Infertility is a secret club. And one that you never really leave.
I’ve spent the best part of a decade trying to get pregnant or stay pregnant. Constantly grieving for children I couldn’t have, or pregnancies I’d lost.
At age 30, I’ve put my body through 13 IVF attempts. My dutiful husband has injected me over 400 times, with over 200-thousand units of follicle stimulating hormones. My supercharged ovaries have created 46 little embryos. 44 haven’t made it. IVF is tough for anyone. And it’s no easier for mothers.
An auto-immune disease, combined with poly-cystic ovaries, means my chances of falling pregnant naturally are next to nil. So, barely into my 20’s, my then new husband and I set out on our fertility journey. After two IVF attempts, I fell pregnant with our first son, now aged four. Twenty months later, I became pregnant with our second son — again on my third cycle.
So in early 2013, when we decided it was time to get back on the IVF bandwagon, we assumed it would take a couple of attempts to fall pregnant again. Two years — and seven failed cycles later — we are still trying. I’m young, fit, and have plenty of high-quality eggs. But for some unexplained reason my embryos just won’t stick.
It costs so much more than money.
We have spent the equivalent of an average Sydney mortgage on fertility treatment. But of course, we’ve invested more than money. The emotional outlay required for assisted reproductive therapy is a hefty down payment on a scheme with no guaranteed return. Not being able to conceive is lousy. Not being able to conceive with the aid of the most intensive and intrusive fertility science available is truly terrifying.
The thought of a childless life was never fathomable for us. We initially went down the overseas adoption route. But the process was laboriously tedious, lengthy, and terribly expensive. In those initial years, we were able to insulate and isolate ourselves somewhat from ‘the child world’. Now it’s impossible. We’re surrounded by babies and expectant mothers on the school run. Day-care drop offs and weekly swimming lessons often prompt feelings of sadness and inadequacy. Our friends are on to their second and third pregnancies.
“If you stop trying, it will happen”.
Well-meaning acquaintances are always wondering when we’ll have another child. For those who know about our IVF battle, it’s often downplayed. The first response is generally “well at least you have two children”. Closely followed by, “if you stop trying it will happen”. Some people ask why we even want more, or compare our journey to other miraculous conception stories they’ve heard down the grapevine. For the record, none of these provide any comfort to someone experiencing secondary infertility.