When I saw the caller ID on my phone flash “Blocked” I knew it was from the clinic. Ah yes, my fertilization report, I thought. I looked at the clock: a little before 2pm. Finally!

When she said we had six embryos, I thought my phone must’ve cut out. Surely she meant to say six-teen.

“I’m sorry, say again?” I said into the phone, pressing it harder against my ear.

“You have six embryos,” she said again.

I wonder how many of these calls she’s making today. I wonder what it must be like to make those phone calls of disappointment, to hear the patient choke back a sob on the other end of the phone. I suppose it must be tempered by all the positive result phone calls they have to make, too, answered with shouts of joy or gasps of disbelief.

And now it was my burden to pass on the news to my husband.

#   #   #

I should be positive.

I should be hopeful.

I should feel gratitude.

I should remember that we only need one…

And yet, just this morning, I posted this on a friend’s blog:

“Abandon the word ‘should’ from your vocabulary.”

I talked to my friend Natalie who gave me the permission I needed to NOT be okay with this right now.

And so I rage. I rail. I tremble. I let this fear consume me. And then I break it down for what it is:

I am afraid that these embryos aren’t enough.

I am afraid they won’t make it to Saturday.

I am afraid this cycle will fail.

But why? Why am I afraid?

Because if my cycle fails, I feel it’s a reflection somehow on me. On everything I’ve worked for, worked through here on this blog. That I’m a failure.

I know that’s not true.

I’m afraid of money being wasted.

Money can always be gained, somehow, and in time. We might not get it all back, but we won’t starve. We won’t foreclose on our house.

And if this cycle doesn’t work, it won’t kill me.

Just wound me.

And I have been wounded many times in my life. I bleed and I ache and I cry and I moan but

I   G e t   B a c k   U P.

#   #   #

I have the capacity for strength. In this moment, I choose to be weak. To be vulnerable. To be scared and frightened.

I wish my husband could come home from work early just so he can hold me. I long to be held right now.

But let me be clear: I am merely frightened. Not defeated. It’s a fine – and vital – distinction.

#   #   #

There are six embryos. Six of our embryos.

Any one of them could become our child, our children.

I live in a world, at a time in history where six of my potential children are growing right now, in a petri dish, in a lab just 40 minutes from my house.

How remarkable.

How fortunate we are to be alive at this precise moment in time.

#   #   #

They are just cells. Just cells in a petri dish, dividing and dividing and dividing. Coming into exponential being.


Growing strong.

Growing healthy.



#   #   #

We were supposed to build our first sukkah Saturday, for the start of Sukkot. It’s a little, temporary open-walled hut meant to celebrate both the fall harvest and the wandering of the Jews. For years I’ve dreamed about building my own sukkah with Larry once we finally had a house to call our own. I was really looking forward to raising the Team Zoll sukkah this year.

I suppose G-d had other plans for us, that we should build a different kind of temporary dwelling place instead. One that lasts a bit longer than the ten days of Sukkot. One that lasts for nine months instead.

#   #   #


#   #   #

I’ve stopped crying. The world feels back to its normal pace again, instead of this slow-motion near-frozen moment that the last hour has seemed. I have let the fear wash over me.

There’s a hum, a tingle, a buzzing in the pit of my stomach. It is not some delicate butterfly, but like an electric energy instead. I send it out there, 40 minutes from my house to lab where a petri dish with our six embryos resides.


Divide and divide and divide – and conquer.

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  1. says

    Hi Keiko,

    Been there – not a fun place to be. It just doesn’t seem right that so few fertilize. Grieve for the 14 and then hold onto your hope for the remaining six for they are your future. They need your positive energy right now. Go team Zoll!

    Hope and healing,

  2. Angi says

    Your post took me back to the phone calls I received. It’s so gut wrenching and so very scary and full of what ifs. You words are beautiful. Thank you for sharing your journey.

  3. says

    I think I can somewhat understand your disappointment and fear. Although we did not encounter the same problem with fewer eggs than expected fertilizing, far fewer eggs were retrieved from our donor than we had anticipated. (At each follicle check, 30-35 growing follicles had been seen, and only 17 eggs were retrieved.)

    This is such a roller coaster, and so much is out of our control, out of anyone’s control. I hope the six embryos you have continue to divide and grow.

    Thinking good thoughts for you.

  4. says

    I’m sorry that the phone call did not have the good news you were hoping for, I’m waiting for a phone call myself and anticipating the worst (I hate when my brain does that). Though I’ve never done an IVF cycle, I can empathize with the fear that you are experiencing. Hang in there, Keiko. THank you for sharing (((HUGS)))

    Grow embies, grow!!

  5. Ashley says

    You’re allowed to be an unholy mess. Being told to focus on the positive when you feel things are, once again, so stacked against you is maddening. So much is riding on this. Especially your heart and your hopes. You are in my prayers dear sister.

    Panic, be angry, be a wreck right now. You’re allowed. It helps and is oh so healthy.

    • Natalie says

      Yes Ashley! Life. Is. Messy! Thank you for being another voice in favor of the 360 degree experience of being human.

  6. says

    I’m holding out hope for your embabies to grow stong and healthy. As someone who never have had more than six embryos I really understand the dissapointment. I also wanted to let you know despite that, we have always made it to transfer, with one to freeze the last time around.

  7. says

    I was in such a similar place almost exactly a year ago — 19 eggs and only 5 embryos. I know your fear and disappointment. I almost gave up hope as soon as we got that call.

