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Check Out the Live-Feed of My Failed IVF Cycle

No, I didn’t just do a secret cycle.Ā  We’re still poor and still on the fence about when to return to treatments.

A woman named Lynsee just gave birth online and I didn’t watch. Perhaps it is a testament to how greatly I’m affected by the stories of loss I’ve read, but knowing what can go wrong in birth, I didn’t want to witness a live-feed of emotional anguish. Also a testament to how greatly influenced I am by my own story and those of others in the community, knowing what can go right in birth, I didn’t want to witness their enormous joy knowing how out-of-reach it is for 7.3 million Americans.

In a day-and-age where we obsess over celebrity pregnancies, magazines hold polls over who will become pregnant next, and organizations pay millions of dollars for first baby photos, it was never too far a jump to get to a live-feed of a birth (as opposed to a taped birth). Essentially, it’s just reality television on the Web. And just as we follow the stories of musical contestants or weight loss achievers week after week, it makes sense that people would be interested in the constant updates from conception to birth from just your average, American, knocked-up girl. Lynsee didn’t just aim a camera at her vagina the day of the birth (actually, I don’t know if people were actually able to see the baby crown. As I said, I didn’t watch it, but I have to imagine that the vulva would be the most interesting location to observe during a birth). She roped in viewers by covering every small detail of her pregnancy in blog posts leading up to the event.

It’s the ultimate in reality television interaction. Viewers could subscribe to be part of her group and chat with her DURING THE DELIVERY. Did I have to scream that? Perhaps, and again, this is a testament to how greatly I’m affected by the loss blogs I read, but could you imagine the emotional implications for Lynsee if birth had not gone according to plan? If she had fallen on the other side of the statistics? I am trying to imagine even my twins’ premature birth being played out over the Web and having viewers at home IMing me unhappy faces when the doctor announces their low birth weight. How I would feel to read newspaper articles written after the fact and blog posts? It’s one thing for people to comment on my commentary. It’s quite another for them to be witness to this intimate event.

But taking that into account, isn’t the next frontier a live-feed of fertility treatments?Ā  Especially since we’re so obsessed over which celebrities have used them to build their families?

Watch our hypothetical blogger, Sarah, start injecting lupron. Watch her flip out on her partner via a Web cast and then sink down onto the kitchen floor sobbing from the hormones. Watch her nurse a nasty headache and beat herself up over drinking a cup of coffee. Watch her go in for a lining check and follicle scan, watch the sonographer make an off-colour joke while he has a camera in her vagina. Watch her opening the clinic bills and sitting on hold with the insurance company for 38 exciting minutes! Watch Sarah give herself injections directly into her stomach until it resembles a milky way constellation only marred by bruises that she counts as black holes.

Watch Sarah go for the egg retrieval and learn they got 24 eggs. Watch her get the fertilization report that only 10 fertilized. Watch her cry when she gets the phone call that through additional attrition, those 10 embryos are down to 4. Watch her experience mild OHSS! Watch her return to the clinic for the transfer and find out that they only have two decent-looking embryos to transfer and nothing currently left to freeze due to fragmentation. Watch her drive home from the transfer staring out the window completely numb.

Watch our intrepid Sarah go through bedrest, standing in front of pregnancy tests in the store and willing herself not to buy them, and returning to the store and purchasing three different brands of tests and a Snickers bar. Watch Sarah receive a pregnancy announcement via email complete with sonogram picture. Watch her lean over the bed so her partner can inject PIO into her ass (okay, it’s more her hip, but we’ll call it her ass because it will bring more viewers). Watch her attempt to massage out the PIO lumps. Watch her wake up at 4 a.m. and use one of her pregnancy tests only to see a stark white space where the additional line should be. Watch her chuck this pee-soaked test in the trash can and then fish it out five minutes later to check again. Watch her sit through a baby shower, unable to drink because she might be pregnant but unable to get through the event without a strong gin and tonic. Watch Sarah go in for that final blood draw, unable to give up hope that she might get a good beta despite the negative pregnancy tests at home.

Watch Sarah wait until 4:31 p.m. for the phone call telling her that all of her work was for naught.

Maybe that’s why we’ll stop at obsessing over which celebrities utilize IVF instead of setting up reality television shows in clinics. Because the reality is that treatments are depressing. Even when they work, those pregnant don’t instantaneously release their breath. Assisted conception isn’t the Lynsee-like joy of going to doctor’s appointments and picking out nursery colours. It’s about holding on to something tenuous. And when they don’t work, it’s about anguish and frustration and anger and future hope.

