April is a magical time: days are longer; sun is shining; air is fresh. The lifeless planet is covered with colorful cherry blossoms. One cannot help but feel hopeful.
I know I was, this time last year….
The plane to Seattle was boarding. I almost felt cheerful as I was waving goodbye to my parents. Finally, I was ready to go home, with my baby. I was four month pregnant! He was not just any baby. He was my fruit of labor, after a year and a half spent overseas and hauling myself in and out of infertility treatment clinics. The journey was long and hard…. I wished no woman would have to take it.
My first In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) started in 2009 in New York. Even though the physical pain from the retrieval felt as if someone snatched my organ when I was at sleep, we had three beautifully split embryos. We were quite excited about this result. Then, the two weeks waiting period after the implantation was nerve-racking. I did not know what to do with myself. Shall I use the stairs? Could I take a walking? Every movement became an intense debate. When I bled on the 11th day, I cried uncontrollably. After that, I spent almost a year avoid thinking about babies, occupying myself with other things in life. But loneliness and sadness haunted me constantly. Until one day, my mother called with unexpected news: a relative of us had a successful IVF baby in her hometown of China and praised how experienced the doctor was. Really? I was skeptical. After talking to the relative many times and researched online, I got the courage to try for another IVF. This time I wanted it in China, where the doctors had more experiences than any of the doctors in the States for the sheer volume of patients they handle everyday. And I would be home with my parents. They would be there for me, if anything should happen. I geared up, with hope.
In the summer of 2011, I left the States and headed for China. For the next a year and a half, I almost parked by the clinics, with endless checkups, ultrasound, blood work, injections, pills, and surgeries. The 1st attempt was in Dec 2011, two eggs were retrieved but only one was fertilized. The day I prepared to get implanted, everyone in my family cheered me on. Sadly, the embryo did not stick. I was dismayed. Two failed IVFs! What should I do now? I cried on the phone to my husband, Joo, who was in the States working. (Someone has to work to pay for everything!). We were on the phone for four hour. I could not stop crying. My face got wet and dry so many times. Finally, I collapsed from the exhaustions. A week later, Joo and I were on the phone again. He lamented that he would feel empty if there were no child of his own holding his hands when he were to leave this world one day. At the time, Celine Dion’s IVF success was all over the news. “She had six IVFs and successfully conceived, at age 44”, my husband pointed out. Three days later, I said yes to a 3rd IVF.
Once again and for the 3rd time, I hauled myself in and out the fertility treatment clinics. I spent average 3 hours in the hallway waiting (10-15 minutes in the doctor’s office) and 3 hours on the road. The hallway was always crowded, packed with hundreds of patients. Yes, the clinic sees 200-300 patients a day. In the hallway, some were actively participated in a group discussion comparing experiences; others were quiet, sitting at the corner keeping things to themselves. From time to time, I could hear cheering in the crowd. Someone succeeded! More times, I saw women quickly turned to the exit with disappointing looks on their faces. Only few lucky ones succeeded! If one can hear, hearts were crushed into pieces in this hallway every minute.
Five months and 35 visits later, I got four healthy embryos and could implant twice. Yes, two more chances! But, the reality was cruel! The 1st batch did not stay. I was hopeless. The day I went for my last implantation, I did not tell anyone. Why bother? That morning, I quietly snuck out of the bed and took a taxi to the clinic. The next two weeks were uneventful. I did not have anyone calling me asking how I felt. I was unusually calm. On the 12th day, I could not wait for a blood work and took a pregnancy test at home. A light pink line showed, almost invisible. It should be a clear red line, instead! I sighed, “It is over.” Three days later, I went for a blood test at the clinic. My hCG level was 650! I stared at the result and went blank. Was this a mistake? I did not believe what the number was telling me until I received an ultrasound and the doctor confirmed, ”Congratulations, you are pregnant!” I almost fell off the chair. It is true! I am pregnant! I had an urge to hug everyone. On the way home, I pinched myself few times to make sure it was not a dream. I was so accustomed to failure. When the good news finally came, I flinched. That night, I shared good news with my parents and Joo. My mother was so pleased that she had tears in her eyes and said, “You finally have done it.” Joo, on the phone, asked me to repeat the news three times before he could grasp what he heard was true!
The next four months I was extremely careful and arranged my trip until I have passed the 1st trimester. My parents were so gentle with me as if they had a newborn home. Deep down, I constantly felt insecure. Only the ultrasound could comfort me. Seeing my baby from a size of a pea at the 1st ultrasound to a shape of a little human being at three month was a miracle!
Finally, it was time to go home. A year and a half of infertility journey ended. When I landed at the Seattle airport, Joo gave me a big hug and pecked on my cheeks. That was the most intimate moment we had since I saw him eight month ago. As we hugged, I turned my head to hide my wet eyes.
Another 40 minutes we would be home. I was dozing off in the car. Suddenly, I heard a thump, coming from ahead of us, almost like tree falling. All the cars stopped. Joo yelled, “A car flipped, a half mile away.” He jumped out of the car and rushed to the accident. I hid in the car afraid to see anything. Within 45 minutes, an ambulance, three police cars and a helicopter surrounded the area…. Started with a peaceful ride, it turned into a heart-felt one. Life can be so fragile and unpredictable.
What happened to us in the next 2 months was nothing we had ever prepared for.