parents

"Infertility is a secret club. One that you never really leave".

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.

200253040-001

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.

The IVF patient who is pregnant with the wrong embryos.

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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.

Then there’s the guilt. Who am I to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatment? Wouldn’t that money be better spent securing my children’s schooling? Perhaps taking the kids on an overseas trip? Or paying off the house, so I no longer feel the pressure to work full-time? Add to that, the guilt of time spent away from family. When I’m on cycle, I can spend upwards of 10 hours a week traveling to and from scans, blood tests, transfers, and operations. More often than not, the kids are shipped off to grandparents or friends. And of course at the height of ovulation I’m an emotional, super-charged hormonal wreck. Hardly mother-of-the-year material.

single-mother-holding-hands

It doesn’t get any easier.

Far from getting easier as the years pass, our IVF journey has become harder. Not only do I feel like I’ve let my husband down, I now also feel like I’ve let my beautiful children down too.

ADVERTISEMENT

After every failed cycle, I carry the burden of not being able to provide another sibling for our boys. We have intentionally involved our eldest in our treatment, as much as appropriate. He knows the story behind his own conception (in as much detail as a four year old can comprehend). He strokes my hand during needle time. And he says a little wish during the embryo transfer. He longs for another sibling.

IVF for older women: How old is too old to have children?

Our last IVF attempt ended in miscarriage. With no reason to suspect a problem, our four year old joined us for a routine and repeat scan. But the familiar little trotter of a heartbeat was nowhere to be heard. Instead, we were delivered the heart wrenching news that our foetus had stopped growing. How do you explain to a child that his baby brother or sister is broken, and that the doctor needs to take him/her away? But maybe, down the track, mummy will grow another baby.

ultrasoundHow do you explain to a child that his baby brother or sister is broken, and that the doctor needs to take him/her away?

It’s a lonely, hidden anguish.

And finally, who am I to want another child so badly, when I have been blessed beyond belief with two beautiful children? Two more than I was meant to have. Two more than many people have to show after years of treatment. The guilt on that front is all consuming.

Infertility is a lonely, hidden anguish. Every unsuccessful IVF attempt or miscarriage represents another loss. Another failure. The drive to have a child can be overwhelming, and at times irrational. Sure, logic tells me to walk away. To call it a day. But the yearning is still there. So our journey goes on.

FROM OUR NETWORK
00:00 / ???