“We may as well give it a go! What do we have to lose?”
Heartfelt words spoken by me to my husband about 10 years ago when we decided we wanted to have a baby.
Being ever the optimist I was confident that at 38 I was not going to be one of the 80% of people who would not fall pregnant. I was going to reach out to the universe with the well known practice of “ask and I will receive, and I know that it will come to pass”.
To answer my own question about what we had to lose – we lost a lot, and it took two years to find it all again.
* We began our journey by seeing our Dr X who promptly told us that we would be great candidates. Yeh, over the first hurdle! I was not sure exactly what he meant by “great candidates”, but it inspired me to continue. Of course we had a few ageing issues and we both had a few other challenges but we were still encouraged to give it a go. We had a 20% chance of winning.
The counselling offered did not prepare us for what we were about to experience, so my first little tip is to really seek in-depth and thorough counselling before you embark on this journey.
Be realistic of what it means by 20% chance of winning as gambling is so addictive. We know the house wins yet we still play the machine anyway.
* The technical side of IVF is so boring yet important so you can understand what is actually going to happen to you. Your body is a powerhouse of hormones and once someone starts fucking with it (and I use that word with much deliberation) then you will become irrevocably changed forever. I say this because I have been forever changed because of IVF treatment.
I had a choice of nasal spray or needles in the gut for the first two weeks and that would be the start of stripping away my hormones so that I was producing nothing on my own. Once my body was stripped of hormones I felt like I was walking through water.
I remember one time I was putting fuel in my car and I forgot to put the cap back on the petrol tank. It was raining and I drove away with the petrol exposed to the elements. I had no idea that this had happened until a lady drove up beside me screaming like a mad woman telling me to pull over, obviously to tell me that my cap was on the car boot. In my non-hormonal state, I was overwhelmed and started to panic. I couldn’t make sense of why she did that so I drove home as quickly as I could to escape. I sat down in front of the TV and stayed there until my next visit with Dr X.
The fog in my mind lasted about 3 weeks as they stripped away all my hormones. They then began a series of injections to pump me full of hormones so that they could control the levels to ensure optimum egg extraction.
My ovaries were full of grape like eggs ready for extraction so I took myself off to hospital, husband in tow, for day surgery. I was terrified. I was given what was called a twilight anesthetic which supposedly does not put you under but takes your memory away after the operation.
In hindsight I really wish I had had a full anesthetic. If that is your choice then make sure you ask for it.
Twilight anesthetic my arse! Halfway through my egg extraction I stopped breathing and the nurse had to wake me up which was the worst time to do so as Dr X was right in the thick of things. I still remember clearly the yellow vial of liquid that the nurse showed me and her accompanying words. “Oh look there’s one little egg in this vial. You’re doing really well.”
I remember the nurse telling my husband he now had ten minutes to do his best to produce a handful of sperm. After that the biologist worked their magic and we had four healthy little oocytes (fertilised eggs). Unfortunately two did not survive so we were left with two. But that was okay because we only had two names picked out. That was how confident I was that this would work.
You need to understand exactly what IVF does to your body, what hormones are going to be pumped into your veins and how you’re going to “feel”. If you’re going to put all your money on long odds, prepare yourself – prepare your mind with knowledge and your body with nutrition.
* The same day that I had the extraction I also received (via a pap smear) our first little baby egg. Notice my language at this stage as I had already created a baby in my heart and head and I firmly believed that all would be well with our new life. Technically I had a healthy blastocyst (a fertilized egg) that had divided into 8 cells.
Don’t pick names out and call them your children until you actually have a living, stable embryo inside you. Meditate upon the healthy division of cells and stability of the blastocyst that will continue to transform into embryos and then fetuses. It’s the safest bet.
The first two weeks after my impregnation I was elated. I was pregnant and all was certainly well in my world. Sadly, after the 20th day, my progesterone started to drop, and my uterine wall came away on the 28th day of my cycle. The next month I rested and tried with the second blastocyst and again it failed.
The second time it failed, I fell into a deep depression and began to compensate my loss with eating carbohydrates and lots of them. It is enough to say that I put on 10 kilos, cried most days and had nothing in my heart or mind to draw on to bring me out of this dark well.
I realised the only way to escape the darkness was to accept the fact that I needed to let this journey go. I could not risk it all on a 20% long shot. My health and quality of life was far more important.
So I began a process of healing. I had an amazing GP who supported me through a year of anti-depressant medication, coupled with yoga, meditation, good friends and a husband who (although going through his own pain of fatherlessness) loved and supported me.
To help you through your journey I wrote a poem for you my female friend. I wish you well.
I looked out one day across the river of time
And I saw the stillness of ages gone by
In silent reverence I walked by its banks
Only to realise I could not go back
The way is hard, but I was well prepared
I had courage for company and a youthful glare
I walked for years and travelled hard
Over many a mountain they seemed so far
But the longer I walked the closer they came
And my journey was slowly beginning to fade
The river ran dry and the banks were gone
The stillness returned, I was all alone
Courage had left me, youth had gone
What then is left?
Wave the next traveller on.
Author Susan Hart