I’ve made no secret of the fact that our now 7 month old boy Maxon is the product of years of IVF treatment. In fact, my way of dealing with the entire process was to share, with anyone interested or willing to listen. To me, talking about it all made it feel less of a big deal, less ‘taboo’ perhaps. I found over time that when I opened up to people, I’d feel less alone; particularly as most people know of ‘someone else’ going through an infertility journey. Not surprising really when in fact around 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving…this is currently approximately 3.5 million people in the UK.
With that in mind, I feel a duty to share our story, with the view that it may give others hope. I spent a great deal of time when I was trying to draw up the strength to continue with treatment googling ‘IVF success after multiple failed attempts’, ‘Success on 3rd cycle’….then ‘4th Cycle’. As time went on, our odds were dwindling, we were starting to run out of options and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. But finally, after 3 years of injecting, bloating, mood swings and pain, on our 4th and final cycle, we got our boy.
To give a brief overview; we started our first cycle in December 2015. I was extremely optimistic going into the process; we were assured that our odds were good, I was young (27 at the time) with no known issues. I remember so vividly the Xmas of that year being confident that the cycle would work. We’d just gotten married, moved into our first home, and I was going to have a baby the following summer. My head had it ALL planned out. The ‘plan’ came crashing down rather spectacularly in the New Year when we were faced with not just a failed cycle, but initially, a poor egg yield (on our 1st attempt only 3 eggs were collected).
But I picked myself up, told myself it was a one off, and moved on, again, and again. For 3 years. Cycles 2 and 3 were more positive in that we did get pregnant, but I had very early miscarriages (classed as chemical pregnancies; where my HCG levels didn’t rise as they should, suggesting the embryos started to implant but then failed). These years were just a blur of appointments and obsessive testing in the dreaded 2 week wait.
By the point of our 3rd cycle, the process was consuming me, I was racked with anxiety and tired of living in a strange limbo where I had to act like I was pregnant, yet was faced with the very strong possibility that I’d never have a baby. Our 4th cycle was private (we are lucky to live in the NE of England where the NHS funds 3 full cycles) and the added pressure of the cost (around £7k including drugs) was a lot to deal with. I felt incredibly overwhelmed and being honest, had we not gotten pregnant when we did, I’m not sure what our next step would have been. I wonder if I could have kept going?
IVF has forever changed me, for both bad and good. It gave me anxiety that I still struggle with, but it also taught me how strong and determined I am. The science side of it, initially overwhelming to me with all the confusing terminology, became fascinating and I learned so much and educated myself. The process made me incredibly unwell (I was hospitalised with OHSS, a side effect of over stimulation from the drugs I had to inject), but it also gave me a healthy, perfect baby boy. It was a bundle of contradictions and an incredibly stressful period of my life, but I wouldn’t change it for the world because ultimately it gave me the most incredible gift, who feels all the more precious for all it took to get him here.