I met the woman who is now my wife in 2014. On our third date we talked about where we saw ourselves in the future. Being a pretty straightforward person, I wanted to know if our plans aligned before we got too serious.
We both wanted a dog, we wanted to own a house and travel, and we both wanted to have children.
After we got engaged in 2019 we talked more about how we wanted to become parents together.
Due to past family trauma and weak ties with my biological family, I had long ago chosen not to have genetic children. I did, however, feel a burning desire to be pregnant and give birth.
As it turned out, my wife has a very strong desire not to experience pregnancy and birth.
After some research we discovered ‘Reciprocal’ or ‘Partner IVF’.
Reciprocal IVF is where the eggs from one partner are collected and fertilised with donor sperm, then implanted into the uterus of the other partner.
It was an easy, albeit expensive decision, but it seemed to be the only option that fit our circumstances. We decided we would start the process a few months after our wedding.
We got married in February 2020. We were some of the lucky ones that had a blissfully COVID free wedding in 2020. Our biggest worry at that time was the bushfire smoke affecting my grandmother’s asthma.
Due to the ensuing restrictions and financial uncertainty that followed, we decided to delay our baby making plans.
This ended up being a good decision for us as we got to enjoy the first couple of years of our marriage spending lots of time together and growing stronger as a couple and as individuals. By October 2022 we had decided we were ready to start trying for a baby together.
By then Public IVF was just being rolled out in Victoria (Australia). As a couple with two ovaries we would be relying on the Public Egg and Sperm Donor Bank, for which the ETA was ‘mid 2023’. Knowing there would be a long wait list for donor sperm through the public system we chose to go private.
We finally had our money saved and had found a clinic with a good donor bank. We were golden!
We picked our fertility clinic with their own sperm donor bank and were excited about our first IVF appointment. We had this cocky confidence that this would be an easy process for us. We were both young, settled in a lovely home, and had the support of our family and friends.
Our confidence wavered when we found out my wife had low AMH, or diminished ovarian reserve. Our fertility specialist told us we could expect about 4-5 eggs to be collected from our IVF cycle.
We knew from our research that IVF is a numbers game.
According to data from New Hope Fertility Centre we could expect that, out of the eggs retrieved during an IVF cycle:
- About 80% of those would be mature and suitable for fertilisation.
- Roughly 80% of those mature eggs would successfully fertilise.
- The chance of a fertilised egg making it to day 5 blastocyst stage (the stage at which they are either frozen or transferred into a uterus) was 30–50%.
Halle Tecco from Natalist.com called it the ‘IVF Funnel’, and this funnel was predicting we would be left with a single embryo.
With less confidence and a little trepidation we went ahead with our IVF cycle. These were our results:
As you can imagine we were pretty ecstatic with those numbers. We felt that the hard part was over and our confidence returned. Now all we had to do was transfer an embryo to my uterus and spend 2 blissful weeks ‘PUPO’ or ‘pregnant until proven otherwise’.
With that cocky confidence back and our embryo transfer scheduled we decided to keep ourselves busy. My wife took time off work for the two week wait (the time after the embryo transfer and before the pregnancy blood test, usually 9–12 days).
We cleaned out the guest room, booked tickets to see ‘Hamilton’ and filled up our Netflix watchlist.
We transferred our first embryo on November 15th. Our clinic gave us a little picture of the embryo and we stuck it to our fridge and affectionately called it ‘chickpea’. We received the much anticipated call from the fertility clinic on my wife’s birthday.
My pregnancy blood test was negative.
After our first failed embryo transfer we felt a little sad but surprisingly we had a lot of hope and positivity brimming. We were determined the next one would be it and we managed to squeeze another embryo transfer in before our fertility clinic closed for Christmas. We got the bad news for this one just before the New Year.
After our second failed embryo transfer the sadness was overwhelming, but we still had some of that hope and positivity reserved for our last two embryos.
For our third embryo transfer our fertility specialist changed things up and due to a myriad of factors we requested that we transfer both our remaining embryos. The blood test came back negative.
After our third and final failed embryo transfer the sadness was overwhelming. We felt angry, robbed, utterly devastated. We cried a lot. Withdrew from family.
We kept the door to the guest room firmly closed.
Well meaning friends and family clucked with sympathy when we told them of our IVF journey. They were sad for us of course, but would cheerily tell us that it would work next time! We heard many personal stories of how it had taken a year or more to fall pregnant and how our time would come.
In the midst of our heartbreak, the positivity made us angry. We just wanted them to say that what happened had sucked. To listen without trying to cheer us up.
We only knew one person who had undergone IVF. We found the most comfort with her. She listened without injecting positivity into the conversation, understood why we felt cheated and angry and incredibly sad. She understood that we had earned our sadness.
We had spent countless hours at the fertility clinic getting blood tests, ultrasounds, talking to counsellors. We had administered many injections and taken many medications, put both our bodies through the wringer. We had depleted our life savings and we had put all our emotional and mental energy into the IVF process. The IVF process that had taken us straight around the board and dumped us back at square one.
Do not pass Go and do not collect your $20,000.
At the same time as I can’t imagine the pain and torment of trying to conceive a baby at home every month for 12 months, angry that your body wasn’t doing what it was built for, many couldn’t understand the pain that had come from pouring everything we had into the medical world of IVF.
It also felt different for us, being in a relationship where natural conception isn’t an option. We had to learn the hard, expensive way about our infertility issues. Our first few months of trying for a baby wasn’t a private, nervous romp in the bedroom but a daunting, overwhelming and costly procedure in a sterile fertility clinic surrounded by strangers.
At the IVF clinic we hadn’t been at the same stage as the couples who had tried to conceive at home for 12 months first. We had been overly confident. Excited. We didn’t know that something was wrong, that there would be difficulty conceiving.
I guess no one wants to think of that happening to them. We definitely didn’t.
Yet after all that, would we do it again?
Straight off the back of our last failed embryo transfer, our answer would have been a resounding ‘No way!’.
Now, four months later, our answer is a soft maybe. Hopefully we can try again.
For months we kept the guest room door firmly closed. Seeing it’s emptiness filled me with tears whenever I would walk by and my wife simply did not want to think about it.
But lately we have started to keep the guest room door open. We have started to dream and hope again.
Originally posted by me on Medium.