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I see patients from all walks of the fertility journey. Some natural fertility, some assisted conception and some, that have truly been over the hill, to the moon, around the block and back again. One thing I know is this; the fertility journey can be tough. Really tough. That's why I write – to share some of that load, to educate and help others make well informed decisions.
I was connected with Candace and Chris from our misconception. They write a fabulous blog and share about their journey – a very rough, tough and heartbreaking one thus far. Take the time to look around their site – it may be exactly the support you are needing in your own journey – it's all about connecting. Connecting with people who are in the same boat – grabbing the orr's and rowing together.
I've wanted to touch on the physical and emotional strain of IVF for a long while – and whilst I see and share with hundreds of couples in this position, I myself have not personally experienced IVF. So I asked Candace and Chris to share with us, from their perspective, how IVF has affected their lives. I figure there is no better than those living it, to tell their story. My main motivation for it is this – to help couples understand IVF isn't necessarily the easy route (although for some, the only route, granted). In fact, it is far from simple and straightforward as you are about to see. It makes for a very straining, painful and disconnected time. I want you to remember, IVF isn't always a last resort either – I also see people who are told they will never have children, fall pregnant. But, by some tiny miracle, they do. Trust me, it happens.
Over to Candace and Chris:
If you are considering IVF as the “easy alternative,” check your resume to see if you have these skills: self-injection experience, high pain tolerance, the ability to control hormonal upheaval, supportive partner willing to be trained as a needle aficionado, willing to give up the social scene/the work scene/the family scene … you get the idea, a desire to have the bits and pieces between your knees and waistline on display for a gallery of doctors. If you have all of these attributes in place and finely tuned, you’re all set. Read no further. Best of luck! Oh, one other thing, you will need money and more money, and maybe a little more money too. If you are like we were and completely unaware of all of this, keep reading, it gets even better.
Before turning to IVF, 5 years ago we first tried the old fashioned way. You know, candlelight, good wine, soft jazz in the back ground. Apparently, the primal tendencies were not enough for us. After dodging the questions by friends and family, we decided that the natural way was apparently not going to be our way. Due to some impatience and naivety we adjusted the truth on how long we had been trying to conceive with the OB-GYN so we could rush into IUI treatments. Naughty we know, but when you want something, the truth becomes kinda fuzzy. So, here we go: IUI 1-Failed, IUI 2-Failed, IUI 3 with Clomid-Failed, Failed, Failed. For those keeping track, at this point, we were at 6 failed IUIs and had been trying to conceive (truthfully) for 2 years. At this point, we were still not considering any holistic approaches such as acupuncture, diet, meditation, etc. Strangely, we thought these much more straight-forward and some of them “free” approaches would be too intrusive to our very important schedules and lifestyles. So, we did what any normal couple becoming increasingly desperate to start a family would do, we discussed kidney donation for fund-raising purposes and rushed headlong into IVF.
Just to pause for a second with the story telling, here is a picture of the current collection of syringes that we have used after 1 fresh and 3 frozen embryo transfers plus a few new additions from our second fresh cycle we are working on.
We thought we did all the research we needed to do. Look at a few websites, grab a pamphlet, talk to someone that has done it before. We thought we were damn near experts. The doctors would tell us everything else we needed to know, right? We even went as far as to go to 2 fertility clinics to get a second opinion. Man we thought we were smart. Commence IVF, or as we like to call it, hitting the iceberg. All of our research was only the tip of what was truly laid in our path.
First fertility clinic visit: get corralled in a waiting area with many other desperate couples, meet with 4 different people about 4 different topics, get poked a little … we left exhausted, overwhelmed and unsure of whether or not we had the resolve (great website by the way: www.resolve.org) to carry through with this. That’s okay though, we had time to mull this over because the next daunting task was lots of painful testing to see what the hell was keeping us from producing our little bundle of joy.
So, to streamline the story: screamingly painful tests, rushed training on how to administer injections (huge needles too!), sprinkle in a few intermittent surgeries. We did IVF with no dietary plan, no approach to mental wellness, no acupuncture, nothing outside the minimum that Western medicine demanded we do. We fully trusted that the medications injected and testing conducted would do the trick. Even with a significant number of great embryos, this approach failed … not once or twice … no, 4 times!
To the quick then, if you are considering IVF, please consider the great advice that Nat and others have. Start at the source, yourself. Prepare your body for fertility, adjust your diet, consider your mental wellness, it’s cheaper and may save you tens of thousands of dollars. If you then proceed with IVF, you can simply carry these great tools with you to further improve your chances.
As we do on our blog Our Misconception - we are going to both give a snippet of our individual thoughts on the topic.
Candace: Now and Then
My first fresh round was like a derailed train wreck. I cried a lot. I felt so incredibly alone and isolated because you don’t dare let anyone know you are having fertility problems. At least that’s what I thought. The good news is I reacted really well to the stimulation meds, a little too well, meaning I hyper-stimulated really badly. My right ovary was the size of a grapefruit, the left the size of an orange. I was nauseated, in pain, just plain sick. 3 days later they implanted the beautiful embryos only to have a negative result. We had the international WTH sign over our head. After that failure and a failed FET, I discovered fertility forums and started researching. I started to take my fertility into my hands and not fully invest my fate in the doctors. On my 4th FET attempt I had just started to incorporate other alternatives. Remember when we mentioned we thought it was easier, cheaper, less inconveniencing to avoid Eastern medicine approaches? Here we are thousands and thousands of dollars later starting at what should have been the 1st fertility step.
NOW, I am in the middle of my second fresh round and I feel great! We have prepared for this for about 5 months. I follow a fertility diet, trying all sorts of new and exciting healthier foods, even lost some weight! I am relaxed and calm due to yoga and meditation. My cycles and body are ready from doing acupuncture. We are positive despite how hard infertility is. The empty pain you endure much outweighs the needles and procedures. The big difference is we have hope again.
Have you ever bought something with “some assembly required” and adopted the, let’s be honest, arrogant expectation that it should be no trouble putting this together. That was kinda my approach to IVF. Just a few screws to turn, some panels to align, probably don’t even need all the tools they suggest. Where was the person to slap me in the back of the head and say, “Hey idiot! You need to read these instructions, front and back!?” Admittedly, I was in shock after learning that I would be administering 1.5” (3.8 cm) long syringes to Candace’s soon to be very bruised backside. Try giving a shot to someone crying who has had 45 of these shots on previous attempts that ended in failure. Needless to say, there was a learning curve with all of this. Where are the instructions for comforting Candace as she is crying uncontrollably on the couch. Much worse, the drive home from work after getting off the phone with Candace with the news that the latest round of IVF didn’t work. Your stomach drops out but you do your best to push it aside to aid her for her loss. IVF is a tough, scary, uphill, exhausting road.
My advice, try everything else before it. If you still have not met with your dreams and your dreams are unchanged, go into IVF knowing that you will be tested.
Candace and I are a great team, IVF has tried as hard as it can to pull us apart, but guess what, not gonna happen! One way or another, we will have a family, everything has been on the table from adoption to surrogacy. Presently, we have enacted all of the lifestyle changes that Candace has mentioned and you know what, whether IVF works on or, we can carry our healthier, calmer, more centered selves to the next challenge we face.
And this, is that community I'm talking about. Pulling the tools (and people) together to create that support. Taking your fertility journey into your own hands and pooling together all the resources you can find – because your reproductive organs are only one piece of the puzzle. Thanks so much C & C for sharing here. I'm sure many people will benefit from your words.
Any of you trying IVF? Have you experienced similar? How have you dealt with these things? I'd love you to share below – you never know who will be able to grab great courage/support from your story…