Failure number 5 hit me hard, it hit us both hard. It didn’t seem to matter what we tried, IVF just wouldn’t work for us. I was floored. The new clinic that we had put so much hope into still couldn’t get this to work for us. I was already at a low point going into that cycle, coming out the other side with another negative, another blank screen on a test and I was done. Hubby wanted to go for a follow up with the clinic, I reluctantly agreed.
2 months later we were sat with the consultant, talking about another round of IVF. I remember pulling into the car park of the clinic and saying that I can’t do this again. I was visibly shaking, full of nervous energy whilst we sat and listened to the consultants verdict of the failed cycle. In his opinion, it was embryo quality that was the problem. He suggested a further round of treatment, starting again. I asked about avoiding OHSS, he started to reel off a list of drugs that I would need to take, I couldn’t listen, I couldn’t hear it. I was absolutely terrified and completely exhausted. We left the clinic, no commitment to start again. I knew in my heart there was no way I was ever going back to that clinic, I couldn’t get OHSS again. I couldn’t take all of the drugs again.
The summer of 2014 slipped by, I was a complete wreck, shaking with nerves, anger, sadness and anything else in between. Those around us getting excited about yet more new arrivals that we due, me in a state of despair. When I thought about my future, all I saw was a big black hole of nothing. I crawled from one day to the next, in a stressful job that I now hated because it was all just too much, yet somehow I had to keep going. I was sick most mornings, and that was the stress. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. Our relationship was in tatters. September came and we went to Spain, we had a nice time, I slept a lot and started to read some books about adoption. After all, that seemed to be the next step for us. We talked about adoption and whether that would that be something that was right for us. We knew we needed to grieve, but as ever we tried to move forward. We went to an adoption information evening when we got back from holiday. I sat listening, I wanted to cry, all sorts of feelings came to the surface. Any questions? No, I was out of there are lightening speed. It was too raw, it was too soon, I just wasn’t ready to move on. Hubby came away full of enthusiasm, he wanted to pursue adoption. We weren’t on the same page. In fact, we weren’t even in the same book.
A few weeks later and I was back on the hunt for a new clinic. I wasn’t done with IVF. Trawling the fertility forums for clinic recommendations I started to look at clinics abroad. It was seemingly much cheaper, lots of stories of positive outcomes for people with lots of failed attempts and lots of positivity around standard of care. I kept reading about a particular clinic in Greece and the more I read the more I thought it was the one. That was our next step. It sounds pretty crazy now to say that we were considering IVF in another country, but it felt like we were running out of options, time & money. I got in touch with the clinic in the Autumn and filled in all of the forms. Still a nervous wreck, in the throws of depression, this was my only route out. They suggested a test which involved sending a sample of my lining via the post to check for infection. Sounded utterly disgusting but by this point we would consider anything to try and get some answers. That came back clear, phew. We got an appointment through for January, the only problem was a little trip we had booked to the Maldives & Dubai for our 10th wedding anniversary. We agreed that this was more important and so the trip got cancelled and the deposit moved to a holiday in Italy the following summer. Hubby wasn’t best pleased at all, it was his trip of a lifetime, it was on his bucket list and there I was asking him to cancel.
Christmas 2014 was the worst one I have experienced for feeling sad, lonely and utterly useless. I was moving between anger and sadness of epic proportions on a daily, if not hourly basis. Work was getting more and more pressured and I just hated life. We took the house off the market because it hadn’t sold, so I was also living in a house that I just couldn’t settle in. Somehow I had to get through January to go to Greece.
Instead of sitting on a plane to the Maldives, we were on an EasyJet flight to Athens. We flew out on the Monday, had appointments on the Tuesday & Wednesday and came back on the Thursday. We walked into the clinic and it was calm, welcoming and just felt so different to the UK clinics we had been to. We were about to see the consultant that I had read so much about. This was it, she was going to help us achieve our miracle. We went through our history, we’d had some tests, I had a aqua scan and then we met with her to discuss our case. She dismissed some of the immune test results from our previous clinic and didn’t agree that all of them were a problem. Hubby had been on their sperm improving protocol so it was time to see if there was any difference. And there was, it was at the lower end of the normal range but it was the first time it had been normal. We talked about a Mild IVF protocol, which sounded amazing to me, no OHSS. We sat in her office, surrounded by photos of babies, clearly ones sent to her by her success stories. I was still a nervous wreck, still in the depths of depression, shaking like a leaf, I found it hard to have hope, but I did. At the second appointment, hubbys DNA fragmentation test on his sperm came back as normal. Her words to us were:
“You aren’t a case for IVF, you can do this on your own”
What? We were floored. I walked out of the clinic with my head in a spin. We had been through 2 fresh cycles and 5 frozen cycles and she was telling us we didn’t need IVF. There are really no words to describe what that felt like. I felt even more useless and I felt like we had just wasted the last 5 years of our lives. She had told us that if we hadn’t been successful after 6 months then we were to contact her to talk about treatment. We flew home the next day in a complete daze.
My depression remained, we didn’t have a plan and I became more and more isolated. I just wasn’t coping with life and certainly not family life around us. One Saturday morning I logged onto Facebook and I was faced with the usual happy family posts, how life was complete with a family, how children are the light of life and what would there be without them, so all that said to me was that I was completely useless and worthless, I had no purpose. That was the last day I used Facebook for 10 months. I just couldn’t bare it, it was destroying me. My heart felt like it was shattered into a 1000 pieces and everything around me was zooming at 100mph, meanwhile I was barely treading water, in fact it felt like I was drowning.
