A Place At The Table

In vitro fertilization wasn’t for me. Until it was.

August 2012

When I got pregnant again in February, we reigned in our excitement. We felt vulnerable, and it seemed safer not to fully embrace the pregnancy’s potential. At seven weeks, I miscarried. We never saw a heartbeat. Just days before my 35th birthday, I blinked back tears and lay on a gurney, again destined for the operating room.

The procedure went much the same as the first. The only difference was that this time, when signing the medical forms, I checked the box authorizing chromosomal testing. We hadn’t done this after the first miscarriage because it felt unnecessary and somewhat gruesome to have a scientist pick through cells to determine a cause. We were comfortable not knowing the answer. But, as it turned out, the first fetus had required further testing anyway: Severely enlarged, grapelike cells indicated that it had been a “molar pregnancy,” in which a fast-growing mass overtakes the fetus and extinguishes it like cancer. A series of blood tests cleared me of cancerous cells, but the implications rattled us.

Though we couldn’t have known it at the time, that extra testing was a blessing. Over the phone, we learned the first fetus had three copies of chromosome 22 instead of two. After the second miscarriage, I got a similar call: The second fetus had three copies of chromosome 6. Both anomalies were death sentences.

Dr. Offerdahl suggested we seek help from a fertility specialist. I wasn’t ready. I was bullheaded enough to think our next attempt would yield a healthy baby. How could this possibly happen for a third time? And yet, almost one year after our first miscarriage, I lost a third pregnancy. This time, there was a quivering heartbeat—we could see it on the high-definition screen—but there was little measurable growth. My face crumpled. I asked the ultrasound tech to check again. I turned my head away.

Instead of leaving through the waiting room, Dr. Offerdahl let us seek solace in her office. I gripped a ball of tissue in one palm and Heath’s hand in the other. I’m sure my sobs could be heard through the door. The sun was shining outside the window, but the world felt dark and hollow. Why, when so many children are born to those who don’t want them, couldn’t we bear a child whom we would cherish? We left the office with yet another D and C scheduled and a piece of paper scrawled with a phone number for Dr. Debra Minjarez at CCRM. We got home and held Ella tightly. I tried to explain away my tears.