Rachel Altman spent 10 years trying to have a baby. She’d been through seven IVF cycles between the ages of 31 and 38 and, finally – in a doctor’s office seeking a second opinion – she “just knew” it was never going to work.
“I always hoped I’d know. You don’t want to be that person who does 30 cycles and mortgages their house and has nothing and it still doesn’t work,” she told SBS Insight. “But you also don’t want to stop the cycle before the one that would have worked.”
The now 39-year-old moves between tears and smiles but her eyes are always sad during the four-minute clip posted to Facebook by SBS Insight.
Altman grew up dreaming of children and, a year on from her final IVF cycle, she has accepted the fact she never will.
She also has some ‘controversial’ advice for young women: if you want to a family, start trying early.
“Somewhere along the line it became not politically correct to tell women in their early 20s that they needed to be out looking for a husband,” she continued. “But… They need to be out looking for a husband.”
Her story is jarring because of the way it could – and probably does – happen to anyone. When she was 30, Altman had a boyfriend, a home, and they were trying to have a baby.
“We’d been talking about it for a while and when we bought the house we decided to start trying,” she said. “It took about eight or nine months to fall pregnant and unfortunately that pregnancy was ectopic.”
The only way forward was IVF and the journey wasn’t – isn’t – easy. The second round arrived and her partner left.
“I was just getting ready to go to the hospital, I’d fasted all night, and he just said ‘you can’t go, this isn’t good anymore, you can’t go’.”
Altman went back to the IVF clinic at 34, as a single woman, and was told she had time. She went back at 38 and was told it was too late.
Megan Malkiewicz speaks on IVF, miscarriage, and embryo donation. Post continues below.
“I’d given it 10 years of my life. There was huge financial cost – tens of thousands of dollars over time,” she said.
“And there was the emotional cost, too. Just carrying it around with you all the time, this thing that you were hopeful about.”
‘Sadness’, she says, doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of losing something you never had but something you’ve always wanted.
“It’s grief that sometimes just hits you and you can’t breathe,” she said.
She urges women to be conscious of time.
“All choices are valid, but if this is a choice that really matters to you – the pursuit of a family – then it’s a choice that needs to be made earlier.”