IVF. Three little letters with a lot of meaning to those who experience it. Our encounter with IVF began in 2012. We weren’t old and we didn’t have any health problems. IVF was a huge surprise and not in our life plan at all. Here, I will talk about some of our experiences and discuss what we learnt through the highs and lows of treatment (yes, there were some highs). My husband, Paul, will also add a male perspective. After all, it’s not just about us females is it?
A waiting game
Paul and I decided to start trying for a family pretty much as soon as we got married. I am naturally impatient but after six months of trying, I had a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. However, I also knew that we needed to wait for twelve months before seeking medical advice. Every month our bin was filled with negative pregnancy tests. We couldn’t understand it. Why weren’t we getting pregnant?
So, not long after our first wedding anniversary we took a trip to the doctors. Various tests took place and we were referred to a specialist at our local hospital.
The thought that we might need IVF had never crossed our minds. IVF wasn’t for people like us who were fairly fit, apart from our habitual takeaway and wine habits. We were so convinced that we were simply experiencing a small conception hiccup that I went to my follow up appointment alone.
I will never forget that appointment. That day, I was told: “your best option for now is IVF”. It turned out that we had unexplained infertility. Basically one of my hormone levels was not high enough and this was preventing us from getting pregnant.
I stumbled out of the hospital. I held it together all the way back, but as soon as I got home the tears rolled and a new feeling crept in. The feeling was an overwhelming fear that I might never get pregnant. It was funny how until the term IVF was introduced that the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. I just expected it would happen naturally eventually.
Hard done to
If IVF was a person, they should be fuming. There is such a negative connotation surrounding the term. To me, IVF was like a death sentence to my idea of a family and it meant that we would have an awful struggle ahead to achieve what is every person’s biological right. But actually it should have been the other way around. IVF should have given me hope and encouragement because IVF did give us our first child.
What will it do to me?
All I knew about IVF before it entered our lives was what I had witnessed from films or TV. It was some dramatic Coronation Street storyline or the portrayal of some comedic, hormone induced sex pest woman as seen in so many films. Oh God. I’m going to become a hormone induced sex pest. At least Paul would be pleased.
In reality, the hardest part of IVF was the waiting; waiting for the next available intake at the fertility centre, waiting for treatment, waiting, worrying, and obsessing.
Although it felt like a lifetime, we actually only had to wait for around 3 months after our referral from the Consultant to be admitted to the Hewitt Centre in Liverpool.
And so, in May 2013 our IVF treatment began. We took our bag of drugs and syringes on a holiday to Cornwall where we kicked it all off. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t feel any crazed effects, I wasn’t sobbing uncontrollably one minute and laughing hysterically the next. I felt OK.
Making light of IVF
Right towards the end of our treatment one of our best friends was getting married. We were staying in cabins with friends and the wedding was in a huge barn. Oh, and I was a bridesmaid. In my head I was panicking. How are we going to do my injections? How am I going to act normal staying with my friends?
The worry was unnecessary, it was all fine. There was a comedy moment of sneaking out to the car and hitching up my long bridesmaid dress up so Paul could stick the needle in. Just reading it sounds risqué, just think how it looked! As I say, there are funny times that come out of the process. The treatment certainly brought us closer as a couple.
The end game
And then, just like that we were reaching the end of our treatment. Eggs were retrieved, sperm was retrieved (another funny story but not really appropriate!) and it was time to wait and see if we had a viable embryo.
It’s important to me here to acknowledge that I know how lucky we are to have had an embryo at the end of this process. I know couples who have not been able to proceed at this stage. I also know each of these couples didn’t give up there but that’s not my story to tell.
So, we had completed IVF, we met our successful embryo and it was implanted. It was a bit weird meeting our baby as an embryo but how many people can say they’ve done that?
Following the implantation, we had a two week wait before we could take a pregnancy test.
When that penultimate day finally arrived I couldn’t contain myself. I have never been so quick to get up and pee as I did that day and happily I can say that IVF was now my best friend. IVF had made us a baby. We were pregnant!!
A happy nine months passed and in March 2014, we welcomed Isla May Malone in to the world.
There are no words to express the joy you feel when you meet your baby for the first time. But the gratitude towards the people who made this possible is enormous. Without the Hewitt Centre, quite simply Isla wouldn’t be here today.
Four years on and we are bounding through life. However there is a silent daily acknowledgement from me that I owe so much to the medical profession.
If you are beginning your encounter with IVF be kind towards it and to yourself. The unknown is the hardest. I know that IVF won’t work for everyone and each battle is different, but stay positive. Know that you are not alone and know that it is ok if you become the sex pest.
Before beginning IVF and knowing that we were facing problems with our fertility, I knew that Lisa was finding not getting pregnant hard. I remember her being upset every time another friend or family member announced their pregnancy.
I so wanted to support her, but I just didn’t know what to say a lot of the time. Like Lisa, I had not really thought much about IVF. All I really knew about it was what I had encountered as a child. Having grown up in Wallasey and living near the Walton family, all I knew about IVF was that it was successful for the Waltons who had produced the world’s first sextuplets. So I knew a little bit about how it worked, but not the finer details or the statistics. And I wasn’t sure I wanted six babies all in one go!
In relation to the process of IVF, unlike Lisa, I didn’t feel too negative about it. I just didn’t understand the process at first and being a Project Manager that was hard. However, as time went on and we attended our appointments, I began to understand and I did see it as a great opportunity for us. I was just worried about how I could be supportive to Lisa throughout. There was no-one to relate to as none of our family or friends had been down this route.
I tried to support Lisa as much as possible and administered her injections for her. Giving Lisa the injections was fine at first, but towards the end I found them hard to do and felt so sorry for her having to go through it all. I did try to stay positive knowing that the steps we were taking would give us a chance to finally have a baby.
I still remember finding out that the IVF had worked. I was ecstatic, but also very worried that we may not get to the magic ’12 weeks’. On week 6 we got to see a scan of the foetus which was amazing. I remember seeing the fast beating heart when having that scan. Wow, I am welling up just thinking about it.
It was an incredible day when, in March 2014 our baby girl, Isla, was born. We are so grateful to the whole IVF process. The staff at the Hewitt Centre were totally amazing throughout.
Following Isla’s birth, we popped in to take some goodies as a thank you. That was nowhere near enough. To be honest I still don’t know how to thank them enough for what they did. They helped us to bring our wonderful little girl into this world.