We absolutely love this uplifting – but realistic take on the IVF journey!
Content warning: infertility, IVF, pregnancy loss
Dear fellow infertiles, I want to tell you something only an IVF veteran can explain
Fertility struggles are crappy, and sometimes the only answer is treatment that is also crappy. Yes, it’s amazing that babies can be made in a clinic and I’m grateful, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it or pretend it’s nice. IVF is awful in many ways, and I’m still going to go back and have more. But here’s the thing: I am now a badass. IVF hasn’t given me a baby yet, but it’s changed me anyway, and I’m OK with that.
If you’re about to go through IVF, then there’s something you need to know. You know it already on some level, and that’s part of the nervousness and stress that comes with the journey. You’re hoping for something that’s going to stretch and change your life and body and mind in drastic ways, but that doesn’t mean it’s not slightly terrifying too. I’m just going to confirm what you’re already feeling on some primal level. Everything is about to get very intense, and things are never going to be quite the same ever again.
IVF will change you as a person, and that’s OK
You’re just not going to be the same person as you were before either, and that’s neither a good nor a bad thing in itself, it’s just the way it is. You’re a lot tougher than you think you are, and one day you’ll catch yourself saying or doing something and think wow, I’d never have thought *this* way before I had IVF. I’d have been so embarrassed or scared about *this* situation, or I’d never have the strength to do *that*. Everyone is different, but here’s how it was for me:
I was a timid little thing when I was younger. I’d never consider arguing with a doctor. Petrified of needles too. My skirt blew up at the bus stop outside my house once, and for two seconds of my life, a couple of people might have seen my very boring, unremarkable knickers. I was so mortified I nearly moved house! Five years later, I’m practically a fire-breathing dragon. So many people have seen my undies and looked up my private areas, that I joke about not even bothering to wear pants ever again. I’ve gone back time and again to my GP with reports I’ve scrawled over in red pen, asking for a different kind of test. I’ve sounded like a complete lunatic at times, and I don’t care (and I was right about this one detail of my infertility, and right to push for another test). I’m simply not the same person I was. That girl blushed and got flustered easily, but this one doesn’t.
I’m definitely kinder, but I also take less crap from people – especially doctors. I’m grateful for medical science and specialists, but I’ve also seen first hand that they’re human, and that trying to knock me up still involves elements of luck, timing and “well, we’re just not sure”. I understand my own body better, and I trust it more, even though it stubbornly refuses to do what I want it to do, or to perfectly fit the cycles and descriptions of a medical textbook.
Welcome to IVF Club – and the first rule of IVF Club is self acceptance
Self-acceptance is a non-negotiable part of IVF, and nobody tells you to do it; it just happens. Sometimes it’s life-affirming, and sometimes it makes you cringe. For example, I discovered that I wasn’t as nice a person as I thought I was. I used to say things like “I don’t understand why people who can’t have kids don’t adopt!” and “Ah well, maybe it’s just not meant to be.”
When I actually had a couple of years of fertility struggles, I realised that I had said those things to make myself feel better, rather than to be kind to people who are struggling. Whether it’s fertility or mental health or something else now, I try to think about the person behind the problem, and not assume that there’s an easy answer to their troubles that they somehow hadn’t figured out yet. It only takes a second to be kind.
I realised that life was deeper and more fragile than I ever thought possible. I knew it was possible to love a baby you hadn’t met yet – but I had no idea how deeply you could love and miss one that you would never get to meet. I didn’t realise that so many other people felt this exact same way, but that you only know this if you *know* this, otherwise it just makes no sense.
IVF will make you feel things more deeply, and that’s also fine
I didn’t know I was so vulnerable. I had no idea what specific combination of physical, mental and emotional stresses could eviscerate my mental health, or how long it would take for me to put myself back together again. I didn’t know how strong my marriage was, or what it could survive. I had some clue that my husband was a great guy, but I didn’t fully appreciate how amazing he actually is – or how bad his needle phobia was, and how hard he would try to get over it so he could give me the injections.
I didn’t know how many babies my aunts and grandmother had lost between the family members I know about, or the one aunt that couldn’t have children, until I had that conversation with my mother about my own fertility struggles. I never felt that much of a connection with the women in the prim outfits and the faded photographs, until I looked again and thought “This happened to you too.”
Finally, I didn’t know it was possible to feel like complete strangers have my back, even when they’re thousands of miles away. When I felt like my friends and family didn’t understand me, there was a community of people who knew exactly what I was going through, and made time to help me through it. As time went on, I also cleared spaces in my life to help people I’d never met – and probably wouldn’t ever meet (although I have made a few real-life IVF friends). Pre-IVF me would not have understood this, because the old me looked at friendships in terms of how long I had known somebody and the amount of stuff we had previously done together. I see things completely differently now, and although it’s not always comfortable or comforting, I feel like I’ve grown and changed and matured as a person. I feel like I’ve somehow got better at being me.
Avoid toxic positivity if you’re going through IVF
Although IVF hasn’t given me a baby (yet), it has taught me a hell of a lot about myself and about families and people, and I’m thankful for that aspect of the whole (sometimes awful) experience. There’s a bit of toxic positivity aimed at women who are going through IVF, and I’d never want to be a part of that. Sometimes things are just horrible and rubbish, and sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter how much you wish they would – or they take a bloody long time to get sorted out. What I would like to say though, is that no matter how rough you feel, or how down about yourself you are while you’re going through fertility struggles, there are hidden treasures to be uncovered on the journey. Wisdom, kindness, strength, a different kind of confidence, a new perspective on friendship, and a very unexpected connection with my elders and ancestors are some of the things the IVF journey has brought me so far. All I need now is a baby, right?
You’ll be fine, and I hope it works out for you. We’re all genuinely crossing our fingers for each other, and that’s comforting. This is one last thing to take away – at some point you’ll face a situation that would intimidate the hell out of the old you, and you won’t even care. You’ll just face it, get on with it, overcome it and think to yourself “You can’t scare me, I’ve had IVF!”
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