I found it hard to write my last post about out first failed embryo transfer. It was 2010 and so you would expect that some 7 years later I would have been able to write about it without it upsetting me. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and actually remembering the details around what we went through was pretty tough going. It has, however, made me more determined to carry on with our story.
Where were you in the summer of 2010? Do you even remember? Where were we? Our first cycle failed in late July/early August, just a few weeks before my 30th birthday. I didn’t want to turn 30, that meant time was ticking away far too fast and we still didn’t have a family, even though we were now a few years into trying. The feelings of desperation were starting to get much more overwhelming and I was really starting to struggle with everything that was going on around us. Pregnancy announcements from those around us started to become more frequent, people around us were moving on with their lives, their families, whilst we were stuck in the middle of what felt like hell. I struggled to move on from the failure that we had just suffered but we took some comfort in the fact that we had 4 more embryos frozen. There was only one thing for it, only one thing that would mean we got our family and that was to forge ahead with the next cycle. So, within 2 months of our first failed cycle we started all over again.
I had done lots of research on-line both before our first cycle and of course after our first failed transfer. I read lots about acupuncture and how so many people had conceived after having acupuncture. So, I was on a mission to find an acupuncturist who specialised in fertility and after a few Google searches, bingo I found one a few miles from home. Over the next few years the acupuncture was my time and even though it didn’t help me to conceive, it helped me in so many other ways. My first appointment I was apprehensive, was this all a load of crap and I was just getting sucked in to a fertility myth? At this point I was willing to give anything a go (although I drew the line at the fertility spells that are available on line!). That day I met someone who would become a pillar of strength to me through what was coming next & she is still walking with me on this journey even today. I walked away from the first session feeling like a huge black cloud had been lifted, I hadn’t realised how down and stressed I had been feeling. Who knew that getting tiny needles stuck in me could make such a difference to my mood, my outlook and most of all, my hope.
It was sometime around September when I started the drugs again that would shut my system down in readiness for it to be started up again and the embryos transferred. The first part of our house renovation was complete and we had moved back into our idyllic country cottage that would become a home for our family.
I went through the next few weeks with an inner and outward silence. I was at ease with the silence. It was going to be worth it because in a few months we were going to be able to finally give people some good news rather than the doom and gloom that our IVF rollercoaster had put them through to this point.
Drugs, blood tests & scans became the norm again. I am always amazed at how quickly we adapt to going through the process. Injecting at the right time, taking the tablets on the right days & carrying on working and living through it all as though nothing is going on. Once I had a rough idea of dates for transfer I booked 2 weeks off work. Nothing was going to get in the way of this working. Perhaps I was too stressed last time with the house renovations, this time that stress didn’t exist. Not being at work also had to help too, surely?
The scans eventually showed I was ready for transfer, lining was triple lined and thick enough…lets do this! The day of transfer came. Again, we waited for the phone call in the morning to tell us if our precious embryos had survived. I couldn’t settle and I think I made a hole in the carpet from pacing up and down. The phone rang and I answered it, visibly shaking. They had thawed 2 embryos, both survived and were looking really good. This was going to work, I was ready, I was positive, embryos were looking good as was my lining. Why wouldn’t it work?
We travelled to the clinic for our 1pm appointment, bladder full. I learned from transfer number 1 not to drink too much on the way in case I was bottom of the list. We arrived along with 4 or 5 other couples who were also waiting for transfers. There was a delay, there had been some meeting and they consultants or nurses were delayed. The silence sat heavy in the room, perhaps they were all thinking the same as me. This will only work for one of us in this room. This had to work, we had to be the ones that this cycle worked for, we had already been through so much that this had to be the one for us. Last time we were unlucky and these 2 embryos were the ones. I was last on the list. Wonderful. Everyone else came and went & finally we were called. We walked back into the cold sterile room that we had been in before. I lay down and my legs were placed into the stirrups. They scanned me and then the embryos were brought into the room in their tube. The consultant placed the catheter inside me and we looked at the screen waiting for the white flash. There is was, the tiniest white flash, our precious embryos were back where they should be. I had a tear in my eye and so did C. I think it was relief that we had made it this far and real hope that this time it would work. We couldn’t have another failed cycle, that just wasn’t an option. Our little grains of sand were in their jar of jam, they weren’t going to fall out when I went to pee, which by this point I was completely desperate to do. We made our way back to the car in silence. We wanted this so much. It didn’t matter this time if both embryos worked, that in fact would be fab, we would get our family in one hit.
I then entered the two week wait again sometime in October. This was the second time I had been through this within 6 months and all I could do was sit at home and wait it out. We tried to carry on with normal life as much as we could.
The two week wait does not get any easier no matter how many times you go through it. This one for me was a bit of a blur, there was nothing that stood out for me. I was on constant knicker checking duty making sure I wasn’t bleeding early like the time before. I felt every twinge, every pain. The progesterone suppositories became my new norm and as much as I hated them I had come to know that I had to make sure I used them at exactly the right time. I retreat into my own world during the two week wait & I’m not really sure why. I don’t like to let anyone in, not even C. I like to think about our embryos growing, developing and implanting. I feel very protective of them, but also very protective of myself. Its a fine balance between hope and realism. I go through the days of excitement that this could be the start of our longed for family, start to plan the future, I feel happy and I get well ahead of myself. I also live through the days of sheer negativity and upset as I think about it not working for us.