Personally, I think an assisted conception live-feed would be even more meaningful considering the stakes. Considering what it took to get there and the viewpoint of the pregnant woman. Of seeing the larger forest of childbirth and family building beyond the initial trees of sex=baby.

But perhaps the general public isn’t ready for that yet.

Cross-posted with BlogHer.

40 comments

1 g$ { 11.09.09 at 11:10 am }

“Watch Sarah wait until 4:31 p.m. for the phone call telling her that all of her work was for naught.”

They always call late for the negatives and I hate it. It’s like once it goes past 4pm, you know the answer isn’t going to be good.

Excellent post, thank you!

2 loribeth { 11.09.09 at 11:12 am }

Before I got to the end of the post, I found myself thinking, “Mel really should cross-post this with BlogHer, or Kirtsy this post — it really deserves a wider audience.” It’s so true, the general public really has no clue about everything that’s involved — even just all the steps you go through, nevermind the emotional rollercoaster that accompanies each cycle.

3 Lavender Luz { 11.09.09 at 11:14 am }

Brilliant. Sarah is the star of both a soap opera and a horror show.

From the article: “Lynsee’s reason for allowing a Webcam in her delivery room is simple: “We’re pretty open-minded.”

Ummm. I think Lynsee’s idea of “open-minded” and my idea of “open-minded” are very different.

4 Stephanie { 11.09.09 at 11:44 am }

This post is awesome, and it’s actually a great primer to share with people who don’t quite understand what many of us live through. Thanks!

5 Another Dreamer { 11.09.09 at 11:46 am }

Excellent post… definitely something to think about, and you certainly hit on many key points to the issue.

I don’t people really think about the consequences of allowing that video camera into their lives at times- you never know if your making a video that will forever be the elephant in the room, or a video of the most exciting day of your life… but most people assume that nothing will go wrong, but some of know, all too well, that is simple not true. And this goes for birth, for treatments, and so many other things in life. But, I think the difference between them, is what will haunt you forever if things went wrong.

It really is a complicated issue, and I don’t think I can put my thoughts into words as well as you have Mel. Kudos.

6 Tara { 11.09.09 at 11:51 am }

The world has definitly become desensitized to so many personal things because of “reality” TV. I can only hope that fertility treatments aren’t next because suddenly everyone becomes an “expert” and what little (seemingly very little) sensitivity the fertile world has towards us infertiles, will be diminished.

Great post, Mel.

7 meghan { 11.09.09 at 12:14 pm }

First off, your title had me speechless. I really thought you had done a cycle mid swine flu!

Love your reality show. I hated how many people in my life assumed that using ART made it a done deal. One actually said to me, on the eve of my negative cycle, that she “had no idea this didn’t work and I must have it pretty bad”

Also, I’m with Lavender on her open-mindedness šŸ˜‰ Unless your head is between your legs I don’t consider letting a web cam into the deliver room open minded…

8 Kim { 11.09.09 at 12:22 pm }

I actually disagree with Tara. If people might actually see what the infertile couple goes through, they might actually have a greater understanding of our struggles. Personally, I’ve learned that once I really educate a loved one of what treatment (and emotional fallout) really entails, there’s a lot more understanding and comfort.

On the flip side, I wouldn’t be volunteering to videotape our life right now. Living through it once is torture enough, thanks. Syndicated reruns? OUCH.

Great post, Mel. It brought tears to my eyes, as I’m the girl who chucks the stick and then digs it out of the trash, hopefully.

9 Kir { 11.09.09 at 12:37 pm }

I often thought to myself, During our IVF cycle..on the one hand I wish someone could see all we’re going through to do this and on the other, NO ONE but John and I should be subjected to the range of emotions, the rollercoaster of this cycle.

I agree with Kim, once educated (even those people in the wal-mart lines) it seems that they can empathize with me, can understand what those little boys really really mean to me and my husband.
EXCELLENT POST , as usual. šŸ™‚

10 Eve { 11.09.09 at 12:39 pm }

The whole time I was reading your post, I kept thinking “how is blogging about a cycle different than a live video feed?”…not that I don’t think they’re different, I just wondered in what ways. I suppose that blogging in mostly ‘real-time’ about a cycle affords at least for some privacy, for time to digest the hard moments, and for support to come back during the hard times…where live video is potentially raw, uncut and out there for anyone to see.

I know this, when I was blogging about my recent IVF cycle, I found myself (the closer that I got to my betas) wishing my blog was private all of the sudden (since I have a lot of RL readers). But, it amazed how many of those readers commented to me later on what a cycle actually entails…I think it was a learning experience for them AND me.

