Nothing could have prepared me for how hard the IVF process is. No amount of chats with my doctor or time spent online reading other women's stories were enough to truly help me understand what it would be like. Kind of like how I couldn't really know what parenthood involved just because my coworker had a baby. Nope, it wasn't until I went through IVF that I learned just how much the experience would test me physically and emotionally. From that first blood test that measured my hormone levels to the day I got my pregnancy test results, I would be pushed to the brink of what my mind and body could handle. And yet, knowing what I know now, I would still do it again. In fact, I want to do it again.
To be fair, my IVF journey was a success. I am sitting here staring at my beautiful, hard won, 3-month-old son. If IVF hadn't worked for me, I don't know whether I'd still be considering another round, because I actually had a very tough time dealing with almost every aspect of IVF.
Seeing the miracle that had resulted from all that hard work was all I needed to start pondering another go. As I gaze at my sweet baby, the needles and uncertainty seem like distant memories.
Let's start with how I am not a fan of needles. For anyone who isn't aware, IVF involves tons of needles. Tons and tons. I went for morning monitoring several times a week to test my hormone levels. That was just a blood test, administered by a trained professional. At home, my husband injected me with needles on a nightly basis. He's in finance. Neither one of us felt like we had a clue what we were doing.
The unpleasant amount of needles IVF requires is only one part of what makes IVF so brutal. Consider that the entire time you are injecting frightening levels of hormones into your body, you have no idea if it's even going to work. Doubt and anxiety can definitely take over if you let it.
So you're pumped up with hormones, your body feels like a pin cushion, your mind is a mess, and that's just in the beginning. If you're lucky enough to get to the egg retrieval stage, you're looking at a minor surgical procedure. Not a huge deal, but it's a lot more involved than a quick doctor's visit. Then there's the waiting. And that's the worst part of all. IVF is nothing if not waiting. Waiting for blood test results, waiting to find out if your eggs are viable, waiting to see if healthy embryos can be created from the eggs and your partner's hopefully healthy sperm, waiting to find out if your body is primed from all the hormones for implantation, waiting for pregnancy test results. Waiting a week between my implantation and pregnancy test almost made me crazy. I think I cried almost constantly during those nine impossibly long days.
Happily, I found out my IVF cycle had worked. But the injections of hormones weren't over. I had to support my pregnancy artificially for another eight weeks. You'd think that would be no sweat — I was pregnant, after all! But there's little joy in your husband injecting your behind with a one-inch needle every single night for 60 days.
When we'd finally been discharged from our fertility doctor, I swore I'd never set foot in that place again. Who in their right mind would? But then, seven months later, my beautiful, perfect, amazing son was born. Seeing the miracle that had resulted from all that hard work was all I needed to start pondering another go. As I gaze at my sweet baby, the needles and uncertainty seem like distant memories. Was IVF really that bad? I mean, here's this perfect little baby, and all I had to do was fumble around with a few needles and get some blood tests, right?
Of course, I know the experience was far from simple. It wasn't that long ago I spent countless nights wailing on the floor, sobbing to my husband that we were doing all of this for nothing. It wasn't that long ago my backside was so scarred from nightly injections I looked like I had some sort of skin condition. Part of me feels like it would be insane to voluntarily endure another cycle of IVF. Besides, just because it worked the first time doesn't guarantee it will work again, so I'd have to contend with all that anxiety over the outcome again. Also, it's really expensive. But the other part of me is so in love with what came out of my emotional IVF experience. And I know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to do it again if I choose.
The bottom line is that IVF is soul-trying beyond words. Yet, similarly to childbirth, it's easy to forget the agony as soon as you set eyes on your baby, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.