From Her Point of View



After weeks of shots in the belly, shots in the ass, estrogen patches, supplements, not lifting more than 10lbs, avoiding caffeine, sugar, raw almost anything, soft cheese, and Advil, surgical procedures, bed rest, and essentially avoiding anything that makes anyone any fun.


I’m not saying I failed. I’m not saying I didn’t. But in the end, that’s exactly what happened. We may never know the reason. It could be that the embryo wasn’t genetically viable and the body has an incredible way of avoiding that kind of heartbreak. It could be something the clinic did. It could be something I did. It could just be bad luck.

I’m not going to say “it happened for a reason”, because fuck that. Nor am I going to say “it’ll happen when it’s time”, because fuck that, too. If the universe has a timeline and it’s not right now, I would have appreciated a heads up before we took out a $20,000 loan.

I want to make people feel better. If you’re hurting, I’m hurting, and I just need to fix things. But this has taught me that some things just need to be felt, not fixed.

So here I am Friday afternoon, pumped full of pregnancy hormones (which is really the cruel joke in all of this), getting a call that starts with “do you have a minute to talk?” And I sat at work and cried before I had to bring lunch into a room full of incredible women, all with their new babies. And I’ll admit I kind of bolted out of the room, grabbed my things, and left. And I continued that cry in the car. Like, a legit ugly cry. And I’ve had some tears since, but that horrid ugly cry is what I needed. I felt that loss. I felt the grieving. I felt sad.

I am so, so truly appreciative of those in my life who love me. I have felt support in ways I’m not even sure I knew existed. I have a husband whose love is beyond words. I have family and friends who work so hard to let us know we’re in your hearts and minds. I love you all from the bottom of my heart, please know that.

I also need to ask for a little slack if I don’t always want to look on the bright side. Sometimes, I just need the leeway to say “this may never work.” It doesn’t mean it won’t, it just means I’m acknowledging what’s going through my head, and sometimes getting that out is all that’s necessary. Please forgive me when you want me to feel like my body can do anything, and I disagree. And I’m not going to apologize when encouraging words including hope, strength, and bravery are met with rebuttals of reality. My reality is this may or may not work, and acceptance of that does not mean I’ve given up.

So on to the next. We have one frozen embryo, so we’re going to try again. And if that doesn’t work, who knows? Maybe we’ll do it again. Maybe we’ll move to adoption. But as Mike has said, over and over: whether or not this works isn’t the end goal. No matter how our path looks, we’ve committed to becoming parents, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. 

(So, you know, if your mom’s friend’s neighbors daughter is preggers and looking to adopt, tell her to call us!)

If at first you don’t succeed

It’s been a long two weeks, which makes the bad news even more hurtful. Yesterday our test came back negative. Cycle one has failed.

A bit of backstory, as I haven’t updated here in a minute:

  • 6 eggs retreived
  • 5 eggs fertilized
  • 2 embryos made it to 5-day transfer
  • 1 embryo transfered, and 1 embryo went to cryo-storage

In other words, we’ve got one more shot at this.

Describing a failed IVF cycle escapes words. Because it feels like a loss, even if it isn’t the same as, say, a miscarriage. Just a couple of cells, not even implanted, so pregnancy hasn’t even happened yet. And yet, I feel as though…. well, it hurts.

We had some great news this week too: I haven’t yet updated over at my other blog, but Mom’s PET scans show no signs of cancer! The bone marrow biopsies are showing some atypical cells, so we can’t say the words “cancer free” just yet, but all signs are pointing toward an excellent recovery.

Still, negativity bias. Whomp, whomp.

That’s not really how I am, or at least not how I try to be. I try to stay positive, I try to be chipper. I try not to bury myself in work, or distract myself. I try to process real emotions, but remain optimistic.

Yet, when push comes to shove, I retreat to these old ways. I work longer hours. I watch too many movies, or listen to music too loudly. I read books. I futz with my phone at dinner. Call these coping mechanisms, I guess, but today they just feel like the only option.

When your first round of IVF fails. I asked for extra listeria. Too soon?

A post shared by Courtney Grinfeld Fabio (@ringleaderc) on

I can only keep reminding myself that the goal is not to be pregnant, the goal is to have children. And we’re a long way from reaching that. We’re getting one step closer to that goal, even with each failure.

Now excuse me while I escape to Westeros for a while.

2016-08-27 11.12.57

Quick update for some good news

Thursday: 6 eggs retrieved.

Friday: 5 eggs fertilized.

Saturday: “Several of your embryos look good today so we will go on to a day 5 transfer.”

This is spectacular news. The 6 eggs we had on Thursday got us pretty worried. That’s a bit of a low number. But to have 5 eggs fertilize is huge. Typical fertilization rates are usually around 50% with standard fertilization (i.e. put the egg and sperm together and see what happens) versus 50-80% for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) (i.e. injecting the sperm into the egg). We opted for conventional, so to get 83% fertilization is a real boon.

