Life after IVF: It’s time to move on.
There comes a time in your IVF journey where you must accept the situation that you’re in. To reach the point of IVF, you have dealt with infertility for at least 12 months, but often those years are multiples. In our case, we have been dealing with infertility for 5 years and 4 months. Years of my life on ‘Mumsnet’ that I’ll never get back, money spent on ovulation kits and basal body thermometers, a laparoscopy, bilateral-salpingectomy and two rounds of IVF later, I’ve come to the conclusion it is now time to let go.
I was so incredibly negative leading up to our second round of IVF. We had been for our treatment consultation and I decided there and then that this was not going to work, we were wasting our money, but we needed to do it. I planned and I wrote a huge list of things I was going to do if the IVF failed. I was going to do a skydive, run a half marathon – a full one if I caught the bug. I was going to go for a summer holiday with my girl friends and my husband and I were going to have a well-deserved break in the sun. I was going to live my life to the absolute fullest, quit my job and train to be a teacher, lose my “infertility weight” so I’ve named it, and colour my hair pink. I was going to have fun for a while. But then the IVF started, and my outlook completely changed. Initially, we found a rather large cyst on my right ovary and we were pushed to cancel, and yet there was something in me telling me not to, telling me to continue and go against the expectations. That’s exactly what I did. I was on track to perhaps get 4 eggs, but I requested my medication was increased (the cyst was not harmful, it was only slowing the growth of my follicles), and on egg collection day we retrieved 10 eggs. 8 were mature, 5 of which fertilised and yet only 1 of which made to transfer. Despite the fact the transferred embryo was an ‘early blastocyst’ (slow growing – it was developing but wasn’t quite where it should have been by day 5) – I was certain it would work. Our first round of IVF didn’t even make it to transfer, this time – even with the cyst – we made it, we’d done better than we could have ever expected and it made sense for it to work. The timing was perfect. You see, I had become obsessed with the timing. We had recently lost our dog – our beautiful German Shepherd, Teela, bless her heart – and she was one with quite the unpredictable temperament. Teela was horrific with other dogs and had only ever been around a toddler once, and frankly it is an experience I never wanted to repeat. I had always been anxious that she wouldn’t react well to a baby in the house. My Mum had also made the decision to move back to our city (she lived 200 miles away), so in my head it was perfect as she could share my pregnancy, and she was also turning 50. My Mum had always said she was too young to be a Grandmother before she was 50, and it would be sods law that she would get her way with this too. I would have been 12 weeks on her birthday had it worked. I was totally convinced it had worked until two days before test day when every single symptom I had vanished, like a star into a cloud. Inevitably, it failed.
I promised myself I wouldn’t let this this cripple me, like I did before. I was going to swallow it and move on. I spent the day painting my fence with my husband, drinking tea and dancing to Shakira in the garden. Every now and again I would have a moment, but I would shake it off and move on like nothing had happened. I started planting a raised border in the garden, planting bulbs like there was no tomorrow, and with every bulb I was simply burying my problems deep into the soil. I wasn’t dealing with the problem at hand. So then, nearly three weeks later, it hit me.
IVF has taken over my life. My life, for 5 and a half years, has revolved around my pining for a child. My desperation to be a mother has been the forefront of my mind every second of every day. IVF has made me bitter in a lot of ways, but it has made me wise. It has taught me patience, it has taught me real heartbreak – I am not talking your first love heartbreak, I am talking real, raw, undisputed grief. I have grieved for the child I cannot have, more than once. I have felt sad beyond words and I have had more bad days than good. I see myself only as a broken woman, like I wear a sign above my head: BARREN. In my eyes, I am somehow faulty, a dog with three legs that people look at and say ‘awww how sad’. I have never asked for pity but empathy, and this situation has taught me the difference between friends who want to understand, friends who empathise and friends who want to be there for you, and those who see you simply as the three-legged dog, those who see it as ‘just one of those things’ that you should just be getting on with. I have been depressed for a long time; I have been trying to fill a void that can’t be filled. My mind has been on a downward spiral since my ‘official’ infertile diagnosis and if I don’t do something about it now, I never will.
Over Christmas, I was having a form of trauma therapy called EMDR. We explored the blame and the guilt I feel regarding my infertility, but also the blame and the guilt I feel for a wide range of things that have happened in my life since the age of 13. I can’t explain to you how much it has helped me process things I was hanging on to, but at the same time it has surfaced feelings I wasn’t prepared to face. It made me realise how much I craved stability, security, how much I wanted the perfect family life that really is non-existent. It also made me realise I don’t need to accept my infertility, but instead I need to resign to it. It is something that will always make me sad, and if I never am a mother, that sadness won’t go away. However, by resigning to it I understand that there was nothing I could do to change it. It wasn’t my fault, I did everything I could with the tools that I had, but it wasn’t meant to be. The thing I need to learn is how not to look for answers when frankly, there are none. There is no reason as to why it is me, and the more I look for this clarity the more my mind will spiral. You can’t find something that isn’t there.
It is now time for me to have a life. My husband and I got married and fell into the world of IVF; we have not been able to enjoy our time as man and wife without any hiccups, without every penny we have going into medical treatment. IVF is like a married couple addicted to gambling – you’re always spending money without a return, hoping that one day you get lucky. We haven’t been able to enjoy our time together and I have lost all sense of self. I am not the woman he married and often that breaks my heart. I carry a sadness that can’t seem to be lifted, but now it is time to air it out. It is time for me to work on me, for as long as it takes, and until I have reached an element of peace, an element of acceptance, we will not be ‘trying again’. We are going to live our lives in a way we wouldn’t be able to with children; we are going to be selfish, a bit reckless, and laugh – A LOT. I am going to run, and I am going to cycle, and we are going to holiday (whenever we can – thanks Corona!). I will get another tattoo and drink wine in dungarees until my heart is content. Until then, it’s over. I look forward to the day we try again, but for now, IVF is in a box. A box that will always be there in the corner of our eyes, but until we are ready to open it – it’s time to breathe some new air.
Love, Amber xxx