What a couple of months. What a last few weeks! Hurricane, election, out-of-town guests, a snowstorm, a job in flux... cue the frogs. It's all very agnostically apocalyptic.
Since the miscarriage in July - it feels harsh to just lay it out like that after so long apart, dear reader, but that's what it was - there was a long, event-less lull in the junior project. We went to San Francisco and Los Angeles, celebrated getting a year older, got colds (together), had a visit from my wonderful old neighbors from Normandy, re-elected a president I'm proud of, went out to some exceptional dinners, cooked a few, had a weekend in Newport, and mulled living in LA, though it may have been a passing fever. A lot of life happened, if not a lot of baby-making.
Until a few weeks ago when we had our second embryo transfer. Yes, we did. This was our first and ideally last "thaw cycle", where two of the previously frozen embryos get defrosted and transferred to the surrogate, in this case our dear Jeanne. We implanted two 6-day blastocysts, which the doctor told us were pretty awesome-looking, even better in fact than the primo ones that punked out on us last time.
In the interim we changed doctors within the same IVF clinic, as Jeanne felt in the immediate aftermath of the failed cycle that she was handled with a lack of delicacy and sensitivity. And in many ways, she was. We like the new doctor a lot. Whereas Doctor #1 was universally positive (stunning uterus! incredibly successful egg cycle! super high chance of twins!) , Doctor # 2 is temperate and kind, and though he too is optimistic for us, he doesn't heap on an excess of sugar.
The embryo transfer itself was as uneventful as last time, and our lunch with Jeanne and her husband Frank afterward at Bertucci's was, as ever, totally edible. To our surprise the first "Beta Test" to determine whether she was indeed pregnant was not the dreaded two-week wait (2WW) like last time, because the embryos were a few days older. It was only a week and two days later.
You may recall the confounding experience we had last time of getting a "maybe" result from the first beta test. They look for a reading of 50 and above, as a measure of hCG pregnancy hormone level. In July the first result was 47, unkindly close to okay but not quite there. We did two more tests, three days apart and the number did in fact double as they hope to see, and even quadrupled by the third test, somewhere around 800. It turned out the be the "blighted embryo" as we discovered at the first ultrasound, the day we walked dazed around Marshall's and saw the new Batman movie in the most literal manifestation of "escape fiction" ever.
This is time the first number was 274!
And the second test was 680!
On track. But no naming them this time - Oingo and Boingo had come up short, and maybe Thing 1 & Thing 2 would feel less pressure to perform. We'd been burned before, but Lin and I, and Jeanne too, all had the mellow mien of veterans who'd seen battle and no-doubt some awful shit, but had kept an in-tact sense of hope. We were pretty chill, and all of us were quietly confident that this time might be our time.
We had a hurricane a little less than two weeks ago, you may have heard. While our neighborhood was left relatively unscathed, much of the rest of the city got a thrashing, and it's taken a long time to get her back on her feet. She hobbles a bit even today. An unexpected and delayed after-effect was an ongoing, 70's-style gas shortage, the result of debris-laden shipping lanes and shuttered refineries in cruelly devastated New Jersey. Then last Sunday, while Lin was at work due to a tight deadline, he got a call from Jeanne.
She'd been bleeding. Heavily. And passed a clot. She'd contacted Boston IVF and had scheduled an emergency appointment for the following day. He called and told me and we talked and I hung up the phone and got that feeling. You know the one. Everything sort of stops for a second, or maybe it just slows way down. Tears well up involuntarily. God damn it. And then it was over, I pulled it together. After the first call Jeanne phoned Lin again and asked if we would accompany her to the appointment. Lin asked what I thought and my first thought, and word, was "No." I didn't want to be in that room. And we both had pressing work obligations, Lin on that deadline for a show to air less than two weeks hence, and me going through a transition at work and wanting to be available without fail. How would we even get gas? There was mile-long, three-hour line at every goddamned station on Atlantic Avenue, and our needle was already on "E".
