My second frozen embryo transfer is this week. It feels like I’ve waited so long and still every day passes so slowly. I’m almost counting down the hours. It’s actually been three months since the first transfer, which sounds like both nothing and forever. On the plus side, all signs point to my reproductive hardware being ready and willing.
I’m trying not to get my hopes up that this one will stick but at the same time, I don’t know what I’ll do if it doesn’t work. I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. That probably sounds melodramatic seeing as I’ve only been trying to conceive for five months, after stopping my testosterone shots 11 months ago. After all, it’s common for fertility journeys to last many years, with a lot more money spent and failed attempts than I’ve endured.
And yet, it’s the lack of a vital hormone in my system, at the same time as having fertility treatment that’s weighing on me. Five months trying to conceive while still on testosterone? Bring it on. Going back on T in between embryo transfers? That would make all the difference. If I could go back to my normal for a bit each time, I’d get genuine respite. But that’s not how this works.
I can’t go back on T until this is all over and done with, because it would interrupt my cycle and my fertility. I can’t be on T while pregnant because it could harm the fetus (in medicine, testosterone is considered a teratogen, an agent that can disturb the development of the embryo or fetus). That’s why I waited three months after stopping my shots to even start fertility treatment, to let the T clear my system. And then, I waited another three months because of COVID. The extra waiting, which equates to extra time without T is why, as a trans man, I’m finding this so much harder than I might otherwise.
Of course, it’s my choice. I’m not complaining as such. This is just where my head is at. I can’t stop thinking of the first time around, from 2016 to 2017. I stopped T in September 2016, and did a simpler kind of fertility treatment called IUI, which is basically insemination at a clinic or “fancy turkey baster method.” It involves minimal hormonal medication. I conceived in April 2017. It was six months, give or take, from stopping T to getting pregnant. It’s only now I can fully appreciate how smooth it went and how lucky I got.
If the pandemic were to disappear tomorrow, I’d be one of the few human beings on earth clinging desperately to this hermetic existence. I can barely face looking in a mirror, let alone the faces of other people.
So when it comes to T, I’m running on empty, but as for estrogen and progesterone—I’m swimming in the stuff. Folks, it’s a trans masc nightmare. I still know deep down that it’ll be worth it but let’s just say, if the pandemic were to disappear tomorrow, I’d be one of the few human beings on earth clinging desperately to this hermetic existence. I can barely face looking in a mirror, let alone the faces of other people.
The medication that’s preparing my insides to catch and grow an embryo is new to me. I didn’t do it this way three months ago. But taking the meds makes a treatment cycle more predictable, cutting down costs and four hour round trips to London. I didn’t know how the extra hormones would hit me but can now report that I’m tired, bloated and grumpy. I’d be terrible company to anyone over the age of three, which is ideal, given that’s the only company I have. We’re having lots of guilt-free lazy days and easy meals. Fellow parents, it turns out that if you have cereal for dinner once in a while, the sky doesn’t fall in.
The only hiccup besides these draining side effects happened yesterday. I think the meds are also giving me brain fog, so when I was locked into some writing and my alarm went to take an estrogen pill, I took one and instantly forgot I’d taken it. Then, I mindlessly took a second one half an hour later, when I saw the pillbox lying open next to me. When I lifted the empty box again a while later I realized what I’d done—taken two in quick succession instead of spaced hours apart. Cue frantic calls to the clinic and panic that I’d messed everything up.
Turns out, it’s fine—they just said not to take anymore yesterday. I only had to wait out the extra hot flushes and even deeper exhaustion. Perfect.
Thankfully, the day ended with a very sweet moment. While the Shrimp was at nursery, I’d been sorting out the coats and cold weather gear hanging just inside our front door. In a tote bag, I found the cloth and buckle toddler carrier we used to wear everywhere until about a year ago. It was personalized for us with a seahorse pattern. I dropped it, along with a minuscule kids backpack, on the stairs to take up to my bedroom for longer-term storage.
When we got home from nursery pick up, the carrier was still there and Shrimp picked it up, flapping the tentacle-like straps around.
“What this?” he said.
“It’s your old carrier. Do you remember? Daddy used to carry you in it all the time.”
“Can we try?” he asked.
Five minutes later, after some out-of-practice shimmying and tightening, 3-year-old Shrimp, with his long torso and big blonde head, was strapped tight to my chest, legs akimbo, knees higher than his bum, as the advice goes. The sense memory for me was strong and I imagine it was for him too. I automatically started swaying from hip to hip, as if soothing him like I had when he was newborn. He found it funny to be right under my chin and looked up with a huge grin before instinctively resting his head sideways. It was amazingly comfortable and comforting.
Next, he wanted to be the daddy. So I cinched and folded the carrier everywhere I could to give him that snug, secure feeling of holding his baby doll tight to his chest. He studied himself in the landing mirror and kissed the doll’s head.
I think they’ve been talking about families at nursery because Shrimp has been telling me he’s going to have a baby sister. He also sometimes tells me that he’s my sister or that I’m his. Or when we talk about him being in my tummy once, he thinks about it all and tells me, “I’m too big to fit down your windpipe” and, “my feet are too big to fit in your brain.”
“That’s true.” I reply seriously, forgetting all about my grown up problems for a while.
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