In Australia 1 in 6 couples struggle to conceive naturally.
So, chances are, you or someone you know has experienced the terribly gruelling and emotional journey that is IVF. It’s an invasive process that leaves you physically and mentally exhausted and at times a complete emotional wreck.
I can tell you from experience, my IVF journey was one of the most difficult processes I’ve ever endured and there’s not one thing on this earth that could have prepared me for how taxing it was on me.
Throughout my journey I found that mostly an inappropriate sense of humour and deluded feelings of hope really did get me through. You have to believe it will happen, even if you know deep down your chances are pretty slim. I was one of the lucky ones. My IVF journey was fairly simple and straightforward in comparison to what many women face when trying to conceive. It didn’t stop me, however, from going through the 5 major stages of what I call The IVF Effect.
Stage 1: Deluded Hope and Misplaced Anticipation
I knew something wasn’t right and my GP gave me a referral. In eager anticipation I went ahead and made that call and booked in our consult. The day arrived and we were full of hope and excitement, knowing we’d made the very first step toward conception. We walked into our specialist’s consult room expecting a brief chat and possible IVF options, based on the results of our diagnosis.
Instead my unprepared and unmanicured vagina got an internal ultrasound, and 4 inches into the Doc looking at my ovaries, my partner was whisked off to have his ball-sack screened. My hope had turned to ‘What the Actual Fuck’ and my anticipation was now ominous instead of enthusiastic. It was like waking up on Christmas morning expecting a brand new shiny bike and getting a rusty old tricycle instead.
It’s kinda what I wanted… but not really.
What the hell am I in for and why didn’t anyone tell me to shave. FML.
After my partner’s ball-sack had been violated in ways that didn’t induce any kind of pleasure, he was then sent to the ‘porn room’ and expected to provide a sample. I sat there contemplating how he’d even produce one with everyone in the waiting room knowing exactly what he was up too. There he appeared, proud as punch and unashamedly gave Betty at the front desk his cloudy little cup of sperm. I can’t get off if the dog is staring, so it fucks me how men can rub one out almost anywhere.
We both leave and head to pathology for blood tests in preparation of our next appointment. No one said a word because the pair of us were so completely confused as to what just took place. Is this what every appointment will be like? Can I ever look my doctor in the eye knowing I’d not made any effort to tame my lady garden? Does my specialist think I’m a terrible wife because my partner refuses to wear jocks? It’s such a fuck up and although still a little hopeful, I realised my anticipation was severely misplaced and I certainly didn’t harbour the same kind of excitement when attending my next appointment.
Stage 2: Reality – You Can’t Sugar Coat This Shit
After being so completely wrong in our expectations for our consult appointment, the reality of IVF really started to set in. We turned up to receive our diagnosis and as luck would have it, in my case, my partner was the issue. I was reproductively healthy. Although our chances of conception were a lot higher than many other couples. It certainly didn’t diminish the intense treatment plan that was ahead of us. As it turns out, regardless of the outcome, the woman is always tampered with, even if the man’s sperm is in a ridiculously shitty state.
We started the ICSI program, which was a powerful concoction of various hormones inducing the stimulation of my ovaries. Instead of making just one egg that month, my body was to make twenty, and by the time egg harvest arrived I looked like I was six months pregnant. I was a mess. I had no idea how emotional I would be and just how quickly my outbursts would escalate to divorce proportions. I cried… a lot. I was also angry and overwhelmed and had no idea how to tame it.
The reality was, every appointment was met with an internal ultrasound and more often than not, at least 2 other people joined to inspect my vag. I was a bundle of intense hormonal energy unable to suppress the irrational thought patterns and behaviour. My husband couldn’t understand it and although given a list of physical side effects from my doctor, was in no way advised about how fucking emotional I’d be. You couldn’t possibly sugar coat the experience, because even if disguised pleasantly – the IVF bomb was literally seconds from exploding anytime something was of slight inconvenience.
Stage 3: I Hate All Pregnant Women
While enduring treatment I swear everywhere I turned there were pregnant women. You know what I mean. That woman who tripped one drunken evening and fell on her husband’s dick and although not planned, is ever so happy she’s pregnant. Or that other women on her fourth kid, that tells everyone; ‘Oh – he just has to look at me and I fall pregnant’ and you kinda want to spit in her face. I didn’t mean to judge and I know now they were horrible things to think. But I honestly couldn’t help it.