Then I realized that we had to go; this wasn't a situation where we got a choice. I bucked up and called Lin, who agreed, and we talked about telling our bosses what was up and figuring out the bizarrely complicated logistics of simply getting out of New York.
I got in line at one of the filling stations. Our car is a 1989 Saab, and though it has low miles, some of the gauges bobble at random. I wasn't sure if I was on reserve or if maybe I had an eighth of a tank. But safe to say it was a tense wait, moving in fits and minuscule starts, with the ignition turned off in between. The station ran out of gas at dusk, after I'd been in line for about 2 hours. I was notified by a random passerby, who was kind enough to let people know. Much kinder than the fucker who tried to sell me 5 gallons of gas for $80.
I was frazzled, my wit's end in the rear view. I didn't think there was enough gas to wait in line at another station, assuming any of them even had fuel still. I took the car back to our lot, and had a surreal, hollered argument with the attendant who refused to let me borrow a 5-gallon plastic gas can that another customer had left ("this is an emergency! we need to help each other right now!" Nothing. He took the can and hid it, as I called and left a message for the parking lot's office that I probably wouldn't be proud to listen to now.)
Back at the apartment and I called Lin, still at work. Last option, if I could even make it in time, was to spend over $500 on the Acela Amtrak from Penn Station an hour later. I threw a change of socks and underwear and a toothbrush and Lin's jammiepants into a backpack and ran to the just-restored 2/3 train. I had about 4o minutes and things looked okay until we got into Manhattan and it was running on the 1 line, local, and I swear to fucking God this train stops every ten feet. But I got to Penn with about 4 minutes to spare nd met Lin, and soon enough we were eating gross train food and marginally enjoying a cocktail. (Nothing like a hurricane, an upcoming nail-biter of an election, and surrogacy mini-crisis #37 to throw the best-laid plans for healthy living into oblivion and beyond.)
Tom, or perhaps we should call him St. Tom at this point, picked us up at South Station at a quarter-to-eleven, and transported us back to their place in Somerville. We had the customary cocktail and chat, then bed. Next morning I awoke to their incredibly adorable three-year old daughter River, smiling in the kitchen, " I haven't seeeeen you guysss in a little while!"
To Waltham, small non-city of big dreams and Costco. Jeanne and us pulled into the parking lot at the same time and hugged and said hello and walked inside. We were called in pretty quickly, to a room we hadn't been in before, for an ultrasound - exactly a week before the normal 6-to-7 week ultrasound had been scheduled. She slid into the table and the lights went off and the screen flickered on, the screen that jarred us so last time with its negative space.
This time I did look at Lin, and we held hands and watched. We were prepared for it. She'd clearly had a miscarriage and we'd be starting anew, again, and that was going to be okay after it sucked a lot. The nurse probed around for what seemed like a very long time, saying nothing, except for occasionally asking Jeanne to push on this or that side of her abdomen to allow for a better view. One of Jeanne's ovaries likes to hide, she says, and this nurse was determined to find it. And then there was a oval-ish black area on the screen, and still the nurse didn't talk. Then a second similar area, as she clicked around on the machine and seemed to be taking the equivalent of screen-shots.
There were two yolk sacks. At this early stage, this was consistent, she said, with what you'd expect to see. What you'd want to see. You wouldn't see heart activity at this point, but both areas were embryos that had implanted and seemed to be developing just fine.
What the what?!!!?
We caught a break.
We talked to the doctor after, and bleeding in the first trimester is common; even pretty heavy bleeding with clotting at times. He walked us through the screen shots in detail and explained as the nurse had that everything looked ok. He even noted that often with implantation bleeding there will be residual clotting visible around the embryos and there wasn't any in this case.
As we were leaving the office he said "congratulations" to us, which had to be the most excellent this we could've heard. Jeanne was so relieved, we were all so relieved. If anything we played down just how relieved we were, not wanting her to feel how freaked out we'd been for the previous 24 hours.
A quick pubby lunch with Tom and River and baby Quinn in Somerville then back on the train, back home, and another ultrasound this coming Monday.
Good vibes welcomed.