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.