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Super-Secret Post
Originally written at the (actual) end of month 21

I need to tell you right now that this post does not have a happy ending. At least you have the benefit of knowing up front instead of being strung along for days like those of us in the inner circle were. It does not end well.

Imagine yourself just one day after the events of the last post. My husband and I had a wonderful anniversary dinner and had mentally moved on to the next step of worrying whether or not I could fit in a second IUI while I was on work placement.

Meanwhile, there was the strange business of following up on my first IUI. You see, the clinic has two follow up blood tests after an IUI: a progesterone one 7 days after ovulation and a quantitative hCG one 14 days after. Since my luteal phase is usually 10 or 11 days, I asked what to do if I got my period before that 14 days after and was told to use a home pregnancy test.

There’s quite a backstory to this home pregnancy test. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d taken a test even before day 28. After a few months of “trying,” I took tests if I was a day late (around day 27 or 28) because, if I was having chemical pregnancies, I wanted to have the data on hand for the specialist. I had stopped using these after our specialist advised us it was unnecessary to test unless I was more late, and I was glad for the less stress and the less expense.

Because my luteal phase is so short, I had switched to only using extra-early detection tests designed for 4 days before your period is due (i.e. 10 days after ovulation, i.e. the day my period is due).

Then, when I bought extra strips for my fertility monitor from a third-party Amazon seller, they threw in 3 really fancy digital early detection tests. They are completely fool-proof: they only tell you the result when it’s ready, the digital display maintains that result and it doesn’t change if read past the testing window, and it says “pregnant” or “not pregnant” instead of anything else. My only complaint (other than the price I didn’t have to pay) is that I am at a loss of how to dispose of them! They are electronics! They have batteries!

(Actually, at 10 days post- ovulation the test only has a 52% chance of being able to detect a pregnancy. My husband (a mathematician) and my mother had a good laugh at that — my husband pointed out that I could flip a coin, and Mom said I could tape a battery to one side to weight it (and then it would be a fancy battery powered one, too!))

In this particular month, since I got my period right after missing my test window on the Friday morning, I waited until Saturday morning. Since I woke up later, it had been 24 hours. Since I was used to waiting out the fertility monitor and since I expected this test to be negative, I didn’t feel much anxiety and went about brushing my teeth and glancing at it every half-minute while it flashed an hourglass. As I put the toothpaste away, I glanced down again.

I stared at it, assumed I had done something wrong or misread it, remembered it was fool-proof and in plain English, then outright *squawked*. (These steps all happened in about 1 second.)

My husband was at the other end of the apartment but came running: “Is it positive?” I just handed it to him.

“My period,” I kept saying. “I got my period.” Then I started crying. “I lost it. I must have lost one. I’m losing it right now.”

My husband held me for a minute while I freaked out about every possible bad interpretation this could point to — being unable to keep a pregnancy and genetic problems being the top two. They haven’t completely checked me with every possible test, just the major ones. Then I got up to deal with it.

I needed to know what to do about the hCG blood test. If I was losing something, I wanted them to have an earlier measure to figure out how far along I was before the levels started to drop again.

Since it was Saturday, the on-call nurse had to call me back, so I Skyped both mothers and had a shower to kill the time. Finally, the lab’s short Saturday hours were closing and I hadn’t heard back so I just went and had it done.

I figured, why not? It’s a simple blood test done at the public lab. If it came back 0, I would know the home one was a false positive. Worst come to worst, I could visit the fertility clinic on Monday and get another request form or maybe they could fax it to the lab. The clinic had better not be mad; they failed to call me back while I thought I was miscarrying.

I got home, made some lunch, did the dishes, and suddenly it was 1pm, and my period was taking a break… or we were pregnant.

It was still gone when the lab results were up: the home test was not a false positive. A measure of 10 means pregnant and I was at 13. But had I lost it?

