This week is National Fertility Awareness Week which is a week aimed at raising awareness & changing perceptions around fertility issues. This year also marks 40 years since the first IVF conception. I never thought that would be us, I never thought we would be the 1 in 6, but we are. I am proud to be part of a community that is starting to shout from the rooftops about the reality of fertility issues. It has been heart warming to read the stories of those that IVF has worked for, a reminder of how wonderful it can be. It has also been heart breaking to read the stories of those that IVF has not worked for.
IVF fails in around 70% of cases and those of you that read my blog regularly will know that after 6 embryo transfer cycles we are so far firmly in the not worked camp. I personally have mixed feelings about IVF after a long and drawn out relationship with a process that we thought would simply give us the family that we longed for so much.
One thing that IVF has given us, that nothing else could have, is hope. Hope that we might be the ones that it works for. Even if IVF never works for us, we at least had the opportunity to try. For that I will be eternally grateful. Without IVF we would never have even had a chance.
The process of IVF has taught me so much about myself, it has tested me in ways I never thought possible. When it failed time after time, it sent me into a deep depression. When I looked at my future I saw nothing, a black hole of nothing. IVF gave me hope in one hand and yet it was taken away again each time it failed. Yet somehow through all of it, I have found the strength and courage to keep going, to recover and to move forward with a positive future now ahead of me.
I know I am a different person than I was before I started my first cycle of IVF. If I had known that I would have failed time after time, would I have still gone through it? Absolutely. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to find support from the outset.
My own experiences of going through IVF alone has now helped me to reach out to support others in any way I can. I never want anyone to feel alone. For me, the isolation and loneliness, feeling like I was the only one was the hardest thing to cope with. It is one of the reasons that raising awareness is so important. We are not alone.
And so I head into our 9th IVF cycle in a few weeks with mixed feelings. I have asked myself countless times in the last few months if we are doing the right thing, should we do it again, have we recovered from the last failure only to plunge ourselves back in to a process that guarantees nothing. I swing from hope to fear and back again. IVF doesn’t get any easier, no matter how many times we go through it. The process is gruelling both emotionally and physically. And so for me, IVF pulls me into two. The possibility that it will help us have a family versus the possibility that it will push me into a place of darkness and despair. Those around me watch from a distance as I pump myself full of hormones, get poked and prodded, have invasive treatment, all for a chance, just a very small chance that one day we will have a child that will call me “mum”.
I for one am glad that IVF exists, but in my ideal world, those clinics that take us through the process & give us hope, would also take better care of us when it doesn’t work. There is nothing wrong with the process of IVF, its the before, during and aftercare that is the real issue and the thing that I feel I need to shout about. And so to those experts, I would like to say, we are patients, we are people, we are vulnerable and we need more care. Not physical care, but a more rounded holistic care that means we feel supported when trying to recover when the amazing process called IVF doesn’t work.