There never was a positive pregnancy test and by April I was looking for a new clinic, I wanted another opinion. Time for the big guns. We had already spent about £1000 on the Greece trip, we were now going to see someone on Harley Street in London. This was going to be pricey. Another consultant that I’d read great things about and he was hot on the immune side of things, I was still convinced that these were our main issues. One Friday morning in May was went to London, paid £450 to sit in front of a consultant. We took all of the results we had with us and he sifted through them. He asked if I had a stressful job, yes was the reply, he looked at me as if to say ‘well what do you expect’ but he didn’t say it. He wanted us to have an extra test and a re-test on one that was borderline. No mild IVF, he wanted a full stim cycle and he would try to avoid OHSS but couldn’t promise anything. I paid the bill, she asked if I wanted to book in for the other tests which would cost around £900. I said we would leave it and get back to them.
We left the appointment, heads spinning. It all sounded very extreme in terms of treatment but I’m not sure what I expected because I’d read so much about his approach and treatments, I knew that’s what it would be. We sat in the BHS cafe and talked about whether we should do more treatment, we agreed we should. We agreed that we needed to put the house back up for sale to release some funds, but I was relieved about that anyway because I just didn’t enjoy living there. At that point we weren’t sure which clinic we would go to, but we felt like had options and we had hope. I suppose I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. I was sad, just so sad.
The house went up for sale a week later and sold within 3 days. We were now on the hunt for a new house, luckily we found one quite quickly and forged ahead with the sale. We took the holiday to Italy, a week in Tuscany and a week in Lake Garda, just what we needed to re-charge the batteries.
Our house sale continued but 2 months later because of land dispute, we pulled out of the one we were buying. We would be homeless. Just what we needed, more stress. Treatment was on hold. We found another house a week before our sale was going through so we went to live with the in-laws. That summer we also lost 2 people that we were both very close to and we both took it hard, but we had to try to keep going. We planned to go to Greece for treatment in September, work said they couldn’t give me the time off. I was fuming but I had no choice, so we decided on October. We decided against Harley Street, it just wasn’t for us and we liked the Greek consultant.
We both tried to keep going but both floored by the constant set backs and grief. A week before I was due to start the injections and I couldn’t do it. I broke down and said to hubby that I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t strong enough, I couldn’t cope. I was on edge and I felt dreadful. He agreed that we should wait for a few months & move house. We booked the dream holiday to the Maldives & Dubai for January, it wasn’t been cancelled again.
We moved house. It was November and work was getting too much. I started to suffer migraines at the weekend, something I’d never had before, I didn’t realise it at the time but I was clearly very unwell. The first week in December came, I left work on the Friday in a complete state due to stress and pressure. I called my boss and said that I was struggling, we talked about it and I said I would see her Monday. I didn’t.
That weekend I had a breakdown. I was done, it had got me. The last 5 years was here, facing me, raw, it had ruined me and I was completely destroyed. Infertility had ruined my life, I was out of control, I was stressed and depressed. I was anxious. I suffered a panic attack as we were about to go out on the annual family hunt for a Christmas tree. I was a dithering wreck. Sunday evening and the tears flowed. I needed to quit my job, that would make it all better. My sister in law had a long talk with me and said it was clear I needed time out, that I needed some space and that quitting wouldn’t be the answer. She was right. I emailed my boss and said I wouldn’t be in.
2 days later I sat in the GP waiting room, tears in my eyes, shaking. I saw the GP and he said I would get better with 2 weeks off from the stress of work and he said he could add me to the waiting list for counselling. It was up to 6 months wait. I said I would leave it. He gave me some leaflets for on-line help, they went straight in the bin on the way out. I would go home and it would all be ok. I sat at home like a zombie. I was ill, so ill.
I needed help, I needed help quickly and from someone who would understand me. I searched google for a fertility specialist counsellor and came across the BICA website. I put in my search criteria and 3 people came up. I read the profiles, Googled their names and tried to pick one. One looked pretty frightening as I found her photo on another website so she was a no-no, one didn’t have much of a profile so that was a no also. I read the profile of another one and it struck a chord with me. Her name didn’t bring up anything sinister when I Googled it so that was a relief. She seemed just right for me. I sent the email having re-written it several times so as not to seem completely desperate and hoped for a reply. I had refused every offer of counselling but I knew it was the only way that I was going to crawl my way out of the black hole that I was in. I was at the bottom of a pit, I was broken and I couldn’t find the energy to crawl out of it. This counsellor was my only hope, she had to reply, what if she didn’t, I would be screwed. That afternoon I received a reply. Phew. I felt relieved, I had reached out and someone on the other end of an email had put a hand out for me to grab hold of. I didn’t really want to go. after all wasn’t that admitting I was a failure? Deep down I knew if I didn’t then I would never get out of the darkness and my life would remain in the depths of depression. It had to stop, I needed it to stop. I had reached rock bottom and I had no-where else to turn.
I will leave it there for now. Its hard to admit that infertility lead me to such depths of depression, to the point where I couldn’t function & I no longer wanted to be alive. No-one ever tells you before you start treatment that this is what it can lead to. For me it did. I was ashamed and afraid to admit where I found myself. I had cut myself off and I didn’t ask for help until I was in a complete crisis. If you are struggling, please ask for help or please speak to someone. I may have avoided a complete breakdown had I asked for help or accepted it when it was offered.