The hardest part of doing IVF is this phenomenon known as the Two Week Wait. After an embryo is implanted, the pregnancy hormone HCG does not rise to detectable levels for approximately 10-14 days; thus, you have to wait two weeks to find out if the procedure was successful and you are actually pregnant. This is an especially torturous time for women, as it’s easy to scrutinize every little thing you feel or do:
“I have some cramps… does this mean I’m pregnant?”
“I tripped in the garden yesterday and lurched forward… what if that made the embryo dislodge?”
“My breasts hurt… No wait, now they don’t hurt…”
When people ask me how I’m faring in my IVF journey, I always say that the mental aspect of things is MUCH harder than the physical aspect. The mind game of waiting is a big part of that. I can shoot myself in the belly and butt with hormones until I’m blue from bruises, but I have a hard time relinquishing control and living with the unknown.
You see, I am an anesthesiologist. My job substantially involves performing interventions that produce near-immediate results. I give a drug to induce anesthesia, and the patient jokingly says, “I’m going to fight it, doc!” or “Don’t you have people count backwards? One hundrrrr…” Boom. They’re out cold. I always win. In the middle of a case when the heart rate gets too high or the blood pressure goes too low, I give a drug and within seconds things are back to normal. I’m used to seeing the direct results of my actions.
This is not the case for many other doctors, and it is definitely a reason that some people end up choosing anesthesia or surgery or possibly emergency medicine over other specialties. If you are a general practice doctor seeing a patient in a clinic and you prescribe a new medication or ask them to try some new behavior in regards to their health, you must then send them home with instructions and wait to get the results at the next visit. Changes happen over a much longer timeframe. Even my husband, who is a patent lawyer, submits a new patent application and then must wait months to hear back from the US Patent Office regarding its status.
The other thing is, we have to wait for things in life all the time. When we are going on vacation, we cannot (yet) be immediately transported through thin air to our destination like Star Trek characters. We must wait in lines at airports or spend time driving to the desired location. We set out to change our diets or exercise more, and the results of our personal experiments do not show up overnight; they take months to manifest.
We might get a negative IVF result and then have to wait 2-3 months to try the whole thing again. And this might happen multiple times, accumulating into a period of months or years of waiting. Maybe we do get pregnant, but then we have to wait 9 months for the baby to arrive. A child is born, and we do not immediately plan out his life path; 18 or so years go by while he is growing into his future adult self.
I suppose performing anesthesia, which occupies a significant portion of my life yet is the exception to the rule that outcomes of interventions are rarely immediately known, has skewed my view of time. I’d better adjust my attitude about this waiting thing!