They Don't Call Them Test Tube Babies Anymore

This was inspired by Casey Liss's recent blog post about the issues he and his wife had getting pregnant. As such, it's full of squishy personal details. You probably don't want to read it.

My wife and I got married in 2006. Most of her friends were already married and on their way to real adulthood1. One after another, they got pregnant. We knew we wanted kids eventually, but we weren't in any hurry. Thankfully, there wasn't much in the way of familial pressure. Then came the second kids and we decided it was probably about time to try, at least casually. So we tried. And tried. And tried. For over a year we got nowhere. Not even a false positive on the pregnancy test. We started to worry.

Digression 1

I think most people focus on how difficult it is for the woman in this situation. And it is. Don't get me wrong, I've seen it firsthand. But it's not exactly a walk in the park for the dude either. It makes you feel inadequate and helpless. It's every bit as emasculating for a man as it is defeminizing for a woman.

In 2009 we decided to go to a fertility specialist who had an office in the area to get help. They decided, given my wife's age and our lack of success, that it would be best to skip all the "lightweight" stuff and go right to IVF.

My wife's insurance covered four full attempts (mine covered none). We used all of them, plus a "half attempt" using viable embryos that had been left over from a previous try. None of them took. Let me repeat that: after five tries over almost two years, we had nothing to show for it except disappointment. We were spent. I was as supportive as I could be, but I wasn't the one whose body had been bombarded with unnatural amounts of hormones over two years. Again, I felt helpless. Mentally and emotionally exhausted, we started to discuss alternatives like adoption.

My mother-in-law, however, was not daunted. She researched the best IVF clinics in the country. She found one in New York City, which is easily reachable from where we live in central New Jersey. While their process was generally the same as our local doctor, their method of growing the embryos was experimental. At this point methodology wasn't our main concern. A change may have been what we needed. But could we handle yet another round of torture? After some discussion and consultation with the doctor in New York, we decided that yes, we could.

There was just one hitch: insurance would be of no help to us. All expenses would be out of pocket. And IVF is not cheap. Thankfully my in-laws came to the rescue again by promising to reimburse us for everything except our transportation costs.

Digression 2

Considering how much of a factor stress can play in the success of a pregnancy, it's funny just how stressful going through the process of IVF can be. There are tons of pills to take. There is extensive hormone monitoring, blood tests, and doctor visits. But I think the worst are the positive pregnancy tests that turn out to be non-viable pregnancies2.

Timing is crucial. Some of our trips to the local doctor involved driving in blinding snow storms. My wife and her mom drove into Manhattan in the middle of a hurricane. The whole thing was almost completely ruined because the train we took to an appointment broke down and we barely made it to the hospital in time.

And then there's the shots. Multiple times a day. Some are tiny little jobbies like diabetics use to take their insulin. Others are massive javelins that look more appropriate for use on a horse. Administering them was unpleasant enough, but I can only imagine what it was like to be on the receiving end. My wife took it all without complaining. Sometimes (believe it or not) we forgot to do a shot or we were somewhere where it would have been inappropriate for her to whip out her ass so I could jab a piece of stainless steel into it. Panic would set in. Had we just fucked ourselves?

Maybe the sixth time will be a charm, right? Six has always been a bit of a lucky number for me. After many harrowing trips into the city (see above), our first try with the new doctor looked really good. The pregnancy test was positive and my wife's hormone levels were right where they needed to be. We were cautiously excited.

I remember vividly our first ultrasound after that positive pregnancy test. I think I noticed it before everyone in the room, including the doctor. There were two little dots. The sometimes-dreaded "multiples". I wanted to laugh my ass off right there in the exam room.

Fast forward seven mildly worry-filled months filled with more ultrasounds. It was the day after my wife's baby shower and she wasn't feeling well. At 3:30 in the morning she asked me to take her to the hospital. When we get there, they tell us she's in labor. It was seven weeks too soon. I know this is not unusual with twins, but there was still more panic. Had we gone through all of that, carried the pregnancy almost to term, only to have it all ripped away from us with the goal in sight? Turns out no, we hadn't.

It's been a little over two years. Our twins are as healthy as can be and getting into all sorts of normal toddlery trouble. New challenges certainly await us as a family,3 but after what we went through just to get here, I think we can probably handle it.

Fun Fact: Louise Brown, the first person conceived and born using IVF, was born the same year I was. She's five months, almost to the day, older than I am.

  1. I don't have any friends, so they don't fit into our story.  

  2. Pro Tip: Do not, under any circumstances, watch the movie Revolutionary Road after getting the news that you've had a miscarriage. 

  3. I'd be more than willing to accept donations for a college fund. Not looking forward to that one. 

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