Moreover, day 5 transfer means that the embryos are growing well. Day 5 is preferable to a day 3 transfer. Some clinics see as much as 30% higher live birth rates with day 5 transfers.

Now the long wait begins.

Paying the toll

Today was our egg retrieval day. That’s one of the two big days in the IVF process. I could write all about the process, but you could simply Google IVF and find a zillion explanations of what this entails (two months of meds leading into two big days at the clinic). We’ve been a little quiet lately, primarily because we’re just heads down focused on making this happen, balancing work and life and endless doctors visits and injections.

This is what I look like after waking up at 5am for egg retrieval
Here’s the quick update: we’ve got 6 eggs. At this point that’s all we know. We can’t tell how many are viable, and we won’t know until tomorrow just how many are fertilized. And we won’t know whether it’s going to be a day 3 or day 5 transfer until Saturday.

6 eggs isn’t what anyone really hopes for. Mathematically, that number doesn’t work in our favor. According to some research, that puts our success rate at 38%.

IVF success rates by number of eggs and age

Still I’m hopeful. Optimism has gotten me through so many things in life. I’m not even an optimist by nature, I’ve just trained myself to think positively (most of the time). The pessimist would say we have a 62% chance it won’t work. But I’m gonna say this glass is half full.

Courtney wore appropriate socks today
Courtney wore appropriate socks today
But the hard truth of it is that the dice are just gonna fall where they fall. It’s all a crapshoot. I’m not gonna lie, this shit takes a toll.

The physical toll: As with most things in life, men have it easy when it comes to IVF. Seriously, I mean how could you not get turned on by this sexy room? I forgot my Marvin Gaye cassette tapes, though.

If you're wondering, yes there's porn in the room. I opted not to touch it.
If you’re wondering, yes there’s porn in the room. I opted not to touch it.
Courtney hasn’t had it quite so easy. The physical toll for her is incontrovertible. For the last two months she’s taken needles like a champ, downed more pills than I can count, drawn blood, been prodded with an ultrasound wand numerous times. Today she went in for egg retrieval, a short procedure, but invasive, painful, and uncomfortable. Her resilience and resolve is astounding, and I am so proud of her. She’s one tough cookie, and I am so fortunate to have her as my wife.

One of many, this is the ganirelix shot.
One of many, this is the ganirelix shot.

Here are all the meds needed for one cycle of egg retrieval and transfer.
Here are all the meds needed for one cycle of egg retrieval and transfer.
The emotional toll: we’ve been trying to have children for going on three years now. The first year was full of hope, followed by a slow decline into despair. The gradual realization that this might not be working is so difficult to explain, and so devastatingly debilitating. Hope dies an agonizing death at the hands of ignorance – unsure of what the cause is, unsure of what can be done, unsure of the path forward, or if there even is a path forward.

Courtney peed on a lot of sticks. All of them said no.

Year two was filled with picking up the pieces, making sure we had the information. We diagnosed the primary cause of our infertility (we hope), and fixed it through a bilateral salpingectomy (not pleasant, irreversible). We visited adoption centers, fertility clinics, and made sure that we had all our ducks in a row, that we understood all our options.

Somewhere around June of 2015, just after Courtney’s surger and before we were about to begin IVF for the first time, we were hit with a particularly difficult blow, when our landlord at the time decided to hike our rent by more than 30%. Forced to move, we had to put our plans on hold while we sorted out our living situation, our financial situation, and get back on our feet. Now this wasn’t all bad – we bought a beautiful house, consolidated our debts, and I got a new job – but it wasn’t an easy year, and given our age the clock is definitely ticking (fertility falls off sharply starting at age 35).

Which leads me to the financial toll: I’ll just be blunt about it, and tell you that this month we’ve spent $13,526.90 on our fertility treatment. $4,476.90 of this was for drugs, the rest covers the clinic fee which is mercifully set at a flat rate of $9,050.

In the United States (‘Merica!) fertility treatments are not mandated to be covered by insurance (ugh). Some states include it, but not Tennessee. Our insurance doesn’t include any fertility coverage. So we’re paying out of pocket. And I didn’t even mention the lab testing, doctors visits, and all kinds of other shit we’ve paid for that I currently don’t have the brainpower to tally up.

Needless to say, we didn’t have a spare $13,526.90 laying around. So we’ve called upon the slavedriver known as debt once more. We got turned down by one company, another offered us less than what we needed, but the amazing folks at SoFi have given us all we need and more at an extraordinarily reasonable rate. I can’t highly recommend them enough. If you need a personal loan or a student loan refinance, please give them a try (those affiliate links will help us pay off our loan too!).

All this to say that I’m exhausted. We’re exhausted. Midway through writing this post, I took a break to drive a 2 inch needle into Courtney’s left hip, full of progesterone and sesame oil. As Courtney is very fond of saying, “Why can’t I just make a stir fry?!”

And yet, think about it: our child may have been conceived today. That’s a crazy thought. And while 6 eggs retrieved may yield anywhere from 0-6 viable embryos, the thing that keeps me going is the knowledge that it only takes one.