Fertility issues, whether it be struggling to conceive, recurrent miscarriage or repeated IVF cycles, will take a toll on any relationship. I think I must be one of the lucky ones, as my relationship with my husband seems to have gotten stronger despite each challenge we faced. Of course it wasn’t easy, but I’m a talker and luckily he is good at listening – and also communicating his own feelings. This was crucial to maintaining a strong relationship. It was frustrating that we were in the ‘unexplained’ category and no matter how many tests we had, nothing was found to be ‘wrong’ with either of us. But maybe it’s harder when one person has an obvious issue, like lack of sperm or eggs, and you could fall into the trap of blaming one another. I used to wish that something was found wrong so at least then it could be fixed.
From all my research over the years, my hunch is that our problem is some hidden issue that has not yet been discovered or possibly a genetic match problem (which one of our tests indicated could be an issue – though this is new and controversial research which is unproven) – meaning that our egg and sperm were always fertilising and briefly implanting, but my body was rejecting the embryo for whatever reason. There’s a theory that the body can recognise the embryo as a foreign body, like cancer for example, and attack it each time it implants resulting in a very early miscarriage or repeated implantation failure. Or else my eggs are just old and crappy – even though we started trying to conceive at 31.
If there’s one positive thing about this journey, it has been the friendships I have made. And, the friendships I have lost, for the most part – although losing them didn’t feel positive at the time. You can be friends with someone for years and not until either of you face truly difficult times, do you learn who is really there for you. I’m so grateful to have learned to separate the good from the bad and the superficial from the genuine, lasting friendships. We realised that certain friends who were there during the fun times, were nowhere to be seen during the more challenging times. They were the friends who liked to sit on the fence, or just hide behind it rather than have the courage to speak out against something that’s wrong.
Then there are the friends who weren’t always there for the nights out but will be there in a flash for a cup of tea and a chat and understand that you are hurt and angry and not always yourself. The ones who will blurt out that they want to be your surrogate because they can’t bear to see you in so much pain – even though they have had very difficult pregnancies themselves and you’d never put them through that again. They are the keepers.
We were so lucky to be able to talk to our parents and siblings about what we were going through – and despite not knowing what to say and feeling helpless, they were always there at the end of the phone when we needed them.
I wouldn’t wish the experiences myself and my husband have had, on anyone. Sadly, some people can only begin to empathise if they are put in a similar position. They will simply never understand – as this blog post says so well.
A photograph can’t capture the mixed emotions that can be experienced during IVF, but this is just an example of one of the side effects of certain injections. I wouldn’t want to scare people off doing IVF as it can be an amazing and straightforward thing (if it works) – and if it works within the first few cycles, it means you are an easy case. It’s only when you’ve had several failed cycles or miscarriages that you may begin to introduce extra drugs to help ‘support’ your potential pregnancy. These can all add up and mean that you’re taking up to 4 different injections a day.
(Bruises on belly from Clexane injections)
My belly used to get covered in bruises which became quite normal. I once photographed the bruises but a few cycles later deleted the photos as didn’t want a reminder. So my friend has kindly sent me a photo of her belly to illustrate how fun it was. We soon found a better technique of doing the injections resulting in a little less bruising. Why would we do this to our body you might ask? Because it seemed much better than the alternative. And apparently it’s worth it….
(My friend Heidi seemed to think it was worth it. She took this photo after a successful cycle at the Greek clinic we both attended.)