I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but back in 2006 when my husband and I first learned that we would need IVF to conceive a child, I believed this myth. We had been trying to conceive for two years at that point. I didn't know much about Artificial Reproductive Techonolgy (ART) or any of the components to it. I only knew what I had heard through others...and what my family had been through. I mean, my Aunt used Clomid and got pregnant and had TRIPLETS. So, since IVF was more advanced that just popping a pill, it HAD to work, right?
I learned the hard lesson in 2007. We started our IVF journey in March...I dutifully followed my protocol. And when I say dutifully, I mean with military precision. I made sure I took my birth control and Lupron shots at the same time every night to get me through the suppression period. When it came time to stimulate my ovaries, I took those injections the same way. Military precision. Hands washed, everything laid out before me, clean the area well, inject. Twice a day I did this. Even now, almost 4 years later, I can tell you EXACTLY what I was doing. I mean, this was going to work. We were getting a baby out of this, weren't we?
My egg retrieval was on April 26, 2007. It went well overall. I wasn't in any pain afterwards...and they got 23 eggs! 23!! 23 chances for a baby! How can IVF NOT work with 23 chances??!! Zero fertilization...that's how. My day 1 fert report came in on April 27th. So far, no eggs had started to divide. They had ICSI'd 16 mature eggs. We had no embryos. Transfer was cancelled.
I was devastated. I was not prepared for this outcome. I hadn't even had one thought that IVF wouldn't work for us. No one had ever said to me that there was a possibility that this wouldn't work...or if they did...I just shrugged it off. All those painful shots...all those hormones I pumped into my body...all those ultraounds, trips to the office for blood work...all for nothing. I walked out of the doctor's' office on May 16, 2007, after my follow up, empty and heartbroken. It would be a full year before I was emotionally ready to start again. To try again. To hope again.
But I did get back up...and try again in 2008. I went into that IVF cycle much more aware that things weren't guaranteed. It was difficult to put my body through the process again...but I wanted a baby. I wanted to feel what it was like to carry a pregnancy. On August 13, 2008 I underwent my second egg retrieval. 24 eggs this time. 17 mature. But I didn't want to get excited. I knew what could happen. When the fert report came in the next day, I was less than thrilled. We had 4 embryos. 4 times better than last cycle, but still not a great percentage. On the morning of August 16th we arrived for our transfer, only to be told that 3 of our precious embryos had arrested during the night. We were left with one. One lone embryo. The doctor gave us a less than 10% chance if we transferred that one. But I couldn't walk away again. I had to give that embryo a shot...no matter what the odds. August 28th will forever be a day I remember. It was the day my beta came back positive. And on April 10, 2009, my daughter was born.
But positive betas don't always mean take home babies. If there is anything I've learned in the past 5 years it's that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to reproduction.
In 2010, we decided to try to give Lexi a sibling. Back onto the IVF wagon we went. By now, we knew the drill...we were following the same protocol that got us Lexi. No need to fix something that wasn't broken right? September 29, 2010 was my third egg retrieval. Again, they got 25 eggs from me. 22 were able to be ICSI'd. We ended up with 2 embryos this time. Given that the previous cycle had resulted 3 of 4 arresting...we weren't hopeful that these 2 would make it. But on October 2nd, both embryos were tranferred back to me. The doctor said they were perfect embryos..and said we should prepare for the possibilty of twins.
My first beta was October 13th. It was positive. We were over the moon with happiness. 93.9 was a good hcg number for 12 days past transfer. Beta #2, on October 18th, wasn't as stellar. 221. It had barely doubled. Beta #3, October 20th...377. We held out hope. October 25th...beta #4...1725! Huge jump! We were excited. Maybe we had a late implanter! Our ultrasound on November 8th, however, revealed that there was no heartbeat. I was 8 weeks along. There should have been a heartbeat by then. There was no explanation as to why my betas continued to rise, but the embryo didn't grow. On November 12, 2010, I under went a D&C to remove the "product of conception". IVF worked...but didn't.
The moral of this long post...is that IVF doesn't always mean a take home baby. The only things IVF does guarantee is a chance. Only a chance at conception. A chance at hope.
If you are going through treatment, or thinking about undergoing treatment, know you're not alone. There are those of us who have been where you are. Who are willing to listen, and support you. Do not be afraid to reach out. We are here to reach back.
If you know someone going through treatment, or about to undergo treatment, please visit the Resolve website below. If you don't know what to say to your loved one, give them a hug. Ask them how much they are willing to share...and ask questions. But please, don't judge them for the choices they make. Infertility is a harsh reality for many people to face and some may not be in a place where they are emotionally able to share. And most importantly, don't treat their losses as if they didn't happen. Acknowledge them. Those chances at hope deserve it.
To learn more about infertility, visit http://www.resolve.org/infertility101.
Also, please visit http://www.resolve.org/takecharge to learn more about NIAW (National Infertilty Awareness Week)