    But, two of those embryos have grown dramatically in the past year and are sitting right next to me cooing their heads off and one is still frozen in our RE’s office 90 miles away. To drop so quickly is scary, but so much is possible for those six. I’m sending you and them all the love I have and saying prayers for you all.

  8. says

    On our 2nd cycle, we retrieved 14 eggs and 8 fertilized. We did a 3 day transfer of 2 8celled embies, and today my twins are 2.5 yrs old. Four more from that batch went on to become A and B grade blasts, now frozen for posterity. Anyway my point is that 6 is a good number and I daresay would be adequate for one pregnancy/child.

  9. Kara says

    We are all right here beside you; lean on us as you wish and when you wish. But know, too, that you are strong enough to stand on your own. You are a beautiful woman with so much strength. Allow yourself to be scared, angry, excited, anxious, nervous, happy — ALL OF IT. It’s natural. You are amazing.

  10. says

    Good girl – this is the attitude to take even though it feels almost impossible to be positive. I do not blow sunshine up anyone’s ass – because I’ve been there many, many times and it was a waste of time.

    BUT – you have 6. You have more than many people (and I’m not saying that to try to make you feel grateful) who have only had one. I have seen many people only have 1 and they get a baby. You could very well be on your way to babytown ;)

    Oh I wish Saturday would get here for you. Hang in there. Be kind to yourself!

  11. says

    You are so brave to take us on this journey with you. Thank you.

    Not saying “Should” is hard, but a worthy goal for a fertile life.

    Team Zoll, all the way!

  12. says

    “coming into exponential being.” LOVE that. in both our IVF cycles we have had only 6 embryos. i try to tell myself it’s enough. this last time it was enough to provide us with one “perfect” embryo for transfer – all we wanted. we find out next tuesday whether it worked. but none of the leftovers survived freezing, and that hurts. rooting for you.

  13. says

    So many are praying for you and your family. You are an inspiration to so many women, including myself, and we have felt stronger as a result of your words and wisdom. So now, we are sending our strength, hope, and positive energy your way. May you find a place of peace today, and in the coming days. My family wishes your family all the best on Saturday!

  14. says

    Been there, darlin. It blows. I think the “You had shitty fertilization” call was the one time I full on ugly cried on the phone with my RE. You feel like, “Great! What now? I thought we had the answers! This was going to fix it!” You are totally allowed to feel all kinds of nasty things right now.

    But it sounds like you’re already on to the positives, which makes you a much better woman than I, my dear.


  15. says

    We had 5 embryos at the start of our DE cycle, 4 made it to day 3 transfer. 1 went in, 3 went to freeze. That one is asleep in the room next door to me and we’re considering doing a FET to try to give him a sibling. Hang on in there!

  16. says

    I can only imagine how disappointing it must be to go from 20 to 6 in such a short time. I am upset just hearing about it, so I can imagine how gutted you must feel to be experiencing it with your own precious embryos. Having said that, 6 is a lot. I know tons of people who have gotten pregnant on cycles that produced 2-4 embryos. I think your odds remain excellent. Still, I’m sorry. It’ sucks to get another emotional blow on top of everything else.

  17. says

    Beautiful post and expression of your feelings. It couldn’t be said more true and you have every right to feel how you do and be upset and scared but like you said you are not defeated. Even if (heaven forbid) it didn’t work you would still not be defeated. Defeat to me is for those who don’t try. I have you in my thoughts and prayers and I love all the stories above of miracles happening despite what the odds may feel like. I hope the odds are strongly with you…as strongly as we all are. Best wishes :)

  18. says

    Shit. I’m so very sorry Keiko. I can only imagine how hard getting this news was. I still have so much hope for you and I will keep your 6 embryos in my thoughts and prayers in the days to come.

    But I will also say this: don’t focus on being strong and positive. Just be. Give yourself the time you need to process this news and grief this first blow. Put the call to be strong on the rest of us. We are here to support you, to cheer you on.

    Thinking of you and Larry tonight. And the 6 newest members of Team Zoll.

  19. karen says

    stay strong Keiko… all you need is one! lots and lots of luck to you!!! it sure is a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions! much love and many blessings to you!

  20. says

    That comment about ‘should’ has resonated with me all day. I love how, here, you go from ‘should’ to what IS. Those six are here, now, today, and that is an amazing thing indeed.

  21. says

    Lots of positive thoughts. I know it’s hard, and I wish there were more for you too, but 1 really is all you need. Continuing to hope for you and send positive thoughts!

  22. says

    oh the ‘shoulds’ and the ‘maybes’ and the ‘ifs’ – I wish I could just remove them all. I know it’s really hard to hear anything less than absolutely stellar news when you’ve already been through so much to get here (believe me, I know). I don’t want to say anything too sunshiney because maybe that invalidates your totally reasonable feelings of sadness that it’s not suddenly turning around… but at the same time, there’s a ton of hopefulness here. we’re all really pulling for you guys.

  23. says

    Gorgeous post Keiko. I am sorry you didn’t get the outcome you were hoping for at this stage of your cycle, but I love how you worked through your thoughts and emotions as you shared them so candidly with us here. You do that so well. Having lived through four ART cycles (2 IVF, 1 IVF turned IUI and 1 FET), I get what a roller coaster ride you are on. I often wondered too about the nurses and what it is like for them to make those calls. I even talked about it with the ones at our clinic one time. Anyway, I am sending lots of love, positive thoughts, prayers and dividing vibes to Team Zoll! #GROWTeamZoll