COVID-19 Has Not Only Paused My IVF Journey but Made Me Rethink Everything About It

covid ivf

In the first official week of quarantine, a nurse from my fertility clinic called to tell me, “I have bad news. Your embryos are not viable. We don’t recommend that you use them.” 

This was my second round of in vitro fertilization (IVF), and it had already taken so much from me in the weeks and months prior—my energy, time, finances, focus and happiness—and I was just starting to get all of that back (well, except the money). And with COVID-19, we had also just stumbled into a new way of life that felt, frankly, apocalyptic. Feeling overwhelmed by the daily developments of a global pandemic, my mind must have decided that her words simply could not enter my brain space at that moment, and I responded,“HAHAHAHAHA! OK!” 

My husband and I decided to do IVF so that our baby would not have the gene that I actually have, which causes a potentially life-changing bone disorder. (I have this gene and disease but am very lucky to be mostly asymptomatic). Still, it feels beyond insulting when she says that she does not recommend that I use the embryos with this gene; it’s like the genetic version of sh*t-talking your family—I'm allowed to talk about my genes, but no one else is. Besides taking offense at her dissing my genes (at least from my perspective), for the next couple of weeks I told myself “I'm not taking this on,” to quote my favorite podcast, Bitch Sesh - A Real Housewives Breakdown Show.

I thought I could sweep it under the rug and pretend I was fine. But deep down I knew better—you don’t get to decide when to take on things like “Your embryos are not viable. We don’t recommend that you use them.” And if you ignore those words, they will come back with a vengeance. And with a vengeance they came. About two Saturdays later, just as I was starting to hit my quarantine groove, a near-stranger’s pregnancy announcement on Instagram sent me spiraling. I stayed in bed that day and cried. I cried for the four non-viable embryos and my wasted time and energy and because the shut-down meant that I wouldn’t be able to take fertility action any time soon. I had previously decided that if this round went like the first, that we would start again at a Denver clinic, the one where everyone’s friend of a friend has had success after failed attempts elsewhere.

But now, given the current circumstances, we couldn't run or distract ourselves from those words. We were forced to see them, hear them, live with them. And while it was painful, and no clear answers emerged, I had to ask and listen to questions I never really let myself before, “Am I OK having a baby with this gene? What will it mean for me, my child, my marriage? Will I be able to maintain the rigorous treatment schedule my parents excelled at? Do I realize that if my parents made this decision that I wouldn’t be here today? What if, when I listen to, ‘We don’t recommend that you use them,’ I am preventing someone from coming into existence that is just a little quirky and compassionate because she learned early on that she was different? What if the gene causes more suffering than that, though? And if I want to bring that person into existence—do I want to during a global pandemic with the current state of our country?”

These are really complicated questions that I don’t have answers to yet. But I have to say, I’m grateful for this time because without it, I wouldn’t have even asked these questions or allowed myself to truly listen and sit without acting. No matter what I decide, I will have needed this time to sit with these complicated circumstances and hypotheticals. If I’ve learned anything worth anything in my life, it’s that I make the best decisions when I make the time to sit and listen to myself. I didn’t choose to have this time, but I can choose to listen.