Every time I visit my dentist, I have to amend my details on the medical history form they hold for me. One of the questions is, “Are you pregnant?” and the available options are yes or no. Until this month, I would have thought those two tick boxes were perfectly adequate.
They’re not. Right now, I need a box for “It’s complicated”. And that’s the short version.
The long version is that on 14 August, I had my first cycle of IUI (intrauterine insemination, in our case using donor sperm). The treatment itself posed no problems. I couldn’t feel the very fine needle when I had to inject myself with Ovitrelle the day before. I was a little freaked out to discover that I had to go onto the ward and don a surgical gown for a procedure that had been described as “a bit like a cervical smear test”, but you know what? Once I was in theatre it was a lot like a smear test, except that it’s far less unpleasant when you’re holding your partner’s hand and grinning and thinking, “We could have a baby!” as opposed to “Oh, my God, what if I have to go to the Colposcopy Clinic of Doom?”
We had a really nice lunch at the nearby Pride Café while I had sperm swimming around in me for the first time ever, and then began what’s known in fertility circles as the Two-Week Wait.
Nine days after fertility treatment, I started to feel nauseous. This is not normal for me, so I headed straight for Google and found that it’s not unheard of for women to experience morning sickness that early on, though it’s more usual to develop it at around week 6. I also noticed that my boobs were tender, which again isn’t something I normally get – they tend to get slightly larger and sometimes ache before my period, but they’re not usually tender to the touch. The following morning, after checking that the Ovitrelle would be out of my system, I did a First Response pregnancy test (the most sensitive I could find) and was rewarded with a very faint, only-just-noticeable pink line.
The next few days were a rollercoaster. Typically, the cats would wake us at 4am, I would need a wee, would not want to waste that early-morning urine, so would pee on a stick before dawn and be unable to get back to sleep with the excitement. Confusingly, that faint pink line just wasn’t getting any darker and the Clear Blue Digital test I tried (which is slightly less sensitive) resolutely said that I was Not Pregnant.
12 days after treatment, I had a little bit of spotting. Although this would be common in early pregnancy, I had a really bad feeling about it, to the extent that I couldn’t face going to church and hid under the duvet instead. On day 13, it continued. On day 14, when I was due to have the official test at the fertility clinic, I woke up to find I’d been bleeding more heavily. I wasn’t surprised when the results came back showing an hCG level of 12, where they would expect it to be at least 50. It looked as though I was having a very early miscarriage.
I want to be clear here how OH and I experienced this. I think a lot of people assume it’s a minor disappointment: “Oh, how frustrating, I thought I was pregnant and I’m not.” Some people call it a chemical pregnancy and consider that there was never really a baby, just a few cells. That’s not how I feel about it at all. From my point of view, an embryo, a blastocyte is our child and it doesn’t matter whether it was never a viable one, or how common this might be – I was pregnant, I felt pregnant, I lost the baby and that is something I need to grieve. Not such a devastating loss as a later miscarriage would be, but a loss nonetheless.
So, I bled for a few days (it was bright red – something else that for me reinforced the fact I was having a miscarriage and not a period) and then OH and I went on holiday for a week. It was really helpful to get away, relax in the sunshine, eat lots of Camembert and come to terms with the fact that I was not pregnant. Except that as the week went on, I realised I still felt pregnant. I was still nauseous in the mornings and my boobs were getting bigger. Could this all be psychological?
Back in the UK, I had another blood test which showed my hCG had gone up to 140. On Wednesday morning, we were told there was a chance – a small chance – that I was still pregnant and it could come to term. It could also be some tissue remaining from a miscarriage, a failing pregnancy, or an ectopic pregnancy. On Wednesday evening, we got the results of a second test and were told the pregnancy was not definitely viable. The hCG is finally starting to come down but I will need to be followed up and monitored and there might be a delay before we can try again.
Am I pregnant? In terms of having a baby at the end of it, unfortunately, no. In terms of symptoms and a positive result if I pee on a stick, yes. Like I said, it’s complicated.