Gratitude and loss in IVF and infertility

I have all three HCG results and an ultrasound under my belt from this frozen embryo transfer. I’m having a baby! Why do I feel both gratitude and loss?

Because there’s only one.

That’s normal, right? Except I’ve never had one baby at a time and I had two embryos transferred. I feel torn between feelings of gratitude and loss. I’m grateful for the one that thrives and sad for the one that died.


I knew this was possible, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to face it.

I expected to fill both of my infant car seats in the spring. Now one will be empty. I expected to use the Weego twin carrier that I finally invested in with Mischa and Gabe. Now I can’t because one side would be empty.

Even though I knew probability favors at least a couple of embryos lost along the way, I feel this hole much more keenly than I expected. I suspected I only had one on board based on symptoms (or lack thereof) and HCG levels, but I held out a shred of hope that the other survived and got a slow start. Thursday’s ultrasound tore that last shred away.

The single candle of my lost embryo.
“”by manbartlett is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is loss. There’s a hole that will never be filled, a baby that will never be born. One of my friends said that someone once told her that the babies we lose will one day be holding candles as we enter the gates of heaven. This baby never had a heartbeat. Is that enough of a baby, or is it the potential for life? Either way, I’ve lost something.

Of gratitude and loss, I am choosing to focus on gratitude.


I’ve been thinking about starting a gratitude journal for a while. Perhaps now is the time.

One baby is more portable

The surviving embryo’s heart flickered away at 122 beats per minute on the ultrasound screen–quite healthy for six and a half weeks. My body is creating another life.

I’ll have a newborn next April. Just one who doesn’t have to wait for me to feed or change the other baby. Just one who I can relatively easily put in a carrier or stroller and take out my six “older” kids. (I use quotes because the oldest two will still only be four and a half years old.)

No operating room or pitocin for me!

The hospital won’t require me to deliver in an operating room laying on a narrow, hard bed. The obstetrician won’t recommend labor induction before 39 weeks. I might get to have a natural labor in a labor and delivery suite, just like normal people!

So far it seems like this pregnancy may be a walk in the park compared to the last three (knock on all the wood). I’ve barely had any nausea and I feel a little more tired than normal. Jeff and I want to put in a large garden, but I wasn’t sure how we were going to do that when my due date was in April. Well, I might be much more capable than I expected in the spring. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the kids through half of another pregnancy.

More time for personal goals

I’ve been trying to spin up this blog, a YouTube channel for Bustling Home, and start making some videos about fitness and jujutsu. I may also add some online teaching on the side. At least through first trimester, I thought I might have to drop most or all of those. I thought I’d have to drop workouts to a minimum. Nope and nope. I just finished doing deadlifts, squats, push ups, and bench rows. In my last three pregnancies I would have been asleep on the floor before I finished my warm up.

This is gratitude. I’m grateful for my health, my kids’ health, and all the opportunities that a singleton pregnancy leaves open for me and my family.

Gratitude wins.

Gratitude and loss. I can’t think of another time in my life when I’ve felt both this way.

As I sat on my bed sobbing, just me and my box of kleenexes, I thought I must be the only person who cries sad tears for a lost embryo when one is thriving. How ungrateful does that sound?

Several friends have reassured me that one can feel grateful at the same time as one feels a sense of loss. I feel a bit less ridiculous and greedy after talking to them. And Jeff. Jeff helps.

With IVF, nothing is simple. In the wake of such upsetting and hopeful news, I’m trying to focus on gratitude for what I have and find the silver lining in what I’ve lost. In time and with some sleep the grateful and hopeful side will win, I am sure.

Of gratitude and loss, I choose gratitude. It has to be a choice. Like anything of value, it is not free.

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  1. Pingback: IVF miscarriage - the heartbeat is gone - Bustling Home

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