Filed Under (Infertility) by catharine on Jul-01-08

Again, we’ve been silent on the subject of our IVF–sorry.  It’s just that it takes me a while to grasp concepts.  We started getting positive HPT’s (home pregnancy tests) on the Saturday after our egg retrieval, but we didn’t realize that until Sunday when they were undeniably positive, and still didn’t really accept it until Tuesday when we had solid beta evidence in the form of an hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, a.k.a. the pregnancy hormone) level, 95!  That sounded good to me, and based on all my extensive research (www.betabase.info) we were average–right at the top of the bell curve.  Of course I would have prefered to be above average, well over the bell curve, but finding ourselves right in the midst of the longest line on the bar graph had its own reassuring qualities–we were in the majority, among good company, normal.  All was good despite our over-achieving perfectionistic tendencies which we now try to hold in check in a perfectionistic way that says, we will be the best recovered perfectionists there are!  Thank you very much, cognitive behavioral therapy.

From what I understand, in a normal pregnancy, normal women the western world over buy an e.p.t, get a positive test, joyfully call their OB/Gyn’s and are told to hold their horses and come back in 8-12 weeks, during which time they blissfully and ignorantly progress through their first trimester, hopefully.  Those of us who required a little extra assistance getting here are considered “at risk,” however, so after the initial pregnancy test at the equivalent of 14 dpo (days post ovulation), or 9dp5dt (9 days past 5 day transfer) in my case, they bring you back for a second test two days later, 16 dpo or 11dp5dt–are you catching on to the lingo?  They want to check the doubling time.  Wherever your hCG starts, it is supposed to double every 48-72 hours until it reaches a certain point (far above where we are currently) when it slows down a bit. 

This is how they monitor the health of the pregnancy–or so they say.  What will they do if they discover something is wrong?  Nothing.  So why monitor?  To increase the stress level of the parents, apparently, while continually asking them things like “are you taking it easy?” and “are you staying calm?”  “Cramps you say?  Well, you are drinking enough, aren’t you?  How many glasses of water did you have yesterday?”  Translation: “Oh, that’s bad–it’s probably you’re own fault, though–if you miscarry it will be because you didn’t drink enough water.”  Needless to say, I am not calm.

So, we went back to Houston, another 5-hour round trip drive, to get a few ounces of blood drawn (again, you get what you pay for), and learned our second beta was 163.  Here, I need to back up.  Even though everything in print says doubling time between 48-72 hours is normal, all you ever hear is that 48 hours is the standard.  So, our doubling time was 61 hours.  Again, off I trotted to my on-line encyclopedia to discover that we had dropped one standard deviation below the curve on the bar graph.  We took a few soothing deep breaths to quiet the perfectionists within that were screaming “Not good enough!” and told everyone what the nurse told us on the phone: “Our levels doubled adequately.”  And we waited for the third blood test….

Here we are, five days later, and we’ve had our third and final hCG.  Like all over-achievers the world over, we had calculated what we needed to get on this hCG ahead of time in order to meet our 48-hour doubling goal–the very thing I tell my students not to do–it’s about learning, not the grade!  Well, anyway, I won’t tell you what we calculated because it was ridiculously different from what we got, 556.  Our doubling time is now 68 hours–a little too close to the 72-hour cap for our comfort.  The conversation with the nurse went something like this:

Nurse–Hi, your beta is 556.
Me–Oh, that doesn’t sound so good.
Nurse–It’s good–it’s supposed to double every 48 hours. It’s increasing and that’s good.
Me–But it’s not doubling every 48 hours.
Nurse–Yes, it is.
Me–No, it’s not.
Nurse (getting snippy)–Look, when were you in last? The 26th? What was that, 4 days ago?
Nurse (sounding annoyed like she’s explaining a very simple concept to a child)–OK, it was about 160 on the 26th, so it should have been 320 on the 28th, then……(long pause)….um, 640 on the 30th….(another pause as she apparently does the math)…okay, so it’s not doubling, but it’s rising…(another long pause) …..rising is still good…..it’s not rising at 60%…..so it is rising slowly.   
Me–Is that bad?
Nurse–We can’t tell you why it’s increasing slowly. You’ll have an ultrasound next week and can find out what’s going on then. Call us if you have any questions, okay? 
Me–um, okay…..thanks.

So, once back at the ranch, off we trot to the internet again….now we’ve slipped quite low on the bell curve–in fact, we’re well below average at this point.  But, we are still pregnant.  Hopefully our offspring, who should look something like a trilobite at this point, is simply trodding his own path.  This article says that 75% of women with hCG levels similar to mine at 16 dpo continued their pregnancies.  We’ve had far worse odds in the past–in fact, those are the best odds we’ve ever had–but, I’m jealously eyeing the over-300 crowd, all of whom are apparently destined to continue their pregnancies. 

Anyway, who am I to complain?  We are pregnant and have a chance many don’t, and our results put us in the you-have-no-right-to-complain category in IVF land.  I know I am not feeling the same stress as those who have no frozen embryos, particularly those who know they aren’t likely to be able to make more.  However, please stay tuned for the results of the ultrasound next week, when we should see a heartbeat.  This will place us in an entirely different category where, according to this slightly less reputable article, we will have a 96% chance of continuing the pregnancy. 

5 Comments posted on "a little below average, but still in the game"
Me on July 2nd, 2008 at 1:42 am #

Holy crap Cat! Congrats! I would absolutely love it if you got an *almost* free baby out of the profiteering conception industry!

Susan on July 2nd, 2008 at 5:51 pm #

Ummm…. I’m a little overwhelmed and confused… but… congratulations… I think… yes, yes, definitely congratulations. It’s sinking in. Yes, that’s a happy feeling I’m feeling for you. Definitely happy. Much love and happiness, flowing your way!

Julie on July 3rd, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

I have been thinking about you this week and now I know WHY!!!!! I can’t wait to see you, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Barb on July 4th, 2008 at 2:01 pm #

oh my gosh, I’m so sorry I missed this. Congratulations and lots of hugs while you wait.

Missy on July 7th, 2008 at 4:06 am #

Yay!! I’m so excited. I’ve been praying everything would go well. I tried to call the other night but Cliff said you were at Dave and Tiff’s. I can’t wait to hear about the ultrasound.

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