I can’t believe it’s already June. It seems like just yesterday I was counting down to April when our girls would be born and now they are already eight weeks old. Not a day goes by that I don’t look at them and think of what a miracle they are and how thankful I am they are here. It was a hard journey and I will never forget everything we went through.
In fact, this week marks exactly one year since our IVF cycle started. Technically I started taking some medication last May, but all of my injections started in June. My egg retrieval was in June. Our embryos were created in June. It was a big month for us. (If you missed my IVF posts, you can read them HERE). Recently I have been doing some reflecting on our IVF journey and what a difference a year makes. Looking back, there were several things I wish I had known a year ago. Things that would have helped me to be more prepared for what laid ahead.
Today I will be sharing what I wish I had known about IVF and I hope it helps anyone who is preparing for their own IVF journey.
The Injections Aren’t That Bad
I spent so much time worrying about all of the injections I would have to endure. I had so much anxiety and I lost so much sleep anticipating the pain I thought I was going to feel. Now, giving yourself shots is never fun and it’s not a walk in the park, but I wish I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about it. I probably gave myself more than a few gray hairs over something that didn’t hurt nearly as bad as I was anticipating. This isn’t to say don’t worry at all about them. But I wish I had known they really truly aren’t THAT bad.
No Unprotected Sex
Sorry mom and dad if you’re reading this (cue awkward face), but this is something that surprised me about the IVF process. It seems counter productive when you want a baby right? Here we are, in our 30’s, married, and ready for a family, and we can’t have unprotected sex. How ironic! The reason for this is because once you start fertility medications you are producing multiple eggs and everything needs to be controlled. You don’t want an “oops” (however unlikely it may be) because it could lead to a high order multiples pregnancy. Even if that doesn’t happen, it throws everything out of whack. The IVF process is incredibly regimented and each step needs to be followed to a T. So be sure to have a birth control method in mind.
Along these same lines, be prepared to talk very openly about your sex life and reproductive systems. That probably goes without saying, but in case you’re a modest person, be warned that you will have some very frank and honest discussions with your reproductive team. Don’t worry, they get less awkward as time goes on.
You Have To Decide What To Do With Your Embryos In The Event of Death or Divorce
Before our IVF cycle even started, Chris and I had to sign consent forms and one of those forms required us to determine what we wanted done with any embryos we had in the event one or both of us die or we get divorced. There were three options for us to choose from: the embryos can be donated to a family in need, the embryos can be donated to science, or the embryos can be humanely discarded. I’m not going to share what Chris and I decided, but that was a hard conversation to have. Obviously we hate to think of a scenario in which we get divorced or one (or both) of us dies, but those are necessary conversations to have when you are doing IVF. I wish I’d had a little more warning that this was a topic we’d have to discuss.
I don’t think it’s a big secret that IVF is expensive. But “expensive” is such a relative term. We all consider different amounts to be expensive, so I wasn’t sure what to expect financially leading up to our IVF cycle, but there was definitely some sticker shock when we saw the numbers in black and white. Also, be prepared that the cost of your IVF cycle most likely doesn’t include medications. Those are purchased separately and can cost between $4,000 and $7,000 dollars. Our fertility clinic was upfront with us that this wasn’t included in their quote, so we weren’t surprised at the extra expense. But just a heads up that you will want to factor in that additional cost.
You Will Lose Self Confidence Then You Will Gain It Back (And Lose It Again, Then Gain It Back, Etc)
There is a never ending cycle of losing and gaining self confidence throughout an IVF cycle. First my self confidence took a dive because the injections and medications made me feel incredibly bloated. My clothes didn’t fit and at one point I looked a few months pregnant. Talk about a cruel joke. No one wants to look pregnant when they’re not, especially not when they are struggling with infertility. After my egg retrieval though, something shifted and I was suddenly proud of myself. I had been very nervous about that procedure and a part of me considered backing out of our IVF cycle because I was so anxious, but I pushed through and afterward I was very proud of myself. I had given myself a lot of shots and underwent a procedure to retrieve multiple eggs, not everyone can say that. Later, my self confidence started to waver again when we were preparing for our Frozen Embryo Transfer and my body wasn’t responding as I hoped. I got very frustrated with myself. After our embryo transfer when we got the news I was pregnant, I gained my confidence back. I felt like a rock star! In the end, I endured 126 injections, more blood draws and ultrasounds than I can count, and two procedures because of the hope I had we would be able to have a baby. It was incredibly hard, but worth everything. I HAD DONE IT!
There Will Be A Lot Of Waiting
If you’re an impatient person, get ready to take a patience pill. IVF is not a fast process and it will feel like you are always waiting for something. Waiting for your initial consultation (sometimes doctors are booked out months in advance). Waiting for your cycle to start. Waiting for test results. Waiting for medication to do its thing. Waiting for the next step in the process. The list can go on and on. Truthfully, this was one of the hardest parts for me. Before our first appointment, I just wanted to know if IVF was going to work for us and I had to wait months and months to find out the answer to that question. Looking back the time went by quickly enough, but in the moment, it felt like forever.
You Will Become Close To Your Fertility Team
This is something I wasn’t expecting. I figured we would be a small fish in a big pond, but that’s the opposite of our experience. Even though our fertility clinic is extremely busy and well known in the DFW area, I never felt like a number. Our care was completely personalized to us and our situation. We saw the same team for all of our appointments and we got to know them really well. They were there for every question I had and every low moment I experienced. I cried more than a few times in those exam rooms and every time I was met with kindness. I always looked forward to my appointments because I could catch up with our nurse and chat about what was going on in life. I cried when we graduated from our fertility clinic because I knew it would be awhile before I saw our doctor, nurse, and fertility team again. We promised that we would keep in touch (and we have!) and that Chris and I would bring the babies by to meet them. We haven’t had a chance to do that quite yet, but it’s coming. I don’t think our experience is unique and I think many people become close to their fertility team during their IVF journey. It is such a vulnerable time and building those connections is truly invaluable.
People Won’t Understand What You’re Going Through
Before publishing this post, I asked Chris if there was anything he wishes he had known ahead of our IVF cycle and this is one of the things he said. I totally agree with him. You can’t expect people who haven’t gone through IVF to completely understand, that’s unrealistic. But we were both unprepared for how often people acted like it was no big deal. Since it was a big deal to us, we expected it to be obvious to everyone how hard it was on us. And that was just not the case. We were met with insensitive comments on more than a few occasions. Even though I know that no one intended to blow us off or hurt us with their comments, I think it’s an inevitable part of IVF. The truth is people won’t understand what you’re going through.
I am planning a blog post for next week about how to support a loved one going through infertility and this was the inspiration for that post. I will be sharing some of the things that would have been helpful for me to hear, so stay tuned for that.
If you are going through IVF or about to go through it, I am thinking of you and my heart is with you! It can be scary, especially at the beginning when there are so many unknowns and I hope this post has been helpful. Wishing you a successful outcome!
*If you want to read my IVF posts where I shared all of the details of our journey, you can find them HERE.