IVF By Polly Tames
I was one of those people who was naïve when it came to having a baby. I honestly didn’t think I was going to have a problem; I was relatively fit, had a balanced diet and, most of all, I had regular periods. No warning bells, nothing. Even to the point that when we first started ‘trying’ I was convinced that I was pregnant on the first go. It soon became apparent that I wasn’t, nor was I the next month, or the 5 after that.
6/7 months of trying wasn’t uncommon and I wasn’t getting too worried yet, just frustrated. It was after 7 months that I actually fell pregnant only to miscarry 8 weeks down the line. It was an almighty blow and knocked me sideways. To finally get that positive result only to have it taken away was heart-breaking. Again, I was naïve when it came to miscarriage; 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage which are bloody high odds! It was great that I could get pregnant and I just had to cling onto that.
Another year passed filled with the monotony of ‘trying’. It was a perpetual cycle of emotions; hope, anxiety and despair – it was relentless and exhausting, constantly feeling let down by your body. We went through all sorts of tests, my hormones were fine, my tubes weren’t blocked, everything was alright on his side; we were what they classed as ‘unexplained infertility’. Bleurgh. I think I would’ve preferred something more specific, in that instance they could at least given me a special pill or something. It was at this point we were referred to the IVF clinic.
I always saw IVF as the last resort of baby making and I didn’t feel like we were there yet. But by being ‘unexplained’ it was kind of the next step. I remember at the time it all feeling a bit quick (the decision that is) and like I was stepping into this huge unknown. So many leaflets were given to us about long protocol and short protocol and all these different terms were banded about, it was a lot to take in; scary in a way. I’d always imagined bringing a child into this world the natural way and now it all felt very clinical.
I won’t bore you with all the medical terms (of which I’m a pro at now btw!) but we were on long protocol meaning that it was a concoction of drugs administered by needle over a 6-week period. I say ‘we’ but it was very much me. Unfortunately about 95% of IVF is all the woman. I’m not saying the man doesn’t have his part to play, my husband was a gem when coping with my moods and being a huge support, but it often felt quite lonely and a huge sense of pressure is put on yourself. Yes, it helps to talk about it but you can never fully offload and it was very hard to switch off; constantly thinking about your next injection, am I getting enough follicles? are they big enough? am I eating the right foods? should I have that glass of wine? (which I often did!)
The first round of IVF I followed everything by the book; I was looking on the forums daily seeing what the other women were up to, meditating each day and following old wives’ tales (which in hindsight were probably all bullsh*t). 5 eggs were collected and 4 fertilised. As it was our first round we were only allowed to put one back in, we left the hospital with our fingers crossed and hope in our hearts. Now the two week wait.
Those of you who have actively tried for a baby will know that the two week wait (2WW) sucks. You over analyse everything and I mean everything. Every little twinge, every little symptom. With IVF, you know you’ve got an embryo in there so it’s all about implantation. You need that bloody thing to latch on! With our first round, everything felt right, I had what I thought was implantation pains and bleeding and even my Reiki lady (yes I tried everything!) said she felt positive vibes; all looked good. The day arrived to take the pregnancy test, I peed on a stick and then my husband went into the bathroom two minutes later to read the result. It was negative and we were crushed. Devastated for ourselves and devastated for our family and friends who wanted this so much for us.
I think the hardest part of a BFN (big fat negative) was the feeling that we were back at square one. The thought of going through it all again left me tired and weary. I knew I had the physical strength but it was the mental strength I was most concerned about, I just wanted a break from it all. Despite that we decided to go ahead, no point in hanging around. The remaining embryos had been frozen so we were to do a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) for our next round. A different concoction of drugs with no egg collection but still a lengthy process. A couple of months later we started it all again.
This time I tackled it differently, I was very much blasé about it all. No strict diet was followed, I didn’t overthink the timings of my injections, I was just generally more relaxed about it all. We put two embryos back in this time (literally all our eggs in one basket!) and the two week wait fell nicely over Christmas and New Year. Nicely in the fact that I could just laze around in front of the fire and watch back to back movies without feeling guilty. The test date was the 2nd of January, but come New Year’s Day, having said good riddance to 2016, we took the test. My husband, probably a little hungover bless him, came back into the bedroom holding up two fingers, and thankfully the kind that signalled to me that we had two lines. The rest of the day was spent in shock and disbelief with intermittent grinning. I sit here writing this currently at 23 weeks pregnant with a little mini human booting me from the inside and an overwhelming sense of achievement and happiness.
Here's what I would say to anyone about to embark on the IVF journey…
- Firstly, it’s not as scary as you think, trust me!
- Realise this is a long process and just take each hurdle one at a time. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
- Try and relax, don’t overthink everything or get yourself too bogged down with your lifestyle choices.
- Use your friends, they’re a lifeline. Some days you’ll want to talk about it, some days you won’t. If they’re good friends, they’ll understand.
- Appreciate your husband, this is tough on him too and they are quite often left feeling helpless. You’re in this together, talk to him.
- If at first you don’t succeed and all that. Be realistic, odds of success are only about 30%, manage those expectations but don’t be too pessimistic.
- Treat yourself, you deserve it. Buy that expensive leather jacket, have a girly afternoon tea, go to that festival you’ve always wanted to go to!
As I said earlier on, I never thought I’d struggle to conceive, then subsequently I never thought it would come to IVF, and the last year was spent thinking I’d never be pregnant. Life doesn’t always go to plan and one phrase that helped me get through this process was ‘If the train doesn’t stop at your station, then it wasn’t your train’. My train finally did come along and for all of you fighting the infertility fight, I hope you don’t have too long to wait. Stay strong and keep going, you’ll get there I promise. Big love, Polly xxx