I have cried every day for two years. Sometimes it’s just a tear or two in the shower or at my desk, so quiet and fleeting that I barely register it anymore. Other times it is hysterical or heaving sobs that can last for hours: the kind that take over your whole body and leave you physically exhausted. I didn’t know it was possible to cry this much or to feel this sad. The thing is, I need somewhere to put some of this grief and I hope you don’t mind if I put it here because if I keep it inside any longer I think I might break.
In the last eighteen months I have endured four heartbreaking rounds of IVF. It’s been a whirlwind of treatment – we did the first three rounds in the space of just nine months. Self preservation has left me with very little memory of the treatment itself, save the trauma of emergency surgery due to side effects of the second round: a physical pain that I will never forget as long as I live. But it’s the emotional pain that has cut me so deep that I don’t think I will ever heal.
Friends of mine may read this and not even know I’ve been having treatment because when we started the first round I couldn’t even imagine that eighteen months later we would still be fighting this lonely battle and the last thing I wanted to do was to put pressure on myself, having to deal with everyone’s questions and expectations. However, to continue to keep it a secret is to make the isolation of fertility treatment even worse. The only way I can describe IVF is that it feels like taking the most important exam of your life and having to open that dreaded envelope that holds the results over and over again. On day 9 of treatment you find out how many follicles there are (last time I had around 20), day 12 the number of eggs (18) and the number of healthy sperm and then you wait, physically shaking, for the call the next morning to find out how many eggs have fertilised overnight (5). Finally on day 17 of treatment you find out how many embryos have continued to develop normally (3) and the chosen embryo then has a 45% chance of implanting in to the womb. A horrible numbers game that I don’t want to play anymore.
There is nothing that comforts me or anything that can be said to help me feel more positive. I had the briefest moment of hope in our last round, which has been the most successful as we managed to make three blastocysts (five day old well developed embryos that have a higher chance of implanting once they are transferred back into the womb – they transferred one and froze the other two). I dared to hope, such a very dangerous thing to do, that the embryo that they transferred back could be our baby. After the embryo transfer there is a two week wait until the pregnancy test but I started bleeding after only four days: I didn’t even have two week’s worth of hope. I don’t think I will let myself hope again.
We do have two frozen embryos that we will use for our fifth and sixth round of IVF, a much easier process than doing full ‘fresh’ rounds, at least. I don’t think it will work, I don’t see myself with children in my future anymore, but better to try than leave those little embryos alone in that freezer.
This may all sound over dramatic to some or even alienate others, but before that day when the doctor told us that we would never conceive naturally and my head spun in disbelief and I thought I was going to vomit, I had no idea how profoundly infertility can affect ones life. I have often felt guilty talking or crying about it to friends as though it is the end of the world as I am fully aware that there are tougher obstacles being faced by people the world over. However, the pain that I am feeling is very real to me and selfishly I feel the need to share some of it as my own inner monologue is beginning to drive me mad. My life has stopped moving forward since IVF and I think it has changed me as a person: I feel defined and crushed from the inside out by the desperate need for a baby and I wear a big fake smile to cover up the pain and to make getting through each pointless day easier. Forgive me this self-pitying out pouring; today, the tears won’t stop and this was the only thing I could think to do to try to make myself feel better.