The Anxieties Of Pregnancy After IVF

I had dreamt of this day for years. Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a Mum. I knew that I wanted a large family; I’ve spoken many times of my initial desire to have a brood of 6, to circle my life around my growing family and live the dream I had curated in my head. I never anticipated the struggle we would endure to get there, and yet throughout the whole process, I never quite gave up on the hope that one day I would see those two positive lines on a pregnancy test.

I hadn’t expected our third cycle of IVF to work. We had changed almost everything about our cycle, from the supplements we took, our lifestyle and our outlooks, to the clinic and the medication and the methods. I think ultimately, I had just lost faith in the process, and yet I felt more positive about this cycle than I had any other. My husband and I had one goal, and that goal was frozen embryos. Frozen embryos were something we had never achieved before, and as we were so sure this wouldn’t work, we knew that frozen embryos meant we could try a few more times. Whilst we hadn’t necessarily said it out loud and set it in stone, we both knew that this would be our last shot at a fresh cycle. The funds were drying up, our patience was wearing thin, and we knew that we couldn’t keep enduring the same heartbreak. And so, the morning of the 30th January 2022, seeing those two strong positive lines appear on the test in bright pink dye is a feeling I will never quite forget.

I had always expected that after our positive had appeared, we would feel as though we were riding a wave of euphoria; we would be walking on a cloud in a bubble separate from the world. Him, me, and our little baby growing inside of me. I would feel instantly connected and full of a love that so many people described to me as like no other. I expected my years of infertility trauma, the years of anxious waiting and disappointment to feel like a distant memory and instead for the first time in many years, to be looking to the future with nothing but sheer excitement. I was wrong.

4 days after we tested, I had to travel to London for a blood test to confirm the pregnancy was progressing. Immediately after booking, I was counting down the hours. I sat by my phone the entire afternoon after watching the blood seep out of my arm and into a vial that ultimately would make or break me a few hours later. Being told everything was perfect was something I wasn’t used to, and whilst I was relieved to hear it, I was immediately then counting down the hours to my scan. Usually with IVF pregnancies, you would have a scan around the 6-week mark, but we couldn’t get a scan on a date that both I and my husband could attend so we had to wait an extra week. That for me was an impossible task, and so we agreed to book a private scan locally at 6 weeks 4 days on our lunch breaks.

The worst part of the wait is the symptom spotting. I was seemingly having a little bit of everything; there was no doubt my sense of smell was that of the canine unit at Gatwick Airport, and my lower back was hurting constantly, I was having strange dreams and falling asleep on the sofa at 8:30pm, but I was increasingly infuriated at the fact I wasn’t being sick, I wasn’t put off my food and the smell of my husband’s coffee in the morning wasn’t quite making me gag. I was convincing myself every day that something was wrong. I knew at this stage most symptoms would be the sheer volume of progesterone medication I was taking, but I wanted something.
We walked into our scan with pits in our stomach, feeling certain that once again things wouldn’t be straight forward for us. I will remember that scan for the rest of my life, for two reasons. Firstly, because due to my history of having nothing but internal scans throughout this entire process, I started taking off my pants for the sonographer to be rather horrified and assure me that she could in fact do this externally… (although both my 7- and 9-week scans did require an internal scan!), and secondly, because it was the first time we saw our baby’s heart flickering on the screen. I let out a sob that of the moment we saw our positive line – it was there, our baby, a tiny little flicker of life inside of me; a combination of mine and my husband’s DNA; the baby we had longed for, for so long.

My 7-week scan was the same; I would relax for approximately 48 hours afterwards and instantly start convincing myself something was wrong. I would have cramping in my abdomen and I would try to convince myself it was simply my uterus expanding, after all it was rapidly growing, and yet the voice inside my head would convince me that it was all about to come crashing down. I dreaded going to the toilet, creating a fear of seeing blood when I wiped. Still as I write this at 10 weeks and 4 days pregnant, I check every single time. I didn’t start to settle until I was actively being sick at around 8 weeks. I have been incredibly lucky with sickness (although considering I longed for it as a means of reassurance, I reckon rather unlucky), having only had the odd bout here and there, often in the morning when I’m hungry. The tiredness has ramped up and the backache is still there, the sense of smell means my husband has had to change his aftershave and I have no tolerance for cheesy feet, but it still wasn’t enough for me to be sure everything was okay. The 3 days prior to my 9-week scan were the worst; I spent three days sobbing whilst my husband was at work, I couldn’t cope with how anxious I was feeling and why I couldn’t just relax and believe this was happening to me.

In a means to try and make it feel more real, at our 9-week scan after seeing our little one look slightly more like a baby and having been discharged from our clinic, we decided to announce our pregnancy.  I would shortly be coming off my medication and my body would be doing this all on its own; I knew that it would bring new anxieties, and so I knew I needed to be able to speak.
We knew it was early to a lot of people, but I was desperate for it to feel like it was happening. I was desperate to be able to talk about it more openly, to be able to speak to other people who had been in my shoes and could offer me the reassurance I needed. I have to say, it did make a difference. And whilst I still feel like I am living someone else’s life, and whilst I feel as though any moment someone is going to pinch me and tell me to wake up, I am starting to relax and allow myself to believe this is real.

I still feel like a fraud; speaking to my midwife to book my appointments felt nothing but bizarre, and the imposter syndrome is on a whole new level. I have bought nothing but some second-hand maternity dungarees (£2 on Vinted, would you believe it?!), and I am terrified of buying so much as a pair of scratch mittens. I’ll get there, slowly but surely.

I wonder if it will ever truly sink in that it’s real; whether I’ll look down at my bump and feel like it’s really my bump; whether it’ll be the moment I feel that first kick, or see my belly move with the baby’s thump, or whether it never will and even when they arrive, I will still be in total shock that it ever really happened. But right now, I am pregnant, and every day I will continue to stroke my bloat that I await becoming a bump and tell myself I was made to do this.

I can do this, and I am ready for this.

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