Fertility Treatment: A Reader's Story
Good morning friends
I am so grateful that several of you are so brave to share your journey towards becoming parents. It’s a bumpy ride and not necessarily the ride we are imagining growing up, assuming kids just happen. Like Maryana say “we are born to do it”. To make it happen. And that in a nutshell is also why it can be filled with so much loneliness and quite frankly shame. The one job nature gave us we’re failing at.
And that shame might just uphold infertility as a taboo. So for you to share your stories, keep doing it! With me, with us, with your friends and family. Maryana, it’s time for your story!
Infertility was the hardest, the most painful and the most lonely experience I have ever had.
I have never thought it would happen to me – partly because we don’t hear much about these things in everyday life, partly because no one explains to you as you grow up that it could possibly happen. Instead, growing up as a girl, you are told that having kids is something your body is designed to do – and then when it fails, you feel isolated, broken, unfeminine, almost inhuman.
I have been trying to conceive for 3 years when it eventually got obvious – it’s not going to happen “naturally”. We have been through everything: tracking cycle with different apps and ovulation sticks, taking lots of vitamins and supplements, trying to boost ovulation with medicine like Clomid (triggers your ovulation making your hormones – and your emotional wellbeing – going nuts).
It eventually got down to going to fertility clinic in London to see a fertility specialist and see what they can do. Followed by lots of test for both of us, the verdict of the specialist was “unexplained infertility”. Apparently, in almost 30% of the cases of infertility the reason can’t be determined – two perfectly healthy people just can’t seem to be able to do it. Because of the whole “unexplained” thing the treatment for us would’ve been completely hit or miss. We just had to try to find out what that works. That said, we had 2 options – IUI or IVF. IUI is less invasive and less expensive (in comparison to IVF) procedure, which is also called assisted conception, when sperm is basically taken “half-way” into the fallopian tube to meet the egg at the precise time of ovulation. All of that gives more chances for conception. Something like… 12% more. This number didn’t sound promising but the hope was to avoid IVF and save ourselves some money and nerve cells. So we opted for IUI.
It was still a lot of injections – to control the cycle and egg follicles forming, to boost ovulation, etc. – and a lot of scans and blood tests in-between to track all these things happening. I couldn’t inject myself – just felt extremely weird and psychologically impossible to stab yourself into the stomach with the needle. So my husband was doing that – I couldn’t even watch him, I had to turn away.
I was working full-time, trying to juggle it all, also not really wanting to tell everyone at the office what I was going through. Emotionally it was the toughest month ever, I was emotional wreck. I would cry everyday – usually several times a day. I started having panic attacks. I was so anxious I was hyperventilating at the meetings to then run to the toilet to cry. I started taking sedatives – first every morning, then every afternoon, then three times a day, then four. I can’t explain exactly why it was so hard. When I think about it now I guess it was a combination of really really wanting it to work, dreading the future if it doesn’t and feeling very lonely, very sad and very bad about myself and my body. Of course, it was also hormones. You are boosted so much, that your stomach blows up by the time of ovulation from all the eggs cooking up inside. All emotions are like under magnifying glass – sadness is VERY sad, loneliness is VERY lonely, and so on. I also had no joy. I think I knew it’s not gonna work.
After the day of “conception” you are told to take it easy, treat yourself as if you’re already pregnant and do a pregnancy test in 16 days. These 16 days are bloody long time. Googling all possible early signs of pregnancy, I got to day 15. I remember that I had to be at work early to get ready for some important meeting, it was an amazing sunny summer day and I was wearing white trousers. When I walked into an empty office early that morning, I felt pain in my lower abdomen. It was building up. I felt something is not right. By the time I walked to the toilet, my inner thighs were getting wet. It was like a scene out of the horror movie – I was bleeding big time. Blood was literally everywhere. White trousers were soaking with dark red blood. It was on the office toilet floor, on the toilet seat, on my hands.
I don’t remember how I got out of the office, don’t quite remember the Uber ride home, and really cannot recall the rest of that day. I know I took a lot of painkillers (it was really painful), my husband came and hold me in his arms as I was crying and then fell asleep. He said I slept for 14 hours.
After that I knew that was it. I was 100% sure I’m never going to have kids. I decided the only merciful thing I can do for myself is to start coming to terms with this fact and move on with my life. So I planned to do a triathlon – I never ran before and I can’t swim, so it felt like a good enough goal to completely consume yourself with. And I also decided to climb Kilimanjaro.
But before that me and my husband agreed to make the very last attempt and do IVF. At least after that you can climb Kilimanjaro knowing you’ve done everything you could. IVF takes longer time – 2 months, with first cycle being the preparation. I went on part time, telling everyone at work what was happening. In my free time I was sleeping a lot, meditating, doing yoga and reading books. It sounds like some enlightenment bullshit, but all I really wanted this time was to take care of myself, both physically and mentally. I just knew I’m not gonna survive another breakdown.
IVF requires even more injections – not just in the stomach, but in the bum as well. It also requires your eggs being collected for actual fertilisation, which is done under general anaesthetic. After that the fertilisation happens and every day you get calls from embryologist who tells you how your embryos are doing. Their survival ratio is pretty hardcore – by day 5, out of 18 fertilised eggs we ended up with 4 embryos that were worth looking at. Only one of them was “top quality”, so the decision was made to transfer that one.
After the same awkward procedure – you are on gynaecologist chair, reclined with your head down, with lights in-between your legs, nurse scanning your abdominal to see what’s happening inside, doctor down there with a tube inserted into your uterus waiting for the embryologist team to come in with the actual embryo, and your poor husband sitting next to you and holding your hand – we were told to take it easy again and do a pregnancy test in 16 days.
I’ve done a test earlier than that because I just could feel it. Nothing like early pregnancy signs from Google, I could just feel it. It was positive.
I ran to the shop and bought 5 more tests. They were all positive.
I was terrified. I was shit scared. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t comprehend it.
I made so much effort to actually make myself believe it won’t happen and I need to move on, that – funnily enough for someone trying to conceive for 3,5 years – I wasn’t ready for this. It took me all 9 months of pregnancy and around 2 months after birth to start coming into terms with the fact that it did happen.
My daughter is almost 4 months old now. My life has changed, I have experienced a lot throughout pregnancy and birth (different story), I have been through a lot of ups and downs. But now I feel so much more complete and whole as a person – not because of my child – but because of what I had to go through.
Hardships and responsibilities and experiences do make us better in the end, and I don’t know any other way to spiritual and personal growth other than that.
So to everyone out there trying to conceive I want to say – I admire you, your courage and your strength. You will get what you deserve and you will pull through all difficulties on your way to find yourself in a better place. You are strong and you’re definitely not alone on this journey.