All in all, I think the journey of infertilty and treatments could be best covered documentary style (maybe there are some of these out there and I’m unaware). That gives the rawness and reality of it all, coupled with thoughtful editting, and best of all, the perspective of time.

11 Geochick { 11.09.09 at 1:08 pm }

“pretty open-minded”? Exhibitionist is more like it. ew.

12 Carrie { 11.09.09 at 1:31 pm }

Before I got to the part where you mention Sarah, I was thinking about all the what if’s this Lynsee character took. Even if you are pregnant and are on the verge of birth, you never know how things are going to turn out.

13 a { 11.09.09 at 1:34 pm }

People are crazy. The funniest thing about reality shows is that they don’t show much reality. They either focus on the ugliness (because it’s entertaining) or it’s all sweetness and light and the camera goes dark if something unexpected or unpleasant happens.

Where’s the MTV station for adults? They would definitely make an IVF reality show…

14 Miriam { 11.09.09 at 1:36 pm }

Melissa, this is a really excellent post, from an advocate standpoint. The sarcasm has been sharpened to the edge without going overboard, and paints a very realistic, humbling picture. This is some really spectacular writing.

15 Nunn the Wiser { 11.09.09 at 1:40 pm }

With nothing to add, I’ll simply say ‘that was beautiful & brilliant’.

16 noswimmers { 11.09.09 at 1:49 pm }

I happen to be unfortunate enough to live in the Minneapolis area (where Lynsee lives). Our NBC station has been following her pregnancy since the very beginning, and I’m hardly exaggerating when I say that there has been something Lynsee-related at least once every half hour. I’m so glad she finally gave birth!

I am fortunate enough to be a new mom after 6 years of infertility. I can’t imagine how difficult it would have been to watch this had I still been cycling.

Oh…and for anyone wondering, they didn’t show any girlie bits. I didn’t actually watch the birth, but of course they had highlights on the evening news. :p

17 Kristin { 11.09.09 at 2:43 pm }

What a brilliant post!

18 Sue { 11.09.09 at 2:52 pm }

Thank you for this. All of it. Glad it’s up at Blogher, too.

(btw, my clinic took pity on me this most recent beta and called me at 10:30 am. kind, kind souls.)

19 mijk { 11.09.09 at 3:07 pm }

Dutch telvision made a serie last year called 100: wnating a child in which they foudn 100 woman with or without husbands who wanted to have a baby for a year. It was very special television because it made it so easy to see that for some people it just isn;’t that easy. A lot of people started talking about if in that time..

20 Erin { 11.09.09 at 3:41 pm }

Oh Mel… I too am the trash girl…. pulling that pee stick out and checking it out.

21 Kami { 11.09.09 at 3:41 pm }

“Watch her wake up at 4 a.m. and use one of her pregnancy tests only to see a stark white space where the additional line should be. Watch her chuck this pee-soaked test in the trash can and then fish it out five minutes later to check again.”

I know she is a made up character, but this had me in tears. God, it is awful.

Anyone who would webcast a birth has no idea how wrong it can go.

I miss your writing. I’m glad I popped over for this one.

22 Dora { 11.09.09 at 3:47 pm }

Brilliant! Thank you for this!

23 Chickenpig { 11.09.09 at 3:50 pm }

There was a show on the Discovery Channel that shadowed a handful of couples as they went through IVF. They even showed the embryologists working behind the scenes. When they had the cameras there when they got the news it was heart breaking. It wasn’t live, but it was a good demonstration about what it entails.

Of course I was cycling when I watched the program. I bawled like a baby. Of course, you can’t avoid those damn Johnson and Johnson commercials “a baby changes everything.” Yeah…no kidding. I can’t how many times I threw things at my TV over those.

24 Jendeis { 11.09.09 at 4:03 pm }

Fantastic post.

25 Kymberli { 11.09.09 at 5:23 pm }

As much as we all shudder to think of Lynsee and her public pregnancy and delivery, she represents what so many of us on this side know, but possibly lose sight of –that once upon a time, we lived in Lynsee’s world, where Bad Things were distant hypotheticals and not too-close possible realities. I don’t know that I ever could have gone so far as live webcasting my delivery, but I know that once upon a time, I was her, free of crippling worry and clockwatching.

26 IF Crossroads { 11.09.09 at 6:22 pm }

Awesome post … made me cry reading your fictional (or not-so fictional) recount of the life of Sarah. So many lead and live this life.
So many don’t understand.

