilemma with the fate of our three ‘leftover’ embryos (children), but soon that obstacle became a blessing when we decided to follow God’s plan instead of our own.  Despite our screw up, it was God’s will to give us these children and, ultimately, it’s His decision to create, extend or end one’s life, not ours, which made us realize that we had to release our three children from their frozen state and continue their lives.  

This brings us back to present day with an update on our path to do just that.  

After my harried doctor’s appointment, I was given the go-ahead to begin progesterone shots, and my Frozen Embryo Transfer is now scheduled for October 20 @ 8am.  

Prayers are welcome!

To read more about our journey before, during, and after IVF, please go here.

our path to more children: update

As of last week, Matt and I began our next IVF cycle in order to release our three embryos (children) from their cryopreserved state.  In other words, we began our path to more children.

Our embryo transfer was scheduled to occur on October 14, but that has now been pushed back a week due to my uterine wall being too thin.  One more week of Estrace should be sufficient to begin my progesterone (bum) shots, although I am all too relieved to have a little more time before I must end my nights with an ice pack, a shot in the bum cheek, a massage to the area, then a long session of wearing a heating pad….every…single….day…for roughly 10 weeks.

The pains we women must go through for our children!  But that is nothing compared to the aftermath of a cesarean section.  (I have not been through labor, so I have no idea if that is worse.  Some women say yes labor is more painful, and some say it’s not even close to having a c-section.)

As I digress.

Due to the delay, our Frozen Embryo Transfer is now scheduled for October 20th or 21st, depending on the outcome of my next sonogram.

On to another topic, Gadsden and Davny are two today! The sayings a true that time goes by exponentially faster the older your children become. Pregnancy seemed to move at a snails pace, then the first three months of the twins’ lives weren’t much quicker. Sleep deprivation was probably the main cause of a slow beginning. Their first year sped up when I wanted them to stay in the ‘sitting up, but not crawling yet’ stage. They didn’t stay there for long.  Then crawling, walking, talking, and now are currently residing in the ‘driving me bonkers’ stage!  Soon, potty training begins, which will be three days of torture, but completely worth it in the end.

I always say God made little children cute for a reason, so you don’t get too angry with them when they destroy your house, unroll the entire roll of toilet paper all over the bathroom while playing in the toilet, eat dog food or dirt, repeatedly hit you, daddy or each other, use your walls and floors as an art project, constantly touch and hang from the “hot” oven after several time-outs, dash out in a busy parking lot or street with you running after them like a screaming banshee, etc, etc….

Being a mom of toddler twins may make me mentally deranged, but I love every single second of it! I pray that Matt and I receive the blessing of more craziness!