Like I said, I was exceptionally hormonal and full of irrational thought patterns. I’m sorry – I really am.
But seriously at the time I was all fuck you Susan and your seven kids. Your mini-van isn’t even cool. While secretly wishing I was Susan. I wanted to be the tired mum and the one at school drop off half dressed, still in slippers and baby vomit on my shirt. I wanted to talk about poo explosions and the inconvenience that is car seats. I desperately wanted a baby and struggled with how easy it was for other women to conceive and wondered why it was me who had to go through this shit.
My ovaries exploded with every newborn I saw and would spend hours following crying on my bed. It was overwhelming to say the least, but still held onto the hope that at the end of all of this, I too would be pregnant. One day soon I’d have my very own baby to love. In the meantime however, I needed the pregnant women to just chill while in my face. Of course I was happy for them, even amidst my hormonal meltdowns.
I was just happier for them if I didn’t have to see them.
Stage 4: My Partner is a Dick
Okay, sooooo this maybe wasn’t a stage exactly. Possibly more like a continual underlying emotion that bubbled to the surface throughout the entirety of my treatment. Alright you got me! It wasn’t just during treatment. We’re divorced now, so I pretty much thought he was a dick our whole marriage. But hey, we all make mistakes. In saying that though, when I realised he was actually a dick, it was certainly during treatment. It was so intense and I held this resentment toward him because he was the reason we were having IVF in the first place.
I tried not to focus on why we needed treatment and stay focused on the outcome. But, that’s pretty hard to do when he’s worried about missing a footy game while you’re prepping for surgery. He laughed afterward when telling me I snored under the general anaesthetic. It was a wanker move and it felt just like that time I got drunk and made an arse of myself at the office Christmas party. I couldn’t remember what I did, but every other toss pot could and loved reminding me. It was a shit time and I often felt extremely unsupported.
I think a combination of not being properly informed about the emotional side effects of treatment and a husband who just didn’t understand made for a very isolating experience. During IVF your partner can be hugely supportive and it’s a help. But to be honest; the man will never really comprehend what the woman is experiencing. Not because they’re all arseholes, but because they have a dick. They cum in a cup, give it to Betty and their job is done. It’s just another one of the immensely unfair comparatives between a man and women, which has lead me to believe God is either a prick or he has one.
Stage 5: I am the Virgin Mary – Immaculate Conception
After holding a full bladder for what felt like a lifetime to, releasing it and having a pair clamps hang from my vagina hole to straighten my cervix. Here we were. Embryo transfer. The day I’d been waiting for. I already looked pregnant on account of having ovaries the size of a 20 week old foetus. I was bloated, sore and had unimaginable back pain. But, I was absolutely beyond excited to finally be at this point. We were about to get pregnant and I couldn’t have been happier.
It was kind of an anti-climax though if I’m honest. You can’t see the embryo and upon transfer the scientist has to confirm it has in fact been placed in your uterus using a microscope. You’re given a shit tonne of disgusting gel that needs squirting inside your vagina and then… you wait. I at least thought I’d get a high five or maybe even a lollipop – but nothing. You’re just told to go home. The next few weeks feel like the longest in history while you live in hope the very next appointment brings pregnancy confirmation.
I was one of the lucky ones. Conception occurred at my very first IVF attempt. At 7 weeks pregnant I got to witness the heart-beat of my little kidney bean shaped foetus and I immediately fell in love.
I really did feel like the Virgin Mary and this was definitely an immaculate conception.
Aside from the fact I didn’t have to have sex in order to get pregnant, it certainly felt like a miracle. Not without its own struggles (but that’s another story), the 9 month pregnancy went by and on Valentine’s Day 2008, I greeted my beautiful daughter Matilda to the world via emergency C-Section. I no longer hated Susan and her mini-van, I didn’t give a shit about my un-maintained vagina and although I still thought my husband was a dick.
For the first time since starting my IVF treatment everything in the word felt right.