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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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.
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