5 learnings about going through IVF
It’s hard to believe looking back at how much I’ve learnt. Five years ago I was wide eyed, and I guess a little surprised, to learn about the process we would need to go through to have children. Like most people, I had always thought that when we wanted to start our family, we would just, start our family. Naturally.
As things turned out, my husband and I went through four rounds of IVF over five years. It was exhausting and emotional and expensive. But I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Our two kids give us more joy than we could ever have imagined.
If I could have given myself a little heads up about what to expect back when it all began, this is what I would have said.
It’s going to be tough.
I’ve seen IVF described as ‘gruelling’ and I know now that this doesn’t mean the injections or minor surgery. It’s the emotional rollercoaster of not being in control and receiving bad news over and over again. That sense of helplessness and frustration at wanting success and trying so hard to do it all right but still not getting it. The panic that time was roaring past me while I was trying my best to get into the next phase of our life. Impatient, impatient, impatient… The thing is, all that pressure doesn’t help. It no doubt added to my stress levels. Once I got that the process is long and not within my control, I calmed down. It helped that I had incredible support around me from a team that were caring, sympathetic and focused on my success. I wasn’t alone.
I can choose to be a warrior or a victim
Round one of IVF I was a martyr. Flipping between, ‘Poor me having to endure this’ and ‘I wish I didn’t have to do this’… The conflict was exhausting!!
It felt so much better to be the boss. To focus on the plan and just work on each of the steps. There is no room for emotions or victim-mentality. Admittedly, after multiple rounds and miscarriages and failed attempts, I did lose the faith and it was hard to reset. But I did, and I was still mentally better when I decided to see it as an awesome endurance we had to overcome. Of course it’s hard, after all, it’s creating a life!
Celebrate the small successes
It didn’t help to think about the goal of pregnancy as it seemed so far away. IVF treatment is achieving small milestones along the way. Hormone levels tracking well, check. Egg collection, check. Successful fertilization, check. Embryo reaches day 5 blastocyst, check. Successful transfer, check. Pregnancy test, check! 7 week scan looking good, check! 12 week scan confirms successful pregnancy – check! Scans all good throughout pregnancy, and finally – a BABY! It is all worth it.
IVF can be good for your relationship
The process was tough, but it really did bring my husband and I closer together. IVF is stressful and definitely tested our relationship many times. Thankfully, in our case, it actually became something we hunkered down and endured together. We had to be strategic about how we dealt with it together. In the beginning, he was there with me for every injection until I got comfortable with it. He was with me for every appointment, I knew he had my back – it was our journey. As above, playing the martyr didn’t work for me and the imbalance it created certainly wouldn’t have been healthy for our relationship.
Expect the unexpected
No doubt the paperwork told me about it, but I guess I didn’t take in how anything is possible through the process. Here is what I wasn’t ready for and therefore found hard to deal with:
- The first round collected 12 eggs but not one was viable. Months of preparation and thousands of dollars wasted.
- Round two gave us two precious embryos – one gave us our daughter (hurrah!), and when we were ready for baby number two, the frozen embryo didn’t survive the thaw process. I hadn’t really thought through that this was a possibility.
- Minor surgery was required after small growths were found that might be interfering with pregnancy, resulting in months of recovery time
- Two pregnancies that both ended in heartbreaking miscarriage
- After each unsuccessful pregnancy, my body needed months of recovery time between rounds to be optimal for a new round of treatment
I guess the biggest harsh lesson I learnt is that leaving kids until mid-30’s was a gamble. Trying for baby number two when I was 38 was much harder, and took much longer, than trying for baby number one at age 36. It thankfully worked out for us, but I did have a moment early on when I thought that my legacy on this earth would be a bunch of photos from my 20’s and 30’s of me having fun travelling, and realizing I had missed the big picture.
I’m so grateful for our happy outcome, and very aware that it could have been different for us. Hopefully, this insight into our story is helpful for others beginning their journey.
Repromed NZ offer private and public funded IVF treatment and may be able to help you with your fertility journey. All are welcome, we stand for ethnic and gender equality and are proud to be awarded with Rainbow Tick certification. Having a simple fertility test (AMH test for females and sperm test for males) is a good place to start. You can book a free 15 minute phone consultation with a fertility doctor. Click here to make the first step.
Individual results may vary dependent on your personal circumstances.