Things are not as straightforward as they seem. In my experience there are always additional twists and turns.
Because of my previous experiences, I was unable to imagine myself pregnant and giving birth to a baby. I had been asked to think positively in that way soon after the embryo transfer so that good vibes and thoughts would be sent. I decided to instead give the embryos names and keep talking to them about everything that I was doing during the day. My grandmother gave me a list of 2 names each for girls and boys and I called the 3 embryos alternatively those names while constantly talking to them about what I was doing / why I was doing it – basically having a running commentary with them. And no – I was not talking out aloud to my embryos all the time!! Imagine that situation – me doing my jobs, talking aloud about what I am doing and why I am choosing to do one thing as compared to something else. And while I am having a conversation with someone, I am also describing the connection of that person to me (to my embryos). People would have definitely thought I had gone bonkers.
About 2 weeks after the embryo transfer, I did a urine pregnancy test and a b-HCG (a blood test that is used to measure HCG levels – a hormone that is present during pregnancy). The results of the urine pregnancy test were immediate – a faint second line was present and my mother said “Congratulations papa. This is a very good sign”. A few hours later the b-HCG results came and the level was 44. I had never had b-HCG levels in the double digits and I started to feel optimistic. It took some time to contact my mother to ask her what these results meant (she was at a sustainable menstruation programme that day) and in the meantime I was feeling very cautiously excited. Finally we reached my mother and she confirmed that the b-HCG levels were positive for a single pregnancy. I was absolutely ecstatic and wanted to shout out in joy.
However the caveat came along soon enough. Amma said that we had to retest the b-HCG levels in another 2 days to ensure that the level doubled, which would then tell us that the pregnancy was progressing well. And we would have to continue testing it every 3 days or so until the scan at the 6th week to see the presence of a sac. I felt like a pin had burst my happiness bubble. While the signs for pregnancy looked good, there was no confirmation. After having waited for the two weeks post the embryo transfer, I had been looking forward to reaching a conclusion – atleast knowing either way – and that was not to be.
Every few days, I went back to the same laboratory and gave my blood for testing. The hours between giving my blood for testing and waiting for the results were nail biting. Happily enough, the results continued the upward trend that was expected of them and my mother was thrilled. But I went back to my coping mechanism of pulling myself into a shell and not feeling overly optimistic. I could not let myself feel confident of the pregnancy if it was not going to go through. My general positive outlook towards situations seemed to have locked itself into a box and refused to come out. I realise that it was not the correct way to react to the situation, but it was the only way I could handle things at that point.
As I entered week 5 of the pregnancy, various signs of morning sickness started – nausea in the afternoons and sour eructations. My motion sickness got significantly worse and I was unable to travel by car. The morning sickness caught me by surprise for two reasons. One – it suddenly started one day with a lot of intensity. Two – my grandmother, mother, maternal aunt and mother-in-law had had no major morning sickness in their pregnancies. These signs of morning sickness were wonderful and I started to come out of my cautious shell.
Week 6 of the pregnancy began and an appointment was taken with the gynaecologist for the first early pregnancy scan. However 2 days before that, I woke up from my afternoon nap, bleeding from my vagina. On cleaning myself up, I was able to see that it was not a major bleed (like a period usually is), but more like spotting that had accumulated while I was in the sleeping position. Nevertheless, I panicked on seeing that quantity of blood and immediately spoke to my mother (by then I had shifted back to my in-laws house to stay with them and my husband for a few days). My mother calmed me down saying that nothing is wrong, this happens early on in a lot of pregnancies. Knowing me well, she decided to take me across for a scan immediately, and not wait the additional 2 days for the scheduled scan.
My husband was with me while all these conversations were going on and he told me that whatever is meant to be will happen. I remember that he stressed on the positive – if we are meant to have this baby, then everything will be fine. But if it is not meant to be, then other plans are already in the pipeline. I was in tears and felt like this situation was the perfect reason why I was holding a part of myself away from the pregnancy. The 30 minute auto ride to the centre was interminable and I felt like a yo-yo at the end of it. I initially felt like I was doomed to not hold a good pregnancy.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, my usual sense of positivity started clanging and made itself known. I started talking to my embryo and was telling it “If you are doing well, but having minor issues – don’t worry. We will sort out those issues – your Pati (grandmother) is one of the best and knows others to help too.” I was less shaky by the time the scan started. As Dr. Anu Kotur (one of the senior most gynaecologists at Milann and a contemporary of my mother’s) looked for my uterus, she and my mother immediately spotted the embryo, looked at each other happily and told me that there is an embryo in my uterus, corresponding to the gestational age of 5 weeks, which is just right for where I was. As predicted by the b-HCG levels, I was carrying one embryo only. I also learnt that the baby is called an embryo uptil 14 weeks of gestation, after which it is called a foetus. I’m sure you can imagine my relief with seeing the embryo and being told that everything is going well.
I continued to have spotting for the next two weeks. While I no longer panicked on seeing the drops of blood, I was glad to see the colour change from bright red to dull brown and was very relieved when it finally stopped completely.
As I entered week 6, my morning sickness started settling into a pattern – it would start early in the morning and continue till late afternoon on most days. I was unable to take the smell of most foods, could eat only one simple dish at a time and masalas were an absolute no no for my stomach. I also started getting hungry every hour or so and this is when my love story with Delhi carrots started. I felt like a rabbit – eating about ¾ kg of Delhi carrots a day (which were thankfully in season). My family ensured that cut pieces of carrot were always available for me and even kept them cool in the fridge ahead of time, as I enjoyed cold carrots better.
My cousin brother got married in the beginning of February 2021 and we were all very excited. A wedding was taking place in the family after a gap of a few years and it was our first family event since the pandemic started. I took the call of going for the reception in the evening as my nausea was more prominent in the mornings and therefore going for the wedding was out of the question. We had taken the call of waiting until I crossed the 12 week mark before letting our family and friends know about our good news, so I was not able to explain my absence from the wedding ceremonies to my extended family. I eagerly got into a really comfortable but dressy anarkali and the whole family went off for the reception. And yes, my constant companion – my box of carrots – was right there with me. There was lots of fun music and dancing that happened that evening. I love dancing and was so excited to have an opportunity to move around. But guess what!! My little embryo decided that the disco lights and music was way too exciting for it and my nausea came out in full force. I tried to hold on for sometime so that the rest of my family could enjoy the festivities, but my situation only got worse. We left immediately for home. This experiment was definitely not successful. I learnt a big lesson: no attending any kind of event / no stepping out of the house until my nausea had completely settled down and I no longer had morning sickness.
Towards the end of week 6, i.e. day 47, I went for the next scan – a very very exciting scan. The heartbeat of the embryo would have developed and this scan was to check that out. My heart was in my mouth as the scan started and Dr. Anu checked the size of the sac. Then a distinctive ‘thump, thump, thump’ was heard. Dr. Anu and my mother did not immediately say anything and I went back into my worrying space wondering if something was not right. All that they were doing was counting the heartbeat. As soon as that was done and the number of 114 beats per minute was told to me, my relief and happiness knew no bounds. Hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time was awe-inspiring, incredible and filled me with so much of joy – I had tears in my eyes. The connection with my baby instantly felt deeper and the baby felt all the more real.
So on this happy note with my uncertainties on the lower side, I am going to end this write-up. How does my morning sickness progress? Do I continue to have question marks about the healthiness of my pregnancy? How do my uncertainties show up as the weeks go on? What adventures do my embryo and I have over the next few weeks? I will answer these questions and more with all of you in my next blog. Looking forward to sharing the continuing journey with you all.