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Pregnancy Loss and IVF: Kelsey's Story

Pregnancy Loss and IVF: Kelsey's Story

As part of Prima's interview series, "Fertility Journeys Beyond the Clipboard", guided by Jenni Quilter, we hear from Kelsey, a mother of one who has experienced pregnancy losses during her IVF experience.

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"It wasn’t a miscarriage, but it was yet another loss, a particular future we couldn’t have. I’m grieving that right now." 

 

When we went to our fertility clinic in January 2020, we had been trying for about three years to fall pregnant naturally. We found out that my husband’s sperm is an odd shape and there was no way it would penetrate an egg on its own. Given that an IUI (intrauterine insemination) was obviously out of the question, we moved very quickly on to IVF. I began all of the medications early February, and the retrieval yielded 22 eggs. I was in so much pain after, but I knew it was a strong number. ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) was done on all the eggs, but only 6 of them became embryos. We decided to do genetic testing on 4 embryos; 3 came back “normal,” and 1 was inconclusive. We transferred pretty much as soon as possible, and by April, I was pregnant with our first baby. The following January, I gave birth to our daughter. 


Nearly two years later, we decided to transfer another one of those remaining frozen embryos. We  went through the same process—did a course of progesterone and estrogen —and everything looked normal. We got a positive pregnancy test, and we were so excited: this was going to be our boy. 

 


The first time we went in for an ultrasound at five weeks, there was a yolk sac but no heartbeat, and we told ourselves it could be too early. The second time we went in–about ten days later–there really needed to be a heartbeat, and there wasn’t. I had no signs of miscarriage, no bleeding, HCG increasing, and so I was in denial. I went in for a third ultrasound: still no heartbeat. 

 

Emotionally and physically, I needed a break.

 

I had a D&C (dilatation and curettage) the next day. I just couldn’t stay in that state waiting to bleed: I wanted this boy so badly, couldn’t stay pregnant, and I hated my body for it. 

 

We took a year off. Emotionally and physically, I needed a break. Just a few months ago, at the start of 2024, we did another transfer. We went through the same regimen of progesterone shots and estrogen pills. I had always been amazed at how “easy” the transfer experience was, relative to all the other kinds of discomfort during IVF—you walk in, lie down, and it feels like you’re in and out in about ten minutes—but this time, it was different. I still haven’t fully comprehended what happened. The transfer lasted 25 minutes, they had to use two different size catheters, and I was in so much pain from the pressure that I couldn’t even talk to the doctor. I just shut down, and immediately started doubting the transfer. 


The embryo didn’t implant. It wasn’t a miscarriage, but it was yet another loss, a particular future we couldn’t have. I’m grieving that right now. 

 

 

I love my daughter with all my heart and I’m so grateful to IVF for getting her here. My husband and I are just dealing with the cards we were dealt, and we’re doing well in that sense—we are dealing—but there’s a part of me right now that’s just really angry. There is a lot of emotional pain. 


If I could tell my past self something, in 2020, when I found out about my husband’s sperm morphology and I spent the day saying over and over again that we’re never going to have kids, I would reassure her that it is possible, that I can have kids, but it won’t be easy. It’s both parts.

 

 

 

March 2024    
 
Written by Jenni Quilter. Jenni Quilter teaches at New York University. Her most recent books are Hatching: Experiments in Motherhood and Technology and New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight, for which she was a finalist for the 2014 AICA Award for Best Criticism. She has written for the Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Times Literary Supplement (London), Poetry Review, and the London Review of Books.

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