So when I started writing this post, it was a bit tongue in cheek, a bit “this is kind of what I’m thinking and I’m aware that it’s bonkers but let’s go with it because it’s quite funny.” I even opened it with the words “This is a bit of a weird post, but it’s something that’s slightly been gnawing away at the back of my mind, despite my sane and rational self telling me that I’m totally mental.”
But that was before I got the results of my most recent cycle of IVF.
Day 1: Yay both eggs fertilised normally. Long way to go but it’s better than last time.
Day 3: One embryo is 6-cells grade 2, one embryo is 5-cells grade 2. They want to keep culturing them both to day 5 or 6 to see if they turn into more robust blastocysts. This is the point at which I begin to see where I think this might be going. Last time I had a 6-cell and a 5-cell on day 3, they just stopped growing and were still 6-cell and 5-cell by day 6.
Day 6: As I feared, both embryos stopped growing. I’ve got nothing to freeze for this IVF cycle.
This is increasingly looking like confirmation that my egg quality is too poor for me to have a child using my own eggs. Yes, women over 40 get pregnant successfully with IVF with their own eggs. But I don’t know if women over 40 with egg quality as poor as mine appears to be get pregnant (and stay pregnant, and have healthy babies) with their own eggs.
And every time something like this happens, I wonder whether I’m banging my head against a brick wall, throwing good money after bad, and a hundred other cliches. The thing is I don’t feel like I’m done yet, and yet I don’t want to feel that all this is going through the motions so I can feel that I’ve done everything (rather than actually doing it in the expectation that it will be successful.) I don’t want to write it off before it’s written off (because yes, there is some part of me that believes in voodoo and thinks that that makes it a self-fulfilling prophecy.)
And, although this post was originally a bit comedy, I do wonder whether along with all the societal bullshit about a woman’s role in life being to reproduce, and feeling like a failure if you haven’t hit these “life goals” — marriage, kids etc — like everyone else, that actually, this sense that I’m not worth reproducing, adds to the way that women who want to have their own children, but can’t, feel.
Basically, the knowledge that my eggs seem to be genetically abnormal is quite a hefty pill to swallow. In part because it seems to suggest that my genes aren’t worth passing on. Which is something of a blow when you’re a high achiever who thinks that they add value to the world and that your descendants might be able to do similar.
And although I know — obviously — that there are all sorts of reasons why my eggs might be genetically poor — not least the fact that I’m currently trying to reproduce at a stage that in classic film terms is the equivalent of Harrison Ford dive rolling under the rapidly closing shutter of my fertility window. Or something.
But whether you believe in a god, or in Darwinian natural selection, isn’t there something in the idea that if you’re brilliant enough you should be able to reproduce? Even if you’ve left it quite late. I say “quite”, I mean “really”.
And I know, I KNOW that it doesn’t work like that. The brilliant (slightly Downton-esque) mother of a friend, T, used to say to her “Having a child isn’t an achievement, darling. Anyone can do it, just look at the shopping malls, they’re full of children.” Which was obviously a) mega snob and b) not that helpful if, like me, you’re proving that no, actually not “anyone can”.
But you kind of see what she means. Intellect, kindness, altruism or lack thereof, is — obviously — not a predictor or guide to fecundity, so of COURSE I shouldn’t think that struggling to reproduce is anything more than a biological fact utterly unrelated to my value as a human being. But you can see what I mean, can’t you?
So that’s where I am right now. Another IVF cycle down. Nothing to show for it, and a slight sense that that makes me a shitter human being.