By Hannah Schenker
I’ve been in two minds about writing about my experiences around IVF publicly. Partly because I feel like I should be keeping it private, like all things tender and vulnerable that we like to keep hidden away. Partly because I feel like if I talk about it openly, I will expose to the gods just how much this means to me, thus somehow jinxing it. But at the same time, I feel a need to share this – perhaps someone else about to start IVF will resonate with these jumbled thoughts.
I put off even thinking about IVF for many years, even though getting pregnant was not a happening thing. I knew it might lie somewhere down the “fertility treatment” track, but it was not something I was even considering doing. Too medical. Too disruptive. Too crazy. Too risky.
I thought IVF just wasn’t for me. That it was “forcing” things. It’s not “natural”. That if we really couldn’t get pregnant on our own, then “maybe we weren’t meant to have a baby”.
Now I say, “f*** that”.
I am IN. I would be silly not to try every tool in the toolbox, right? And I am starting this week, seven years after the first fleeting thoughts of having a baby entered my naive little brain.
It has been a long road to get here: years of trying – steadily becoming more and more defeated; two laparoscopic surgeries to remove endometriosis; a trip to the Netherlands for a break from it all; moving from one part of New Zealand to another and back again; endless appointments and waiting rooms and waiting lists…I am now 35 years old, that scary threshold age where they tell you your lovely little eggs will start declining. This is my chance. I am going for it.
Who knew that getting pregnant was so freakishly DIFFICULT? Because for most of my life, I was led to believe that I could get pregnant at the drop of a hat and must protect myself accordingly! I dosed myself on contraceptives for my entire twenties and perhaps I didn’t need to. But that’s just me. And that’s the difficult thing to digest – for other people it IS that easy to get pregnant. But I’m not even going to go there.
This week I will start injecting myself with hormones. I will twist the dial on the needle to the correct dose, squeeze a chunk of belly fat, and push a needle into my own skin, at a 90-degree angle. I will carefully dispose of the pointy end into a sharps bin. I will do this every night. After 6 nights, I will add a second needle into the routine. I will turn my follicles into a giant bunch of grapes, ready to be harvested like produce when they are nice and ripe. My husband will take his supplements and watch and be supportive, but that’s it – because he doesn’t have to do any of the difficult parts (guys have it so darn easy!).
Amazingly, I am not that scared about the needle part – but that’s probably because I haven’t had to do it yet. I’m more concerned about the unpredictable nature of the whole thing.
You don’t know until you begin exactly when the big procedures are going to happen (getting your eggs sucked out with another needle, the fertilisation part, and the day they transfer that beautiful little embryo back inside you, all things going well) – that all depends on how you respond to the treatment. It’s hard to plan for. It’s disruptive and that disruption can be a bit stressful for an anxiety-prone person like myself. I like plans.
You don’t know how your body will respond to treatment – whether you will produce enough healthy eggs for them to fertilise. You don’t know if fertilisation will work. You don’t know if pregnancy will occur when they transfer that tiny embryo back into your uterus. You don’t know if the pregnancy will succeed.
You don’t know if you will ever have the “motherhood” experience: how it feels to be pregnant and move through each trimester; whether you’ll get to do one of those cool milkbath pregnancy photoshoots; the power of childbirth; whether breastfeeding will work out; what it’s like to be constantly running about madly after a toddler; and forever putting into practice all the attachment parenting theory you’ve been reading about for years.
So many “don’t knows”. For someone with anxiety, this is pretty much the stupidest idea ever.