Around this time, some women in my local Resolve support group were talking about SART data. SART stands for Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, and the data refers to self-reported success rates with IVF. Where I come from, there are two main clinics that handle all of the Infertiles. The one I was going to was a one-man show run by someone who, back in the Louise Brown days, had been a pioneer in the field. In fact, most of the doctors over at the other clinic - a Keurig-and-fancy-snacks-in-the-waiting-room type place - had learned from him in some form or another.
But when I looked up Dr. God Complex's stats in SART, the numbers were dismal. Whereas the numbers from the Keurig clinic were pretty strong.
We opted for a second opinion.
The workup at the Keurig clinic was extensive and required us talking to a lot of different people, including several students who I guess were interning or doing residencies or whatever. Three hours after our arrival, we still hadn't seen the doctor, which would've been okay if there had been a warning about spending half our day there. (There hadn't been.)
When we finally got in to see the actual RE, he was a cold, clinical man with absolutely zero bedside manor. Even though my husband had taken the time (and dropped something like $30) on getting copies of our records from Dr. GC's office, delivering them himself to the Keurig clinic the week prior to our appointment, Dr. Coldheart hadn't even bothered to glance through them.
Instead, he took one look at me and my plus-sized body and guessed that I had PCOS (I didn't). When I explained that I'd lost my ovary and, as a result, had been getting elevated FSH readings and the disappointing AMH results, but that Dr. God Complex had assured me that they were because of the surgery and not because, you know, I'm completely infertile, he looked at me like I was speaking Mandarin.
He then informed me that Dr. God Complex was totally wrong, and that he (Dr. Coldheart) had no idea why Dr. GC had told me such "falsehoods" to begin with. AMH, he informed me, didn't fluctuate due to surgery. It didn't tend to fluctuate, period.
With cold, clinical precision, he delivered the ol' "less than 1 percent" speech (as in, "I give you less than a 1 percent chance of IVF success"). I then was given the donor egg speech (as in, "Your eggs are crap, so we think you should purchase some young, fresh ones and increase your chances to 30 percent or higher"). If I insisted on doing IVF with my own eggs, they'd comply, but I was informed the likelihood of failure was "high" and then I'd end up having to use a donor down the road anyway.
I started crying in Coldheart's office. Like, tears-streaming-down-my-face-in-rapid-succession crying. He stared at me, blank-faced, and said, "I know this isn't what you want to hear." Really? You think?
And in the midst of this raw, emotional outpouring, Coldheart had the nerve - the absolute gall - to tell me that I was too fat for his fucking clinic to work with in the first place. He advised me to drop 40 lbs. yesterday, and told me that until I did, the clinic wouldn't work with me, period. (Later I would discover that this, in fact, is one of the reasons the clinic's SART data was so much stronger than that of Dr. God Complex's - because they had a longstanding history of cherry-picking clients of the right weight, the right age, etc. The most favorable conditions for providing them with more successes.)
So then I got angry. Like, really angry. I don't like being told I can't do something, including reproduce, and I especially did not appreciate getting this diagnosis from an unfeeling heartless bastard of a doctor who saw me as a set of statistics and not, you know, a fucking human.
I vowed that I would prove him wrong. That I would get pregnant with my own everything, and then walk back into his office with my healthy bouncing baby whatever, and show him how wrong he was.
What happened next was kind of epic. Like, if my life had been a movie, this would've been when the empowering pop song started playing over a montage of me taking Action (capital A intended).
There were thrice-weekly fertility yoga sessions. There were daily green cocktails of wheatgrass powder mixed into organic, unfiltered apple juice. There were boatloads of supplements. Seriously, if I actually calculated how much I've spent on fruitless vitamins and minerals the past couple of years... Probably enough for a nice beach vacation. No joke.
Some day I'll write a post about all of the crazy shit I've done in the name of increased fertility. Pretty much the only things I didn't try were giving up wheat and/or dairy and/or meat entirely, though at times I limited all of the above.
None of it worked.
With each fresh failure, I'd revisit that day in Dr. Coldheart's office. He had been right; he told me things I didn't want to hear. Things I wasn't ready to hear. I would scour the interwebs for stories of women who were like me - my age, my weight, with my FSH/AMH/WTFever. Women who ultimately found success by using DHEA or doing acupuncture or praying to a pagan god of fertility.
But for every success story I found, I'd read five more about women who found success another way, either through donor eggs, donor embryos, traditional adoption, or making peace with going child-free. These were all options discussed in my monthly Resolve support group - in fact, I had never even heard the term "donor embryo" before my first meeting with that group. I went home and Googled it that night.
From the beginning, any conversation Mr. Hope and I had about alternative paths to parenthood included conversation (albeit limited) about donor embryos. It appealed to me more than donor egg, because my husband has a kiddo from a previous relationship (and one who is his spitting image, no less). So I already had on child in my life who was half Hope and none me; I didn't want or need another.
But a child who was biologically neither of ours? That could work. That was adoption, only I would cook someone else's bun in my own oven. I would still get to experience pregnancy. Birth. Breastfeeding.
Yet even as I started to see the benefits, I still couldn't get my head around the idea entirely. I felt like the fertility community wanted to have it both ways; surrogates were "gestational carriers" but recipients of donor embryos were something more? And while I completely understood that true parenthood is the part where you, you know, actually raised the kid, I had so many concerns and fears about getting to that point.
I recently came across a quote by William Arthur Ward:
"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails."
I've spent the past couple of years thinking I was the realist - cutting out caffeine! eating more kale! bending my body into poses designed to increase blood flow to my lady business! - but really, those were all acts of an optimist. Someone who hoped that switching to unscented body lotion would make her rotten reproductive parts start working again.
But I am so tired of wishing and hoping and waiting. Every fresh failure takes more and more out of me.
It's time to be a realist.
So now Mr. Hope and I are adjusting the sails, and heading into the uncharted waters (for us) of embryo donation.
On Tuesday, I am driving to see Dr. Smiles to discuss the protocol for my third and final attempt at IVF, as well as his "third party reproduction" coordinator to discuss the embryo donation program at the clinic. The decision to pursue both simultaneously has given me more peace than I've had in the last 12 months - possibly longer.
I think being a realist kind of suits me.