B and I had made our long pending visit to Canada this time last year (May 2019) to my brother’s home -- him and Debs were having their first baby a couple of months after. And visiting them for their baby shower seemed only logical (even though you’d argue that it’s an indulgent expense). Because something told us, if we did not go then, we won’t be seeing them for a long time. And we didn’t really need an excuse to want to travel someplace far! The visit also exponentially increased my baby fever!

You see, we had been planning for a baby for about two years before that. And when the natural method wasn't really working out, our doctor was practical and talked us through the different assisted ways to get pregnant. We attempted intra-uterine insemination (IUI) -- a method that involved injecting the partner's semen by external means into the uterus. The success rate of IUI is about 20%. Yet, we hoped that this one worked and we would have a positive result. Two failed attempts later, we figured we would wait it out. Stress was definitely not helping and our doctor recommended we take a break. The visit to Canada seemed to perfectly align with our wanting to visit my brother and Debs!

And it was during one of our daily “us time” walks to Walmart that we had decided that we are absolutely going to go back and make our baby happen! The break helped us in more ways than one.

Once we came back to Chennai, we spoke with our doctor and decided to proceed with IVF. Now, we had decided that we won't tell anyone about this decision. For several reasons. For starters, we wanted to make sure the procedure worked. Secondly, in a society that still believes that a woman's ultimate goal is to procreate and failure to do so is looked down upon, we did not want to give space to the stigma and all the associated gossips. Because, Raji mami cannot stop wondering if my age (32 at that time) is probably the reason why I can't have a baby. Maybe my uterus shriveled up and cannot house anything anymore. Maybe I did not pray hard enough to the baby-making Goddess. Or maybe it's the women of today who are all about jobs and money, because of which family has become secondary. I did not have it in me to explain why having a baby is a personal choice, it was none of their business, and it wasn't like I wasn't trying.

But I did decide that I’ll write about this when everything worked out. And we couldn’t have done it without the unconditional support of my parents. I remember thinking my parents will not take this news very well the day I sat them down and told them of our decision. Like every other time, they surprised me by showing full faith in our decision and even offering physical and emotional support throughout the process.

Clearly, when I went to the doctor, I was under the impression that I’ll get pregnant within the next month and that way, I’ll have an answer for everyone inquiring about the state of my uterus. Imagine my shock when the doctor said the whole procedure will take about four months. Ah well. You gotta do what you gotta do.

And so the procedure started in June with supplements, and contraceptives to prep the uterus. Once I got my periods in July, I started with a scan to test the antral follicle count. And then I had to take the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) injections every alternate day, to help with the growth and maturity of the eggs. It would be about three injections per day below the abdomen, followed by a scan to track the growth of eggs everyday. And if the eggs haven't grown as much as they should, the dosage would be increased to four injections. Oh the hustle of doing this while at work and dealing with deadlines brought out the other side of me -- the one with insane resilience and determination. Because you cannot miss a single injection or tablets for it to work correctly!

Here's the interesting part. If you are born biologically as a girl, you are born with eggs in your reserve. These eggs lie dormant till you hit puberty and after that, the regular cycle of egg production - ovulation - egg shedding - menstruation - egg production continues till you get pregnant. With the hormonal treatment for IVF, you're essentially waking the reserves and prepping them for a healthy growth to receive the sperm.

By the end of July, my uterus held about 25 eggs at various stages of growth, with at least 9-10 of them fully matured. Safe to say, I felt heavy and pregnant even without a baby! About 36 hours before the retrieval, I had to administer the trigger injection exactly at 1:00 am, to avoid the rupture of the follicles.

It was time to retrieve the eggs. This was an in-patient procedure and I had to be sedated when it happened. Meanwhile, B went to Orange Wok and thulped his favourite Chinese meal with eggs in it. The irony…

I remember being wheeled out of the OT in a semi-conscious state, constantly thanking the doctor and the nurses and the staff and even B, while marvelling the wonders and advancement of science. Delirium has its ways… Once it was done, I was asked to rest and then discharged in the evening. They said I could resume work the next day. I failed at it, thanks to the pain from a very full uterus being emptied suddenly, followed by a crazy constipation that made me wish I was the one who had that food from Orange Wok instead.

The fertilization process was to be done in a petridish. Of the 25 eggs, about 15 remained, and about 10 of them successfully fertilized and developed into embryos. When I write about it like that, it feels like an impersonal and calculated numbers game and we found ourselves calculating the probability of one (or two) of these becoming our baby. But the experience of it was quite the opposite. The following month, August, the doctor recommended that I take a break, considering all the injections and surge of hormones that my uterus was subjected to. And I happily jumped on that opportunity! This body needed a break. Plus I did not want B to take another trip to Orange Wok.

By mid September, I was ready for the next stage of the procedure -- the embryo transfer. Typically there are two kinds of embryos -- day 3 embryo, that consists of about 4-8 cells and day 5 embryo, otherwise known as blastocyst, which consists of about a 100 cells. The doctor transferred two Day 5 embryos to increase the chances of success. I can't believe I totally missed paying attention in my biology class and had to undergo practical experience to understand the fertilization process…

And then the wait period started. For those trying to actively get pregnant, the 14 days after ovulation/embryo transfer is easily one of the most stressful times. Everyone recommends that you avoid thinking about it… That you distract yourself. Here’s a spoiler… the distraction hardly works. You’ll find yourself thinking about it all the time. You’ll find yourself looking hard for symptoms every single moment. And the worst thing you’ll put yourself through is googling every little itch and feel. I thought I was the only one going through it. But B’s search history is a whole other chapter! He googled pregnancy symptoms more than I did and would peer at me intensely looking for a complaint here, an ache there or vomitting sensation everywhere. Of course I did not show a single symptom. We would go for walks, awkwardly talking about politics, Chennai, work… all the while thinking about the possibility of a positive or negative result deep in our minds. The stress is real.

At the end of 14 days, I gave my blood test to evaluate the HCG levels because the pee-on-stick method had given me enough anxiety and dejection in the past to want to avoid it this time. I remember refusing to leave the bed in anxiety while my mother decided to give me company and just be by my side. And B went to his parents' house to keep his mind off waiting for the results (although he secretly kept checking online). By late afternoon, I received a call from my doctor -- "Divya, congratulations! You’re very pregnant!". I burst into tears listening to those much awaited words. And then the domino effect of crying started -- my mother cried out of happiness and told my father. I called B and called him Appa. He yelped in joy and hugged his mother on the other side, who ended up crying in happiness.

They say IVF helps with the process of making a baby, but you lose intimacy in the process. I believe that B and I only became closer and more intimate during the journey. He made sure he was available for every appointment, came with me for every injection and scan. More importantly, he deeply empathized with me during the process. We would discuss our future and parenting during each visit, while knowing this may or may not work. In fact, we knew that it may not work the first time. Maybe even the second time. The success rate is only marginally better than IUI. But we got lucky. I guess it’s safe to say, we were getting ready to be parents far more than we gave ourselves credit. And today we have with us the gift of our resilience, and faith in the process.

Bombay-ite by birth, life in Chennai, a communicator by nature, an engineer by accident, a software professional by training & a marketer by profession.