Waiting between the lines takes on a whole new meaning

I thought that finally getting those two pink lines would be wonderful and glorious and would erase all the heartache and trauma of infertility… I thought that the wait would be over and that the celebrations would begin. How terribly, horribly naive of me. Whilst getting two pink lines for most ‘normal’ women is indeed a happy day, cause for celebration and fantasies of baby cuddles and occupied nurseries, for me it just meant the start of a whole new level of anxiety and stress. I can honestly say that the last three weeks have been the most awful of my life (and I am not free of previous adversity) as we have limped from one beta test and ultrasound to another, each time hoping and praying for clarity and each time encountering ambiguity and uncertainty, being told each time to wait… Time will tell. Tomorrow we will finally find out whether or not we have a viable pregnancy on our hands… I am horribly anxious but also desperate to know. Whatever the outcome. I’ve said it before, for me, knowing is better than not knowing.

My ‘normal’ friends and family have been surprised by our pregnancy journey, specifically the beta testing and monitoring. For them, a positive pregnancy test was confirmed with a blood test and a first ultrasound was booked… No second betas or obsessing about doubling times. They were gloriously naive and therefore able to assume that all was well. Had they gone to their first scans and been met with bad news, the heartache would have begun. They all knew about the 25% chance of miscarriage but because nothing had ever gone wrong before, they did not operate from a negative framework and were able to live in a state of optimism regarding their pregnancies. Not so for me or the other women experiencing infertility. The close monitoring as well as some of my infertility-induced behaviors (obsessive googling and a tendency towards pessimism), have resulted in an early pregnancy fraught with overwhelming anxiety.

I personally, have come to believe that beta testing should be banned. I know this is a strong statement and many will disagree with me, but in my opinion the anxiety it causes is not sufficiently outweighed by the knowledge gained. Because there is not a lot of knowledge gained, especially when you fall into the rather large grey area that we have fallen into. If your beta tests are very low and then drop, you are almost certain to miscarry… But knowing this doesn’t prevent a miscarriage, it just prepares you for it… So what’s the point? Why not live in blissful ignorance until things go wrong? Slow rising beta levels can indicate a blighted ovum or an ectopic pregnancy. They can also suggest a vanishing twin. But, there are also many, many stories about slow rising beta levels and perfectly healthy pregnancies and it is commonly acknowledged that there is a large variation in what is considered normal. Low rising beta levels can result in miscarriage but normal beta levels can also result in miscarriage… So again, what is the point? Why not just wait until the first scan to see whether or not there is anything in the uterus and whether or not there is a fetal pole and heartbeat? In the case of an ectopic pregnancy, it would still be early enough in the pregnancy to do whatever needs to be done without risk to the mother. In the case of a blighted ovum there is nothing to be done anyway, so again… What’s the point? If beta testing resulted in definite answers, I would be 100% behind it. But it doesn’t.

As I’ve said, knowing is better than not knowing, even if the outcome is a bad one. However, over the last three weeks we have ‘known’ very little and have been met with ambiguity, which has caused extremely high levels of anxiety. Added to this is the helplessness… We have known that something could be wrong, probably is wrong, but we haven’t known WHAT. Even had we known WHAT was wrong, there has been absolutely nothing we could do to prevent it from happening. All we have been able to do is WAIT.

Our first scan was meant to be today but because we have been monitored we were told to pop in tomorrow morning rather than have an official appointment. This suits me fine as we do not pay for the monitoring appointments but would pay for an official appointment. When I try to imagine that we hadn’t beta tested and hadn’t known anything was wrong we would have pitched up today and been told one of three things… You have an ectopic pregnancy and require medication or surgery to remove it; you have a blighted ovum and can induce a miscarriage, have a dnc or wait to miscarry naturally; you have a perfectly normal pregnancy… Congratulations. Whilst the first two options would have been shocking and heartbreaking, at the very least we would not have lived in anxious limbo for the previous three weeks and as I said, nothing would have changed the outcome.

Unfortunately what is known cannot be unknown and so now that I know that beta levels should double every 48 hours it is highly unlikely that I won’t beta test in our next pregnancy. That blissful, naive ignorance is no longer an option for us. I can only hope that they double normally and that there is some level of comfort derived from that. And over and above that, I hope with all of my heart and soul that I am one of those very lucky women who have slow rising beta levels and that this is OUR normal, healthy pregnancy. I pray that tomorrow we see a fetal pole and heartbeat and that our little bean defies the doctors original 1% odds.

18 thoughts on “Waiting between the lines takes on a whole new meaning

  1. Beta testing is awful when it’s not going well, but it’s wonderful when the numbers are good. I’ve lived both scenarios, and I believe there is more good to come from betas than bad. They cause a lot of anxiety, but also cause a lot of happiness after a long, long road down infertility. I still look back on mine on my blog and smile, 2 and 4 years after the fact.

    I’m hoping beyond all hope that tomorrow brings great news for you! Good luck!

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    • I might change my tune if I had a more positive experience… But even so, like I said, these damn beta levels are not a guarantee so even with great numbers I would still know that things could go wrong…. Boohoo! I’m so glad you got your happy ending thoughxx

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  2. I understand completely how you’re feeling. My last pregnancy I was having betas every two days and this resulted in so much stress for three weeks and ultimately the baby didn’t make it. I agree entirely – next time round I think I’ll just wait and see too. It’s so difficult when you can’t change the outcome either way. I’m really hoping that you have a good result, and so sorry that you’re having to go through this xxx

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  3. I feel so fortunate that I was completely ignorant of beta numbers when I was going through IVF the first time. After many failures, when I finally got my BFP and positive beta I was not immersed in google or blogland yet. I had no idea 23 was low and my doubling time of 67 hours was borderline. I just knew I was pregnant and waited my first scan. Miraculously all was well and I hope the same for you! I completely agree that unless beta’s can be definitive, why out someone through that. I was lucky or dumb enough to stay ignorant. This time around I feel like I know way too much. So much more stressful. Best of luck. Xo

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    • Thank you. I totally think it is a curse to know more… Whilst I always hope that knowing more will provide me with an element of control or at the very least some hope, all it does in the end is overload me with the things that could go wrong!! Arghhh!

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  4. I remember the “glorious naive” feeling of the first pregnancy. All that went away when it did. I’ve never been so anxious in my life as when I finally got those 2 pink lines again!

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  5. Yup. I was anxious for my beta of 21 and was living in anxiety for those two days. Unfortunately, mine ended shorted after that. I knew too much about beta before I went in. And was well aware of the fact that mine was very low. I can see your side of the argument and why you think we should all wait. I am hoping for very good news for you!

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  6. I too despise beta testing, and in fact we decided that we would never do it again because while it provides indications it does not provide certainty. And the anxiety of it all was simply too much for me as we knew our numbers were low each time even though they fell within the acceptable limits. Each time a doctor tried to tell me that they were satisfactory, I just knew that they were too low and in the end I was right.
    That said, since you are into the beta hell, and your numbers are still within the acceptable range, I do hope that everything turns out just fine for you. I say until you have no reason to hope, keep holding onto any hope that you do have. 🙂

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