When you start going through IVF, all you want is for it to end with a healthy pregnancy and a child. You long for the injections to end, the fertilisation to be a success, for the embryos to make it to transfer and for them to survive in your uterus long enough to survive to be a healthy baby. You’ve dreamt of getting that positive test, you’ve longed to hold your child in your arms and you’ve spent hours praying to a God you don’t even necessarily believe in to look into the eyes of your very own child. The eyes of a child you thought had been robbed from you. I have spent years longing for this child, for a piece of my husband and I in my arms, to love and to cherish. After our first failed (disastrous) round of ICSI, I felt utterly heartbroken that once again, I felt had failed. My eggs were not good enough and as a result, our embryos didn’t survive. 2 months later we are preparing to embark on our next try… and yet this time it’s different. This time I am terrified of it working.
IVF is a scary game. You pump your body full of artificial hormones which play havoc with your mind. You are exhausted constantly; your daily tasks feel like they’re ten times as hard. You have to inject yourself every day, whether you’re scared of needles or not, the big girl pants are on and you have no other choice – you do it, or you don’t get pregnant. You are bloated and sore, your ovaries far bigger than is even remotely normal, your body fed up of blood tests and needles and supplements. All the while, strange devices are being shoved you know where by consultants who tell you the inside of your womb is “pretty”, pressing in all different places to find your follicles whilst you feel like if they press any harder, you might cover them in wee. You’re then sedated whilst another big needle is put up you know where, draining the follicles and collecting the eggs you’ve been patiently growing inside you. They’re fertilised with your partner’s sperm, and then you wait. You wait for phone calls every other day telling you how your potential babies are doing, how many have fertilised and then how many have survived. If you’re lucky, you make it to transfer, where one (or two) of your beautiful embryos are put into your womb, and the waiting begins again. You wait patiently to find out if the embryo has stuck, if you’ll finally have a positive pregnancy test, if every symptom you think you have is really a symptom or is just your mind playing tricks on you. It’s then test day, and you’re either pregnant or you’re not, and if you’re not it’s back to square 1. Thousands of pounds and an empty womb. IVF should be the hard part, right? I thought so too.
As we approach round #2, I feel a new range of emotions. Honestly? Until the day my medication was delivered, I felt numb to it. I had been focussing so much on trying to find peace within myself, to find a me that didn’t revolve around having a child, finding a happiness that I could return to if IVF never worked and I lived my life childless, that I almost forgot it was happening again. I felt relaxed; if it happened, it happened, if it didn’t, we would try again when we had rebuilt our bank accounts. Today my medication was delivered and my brain went into overdrive. How was I going to cope with the bloat? Was I ready to feel so tired all the time? Was I mentally ready, had I done enough meditation and enough self-care? Have I taken enough supplements for long enough? When do I tell work? Are work going to be as supportive given it’s so soon after the first round? What if it didn’t work? What if I felt as broken as I felt the first time and I have to tell my family AGAIN that it hasn’t worked? I was panicking, I felt like my mind was running through sand at a pace I couldn’t keep up with, but then my feet started sinking into the dunes. What if it DOES work? Then what?
For years now, my life has revolves around trying to conceive, and sometimes I wonder what I’ll do when it doesn’t. My routine of taking certain supplements, the regular trips to clinics, the constant googling, the protective ‘bubble’ I have built. 15 months ago I was diagnosed with two fully blocked Fallopian tubes and 6 months later I had them both removed. Since then, my world has revolves around IVF and making it work. I have always dreamed of having a child to call my own. I have longed to hold a newborn in my arms that belonged to me, that I had carried and birthed, a combination of DNA that was created by my husband and I. I have thought about who that sweet baby would become, whether they would grow up to have my eyes or my husband’s slight red hair, whether they would grow up to be more academic like I or creative like their Dad. Being a mother was all I ever wanted, a child all I ever wanted to provide my husband. It hadn’t really crossed my mind that I might not be very good at it.
Last week, my medication was delivered and the fear of if it worked set in. What if it worked and I was an absolutely horrific mother? What if I took the baby on the bus and had a total Joey and Chandler moment, leaving the baby on the bus? What if I make so many mistakes? What if I’m so strict I get it all wrong and my child can’t talk to me, or I’m too lenient and they end up being a criminal? What if I become that woman that never even looks at her husband unless it’s to moan he never does anything, or tell him how I never have a day off? How do I look after a baby? I’ve only ever held a newborn whilst sat down and the mother was 5ft away from me. What if I drop them? What if I don’t cut the grapes small enough and they choke? What if, what if, what if?
The truth is, I won’t know the answer to those what ifs until the IVF works and our child is here. They are the same doubts every potential mother to be has, but usually during pregnancy rather than during the ‘making’ (although the making usually lasts a few minutes and doesn’t normally involve the excessive prodding in the belly… needles, I mean. If it’s in the belly, you’re doing it wrong and that’s probably why you’re not getting pregnant). Everything I feel is completely normal. Every parent makes mistake and no parent is completely perfect. The lead up to IVF, the entire rollercoaster that is infertility, makes you more determined to be the “perfect” mother. After all, how dare you moan, how dare you get things wrong, when you’ve gone through so much to get to that position, when you know how lucky you are to be there at all?
An infertile journey to motherhood might be a scary one, it might be physically and emotionally gruelling, but the end result will hopefully be a child. It doesn’t make motherhood any easier; it isn’t going to be all sunshine and roses. That happy family I so desperately want will not be like the Von Trapps and we will not live life like the Waltons. I’m realising more and more that it’s okay to be scared, it’s normal, and if this IVF works, I will spend the next 9 months terrified of being a mother. For the first time in a long time, I will be just like everybody else.
Love, Amber xx