The Hidden Risks (And Rewards) I Wish Every Woman Knew About IVF
“I feel really comfortable putting in three.”
That’s what the reproductive endocrinologist said the day of our embryo transfer. After a canceled in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle and a failed cycle using two perfect embryos, we were down to three poor-quality embryos and one last chance at a family.
On the way to the appointment that day, my husband and I discussed how many embryos we thought would be appropriate to transfer. We knew we didn’t want to take the chance of having another failed cycle. Although we suspected transferring two embryos would be the most responsible choice, we were leaning toward three.
When our doctor came in, we were surprised to hear him say, “I feel really comfortable putting in three.”
The motto of his practice was “One Healthy Baby” and higher order multiples are often considered an adverse outcome of fertility treatments.
At the time, we were given a 30% chance of having one child, a 15% chance of twins and <1% chance of triplets. At the time, we were so desperate to have a family that we didn’t want to risk the heartache of another failure.
We signed on the dotted line.
At the time, we didn’t know we would be in the <1%.
There are dozens of times over the last 20 months that my mind has gone back to that moment and wondered if it was, in fact, a lapse in judgment.
“I feel really comfortable putting in three,” is a sentence that my husband and I say to one another often when we are feeling overwhelmed.
When three one-year-olds are screaming and clawing up my legs as I am trying to prepare lunch, I will think of that moment. If we are out in public and struggling with the logistics of managing all three, one of us will often look at the other and utter that phrase.
We chose to place three embryos inside a fertile uterus and having three babies at once is a risk that we accepted. It’s a strange feeling to know that we consented to this possibility.
I now understand the virtue of making decisions out of passion rather than logic
At times, I imagine what it might have been like if we had chosen to put in only two embryos. I wonder if I could have carried them closer to term and avoided the heart-wrenching NICU stay. I wonder if I could have had a less risky pregnancy and a less frightening delivery. I wonder if I could have breast-fed or if I could have held them right after they were born. I wonder a lot of things.
I sometimes look at my children and wonder which two it would have been — which two would be in my arms.
But then I think back to times like that one sunny afternoon. I listened to my children squeal in the background as they played a game of chase in the bedroom — absent-mindedly folding laundry as giggles flooded the hallway.
Suddenly, I heard a crash and a scream. My smallest, least coordinated child had run full force into the door frame.
Before I could rush to her side, her brother and sister were there. Her sister hugged her and repeated, “Sowwy, sowwy,” while her brother stroked her hair. I watched in awe as my two small children comforted their sister.
As she began to catch her breath again, I swooped in and embraced all three of them.
From time to time, I have fantasies of an easier life. A life with only one or two babies. But these visions, while simpler, are strangely empty and hollow.
Before I longed for a family, I was very pragmatic and rational. I would have thought that having three babies at once was an unnecessary risk. I would have advised myself to make the safer choice and only put in two embryos.
But now that my children are here, I couldn’t disagree more.
I now understand the virtue of making decisions out of passion rather than logic — that doing so can change your life for the better. It certainly did for me.
Photos courtesy of the author