I decided this time that I was not under any circumstance going to take a pregnancy test before I was supposed to. This time I was firmly in the not testing camp, I think part of the reason was that I couldn’t cope with seeing blank, white, negative tests. I’d seen my fill of those during my last cycle.
I moved from one day to the next in a boring routine of eating, googling, reading on-line fertility forums and watching TV, then going to bed & repeat the next day. I just wanted these 2 weeks to be over so that we could move on and become a family. Then it happened, early afternoon around 13 days post 3 day transfer, the bleeding started. Like the time before at exactly the same point in the cycle. It wasn’t bright red blood, it was just spotting. My heart sank & sheer overwhelming panic set in. Shit, this was happening again. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Dr Google was called upon, lots of stories about early spotting and successful IVF. But this had happened last time and it hadn’t gone well. Maybe this time it would be different. I told C I was spotting and his face said what my heart felt. We both knew where this was going, why would it go anywhere different. We had been here before but I had to carry on, we had to carry on.
I continued with the medication and this time I made it to the official test date (OTD) having been spotting for days with no let up. Each time I went for a pee during those few days I prayed that it would stop, it never did. The ‘am I still bleeding’ question was on my mind 24/7 and I just couldn’t not think about it. IVF completely messes with your head in ways you never thought possible.
I had gone back to work a couple of days before I was due to test. I hated every minute, I just wanted to be at home. I was on high alert for proper bleeding to start, I was completely withdrawn & stressed out. I couldn’t function properly. The morning I was due to test, I did it before we went to work and of course it was negative. The words NOT PREGNANT stared back at me and I felt like my heart had been ripped out. I tried to get ready for work and as I did I fell in a heap on the bedroom floor, tears flowed and I couldn’t seem to stop them.
Why had this happened again, why us, why wouldn’t this work for us, why couldn’t we have a family and more importantly what had we ever done to deserve this pain & heartache?
I stopped the tears and went to work, no idea how I would make it through the day, but I did. I didn’t phone the clinic to tell them the outcome, which is what you are supposed to do. Both of us struggled through the next few days, and probably the next few weeks and months too. I for one couldn’t go through it again anytime soon, it was far too painful.
It was 2 weeks later that the clinic called about the outcome of the cycle. The nurse said I should have called them, I said it failed, what was the point. She offered condolences. Sorry my backside, its taken 2 weeks to realise I never phoned. What kind of outfit was this IVF clinic anyway, they couldn’t get me pregnant, they were the last people I wanted to speak to. I just wanted to tell her to fuck off out of my life along with this whole fucked up process called I.V. fucking F. She offered a counsellor, I said no and that I’d get over it. In my mind, a counsellor wouldn’t bring my embryos back and wouldn’t change the outcome. Seeing a counsellor wouldn’t get me pregnant so why the hell would I want to see one. Clearly anger had set in. She told me to ring back when we were ready for our next cycle because we still had 2 embryos in the freezer. I didn’t want the 2 embryos in the freezer, I wanted the ones that we had just had put back, and the ones before that. I wanted to scream at her, ask her if she was stupid, ask her why they hell she had called me. But I didn’t. I told her nicely we needed a break for a while and she said just to ring back when we were ready.
The grief was overwhelming. The sadness was here again. Another piece of my heart was broken. Our chance to have a family seemed completely out of reach and I just wanted to curl up into a ball and be left alone. I was exhausted both physically and emotionally. I needed to try to heal. I needed the desperation to be a mum to go away. I needed to be happy but over the coming months I just couldn’t get to that place. We booked a holiday for the following February so that we could have a break and it also meant that we wouldn’t be tempted to cycle again when we clearly weren’t ready or able to put ourselves through it again.
2010 had been an utterly shit year, perhaps 2011 would be better, perhaps we would get our family the next year. We had certainly failed on an epic scale so far. We were also drifting apart from friends as we became consumed by IVF and our desire to have a family. It felt like life was going at 100 miles an hour around us and we were trapped in some kind of slow motion, not able to move forward and being repeatedly plunged into a world of hope and then grief. We were supposed to be enjoying life, instead we were starting to struggle to move forward. It was all consuming us and it was really starting to take its toll on me, on C and of course on us as a couple.
If you are reading this and have been through one or more failed cycles, please do not feel like you have to go through this alone. After our second failure I really started to struggle. I can see now that I should have seen the counsellor, I should have talked about it with someone not emotionally involved. I should have managed the anger better and tried to deal with the overwhelming sadness and grief. Please do not make the mistake that I did, please talk to someone. I promise that it helps more than you can ever imagine. In time, you will find the strength to rebuild yourself and move forward. You will because you have to and you don’t have to do it alone.