27 Leah { 11.09.09 at 8:49 pm }

I am Sarah. Sarah is me.

28 LJ { 11.09.09 at 9:14 pm }

I hadn’t even heard of that chick before your post, but I feel a need to boycott simply because of how she spells her name.

29 Mr. Thompson and Me { 11.09.09 at 9:45 pm }

Stirrup Queen- I think I love you.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself!

30 JustAnotherJenny { 11.10.09 at 12:30 am }

Well said Mel! I also find myself wondering… how will she cope now that she’s had the baby? It sounds like she documented every minute detail. I wonder if she will morn the absence of her pregnant self more so after having blogged so thoroughly about it.

(Different from PPD, but more like how people get depressed after planning their weddings forever and now the big day is over.)

I don’t even know if that makes sense…. hopefully you know what I mean. šŸ™‚

31 geohde { 11.10.09 at 1:40 am }

Mel, you said that so very well.

I hated the negative phone calls so much, because half the time there was an argument at the end of them, too.

g

32 Meim { 11.10.09 at 2:06 am }

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love you for this post. I am going to send it to EVERYONE, who has told me in the last week that “life goes on.”

I hate those people right now.

33 Anna { 11.10.09 at 3:24 am }

A stunning post. Being from the UK I wasn’t aware of this but it is indeed another stark illustration of the ignorant bliss so many of us begun with, as Kymberli mentions. I was also considering the differences in audience and content that a blog and a TV show/live webcast would get. Would a TV audience follow an IF story for all the years, bearing in mind the depressive element? Anyway, I’m not always in the right place emotionally to handle the public service education element of IF life, I would wholeheartedly support the idea of getting more information out there.

34 Battynurse { 11.10.09 at 11:32 am }

Great post!

35 Lisa { 11.10.09 at 12:19 pm }

I hadn’t heard of Lynsee’s “show,” but I too am horrified at the thought of what could have gone wrong.

No doubt a book-and-movie deal is in the works, though, so hey ā€” it’s all good, right?

36 Kim { 11.10.09 at 3:40 pm }

When Linsee decided to do this she had a luxury we don’t. She had no reason to believe anything would go wrong as opposed to our certainty, despite whatever the doctor may tell us to the contrary, that simething WILL go wrong. I remember that ignorant bliss and envy her for still having it.

37 Bea { 11.10.09 at 4:01 pm }

This is a great post. But I think the real reason infertility would not get a show like this isn’t because it’s depressing. There are people who eat that sort of schadenfreud right up. It’s the tedium. Infertility needs to be heavily edited to make it palatable for a lay audience. Nine months is already just about at the limit of people’s attention span, and that’s with constant progress and an ending in sight. The real put-off for viewers is “Watch as the days tick slowly and unproductively by whilst waiting for a followup appointment! Watch as the weeks tick slowly and unproductively by whilst waiting for the right part of the cycle to do testing! Watch as they tick unproductively by whilst waiting for results! Saving up for the next round of treatment! Agonising over the next decision! Wondering whether your adoption file will be sent anywhere soon!” The show would be canned well before the ending – happy or not.

But your point about the fallout from a bad result, and the innocence of not expecting it to happen, is a good one. Then again, some exhibitionists eat that right up, too.

Bea

38 Laura DeBellas { 11.10.09 at 8:09 pm }

You are such a blessing to write this blog. I copied and pasted it to my blog and I pray that people read about the hypothetical Sarah. Oh, if people only knew…..

39 deathstar { 11.10.09 at 10:49 pm }

This should be “must-see TV”.

40 n { 11.12.09 at 7:35 am }

Wow, this was beautifully written. I’ve actually just sent it to my husband and several close friends.

I wondered if you, or anyone heard in the “news” yesterday that Celine Dion is now, *not*, in fact pregnant after FET? (If anyone recalls, she announced her pregnancy publicly pretty much immediately after her FET, and even her RE was giving press interviews about how he couldn’t wait to do her ultrasound and hear the baby’s heartbeat. It was super creepy.)

Anyway, apparently yesterday her and/or husband confirmed publicly that she’s not pregnant now (probably never was, but who knows, maybe she had an early m/c), but that they still plan to try for second child.

Whatever — I guess I’m just curious to hear if the community will have any commentary about it. IMO, of course, she was crazy to announce her “pregnancy” so incredibly early on. So, either she went on to have a m/c, or the FET failed from the start. I don’t know about anyone else, but I always have gotten the impression from Celine Dion that she thought IVF/FET was guaranteed to work (for her, at least! Since she’s so S P E C I A L.), so I am intrigued….

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