This is by far the most personal piece I have written, we are about to get to know each other a whole lot more. Like, loads more. But I think this is an important thing to share. I had to go down the IVF path for my gorgeous, now two-year-old daughter, Edie. At 31, I found out that having children the natural, old fashioned way was not going to be an option for me. Needless to say, being young and healthy, this was a huge shock.
I was lucky there was at least an explanation for my infertility. The cut down version is that I don’t ovulate or get a period. And I haven’t for a very long time – strange but true. The part of my brain that sends the message to my body to let it know it’s time to ovulate just doesn’t want to play ball. My brain has just thrown up its arms and said ‘I’m done here’. Lazy really. Not even six months of medication and injections three times a day could bring on ovulation.
After being poked and prodded more times than a chook on Christmas day, it was evident that the only option left for us was IVF. This wasn’t something I ever considered I would need to do. I thought it was my given right as a woman to have a baby, but for my husband James and I, it wasn’t going to be quite so straight forward.
I had heard stories about how tough IVF can be on your body, your relationship and also your mental health and I thought I was prepared for how hard it was going to be. But I had NO idea. It was a lot tougher than I could have imagined. And I like to think of myself as a pretty tough cookie.
I thought it was my given right as a woman to have a baby
I should point out here that everyone’s IVF experience is different and unique to their situation. Some people may not find it challenging at all or might not is disruptive to their life. Many women have to give themselves an injection once a day, or even once a week, but for others, it’s a tad more involved. That was me, the more involved part. At any given time I was taking 12 tablets a day, injecting myself three times a day, wearing two oestrogen patches, and inserting things in my private regions four times a day – oh and I should add, as you are inserting things in your lady bits, you are required to lay down for half an hour after this – not helpful when you have that small thing in your life called a job! Finding time to stop what you’re doing and lay down for half four times a day at specific times is not easy.
The fact I worked in breakfast radio at the time and started work at 4am made things tricky…I had to get up at 3am (half an hour earlier than usual, which makes all the difference at that time of the morning) to do my business before I got up for work and started my day. I’d then rush home from work afterwards to do it all again – three times before I went to bed at 7.30pm. Plus all the other bits in between.
I wished there was more I could have read about what IVF was ‘really’ like, not the medical or scientific explanations, but someone to tell me the little things that not even your IVF nurse will tell you. I knew a couple of people who had gone through IVF and they were a huge help, but it became very clear early on that my treatment was very different to theirs. So I turned to my friend Google, but still found it hard to find out what I really wanted to know.
So, if you have found yourself going down the IVF path, here is what I wish I’d known:
– The gel and pessaries you have to insert are not fun. And by not fun, I mean kind of a nightmare. It’s not the inserting that causes the issues it’s the what goes in must come out part that is really tough. This was, at times, traumatic. I spent many nights on the bathroom floor in tears. The gel is used only a carrier for the hormone and isn’t absorbed by the body so it comes back out. You need to ‘deal’ with the residue. If you are aware of this going into it and don’t stumble upon it then I think it’s a huge help. If there are any ladies who would like to know more detail on this – email me!
– Your work life will be affected. I would like to think no one at work knew what I was going through because I handled it all like a pro…but I doubt if this was the case. I needed to leave the studio at certain times each morning to secretly inject myself in the bathroom. And after-work hours were tough because you can’t exactly tell your boss you have to be home at 4,6 and 8pm to insert objects into your nether regions. Especially a male boss. Although I kinda did. Poor guy. He was amazing about it. I recommend telling your manager/boss, they will understand and it will take the pressure off.
– You will want to kill people who suggest you try acupuncture because they know a friend of a friend whose sister it worked for. Or even worse, those people who tell you maybe you should stop trying and it will work. Try not to harm anyone and keep all sharp objects out of your reach. You may even need a chaperone for social events.
But keep in mind, it’s often hard for people to know what to say – and they really are just trying to help.
– Financial stress. It is expensive. Not just the whopping monthly IVF payments but things you don’t think about such as the medication which you buy separately, I was paying up to $300 per week for medication. And if you’re lucky enough to fall pregnant, you will need to continue your IVF treatment right up until 12 or 13 weeks. I think it’s important to be prepared for this before you go into it and have a plan of attack.
– Bloating. You will bloat like a balloon. This IS physically possible, trust me. It’s like some cruel twist of fate that you actually look pregnant but you are not. My advice? Floaty dresses work a treat – and don’t stress about it, it’s not permanent.
– You will put on weight. I bet you’re thinking come on, really? This is un-avoidable so don’t worry about this. Although I am sure the comfort food had something to do with it too. Don’t scrimp on the comfort food, you deserve it and do whatever you need to do.
– Avoid making plans to travel. Needles need to be at a certain temperature, things need to be done at specific times. Even overnight travel for a weekend away can be in the too-hard basket, but your friends and family will understand this.
– Your sex life will be non-existent. You just have to accept this. There are two weeks in each cycle where you’re told to refrain from intercourse, but even when you are ‘allowed’ to, it’s too tricky – you are constantly wearing panty liners (sorry, I hate those two words) and there are things that need to be inserted before you go to bed– none of it is sexy! Physical conception no longer has anything to do with intimacy with your partner. My mum was actually there with me when my baby was conceived – not many grandparents can say that! Or would want to say that, come to think of it…sorry mum!
– The disappointment when a cycle doesn’t work is nothing short of heartbreaking. But you won’t for a second give up, because you can’t. Just make sure you have your partner and a big bottle of wine close by on the day of that long-awaited call. Your partner’s support will be more important than ever in this. I was one lucky duck on this front.
I hope this helps you. The process is tough, that’s for sure. But hang in there, there are so many success stories. I know because I am one. It will all be worth it when you get to hold that incredibly longed-for baby in your arms. I can not express to you how happy I am now, every little bit of it is worth it.
Please feel free to ask me anything you like about this below. Write anonymously if you’d prefer.