I didn’t come up with this; I made my return to the yoga world. I lost a lot of strength and flexibility while suspended in cycle-banking abeyance, and like so many facets of yoga practice, that is an elegant metaphor for many other parts of my life, from hormonal and stress-induced weight gain to neglected friendships and dental care to shoddy housekeeping and the slow return of blood flow to my love-starved nether-regions (Yeah, that’s right–I went there) which seemed to go into hibernation in the face of the dark, looming threats of blastocyst biopsy and CCS. In the quickest of updates, I have spent the past month working out with a personal trainer and heating up the treadmill (thanks, polar vortex) with some old-fashioned sneaker rubber, attempting to plan a trip to Puerto Rico in April after impulsively buying a round-trip flight to San Juan, dieting unsuccessfully, hosting a Pampered Chef party, booking another ski weekend in Vermont, catching up with friends, finding inspiration in my work (and planning for my announced observation with the fancy-pants assistant superintendent, a former English chairperson), oh, and talking to doctors, or planning to talk to doctors. My regroup with Spock was predictably irritating: he was aloof and condescending as usual in the face of my desperate search for some guidance and expertise. I asked him about transfer protocol, to which he responded with what might have been mild boredom at my naivete: “Well, it’s not like stimulation; there really is only one protocol,” etc. Um, this is not really true since CCRM has a track record for partial acknowledgement of immunology, with a doctor on staff who requires all her patients to adhere to a gluten-free diet, and pioneered the use of an anti-histamine cocktail to reduce inflammation. When I pressed him, this was (vaguely) the conversation:
“Why don’t I have a kid if I’m making normal embryos?”
“Well, you’ve never done a transfer before with CCS-normal embryos.”
“Right, but if I made normal embryos this time, at 34, can’t we assume that I have in the past too.”
“We have no way of knowing that. Day-3 transfers are an illusion blah, blah, blah” (He loves to gives this speech.)
“Yes, obviously, but what happened this time around that was so magical that I theoretically made normal embryos having never made them before?”
“One word–L A B, lab” (I swear he said that, verbatim.)
Momentary head-scratching: does the lab help with chromosomal normality? How? Doesn’t that twist of fate occur at fertilization? I thought a good lab helped more with healthy growth. Sputtering, “Oh…but how do you explain the failure of euploid embryos in general? That accounts for 30% of your CCS-transfer data.”
[Insert long scientific explanation involving mitochondria and fatal gene mutations below the chromosomal level] “…but I understand if you want to use a gestational carrier. You’ve worked hard to get these embryos, and with your cycle history, there’s no guarantee.”
“Do you think that’s necessary?” [Insert long set of questions about experimental approaches to assisting implantation]
“If you want to find an immunologist to treat you separately, I won’t stand in your way, but I don’t believe in any of that stuff.”
“Well what do you think my chances of pregnancy are?”
Mildly exasperated, “I can’t tell you that because of your cycle history. We don’t know why your previous transfers failed. Listen, talk [gestational carrier] over with your husband and let me know what you want to do. Then give [Nurse H] a call so she can work up a calendar.”
Then I called and made a consultation appointment with Dr. Tortoriello at SIRM-NY and a follow-up to resume treatment with Dr. Kwak-Kim. Not that I would move my embryos there, but I need some perspective to work this whole thing through in my head. However, Spock planted the seed–gestational carrier, no pregnancy, no nursing, watching my cousin (she volunteered) get big and pregnant with my baby, jealousy of a pregnant lady who is lovingly sacrificing to carry my and my husband’s genetic child, weird, alien in too many ways, not something I ever stopped to wrap my head around because I never thought it was an option that would do us any good given my “clear egg problem”–and it made my heart hurt. Since then I have been grappling with this. It’s not the white-hot, electric panic of awaiting verdict-delivering phone calls but more an anxious groping in murky uncertainty under the weighty consideration of three $50,000 last-chance embryos and 2 uteruses–one mine and potentially fatal, the other proven but taking with it a multitude of desperately longed for rites of motherhood. If I were a Vulcan (like Spock) and making purely logical scientific decisions, it makes sense to jump right to gestational carrier–eliminate the variable and see what happens–but of course there are significant emotional losses attached to that choice. To go through all this and not even give myself a chance? But to go forward with a traditional transfer is an all-or-nothing game, and you’ve all seen how well I do under the pressure of high-stakes betting.
But I haven’t given up on Project Enjoy-Life, which brings me back to the yoga metaphor in my title. I started going to some classes at a local studio, and the instructor makes us hold warrior in its various permutations for a medieval stretch of time while my quad twitches and burns with the heat of a thousand suns. And then she says, “Smile! You have to learn to find comfort in an uncomfortable place.” I am trying, Phoebe! I am trying to love my husband, envision myself in the not-so-distant future on sandy beaches and gliding (clumsily) down a slope of Vermont powder, capitalize on this time to get my proverbial house in order, find passion in my work, drink in the endorphins of a good run, eat well, sip my wine slowly, laugh. The gnawing fear is always there, wanting to eclipse everything else, but I’m trying. What else is there to do but let this convoluted decision, with all its shades of gray and nagging unanswered questions, play out for the next few months? I’m hoping that, in time, the path will reveal itself.