Standing Still: In IVF Limbo During the Coronavirus

Thousands of people have had their IUI and IVF treatments disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, leaving so many of us feeling devastated and frustrated at being asked to wait longer. One of these warriors is Jenna Bennett Williams and today she is sharing her story of standing still during this bizarre time.

When you are waiting for your baby, every day is a day too long.”

I read this sentence on Instagram as I sat at home for yet another day in my pajamas with unwashed hair. Our chance to start IVF had just been put on hold due to COVID-19- and while I totally understood, this sentiment hit home. When you are waiting for your baby, every day is indeed a day too long.

My husband and I started trying to have a baby when I was almost 37. With every month that passed, I became increasingly disappointed to see a straight line instead of a plus sign on the pregnancy test. We were referred to a fertility clinic, where blood tests and ultrasounds showed I had a diminished ovarian reserve- meaning my fertility is much lower than expected for my age. Our doctor told us getting pregnant naturally would be difficult, so we began IUI (intrauterine insemination) in October as the first step. We had one IUI “work” but my brief pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 7 weeks in early February.

Because of my diminished ovarian reserve diagnosis, my age, and our miscarriage, my husband and I decided IVF (in vitro fertilization) would be our next step. It’s an intense and expensive decision to make…but after thoughtful discussion, we decided it was the right path forward. Coming off our miscarriage, our clinic was tracking my hCG (human chorionic gondatropin) levels until they were finally back to normal. We got the news we could proceed to IVF in mid-March.

My husband and I were not ready for what came next. Infertility is already a waiting game filled with fear- and then COVID-19 showed up and took things to a whole ‘notha level.

As the virus began to hit the U.S. hard, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) released guidelines suspending the initiation of new treatment cycles, among other things. Obviously, this is the safe, smart, and correct decision- but of all the times a pandemic could happen (and really, it hasn’t in the U.S. in modern times) it’s painful it’s happening when we were thisclose to starting IVF to try for our rainbow baby.

Of all the reasons we couldn’t get pregnant, “global pandemic” never crossed my worried mind as a potential delay. It’s been unspeakably hard to go through fertility treatments followed by the physical and emotional aftermath of a miscarriage only to begin again and be told, “Guess what? It’s STILL not your time!” 

For me, when it comes to my ability to have a baby, time is the enemy because of my diminished ovarian reserve. The following is loosely taken from a friend’s social media post, and I couldn’t express it better:

“You might be thinking, ‘What’s the big deal, pushing things out? It’s probably just a few months.’ When you are waiting for your baby, every day is a day too long. When your chances of having a biological child diminish with every month that passes, every month is a month too long.”

I’m also not only heartbroken for myself, but for my friends in the fertility community. Many women I know were already partway down the IVF path, their retrievals and transfers canceled after days or weeks of taking expensive daily medications and painful injections. I know how upset I am about the loss of our cycle before even formally beginning- so I can’t imagine the level of grief these ladies are experiencing. I see you, as much as I can from this vantage point, and I am so deeply sorry.

None of us know what comes next. In this short year, we’ve already lost one child and– for now– our chance at having another. I am sad that 2020 will not be the year we welcome a baby into the world. I can only hope that 2020 will still be the year I get pregnant (again.) Until then, we– like so many other couples around the world– are in IVF limbo, standing still. And standing still is hard when you’re acutely aware precious days without your baby are ticking by.

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