So, I’ve wanted to share about my IVF experience for a while now, but truth be told I’m finding it really hard to know where to start and end the conversation. Because it feels like it’s either a case of ratling through the details really quickly, (which essentially won’t amount to anything shared at all), or it’s a case of going into great detail about the ins and outs of it all, which could end up being collassally boring for us all. I’m yawning already at the thought of it.
I’m therefore going to attempt to find a middle ground and kinda write a few different posts chronicling all the various bits my IVF journey involved – the science, the heartaches, the hopes, the coping mechanisms.
There’s no ‘order’ in all of this so bear with me, cos we’ll no doubt be jumping back and forth on this fertility Delorean over the past few years of my life. But I guess by sharing with you, I’m hoping I can maybe help even reach one person out there who’s in need of a little IVF support at the moment.
So, here goes my first blurb….
Like many couples who end up going down the fertility route, my husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for a couple of years before we realised we probably needed help. It all starts off bright eyed & bushy tailed, as each month pregnancy tests are excitedly taken, but after enough negatives you realise that actually, this ‘easy’ thing of getting pregnant is a darn sight more difficult than you’d thought.
I feel we really lucky that we were making a move to Liverpool at the beginning of our IVF investigations, because we hit the jackpot with the Hewitt Centre at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, who saw us through what became months & years of a quest to get our little boy, and whose sympathy & care was invaluable at what became our darkest times.
After all the initial tests, it was decided we’d go through an IVF process called ICSI to try to get pregnant. ICSI stands for IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection. It’s when the clinic individually inject each sperm into each egg they’ve collected, so as not to leave anything to chance with the sperm trying to find their own way to the egg. Guess it’s like a door-to door chauffeur service for the sperm as opposed to them trying to hail a black cab to your eggs (!)
I mean it really is amazing what they can do with the science behind it all – I injected myself each day for 3 weeks in order to ‘down regulate’ and basically shut off my fertility system so that I wouldn’t produce any eggs and sort of entered a menopausal state. I then had a 2nd injection to administer for the final 10 days which was to encourage my ovaries to produce eggs like there was no tomorrow. And then a final big injection 36 hours exactly prior to egg collection, to make my ovaries release all of those eggs (by which stage my ovaries were like golf balls chokka full with follicles and eggs) I’ll probably go into more detail about the injections at a later dates, because there’s definitely tips to help,but all in all it was a 3-4 weeks process from start to egg collection and subsequently egg transfer.
And I entered IVF with such hope. Imagine after years of trying to get pregnant, someone says to you, ‘well actually, we’re gonna mix your sperm & egg for you, and pop it back right into the snugness of your womb exactly where it needs to be, and then we’re going to watch it grow into a baby’. You think you’ve hit jackpot of solutions, because science and these lovely doctors & nurses are helping you bypass a huge obstacle.
But of course, it doesn’t always work out as you’d hope. My first fresh IVF cycle after all these injections, ended in a miscarriage and what they term a ‘chemical pregnancy’. It’s a miscarriage prior to 6 weeks pregnant, so essentially if you hadn’t tested for pregnancy you might not even realise you’d been pregnant. And it was heartbreaking. Although it was physically like a heavy period, the absolute pain of realising that I’d gotten pregnant to then have it snatched away so quickly, was like a knife to me.
And unfortunately, that was the least heartbreaking part of our IVF venture. Monkey Bear ended up being my 5th pregnancy via IVF. Between the first fresh attempt & his birth, I fell pregnant a further 3 times via frozen IVF transfers. And each one ended in painful miscarriages before 12 weeks, physically & emotionally breaking me each time.
This is not meant to be an alarmist post. This is just our tale, one of thousands like it. And for every 1 like me there are 100 who have had uncomplicated pregnancies. And for every 1 like me, there’s someone who’s gone through 10 times worse. But for better or worse, it’s made me who I am. I truly lost myself a couple of years back – I emotionally shut down, which was so unlike me because I’m very much a heart-on-your-sleeve kinda gal. But I was just so badly broken, that shutting down was my only coping mechanism. Each time I had that initial scan, each time I was told the baby’s chance of survival was slim, each time I went through a horrendous miscarriage, I swore I couldn’t do it again. But somehow I half picked myself up and got back on the IVF conveyor belt, but shutting myself down a little more each time.
IVF is incredibly hard to go through, even if it’s successful straight away for you. It’s the drugs, the injections, the worry. But it’s definitely like a rug’s been pulled out from under you if it fails because this ‘magical solution’ is revealed to not be so magical after all. And it’s only you who can pick yourself up and decide whether to try again. And again. Or not. And there’s truly no right or wrong answer.
So that’s a little but more about me, I guess, and where Mama Daze comes from. It’s nowhere near the whole story, of course not. As I mentioned, my IVF journey really did break me, but I’m thankfully feeling so much more like the ‘me’ I used to know and enjoying life so much more. And of course I’ve got my Monkey Bear and hubby to thank for that. But that in turn brings a case of ‘survivor’s guilt’ into the mix. Bloody hell. More about that another day…