"That can be reversed." The sinking feeling set in. My new-ish boyfriend and I were travelling home from his meeting my Dad and Step-mum. Moments before he had asked me if I thought they would have any more kids. "I think my Dad has had a vasectomy" I replied. His response was so quick that instantly I knew. Having a baby with this man, would be anything but straight forward.
It's not like I wanted to have a baby right that second. That's a lie, I've wanted babies since I was 18. I was 26 when we met and he 10 years older than me. He had two beautiful little kids already. I was willing to give that a shot. But it took another year for me to be game enough to ask if he would have more children... and how?
Reversing a vasectomy is not as simple as it sounds. The level of success depends a lot on how long ago he had the 'snip.' Then you wait to see if it's worked. If it hasn't you proceed down the IVF path anyway. It was almost four more years before we were financially able to try. I didn't want to wait any more. My step kids would already be 10 and 13 years older than our third baby (my first). So proceed to IVF we did.
Remy is an IVF baby. Many of our close family and friends don't know this. He is also a rainbow baby, even fewer know that. So for all those people that knowingly told me to 'just relax and it will happen,' ...yeah no it wouldn't have. I've agonised for a long time about whether or not we will tell him. I'm coming to think its important that his very own origin story be out in the world.
I can't capture our entire IVF journey in one post. IVF is magic. and tragic. and gruelling. But there are moments of magic. The moment he and I were re-united as embryo and mumma was so magical that I think I can share his story without him being traumatised (when he is old enough of course).
That's one of the (many) reasons why I really like the controversial book "The Amazing True Story of How Babies Are Made" by Fiona Katauskas. Not all babies are made the traditional way. Sometimes Mum and Dad need some help and it's not something to be ashamed of. In fact it means that those parents REALLY wanted that precious bub.
I know that for many couples trying to conceive, finding any glimmer of a story that looks familiar to your own can bring hope. I spent many long hours reading and following posts. Hope is a very strong thing. There are things you should know before pinning your hopes on our journey though. Firstly, I was 31 when we started trying, maternal age makes a huge difference to success rates. I did have suspected Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (since ruled out) and that played a part in our decision to proceed with IVF rather than try a reversal. Secondly, my husband had already had two kids, so while his swimmers were effectively locked in solitary confinement - the goods were there.
Because his sperm couldn't find the usual way out they were taken by needle biopsy (my God the moaning about this simple procedure, one needle would have been great seriously). You learn an awful lot about reproduction when you go through this type of journey. Things like - sperm don't have tails (mature) until they leave the testes; and human eggs 'hatch' (more on that in a minute). So the lucky sperm needs a little help and is injected into the egg by Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). If you're really lucky you might have ten or so mature eggs to try and fertilise, but it really is quality over quantity I'm told. The embryo grows each day. Every second day the clinic calls to give you an update on how many are developing as they should. For us, each day that number grew smaller. It only takes one.
Embryos strong enough to survive transferring by day 5 become a blastocyst. A blastocyst is an embryo that has formed enough of the right kind of cells to form an outer wall, inner cell mass (that will become the foetus) and an outer cell mass (that will become the placenta). Some clinics do a Day 3 transfer so it does depend on your clinic. My understanding is that Day 5 blastocysts have a slightly higher success rate, but of course you've got to get them to Day 5 which is harder too.
Now this is really the glory part. You've made an embryo strong enough to qualify for implanting. All of the injections, procedures and tears that came beforehand were now behind us. One day I'll write about that too, but this was Remy's moment. Around Day 6 cells start 'hatching' out of the embryo's membrane, then can implant into the uterus.
This is the moment we first met the cluster of cells that would become our beautiful boy Remy. A little piece of us appeared on the doctor's screen for only a moment. It was similar to this embryo pictured (not Remy, I so wish!). Just long enough for me to fall in love before he was swiftly transported back inside for me to keep safe for the gruelling two week wait to find out if he would continue to grow.
Measuring a little ahead of his Day 5 age, Remy had already started 'hatching'. "He's always been advanced," I will smugly tell the other Mums at kindy one day, because #mykidiscoolerthanyours (jokes). Something about the embryo transfer that day just felt right. The two transfers that had gone before were different. Perhaps it was the doctor's confidence, or that he had told us what a good looking little embryo it was. "Textbook transfer," were the words he used.
Both of us emerged from the procedure room with grins on our faces. Then swiftly told ourselves not to get too excited. We had done this all before. Cue the googling and blog reading and forum searching. For the uninitiated:
ART - Assisted reproductive technology
TTC - Trying to conceive
BFP - Big fat positive
BFN - Big fat negative
DH - Dear husband
TWW - Two week wait - the wait after embryo transfer to see if you get a reliable big fat positive
12dp5dt - 12 days post 5 day transfer (or any combination of these)
HCG - Human growth hormone - the one you want to see going up, and up, and up
I methodically tracked and plotted every feeling, every thought, every weird cramping or tingle just as I had for the previous cycles. I trudged off to work feeling tired and sore to a busy job that was a welcome distraction from more googling. Twelve days after the transfer it was testing day. The blood test came back while I was in our Executive meeting. A Big Fat Positive!
With each week that passed the HCG rose. With each ultrasound the panic and fear that I would lose him slowly subsided. His heartbeat was strong. His growth on track. His little kicks started as flutters. His hiccups told me he was getting ready to take his first breaths. His birth. There were some sad days on this journey. But the day that I met that little cluster of cells that became Remy was almost as magical as the day we met once more. And that's the story I'll tell him.