Hannah (Australia): The Beginning or End
"Your body isn’t responding to the treatment, your cycle will most likely be cancelled."
For most people, the decision to have a baby is an exciting time, and they will fall naturally within months. Our decision to try for a baby was not made lightly; knowing it could take a while, we began before our wedding. With the timing in mind we were hoping to fall around the time of our wedding or honeymoon; this was what we hoped for…
Anyone starting out for a baby should never have any doubt in their mind that it will work, thus our naïve and positive outlooks. The first few periods that came weren’t too much of an issue; I thought it was completely normal and my overly positive husband did not have a doubt in his mind. With each period that came, the stronger my endo pain was, and my periods became so painful I couldn’t walk, sleep or eat.
The wedding came around, the honeymoon and then the months after: still nothing… The doubt started creeping into my mind, and anyone going through this understands the late nights searching what a certain pain is or feeling means and ‘oh my god my boobs are sore, I must be pregnant’, then Aunt Flow comes and I’m curled up on the bathroom floor writhing in pain, some days unable to go to work or even get out of bed. Meanwhile, hubby is still positive saying ‘not this month but it will happen next month’…
It was around April 2017: I was fed up and decided to go back to my gynaecologist to discuss my pain. A month later, I was having my stage three endometriosis removed. Months passed without result. Finally, she decided to test my husband’s sperm quality.
The first test was quite daunting for him, but our spirits were high. After the phone call, it was safe to say we were crushed: “the result is considerably low,” she said. At 1 million/ml you’d think that’s enough, but when compared to the normal rate of 15-20 million/ml we now understood the precarious situation we were in. Even though my endo had been cleaned up, the chance of getting naturally pregnant from such a low number is extremely rare. So, he took menevit, the men’s version of elevit for another retest. The result was slightly higher, but still no double lines.
I was fed up, mentally drained and exhausted. I found staying positive the hardest, especially with the constant questions from friends and loved ones about having kids and all the pregnancy announcements from those who fell so easily. I was happy for them but angry and sad for us. How could they know that when each month rolled by with still only one line on the test, I would lie and stare at the walls, slowly sinking into deep depression? I would hide it and put on a smiley façade to keep anyone from knowing.
I decided to try something else and see a fertility specialist. I felt in control and wasn’t waiting for the one line to pop up again. The specialist asked my husband for a retest and we were taken into the room for the result. By this point I had listened to podcast after podcast and researched until my brain was fried so I was prepared. At least one of us was…
The doctor turned to my hubby to explain: the numbers were low, extremely low at 200 thousand/ml. This meant that our chance of naturally conceive was 1 in a million. This devastated my husband, rocking his positivity and causing him to shut down. This led to argument after argument for weeks. However, the silver lining to our thunderous storm was going to be IVF.
We had our bloods done and next month saw the doctor again to start. The nurse took us in and explained the process, how to inject and the dosage required. They were going to start me on a low dose so as to not overstimulate my ovaries. I was happy with that as I assumed that I had pretty active ovaries due to always making cysts.
My period came and, with it, day one of injections; all day I was so eager and excited because finally I was back in control of my own destiny. One little needle was nothing compared to those nights spent crying myself to sleep. It came to 9pm, time for the first needle, the anxiety crept in and I started to freak out. It took me 20 minutes that first night before I stuck the needle in. I felt so good after that first one and with each day it got easier and easier, to which point I was doing three a night in not even three minutes. It became a habit, and with each injection I felt closer and closer to a baby.
Throughout this whole process I had mentally prepared for the possibility that not all eggs get fertilised and not all fertilised eggs become blastocysts; I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was the many ultrasounds, all of which indicated that I wasn’t responding to the drugs. I am only 26, I eat healthily, I exercise, so I wasn’t prepared for complications.
I had to keep upping my dose every couple of days. I had a series of ultrasounds and, with each one, anxiety crept in. On the third, I was told by the nurse that she suspected that the cycle would be cancelled, as I had only produced one sound egg. This hit me like a punch in the stomach. I felt like a complete failure: I’m a woman, I have been injecting myself now for two weeks and what for..? Nothing? I was told that I needed to take the trigger injection to release my eggs. My mum was with me luckily and, as I walked out of the office, I wanted to collapse, cry and fade into nothingness.
It’s hard to explain this to anyone because yes, we can always try again. But I literally put my heart and soul into it. I had one job, to make the eggs and I couldn’t. I went from being sad to being irrationally angry: at my body for failing me, at the nurses and doctors for putting me on a low dosage, and that we had to go through all of this again whilst people all around me are having babies and getting pregnant. Meanwhile, I’ve just completely let my husband down. Yes, it was irrational but this is what I was feeling after being told to literally watch my hard-earned eggs go down the drain.
This whole process has completely changed my outlook on life. I walk along the double-edged sword: the miracle of IVF and the extreme sadness that we have to go through it.
Here begins my next cycle, consisting of the suppression of hormones and then stimulation. The whole process went a lot quicker than first anticipated. I started the injections and handled it like a boss. The positivity was bursting through me. This time, I only had two scans and with each one more positive news. Just like that, I was scheduled for my trigger shot and egg retrieval. The nerves and excitement both kept me going in the days leading up to the retrieval. I had a total of 22 follicles, so I was feeling very optimistic. I woke up with the nurse telling me that they had retrieved three eggs. With the feeling of excitement also came disappointment, only three eggs out of 22. Apparently, they were of great quality and my doctor was happy, so I kept the positivity going. However, the night of retrieval I was kept awake by the continuous spiralling of my brain.
I was a nervous wreck. 9.28am, the phone rings. The news, I only had one embryo fertilised. I was overwhelmed with such strong emotion, it’s indescribable. I cried for the two that didn’t work, but I also cried for my little alone embaby, who was growing healthily in a Petri dish. I willed it to stay strong and I would be able to care for it soon. I was to go in two days later for transfer. It was Sunday, the clinic was quiet, however my heartbeat was thunderous, never have we been this close to a baby before.
I lay there, feet in stirrups meeting our little embaby for the first time. The procedure was quick and simple, out in a matter of minutes. Emotions were flooding, but it wasn’t just me, as I looked over to my husband with tears in his eyes from excitement, fear and joy. We finally were considered pregnant until proven otherwise.
Following, my connection to my embaby has grown, in both fear and happiness. In five days I will have a blood test to tell me if this little dot has decided to stick around.
This IVF life is such an incredible journey, one which I am so grateful for. However, I hope this journey becomes a distant memory and not an existing reality.