When we experienced our chemical pregnancy a year and a half ago, we got varying reactions from people. Some tried to minimize the loss by referring to the tiny baby/babies as “just cells” or “eggs”, while others encouraged me to name them and think of them as children I have in heaven. Considering myself Pro-Life, I felt I needed to err on the side of those who thought of my embryos as children.
It’s hard to distinguish whether one is grieving the loss of a child or the loss of a desired future when it comes to situations like this. Might I have gone through a similar scope of emotions had we done an intra-uterine insemination that did not result in pregnancy? There wouldn’t have been an embryo involved, but there would’ve been the same hope that this cycle will be “the one”. I can’t know because I don’t have the benefit of comparison.
I do know that every attempt for us involved a lot of thought, planning, effort, and financial investment, so any failed cycle may have been simply a reminder that we have to go through all of that again… or throw in the towel.
When we finally had a successful cycle and my care was transferred to my obstetrician, I was unsure of how to answer a question on their intake form about previous pregnancies. I told the nurse about our chemical pregnancy, about which she laughed. I don’t know what she found funny about this. She most likely considered a chemical pregnancy an oxymoron, since women who do not struggle with infertility generally never know if they’ve experienced a chemical pregnancy, so most of her patients wouldn’t include it in their pregnancy history.
At any rate, my chemical pregnancy has turned out to have longer lasting influences on my psyche than I had ever imagined. Going into my first frozen embryo transfer (FET), I assumed that we just needed healthy embryos to bring home a baby. The positive home pregnancy test only solidified my assumption, but the sense of having “arrived” was short-lived. The second FET was a “big fat negative”, which was surprising and disappointing.
By the time we found a second batch of donor embryos and proceeded with our third FET, we were no longer naïve about our chances of success. Sadly, there hasn’t been a magic moment yet where I have been able to shake this awareness. A positive home pregnancy test felt like passing the qualifications round, but nothing more. I was still on pins and needles awaiting my beta blood work. And even when that proved to be promising, I had read so much about other people’s experiences with loss that I knew we were not home free.
I thought that first ultrasound establishing the embryo’s viability would do the trick for me. And for a time, it did. Yet having now run in circles with women who have experienced loss at varying stages of pregnancy, thanks to my own very early loss that I took more seriously than I presently think I should have, I cannot simply settle into what presumably most expectant mothers feel as they await the arrival of their newest addition.
My husband and I still find ourselves saying “if” we have a chance to do this or that with the baby. As I wait for my mid-pregnancy ultrasound, I’ve been anxious about not experiencing – or at least not being certain that I’m experiencing – the baby’s kicks the way I read that I should probably be feeling by now. While I see my belly expanding, I never know if my baby is still doing OK.
I now realize that having experienced that one early loss shattered my naiveté when it comes to pregnancy. I have to make my peace with this new layer of grief piled on top of the other infertility-related emotions. I have to grieve that I won’t ever go through a pregnancy with the assurance and confidence of being able to plan everything out for baby and announce the news to the world as soon as I know, and start thinking of myself as a mother, because I know that pregnancy doesn’t always lead to a take-home baby.
Regardless if we consider those early pre-transfer embryos as children or not, losing them has had a direct impact on my fears for this baby, this little person that I in no way doubt is fully a human being, my daughter or son. That’s a twist I was not expecting at this stage of the journey.