I’ve been thinking more and more about our journey to this pregnancy, especially in light of current events around reproductive rights and access to care.

Our first frozen embryo transfer in late November did not succeed. I never saw a positive pregnancy test. We transferred a five-day-old embryo. So, we did conceive (albeit back in 2020), and that fertilized egg did begin to grow. The clinic believed it to be capable of developing when they transferred it. It just…didn’t. The embryo had the potential to become a fetus, but that potential was not realized.

Pregnancy tests on a calendar - Mary's Bump Day Blog, Week 17: Some Thoughts on Loss and Infertility

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That’s the reality with any pregnancy. With IVF, it just happens to be a reality that can be more statistically quantified.

My doctor warned me back in 2020 that not all of our embryos would be viable. He clarified at the outset of this process that their success rate with frozen embryos was about 40%. So more than half the time, having an embryo does not equal having a pregnancy that proceeds to term.

But, for those few days in between the transfer and taking a home pregnancy test because I couldn’t wait for the official blood draw, I was “pregnant until proven otherwise.” I have no way of knowing if that embryo continued to develop for a few days, or if it was all over as soon as we left the transfer room. Either way, it was a loss too, though one I don’t feel as deeply because I never saw two pink lines or an unambiguous “Pregnant” declaration on a digital test.

I had only a week or so of acting as if I were pregnant, just in case. I have no ultrasound photos. There is no gravesite to visit. But there was a loss of what could have been. The loss of having both my living children born in August. The loss of being able to tell family the good news on Christmas as we did with Nathan. The financial loss of paying for the transfer out of pocket because we’ve used up our lifetime infertility insurance benefits.

While I don’t grieve this loss like I do my miscarriage, I can’t dismiss it either.

When we told family and friends we were pregnant, it felt important to also tell them it was our second attempt. To acknowledge for a moment amongst the good news that there had been bad. That if things had gone differently, they’d have gotten this call two months earlier.

And the language matters to me. I don’t like saying the first FET “failed,” even if that’s what Microsoft Word wants me to say instead of “did not succeed,” for concision.

In a “normal” cycle, if that egg had fertilized and made it to five or so days but not implanted, I would likely have had a period as normal. I’d have never been the wiser that I’d briefly been pregnant. It’s possible that very outcome did happen over the course of the year-plus we spent trying and we never knew, had no indication we’d lost something. The rate of losses like these is essentially incalculable.

Yet this time, this one, I knew. I knew, even if the five best days that embryo had were in a Petri dish instead of my body. Does the import of that first attempt resonate with anyone else but us? Likely not. But, albeit only after a few hopeful days in which I knew nothing was guaranteed, I lost something before achieving this pregnancy.

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