My husband and I have been through not one, but six failed attempts at IVF. It’s been, quite simply, a soul-wrenching process. While I knew IVF wouldn’t be easy, the impact of each negative result has been greater than I expected. Until you’ve been through it, I don’t think it’s possible to appreciate just what an emotional toll it takes.
Yet it’s the happy moments, rather than the hurt, that have surprised me most about our IVF experience. Amongst the anguish, there have more been positive experiences than I anticipated. It’s a side of IVF that isn’t often talked about, even when you dive into the subculture of online forums where there is seemingly endless discussion about the IVF process itself.
Here are some of the unexpected lessons I’ve learnt through my own experience of successive IVF failure:
1. Our IVF experience has strengthened our marriage.
I feared that IVF could at some point create a fissure in our relationship. There’s nothing sexy about the routine of nightly injections, the hospital appointments, or the grief. However, the reality is that what we’ve experienced has been uniting. We’ve seen each other raw, and been kind to each other at critical moments.
2. My appreciation of family is now next level.
If we can become parents, I know we’ll experience the same frustrations as others, but I honestly believe that we’ll always hold the opportunity of parenthood on a bit of a pedestal. That we’ll retain a greater sense of gratitude than most, knowing that the whole experience is only possible because we’ve cheated nature’s intentions.
3. We’ve made the most of our unplanned child-free years, taking risks that we might have otherwise avoided.
Although it’s little solace, our inability to have children has given us a few more years of freedom in our working lives that has quite drastically altered our careers for the better. We’ve been able to take risks and chase opportunities for passion rather than financial security.
Between IVF cycles, we’ve taken cheap and unplanned holidays. While we won’t stop travelling once we’ve had kids (if that’s ultimately possible for us), we know it will be a different experience. I’ll always cherish the memories of responsibility-free adventure that our recent trips have involved, the boozy late night adventures and the sense of spontaneity.
4. IVF has made me a stronger feminist.
I’ve become more of a feminist, having realised how significant the past few years have been in establishing my career. Had I taken time out of the workforce, it would have been at a pivotal point, when rolling momentum was allowing me to move forward quickly. I’m conscious now of ensuring that we’re proactive in keeping the ball rolling for all women, and especially those who do take time out for families.
5. I’ve become a kinder person, and a better friend.
IVF has made me a more forgiving and less judgmental person. We haven’t told many people about our infertility, so I’ve made excuses when I’ve had to miss work for medical appointments, and I’ve bailed on more than one baby shower when it’s just felt like too much. Today, I’m much quicker to jump to someone’s defence when I might previously have been annoyed – conscious that I can’t know what might be going on in their personal life that’s affecting their actions.
We’re about to start our 7th attempt at IVF, and while I continue to be optimistic, I’m also cognisant of the very real likelihood that this round may also yield a negative result. Whatever the outcome, I hope that we’ll at least continue to take something positive from the process.
Have you had a similar experience with IVF?