It’s funny really, how you never expect to be one of the statistics. I never expected to be part of the 1 in 6 couples who struggle to conceive. If I’m honest, even three years into trying, until the words ‘You can’t conceive without IVF’ came out of my surgeon’s mouth, I never quite believed we were even ‘struggling’. I managed to convince myself that things happened when they were meant to, and it just wasn’t yet our time. Once our IVF ‘journey’ had started, I had no reason to believe it wouldn’t work first time. I knew on average it took 3 attempts, and yet I still managed to believe it wouldn’t happen to me. Now, as I hear my daily alarms ringing that same awful beeping, reminding me to take the tablets to start my cycle, I’m plagued with a whole host of new emotions that I’m trying to navigate.
Having two cycles of IVF fail has tested me in numerous ways. From the toxic positivity of people (who albeit come from a good place and are trying to be helpful) telling me that everything happens for a reason, that it will happen eventually and to ‘just keep trying’; the days of grief and wondering what could have been; the first period withdrawing from the medication; the would be due dates; the rest of the world just carrying on like normal when I felt as though the entirety of mine was crashing down around me, to the days where I wondered whether I wanted to go down this route again at all. We knew in our hearts as our second cycle failed just days into the very first U.K lockdown that we needed to take a break. The lockdown if anything gave us an even better excuse to do that; the clinics were closed and it gave us time to grieve our losses privately, without the questions. I didn’t have to fluster and panic at being spoken to about it, I didn’t have to nod and smile as another friend or family member gave me their well wishes, instead, I could return a phone call 2 hours later and have the conversations when I felt good and ready.
Now, nearly 20 months later, we’re back in the saddle and this time it has felt like a totally different experience. Initially, I blamed this on the fact we were with a whole new clinic. The protocol is totally different, it’s much more intense and there have been an endless number of changes. The staff themselves have filled me with nothing but confidence, and from the very beginning of our communication with them, I have felt like anything but a number. I have been positive from the very first moment we discussed my protocol; throughout the last year and a half, we have endured thousands of pounds worth of tests; we have a much more solid diagnosis and as a result, the cards on the table are much clearer. I have found no reason why this time, it shouldn’t be different; why I couldn’t be pregnant in the very near future, and why at the very least we couldn’t have some embryos in the freezer waiting for transfer.
It was only two nights ago that I lay in bed tossing and turning, with the stark realisation that despite the change in protocol, despite the new clinic and despite the nutritional changes, the new supplements and every test and diagnosis we’ve gained, it could still not work. Had I once again let my mind run away with me? Had all the talk with my parents of how next Christmas we could have a very tiny baby joining us at the dinner table jinxed us? Had my Grandma telling me she had a ‘tingling’ been enough to send the universe into a frenzy, and in fact had I manifested desperation instead of ‘I am ready’? No matter how much I want it, no matter how much I torment myself with jinxing and manifestations, the hardest part of IVF is that sometimes, it simply falls down to luck. Whilst the average may be 1 in 3, the downfall to being active within the ‘infertility community’ is that you become painfully aware of every outcome. You are aware of couples with similar stories to your own embarking on their 6th, 7th, 8th or even 9th transfer, couples who have become 1 in 3 but have sadly lost their pregnancies before their scans, those whose pregnancies have continued, but no further than 12 weeks, couples for whom it just never worked. For me, I maintain the hope that it will, and I maintain the belief that one day I will have my child in my arms, and yet as the medication causes my body to feel tired, my emotions to run high and my skin to resemble that of a teenager, I find myself laying awake late at night wondering whether it will ever be worth it.
I truly believe it would be unusual to go into IVF feeling no anxiety at all, whilst I do feel that this time the anxieties are less so than previously. This time, although I feel there is more pressure, with every cycle feeling like we are getting further away from our happy ending than closer to, I do know more. Knowledge, in my mind, is power. I know how to do the injections, I know that for the most part I enjoy them, I enjoy the element of control. I know how to prepare my body, what to pack for my egg collection and my transfer, and what to expect every time I step foot in the clinic. The anxieties of the unknown are gone, but the anxieties of the outcome remain stronger than ever.
I have learnt to cope with many things along this ride, from pregnancy announcements and seeing friends grow their families, to baby showers and questions from strangers about my family situation as small talk. Yet, learning to cope with the anxieties of another failure is a different kettle of fish entirely. Everything else you can somewhat separate yourself from. You can appreciate that people aren’t asking to be cruel, people are finding a quick common denominator and “Have you got kids?” over the table at a wedding is miles more simple and easier to generalise than “Are you a Fleetwood Mac fan?”. You can understand that you would never wish the pain of infertility on a friend, that there isn’t finite numbers of pregnancies and baby showers, and one more doesn’t mean one less for you.
All I have found I can do on this journey to cope with my fear of yet another failure, is to quite simply take one day at a time. I have no control and learning to accept that has been the biggest peacemaker in my life. I will do my very best with the tools that I have, but ultimately, if it does fail, I have no choice but to once again ride the wave. I have to process my grief, accept the outcome, and find a way to move forward. For now, if that means spending my evenings with a head in a book instead of scrolling on my phone where I’m liable to get lost in Pinterest baby showers, Dr Google and ‘is a twitchy eye a symptom of pregnancy’; long walks with the dog in the middle of nowhere with a podcast, or getting my ducks in a row by finally sorting out the admin cupboard, then so be it. Distraction is key, until it’s time to face the facts. And even then, my mantra will always be to take one day at a time. The sun may go down but it once again, must rise.
For now, we hope.