On December 13, 2013, I took a pregnancy test knowing I wasn’t pregnant. I had started spotting two days prior, a common sign that the embryo didn’t implant. But this time was different. This was my 10th round of in vitro fertilization.
Many people ask me how I was able to withstand so many rounds of IVF. Those who haven’t done it want to know for financial reasons — Are you loaded? Those who have done it, even just once, want to know for mental reasons — Are you insane?
I can answer both.
The out-of-pocket cost of IVF is about $20,000, but we only had to pay for one full round. The rest were at least partially covered by insurance. The total amount of money we spent on IVF, however, will remain forever unknown because I would immediately vomit.
Explaining how I mentally got through it is more complicated.
Have you ever dated a guy who was extremely kind, loving and generous at first, but as time went on his personality slowly showed signs that he might be a selfish prick? You ignored those subtle signs and forgave him quickly, remembering the way things were, and then, three years later, you wake up and realize you’re in a damaging, sadistic and dysfunctional relationship with a sociopath.
My first child was easily conceived using IVF — an avenue that we had to pursue due to my husband’s low sperm count. The first round failed, but my son, Hudson, was born after the second try.
He was healthier, sweeter and more beautiful than I ever could have imagined. The quick success gave me this false sense of security. I went into my third round cocky and excited to start again.
Two days before the pregnancy test, I started spotting. My friend, who’s never had problems conceiving, explained it was probably “implantation spotting.” Actually, it was “you’re not pregnant” spotting. The negative pregnancy test stung for a second, but I was quick to forgive, figuring I’d have better luck next time. When the fourth and fifth tries had the same results, I started to get a little concerned and wondered what the doctors were missing. Did my C-section scramble up my insides and leave a ton of scar tissue? Is there a tumor somewhere? Does one pregnancy change your uterus and make it impregnable?
The doctors would tell me the truth: “I don’t know why it’s not working.” And then offer me a dare: “Do you want to try again and see if it works the next time?”
I changed clinics, and for the next year IVF became a very controlled, sterile, systematic process in my life.
Step 1: Stab myself with dozens of shots and make a bunch of eggs
Step 2: Have a perfect egg retrieval and transfer
Step 3: Get the results of a negative pregnancy test
Step 4: Spend 24 hours crying and use one of those hours to yell at my husband — subject matter ranging from why he needs to floss every day to how we’re going to get brutally murdered if he doesn’t turn on the security system at night
Step 5: Shove my feelings deep inside my internal armor and present a smile
Step 6: Set up the next round of this time-sucking and mental health-crushing journey to parenthood
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
By the ninth round, at my third clinic, those closest tried to pull me away from this routine so I could move on with my life. My mom begged me to break ties with IVF, fearing that the hundreds of hormones I was taking would lead to cancer.
My sister “joked” that she was going to stage an intervention.
My husband assured me that the beautiful life and child we already had were enough for him.
But I knew two things. First, I didn’t deserve more than what I had already received from IVF and was being selfish for wanting more. Second, not having another child was not an option. I was going to keep doing IVF until someone told me that it will never, ever, ever work for me again. My fourth doctor did just that.
For my 10th round, I traveled across the country to the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine because I heard that it magically got women pregnant when every other clinic failed. Exactly what I needed — a magician to make a positive pregnancy test appear! If it didn’t work, my doctor there told me I would have to consider an alternative such as an egg donor.
My dream to have another child biologically was ending. Hearing that news gutted me. The pain, grief and guilt from the last three years spilled out. I went into that round too raw and exposed to be able to control or force anything, so I didn’t try to. When I started spotting, I didn’t feel the usual sadness or pain or desire to yell at my husband. I conceded and accepted the result of that final dare. I felt numb.
Two days later, I took a home pregnancy test because it was my friend’s 40th birthday party that night, and my test at the clinic wasn’t until the next day. The negative result was going to be my go-ahead to drink my face off. When I went to throw away the pregnancy test, I saw a faint second line. That was my daughter, Mila. Abracadabra — I couldn’t believe my eyes and still can’t believe that she’s my child.
My journey to parenthood was extremely painful mentally, but ended up being a tremendous gift. If it worked sooner, I wouldn’t have the mindset, life and family that I do today.
First, I am a better person because of it. Prolonged fertility issues humbled me, made me eternally a bit raw and gifted me with loads of compassion for others. It helped me progress as a person. I used to think there was a logical explanation for everything and used to need the answers for everything. Now, I realize that I don’t need to understand it all, and that I can’t control everything in my life. If something doesn’t work out for me, I’ll let it go more quickly and I trust that something better is around the corner. The only things I can control are my outlook on life and the way I treat others. Plus, I’m a better parent — more patient, thankful and caring. I often tell my children, “Thank you for picking me to be your Mom.”
Tasha Blasi is the founder of the Fertilities Unite Project, which aims to empower women trying to get or stay pregnant. She offers a raw, real and unfiltered approach to educating and supporting women on their journey to motherhood.