Dear hopeful IVF friend
I am now pregnant after IVF. But I get you. I still am you. The trauma from the losses, the disappointment still haunt me every day. When I read your letter I realised pregnancy doesn’t suddenly cure the years of uncertainty, the loss, the frustration and the despair. I still feel more like you, than I feel like a pregnant woman. Whatever that is supposed to feel like.
I imagine what it might be like to naively accept that this pregnancy will end in an actual baby.
To not obsessively look up and analyse and determine my risk profile for miscarriage on a daily basis. To not rush to the toilet and check for bleeding every time progesterone suppositories seep out of my vagina. To not wonder some days if my belly or breasts are deflating.
I am now where you’ve wanted to be for so long. But every day feels precarious. I find myself just about to search for baby onesies and then I hold back. No, I tell myself at week 11. Let’s wait until after the NIPT and the week 13 scan. It’s not really real yet.
My first scan was like going to the gallows.
I was convinced, utterly convinced we would walk out with a plan to manage another loss. Instead, there was an unmistakable heartbeat. But as I soon found out to my dismay, even a beautiful, strong beating heart only has the ability to quell anxiety for approximately 24 hours before it comes back with a vengeance.
Reassurance scans become the new milestones by which you live your life. And in the interim, time becomes a vortex, as every day seems to stretch out to a thousand years.
I’m terrified of taking any bump photos. The last time I did that, I ended up in surgery 24 hours later with an ectopic pregnancy having my baby and my fallopian tube removed. But I force myself to take one anyway. I know that I’ll want to look back on this even if it’s painful to do now.
But telling people I’m pregnant. Ah, no. That’s going much too far. Maybe when the baby has finished high school. Yes, maybe then it will be safe.
Telling people is for those who have full confidence in a future not being taken away from them at any moment. I’m nearly 12 weeks and only our parents know. Other than siblings at 15 weeks, I think we’ll just tell others as they figure it out for themselves.
There will certainly be no Facebook announcements here. No sir.
On the plus side, nausea has never felt so good. When I first threw up I texted my mother in celebration. The all-day (and sometimes all night) queasiness provided much-needed relief from worrying. It’s hard to worry when you’re head down a toilet bowl heaving up breakfast.
That is, until the good days when paranoia would set in. But there is never so gracious and uncomplaining a pregnant woman as one who has worked for years, had her body poked and prodded injected herself hundreds of times, and cried a million tears just to get to this point.
I am hyper-aware of how (or even if) I tell others – especially my other IVF sisters and those friends I made after my first pregnancy loss. I now know on the deepest level that what may feel like progress to me, will probably feel like a kick in the guts to them.
Every pregnancy announcement from others before I was pregnant – no matter who it was from, left me in tears, trying to lift myself back out of an emotional black hole. Sure I was happier for those who had taken longer and struggled harder to get there, but the news certainly wasn’t an inspiration to me. I didn’t really need to hear it.
And if you don’t need to tell someone…then just don’t. Deep empathy and humility is the one precious gift that infertility has given me.
Being pregnant after infertility is a strange feeling.
At the same time as being grateful for making it to the next step, that’s what it ultimately feels like – just one more step, one more hurdle after the many hurdles IVF throws at us unrelentingly:
- Will my follicles grow?
- How many eggs will fertilise?
- How many will survive to day 5?
- Will any be frozen?
- Will I get a transfer?
- Will the transfer stick?
It’s hard to fully embrace this new stage with the grace and excitement that I want to feel. Or the gratefulness that you, as someone who isn’t here just yet, probably thinks one should feel. I remember believing and telling myself before each transfer, that if only I were just pregnant, that would be enough. But let’s be real. It’s not enough until you’re holding a healthy, crying baby in your arms.
Every day I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. But slowly, cautiously, as my weird belly (that currently just looks like I’ve eaten too much) grows undeniably bigger and each scan and test comes back with good results, perhaps I’ll keep both my shoes on. I might even buckle in with some comfy socks, maybe even take them for a spin. Shoes are made for walking and not dropping after all.
I hope, dear friend, that when you arrive, you will allow yourself the same grace to be ok with feeling uncertain, and shit, and sometimes not as grateful for this next step as you “should” be. There’s no perfect way to be or feel.
There is just you and the product of all your prior experiences. And it will be ok. No matter the outcome. At least that is what I try to tell myself.
Michelle Bourke is a Mum to one Angel baby and after this loss, is expecting her first baby boy thanks to IVF.
She is a writer and founder of Evalonne, providing courses to help women heal from pregnancy loss and continue their fertility journey with hope and confidence.