Knowing the next couple of days were going to be like this with obsessed hour by hour updates, I decided to try to proceed as if I were pregnant… make that “still pregnant.” I was still a bit too shocked to remember that I had, at the very least, *been* pregnant even if I wasn’t anymore. But I had to wait until Monday when the clinic could tell me what to do (presumably, send me for another hCG that would either be higher or lower, telling us whether it took or not).

Indeed, the roller coaster just got worse. The results Monday were a textbook increase (doubled in 45 hours to “26”) but it took two more days to hear back from the clinic and they wanted another test.

At this point, the moniker “Schrodinger’s baby” seemed more apt that ever. I was pregnant, but would I stay that way? Just had to keep checking…

In the meantime, a viral outbreak at my daycare work placement meant I had to ask someone if it was safe to be there; this created yet another person in the circle that would need to hear bad news if it came.

Finally, I went for a third test before work on Thursday. My math background helpfully reminded me “It takes three data points to check for exponential growth” while the rest of me started worrying about the cramps and spotting I had had overnight.

Sure enough, when I come home from work that day, Hubby is sitting on the couch, which he never does. He’s waiting for me.

My hCG is at 4. I am no longer pregnant.

The clinic didn’t talk to me directly at any point and I still don’t know what they call this: chemical pregnancy? Miscarriage? Some other fancy name? [It turned out to be a biochemical pregnancy by their standards. But as my support group leader pointed out, that’s not much of a comfort.]

The interesting thing is how routine this was for me. It wasn’t that much more directly upsetting for me as the panic that started around month 3 and 4 when having sex on our ovulation date wasn’t working.

Part of me wonders how much my blabbing to a few people was an unconscious desire to drag everyone through it with me. Now they have a taste of “Is this spotting or my period starting? Should I be worrying or trying to relax? Should I call the doctor; they said they’d call.” It’s a taste of the loss I feel every month.

Breaking the bad news to everyone who knew about the positive tests was so much harder than telling people about the whole thing after it was over. My one coworker who knew had gotten really excited and then I had to make her cry. It helped me resolve to handle positive tests differently; it was only because I was sure at first I was losing something that I told the two moms and a friend, but next time I’ll wait to be sure.

Thank goodness for support group. There are two weeks for everything to sink in and then I can talk about it there.

I have a very important question: was it random, like the millions of chemical pregnancies that just happen (usually undetected)? Was it something that had a higher chance of happening because of the procedure we had performed? Or did it mean there was something wrong with me we hadn’t explored yet?

One thing I’ve learned is that I am really bad at interpreting the implications of our tests, dismissing what was really the problem as not significant and panicking over what would turn out to be not average but within the norm. But there’s nothing inherent in the IUI that would increase our chance of losing something once we had it. The embryo is created the natural way and nothing fancy happens for it to implant – the only difference is how far the sperm has to swim and the competition they have (only the prime ones are used). So, if we were able to create an embryo, there must be a problem with keeping one? That was not anticipated.

So can I maybe not hang on to embryos? Maybe there are genetic incompatibilities? They didn’t test for either of those yet.

I bled for a week after the procedure. Was that my body or the test? Did it hurt our chances? Is it yet another way we are bad candidates for this step?

The good news is we can do another IUI immediately, same cycle. For more bad news, my cycle is now shifted 7 days later and my plans for the next few months might be screwed up in a big way.

The inconclusive news is: does this mean we should do natural IUI a whole bunch since it seems like it could work for us? Then I lose my big upside to interventions but also I don’t have to do IVF which would be awesome and cheap. And even though it’s easier, I’m still a huge slave to my cycle, running here and there for tests in the last two weeks of each cycle and keeping the first week free in case I’m doing this dance again. Although, after we move house, that will be less of a problem.

So that’s the actual, real ending of month 21 — I promise. Remember, super-secret posts are old; this was all over by the end of July. In real time, we’ve just moved into a new, wonderful house and we’re busy furnishing and moving in.

I’m OK and if you need a hug, just ask.

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