During my pregnancy with A, I wondered how we would explain to her about what made her so special. We already were going to have to explain her angel sister in Heaven, but that's somehow been easier than explaining that she is even more special than I can explain. While I was on six months' worth of bedrest, I came across this book: I Can't Wait to Meet You.
It's got a really nice idea behind it. A mother who conceived her child via IVF wrote a book explaining the process. There are some parts that are just so sweet, talking about how the child was treasured long before he or she was ever conceived - which is true, IVF babies are the culmination of a long time of hard work, expense, heartache, and physical pain. It does a pretty good job of using terms a child can mostly understand, but it does throw in some terms that are a bit more clinical than I really wanted to dive into at ages 2 and 3. For example, I think the word "sperm" is used about six times in here. Not really a discussion I wanted to have for a few years, but I guess medical exactness can never be a bad thing - so we've just rolled with it.
What does kill me about this book is that it fairly imprecisely covers the emotions and physical discomfort endured in IVF. For example, here's a crappy camera phone shot of the pages describing egg retrieval (sorry, my scanner is still packed somewhere from when we moved two months ago):
Anyway - first of all, it looks a little bit like that nurse is just going to suck the eggs out with that tubing there. Um, there's actually an enormously long, scary needle that goes through the wall of your uterus and into your ovaries, sucking out the eggs one by one. I don't know if long, snaky tubing going up into your vagina and then sucked on would be more or less weird? Definitely less hygienic, and what if she accidentally swallowed one? Many women are asleep during this, but I was not due to my resistance to narcotics - I was not comfortable like this lady in the photo is, and there certainly was no blanket discreetly covering my lady regions. It hurt like heck while about six people got an up-close-and-personal view of my entire anatomy. Also, I can assure you that a fishbowl filled with (presumably) toilet water was not the preferred storage device for the retrieved eggs. I'm hoping the procedure would have cost a lot less if that's all the more technical it was.
Here's the book's depiction of the sperm donation (by the way - DUDE, guys have it so much easier):
Just a few dozen issues with this:
1. No doctor ever has handled the creepy "hey, here's my semen" hand-off. They pay other people to handle that. If he had to, he certainly wouldn't be jovial about it, or get his clipboard (or bare hands) anywhere near that cup.
2. The wife would not be present and upright for this transaction. She's just been pumped full of narcotics and had the insides of her ovaries ripped out, she's probably not there to give the big thumbs-up to her husband, who only had to go into a dark room with a Playboy and have at himself.
3. Wow. I've got to say it - that's an impressive amount of semen. That cup is at least half full, maybe more. That's the only reason I can guess that old Charlie is grinning like crazy there - if their fertility issues had been male-factor like a low sperm count, just having a half-pint of semen there has to even out the odds.
So, Charlie and Grace have given their biological products, and the embryos are growing. In the book, they get strong by hitting punching bags. I don't know, I'm not an embryologist, maybe that is accurate, but I somehow doubt it.
They get ready for the embryonic joyride back into Mom then. (This is where that tubing is actually used, but nobody blows in or sucks on it.) Here's the depiction of the embryos being transferred into the neck of the uterus and hopefully implanting:
For a book that is fairly clinical, it did make me laugh that my fallopian tubes and uterus are depicted as a slip-and-slide. I also see at least three embryos in this photo, which is not the statistical average reported by the CDC - but I digress.
Anyway - in short, I think this is a great book. I change the names of Grace and Charlie to "Mama and Daddy," and the name of the doctor to that of our reproductive endocrinologist, so that A thinks it was especially for her. It's sweet, and it makes her happy, and she loves to read it. I love the last few pages where it drives home just how special IVF babies are, which is a lovely idea. It's just a bit funny how it gets there at a few points.
Ideally, I would like to write a book for A and any future children (we have two frozen embryos left) that tells their unique story, including their sister who passed on. But this is a pretty sweet way to explain it in the meantime.