ABC used to have a show called “Dinosaurs.” The youngest animal of this family referred to its father and, well, everyone else as “Not the Mama!” With that and seven fertilized eggs, a.k.a. embryos, ripe for implanting, let me say this once and for all as nice as I can muster:
I am not and will not be the freakin’ Octomama — not in a box, with a fox or eating lox. And no, I’m not even the septomama. Say it with me: Not. The. Octomama. Repeat as many times as needed to realize that any “jokes” related to Nadya Suleman aren’t funny and probably won’t be for anyone who has to undergo fertility treatments.
Weeks ago, The Mr. and I had a very detailed conversation together and with the hospital-provided therapist (a requirement for the in-vitro fertilization process at my particular facility) before arriving at the decision to implant two embryos at one time. So, even though we have been blessed with a singing group, a small basketball team or a volleyball team plus one, no doctor in his or her right mind would implant all seven. Here’s why:
Implanting more than the recommended number according to a potential mother’s age is like Russian roulette, not only with the chances of a live birth, but with the mother’s life. More babies, more problems (read: complications).
The greater the number of embryos in utero, the greater the likelihood that one or more of them might have to take one for the team. (I offer my apologies for attempting to soften the blow of reality.) Essentially, too many kids in the tub might force parents toward the decision of which ones stay and which ones have to be aborted to prevent the death of all. That’s real talk.
If multiples make it through pregnancy, the existence of many increases the risk of premature delivery. That’s days, or even, months in somebody’s NICU. It’s like a car accident. It’s one thing if it happens; if it occurs because your own recklessness, then it’s dumb.
We decided on two because, like most couples, we feared the risk of transferring one and having an unsuccessful cycle. We were adequately informed concerning single-embryo transfer, or SET, an industry-wide recommendation that all it takes is one, but we opted to roll this dice anyway. Aside from that, I really would love to have twins. Boys or girls, one of each, or a set of kittens with my nose and his eyes — any combination would make me happy.
As for the remaining five, we’ll literally have them on ice in case the first two don’t make it. (They’ll be frozen.) Should that happen, we’ll start again with two more. Or if we’re successful right out the gate, our frozen reserves will remain until it’s time for more children. Beyond the family size we choose, we’ll donate the rest to another couple who isn’t as fortunate as we’ve been to get to this point.
The fact that I’m actually doing this in-vitro fertilization thing is really sinking in. I don’t know how I feel about that. Let me think about it — that is try to mediatate on the words that match my feelings, whatever they are … Meanwhile, I know you’ve still got questions. I’ve got answers:
11) How worried are you about the side effects — death, stroke, losing an ovary?
I’ve been well versed in all the risk factors and surprised at the same time. I’m not worried, though. I don’t know why. I’m just not.
12) How much does it cost? Is it expensive?
Expense is relative based on what you value. Eight dollars for a gallon of gas is expensive unless your tank is on “E,” and there’s just one station nearby. Also, not to get religious on you, we tithe at our church, so by God, we tend to have everything we need to keep the lights on and eat well though we likely make less money than you’d think.
13) Will you be another Octomom?
It’s highly unlikely. There’s a reason that the doctor for Nadya Suleman (her NAME, people) lost his license. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends implanting no more than two embryos – fertilized eggs – in women 35 and younger and no more than five for women older than 40. Her doctor implanted 12, and eight survived. As I get deeper into this process, I totally get how the doctor is the most at fault.
In some cases, implanted embryos split and two may become three. It happens, but it’s rare. For me to sprout octuplets, the fertilized eggs that will be returned to sender would have to miraculously split several times over and beyond that. Don’t hold your breath for it to happen. And if it does, like NeNe from the Real Housewives of Atlanta, I’ll be verrrry rich.
Also, on the Octomom thing, jokes about this get old very quickly. Tread carefully.
14) Does infertility run in your family?
I’m one of four, the youngest actually. My maternal grandmother had four children; my paternal grandmother had eight with several losses in between. From that, I’d say no. But then, when I consider that of all my aunts, only two bore their own children, it’s a possibility. Reproductive system issues were rampant, and although my mother was perhaps the most fertile of everybody, she died in 2007 of ovarian cancer.
15) Why you putting all your business out there?
I have several answers for this. You remember when people wouldn’t say “cancer” out loud? It was mysterious, and people thought it was contagious. Now that it’s an everyday word, there are rallies and research and resources for its less affluent sufferers. Do you remember how conversations about AIDS started that way? See where I’m going?
Black people have a tendency to be quiet about the wrong things. Infertility is not a white woman’s condition, and treating it is not a luxury reserved for rich people. We would know that and perhaps encourage women struggling with infertility to reach out for support if it weren’t such a secret. And maybe that support would become universally offered, expected and funded.
That’s the activist in me talking. She can only go on for so long before it gets personal.
I carried this “secret” of struggling to conceive for a long time, especially in the face of well-meaning comments of it being “time to start a family.” I struggled through Mother’s Day and seemingly a million friends showing off 3-D ultrasounds and pictures of new babies. Quite often, I wanted to, like, snap out and just let some folks have it – not quite the Christian approach. I’d told a couple people in an informational kinda way, but really, I was starting to need something more than what even the saint-like Mr. could contain. Honestly, given my own beliefs, I needed some people praying for me.
So, randomly, over breakfast with my beloved fellow singers, I spoke up. Immediately, something lifted. It was clear that all of this is safer for me spoken out loud than trapped in my head. And now I’m writing it because I just can’t talk THAT much.
In the last two months, I’ve taken more license in speaking about why I have yet another doctor’s appointment and why it’s on Sunday morning. Each disapproving look or dumb comment has prepared me for the next one. So, negative ninnies, bring it on.
16) What does your family say about it?
My sister has taken the Malcolm X approach: by any means necessary. I told a brother that we were having trouble, and he said, “The Lord will make it happen when He decides. You can’t do nothing but wait.” Ironically, this is similar to something my estranged father said when my 6-year-old self asked where babies came from. Alas. I haven’t discussed my infertility with any other members of my family.
17) Do you think God is punishing you for something you did?
18) What are your church’s or pastor’s views on all of this?
It hasn’t really come up in church. And as for my pastor, I didn’t think to ask him what he thought. I did, however, slip his wife a note to pray for us and the in-vitro fertilization process.
19) How much does your health insurance cover?
Fortunately, we do have insurance coverage; a lot of women do not or one cycle wipes out their entire benefit. For us, most procedures are covered at 80 percent. The diagnostic hysterosalpingogram, or HSG, was our wakeup call that this process could get pricey. Insurance coverage for that still cost about $500 out of pocket. For the intrauterine inseminations, we paid about $22 out of pocket, but the accompanying drugs carried $75 and $10 copays. Multiply all of that times three, and that’s about the out-of-pocket cost of the drug protocols for one month of in-vitro fertilization. This one cycle will complete my lifetime maximum for my current insurance. Limitations like that fuel the temptation to implant as many embryos as possible, by the way. Decisions on what to do with the remaining embryos raises other issues as well.
20) How do you deal with the dumb things people say when they find out you’re undergoing infertility treatments?
I involuntarily cut my eyes at them before I politely nod and take it as my cue to shut up. Mentally, I acknowledge that it is ignorance and not necessarily malice. I also try to choose people I open up to carefully. I don’t yet have canned responses for the innocent but painful questions about when we’ll have kids. I’ve tried not to take my frustration out on the unsuspecting — even when they deserve it.
(Sigh) If you made it this far down, you’re a trooper. Thanks for sticking around. FWIW, these answers don’t negate my willingness to share other things you may be curious about. Feel free to post a question in the comments section, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. — MBE