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12 months of failed ivf “treatments” and why I am relieved | Tamara Forrest-Smith

12 months of failed ivf “treatments” and why I am relieved

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I don’t remember particularly getting obsessed over wanting to be pregnant, but I do want to have children I guess, the same way like any other woman, who wants to have them one day. So after about 2 years of “properly trying” to get pregnant, doctors first analyzed every test possible, they were all more than perfect (just as I expected), then in a hurry, ticked the “unexplained infertility” box next to our names and shuffled us through the IVF department. Aaand the journey begins… it starts by visiting an ivf consultant in the airless room, the consultant explains that there are about 30% chances of success and you should really do it because you are racing towards the 40 and then you might as well forget about 30%…

If I am being honest with myself, I never felt it was the right thing to do, I felt my body had been functioning in perfect order, the idea of injecting hormones I could not even pronounce did not feel like a good idea at all, but I did feel pressure, not from any one person in particular, but I suppose self-inflicted pressure that I put myself under… the pressure of “it’s time to have a baby”, a light hint from the family, it was the “time” to consider getting pregnant “artificially”, suddenly eeevrybody seemed to want to tell me what was the best thing to eat and drink and what sexual position to adopt, somehow I kept hearing the stories of “she got pregnant after 4 years “, and “she gave birth after 7 years of treatments”, as if saying “it is “normal” to suffer through the most natural process. Then, of course, there are doctors, pointing out to the “protocol” “if you are not pregnant within 2 years” and nothing is wrong with you, you are categorized as an infertile couple and you might as well give it one more try to the IVF miracle.

So around this time last year, we started “getting ready” to get pregnant through IVF. It still felt like a decision that was rushed, I started to feel that instead of letting my body do what it was supposed to do, I was putting all my mind and energy into man-made hormones.

We are fortunate in the UK, we have free healthcare and in many cases, ivf treatments are provided free. What you are not been told though is sometimes it is not straightforward to qualify for the treatment… meaning that if the doctor can not tick every box in the application form, you are not qualified for the free treatment. This was supposed to be our fate, been denied of the treatment by a consultant who was ticking the boxes in the same airless room. It felt wrong, so I persisted, I worked through my local GP, who was incredibly understanding, together we kept appealing and after 3 rejection letters, we were given the funding for one cycle.

I was incredibly grateful, but by that time, I had spent nearly 4 months micro-fighting the system, but at least I had my “victory” and we could focus on “getting pregnant”.

I am fit, healthy, already a huge fan of avocados and multi-colour, multi-functional vitamins and frankly, lead pretty much a stress-free lifestyle in a very picturesque English village, filled with leisurely strolled to coffee shops and yoga studios , but just in case there was something invisible that needed fixing, or a muscle that could do with an extra relaxation, I started weekly acupuncture sessions, in an effort to maximize my chances of success. (That is of course after frantic Google researching, which by the way, all of us women, must be Googling and reading the same forums secretly).

The first cycle did not work… My body in the space of 12 days produced 14 “perfect eggs”, but, none of them decided it was a good idea to bond with Alan’s perfectly mobile 300 million sperms. We felt confused, so we did a bit more research… did you know there is a difference between ivf and icsi?… well, I did not (frankly why would I?) but in a nutshell ivf has even little success rate compared to the other “thing”, and the consultant in the airless room did not think it was a good idea to share the details because it was outside of the protocol. I only found out the difference after I did my own research.

When there is a failed attempt, there is a protocol to offer the final round up consultation, where a doctor will confirm indeed the ivf did not work and here is a list of options you can do. We reluctantly decided to attend the consultation which took place in the same airless room. I am not sure how other women handle similar situations, but frankly, I completely blew at what I felt was the incompetence of the system that does not think the patient should be fully advised on different treatment options available right from the start. It was not in my plans, but I kept demanding the answers as to why I was not given a detailed explanation of the various treatment options and why they were decided for me… I also kept apologizing, because I was really “shouting” at a doctor who I never saw before, I was just frustrated…

I have to say, the doctor did more than just being understanding, she put my complaint forward and as a result of that, we were offered a second round of treatment, this time trying to fertilize through icsi…

We went through the second round… my body this time produced 16 eggs, out of 16 all of them fertilized, in the end though there were 3 healthy embryos that could be transferred back to my body. It felt quite exciting and hopeful. As we were driving to the hospital on the morning of the embryo transfer, the doctor called us and asked… “do you want to have one embryo or two transferred?”…” erm… do we have to decide now? “Yes”, she said, ” I need to know how many we should freeze for the future use”, me and Alan both agreed we’d have “twins” transferred.

I have to say here when it comes to actual treatment procedure (once within the protocol) we received an excellent care from all the doctors and nurses, we felt we were in excellent hands. We really felt and still feel grateful for all they gave us.

After all those emotions, some time around April I felt pregnant (exciting)… we were over the moon, but by the end of May I miscarried (heart-breaking)…

Heartbreaking as it was, we felt more hopeful for the future, and we had an “emergency embryo” frozen, some friends gave me words of encouragements, “the main thing is you got pregnant once, everything is working”… more I gave thoughts to those well-intended words, more annoyed I kept feeling, I mean, of course, everything is working, it’s not a miracle, my body is designed to get pregnant, of course, it is working.

Everything in my body kept protesting against everyone else’s opinions, but I knew our ivf journey had to go on. We had a frozen embryo “leftover”, so the 3rd round was all about a new cycle of injections, “defrosting” a poor little embryo, transferring back to my body and in the end getting a negative pregnancy test result.

But here is the strange thing, I really felt liberated.

For the first time in the past 12 months, I felt I was going to take back control over my body. I knew I had not been listening to my body; instead, I kept listening to the noise outside, feelings of ungrounded fears, and frankly, not having the best time. I could not “plan” anything else outside ivf treatments, we had to cancel planned arrangement and I could not make up my mind on any other life events because everything went around in between injections and hormones.

Now I feel relieved. It is not that I give up on hopes, or reject the advancements of the 21st century medical breakthroughs, quite the opposite, they all have a place and they truly can perform miracles, but I was reminded how important it is to really listen to yourself, listen to the advice, but really look within first and follow your inner intuitions, instead of letting the noise from the outside influence your decisions.

Having spent hours in the waiting room with other hopeful and many times heartbroken women, I realized how much pressure we all put on ourselves. I also can not help but wonder why there are so many women shuffled through the ivf department, is it really, really necessary? (Of course, I understand the biological age limitations and other factors where ivf is a real help, but regardless…) I wonder what would happen if we believed more in our own body’s natural abilities?

I don’t think I will have all the answers but right now I feel liberated and excited about the future, we have so many wonderful things we want to create and frankly, can’t wait to get on with those.

Getting pregnant? Well, I believe my body is designed to get pregnant, when, how, if are the questions I can not answer, but I’d like to think that through this experience I have learnt that not knowing or not “planning” for the future is actually a good thing because I can put trust in all the right places.

There is a season for everything.

This, of course, is my own experience, we are all different and whatever you choose for yourself I wish you all the best.

Love
Tamara

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