Lessons from our IVF cy­cle

For months we have fol­lowed Vic­to­ria and David Pr­ever as they un­der­went fer­til­ity treat­ment. This week, they try to come to terms with the fail­ure of the im­plan­ta­tion process, re­flect on their ex­pe­ri­ences and dare to look for­ward

The Jewish Chronicle - - FEATURES -

VIC­TO­RIA

It was pretty con­clu­sive that our first IVF at­tempt had failed, but it took two (neg­a­tive) preg­nancy tests be­fore I could move on. I took the tests just to have tan­gi­ble proof that it re­ally was over. As an “in­fer­tile” (how much do I hate that term?) cou­ple, you spend a good part of your life in hope. I needed to kill that hope so I could get to griev­ing and heal­ing.

The days af­ter the fail­ure were our very low­est point. With my hor­mones still all over the place, I just couldn’t pull my­self to­gether. Al­ter­nat­ing be­tween an­gry, tear­ful and ir­ri­ta­ble, I started to worry that our (fledg­ling) mar­riage wouldn’t be able to weather all this up­set. For how long would David look for­ward to com­ing home to a weep­ing, de­pressed wife?

I spent hours on the in­ter­net — con­sol­ing my­self by read­ing about other IVF-ers — and hun­grily fol­lowed Robert Win­ston’s se­ries. I needed proof that I wasn’t the only fail­ure but also had to know it worked for some­one. With a raft of exam and ca­reer suc­cesses un­der my belt, I’m used to suc­ceed­ing — I even passed my driv­ing test first time. I want to be an IVF win­ner — but un­til then, I can only con­sole my­self with know­ing I’m with the ma­jor­ity. With av­er­age IVF suc­cess rates of any­thing from 15-30 per cent, more cou­ples will be dis­ap­pointed.

I wanted to try again im­me­di­ately. We saw Dr Big Hair (our con­sul­tant), who con­firmed it was bad luck. Our em­bryos had been first­class. He’d been hope­ful.

He ad­vised us to take some time off, re­lax and to keep try­ing nat­u­rally — mir­a­cles do hap­pen. He’d see us af­ter that. He could have taken our money, but knew I needed time to heal. He’s earned our com­plete trust.

The first year of a mar­riage should be a care­free time. Ours had be­come an en­durance test. We had a break in a lit­tle cot­tage in Wales — tak­ing time out.

We were to be­gin again soon, but I’m too scared, so we’ve de­cided to de­lay a month. Dr Big Hair will try dif­fer­ent drugs next time — all of them ad­min­is­tered by in­jec­tion, so there will be an ex­tra fort­night of nee­dles to look for­ward to… joy. I’ve also signed up for a re­lax­ation course at the clinic.

We’re feel­ing pos­i­tive — the doc­tor has learned much about how I re­spond to the drugs and we know David’s sperm are ca­pa­ble of do­ing the job. We’ll keep you posted.

We have been asked for ad­vice for those fac­ing in­fer­til­ity. Here are what we feel are the most im­por­tant things to keep in mind:

1. Don’t panic. It may feel like a race against time, but do fully in­ves­ti­gate your treat­ment op­tions. Find the right clinic.

2. Com­mu­ni­cate with each other. You need to be on the same team.

3. You’ll need a sup­port net­work — we had friends and fam­ily look­ing out for us.

4. Be hope­ful, but don’t ex­pect mir­a­cles. It might work first time, but there’s ev­ery chance it won’t.

5. Don’t let it take over your life. It will, to some ex­tent, but keep time for other things.

6. In­fer­til­ity can strain your friend­ships with those blessed with chil­dren. Don’t ex­pect your friends to “get it”. If some­one is un­sup­port­ive or in­con­sid­er­ate, give them a wide berth. True friends should un­der­stand.

Feel free to con­tact us via the JC (edi­to­rial@thejc.com). Thanks to you those of you who have sup­ported us dur­ing the last four months. If you have any ques­tions or need some ad­vice, do con­tact us.

DAVID

Fail­ure on top of fail­ure is not a good thing. There’s only so much a man can take be­fore his pride be­gins to feel bat­tered. Fail­ing to make my wife preg­nant nat­u­rally is some­thing I’ve had to come to terms with over the last six months. Fail­ing at our first IVF cy­cle is des­per­ately dis­ap­point­ing. We’ve searched for an­swers, for rea­sons where we may have taken a wrong turn, but there are none. This is an in­ex­act science where the out­come is in the hands of pow­ers greater than the best con­sul­tants money can buy — and for two con­trol freaks, that isn’t easy to ac­cept.

I ac­tu­ally can’t re­mem­ber how I felt when Vic­to­ria called me at work with news that this was over. I seemed to be in a state of full-scale emo­tional de­nial. The call wasn’t ex­actly un­ex­pected. There had been signs over a num­ber of days that this IVF cy­cle hadn’t worked. I spent days re­as­sur­ing her that all was well, when deep down, I had a sense that some­thing was wrong.

Maybe this wasn’t de­nial, then, but more an ac­cep­tance of what I knew to be the truth. I was still an­gry, though (again), and deeply frus­trated. But also res­o­lute and able to slip back into “sup­port­ive-hus­band-life-has-togo-on” mode with­out too much dif­fi­culty.

As an aside, I have no­ticed that my tol­er­ance lev­els are lower than they once were; the stress has to find its way out some­how. Job­sworths have taken the rough end of my rage when I once would have re­mained calm. I walk away from th­ese out­bursts un­able to recog­nise my­self. The anger is tucked away, ready to be un­leashed on any poor park­ing war­den who crosses my path.

There is also a very ob­vi­ous phys­i­o­log­i­cal side to this. Vic­to­ria has been pumped full of moodal­ter­ing drugs, en­dured sev­eral in­va­sive pro­ce­dures and then had to sit still for 14 days and nights in the hope that an em­bryo was grow­ing inside her. This was a real preg­nancy in all but name. This is some­thing that men can never fully un­der­stand.

I’m sure my re­ac­tion is no dif­fer­ent from that of hus­bands who suf­fer along­side wives who mis­carry. What hap­pened to us is not un­usual in a nor­mal preg­nancy. The egg failed to im­plant, that’s all. The dif­fer­ence with a nor­mal preg­nancy is that you wouldn’t even know it was hap­pen­ing.

For me, this was a “not-of-this­world”, sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence from start to fin­ish that sud­denly ended: a sci-fi movie where the cred­its roll and you re­alise that it was all fiction af­ter all. It seemed real at the time, I ac­tu­ally be­lieved that it was pos­si­ble to get preg­nant by in­ject­ing sperm into an ar­ti­fi­cially stim­u­lated egg on a lab bench, and then re­place the em­bryo back into the womb, but it turned out to be noth­ing more than a story af­ter all, one with a very un­happy end­ing. The dif­fer­ence, of course, is that we’re the lead char­ac­ters.

Self­ishly, I know that life can re­vert to near nor­mal for now, sus­pended in time un­til the alarm on Vic­to­ria’s phone tells us it’s time to in­ject again. Then, my wife will grad­u­ally change from the wo­man I know back into an­other IVF pa­tient, and the roller­coaster ride of hope and fear will be­gin again. Locked into de­fault pos­i­tive-think­ing mode, I’ll be by her side, deal­ing with my anger is­sues away from home.

An­other fail­ure isn’t an op­tion. The next one will work — call it man’s in­tu­ition — I know it. Vic­to­ria is a chef and cook­ing coach. David hosts the break­fast show on 102.2 Smooth FM. This is the last in the cur­rent se­ries, al­though the JC will re­turn to their story in fu­ture months

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