As a natural optimist I thought IVF would be relatively straight forward. It was an opinion that did not last long. One successful IVF cycle was enough to crush the idealist in me I was naïve and uninformed in equal measure.
It’s a complex process and I learnt very quickly – and about $8K later – that getting through to a full IVF cycle is almost a miracle in itself. Or at least it was for me. I had multiple false starts and many a cancelled cycle. Lazy, underperforming ovaries meant that egg pick up didn’t necessarily equal eggs when it came to my own rodeo show. I remember waking up from the anaesthetic hoping that the nurse would tell me that I got an egg. In the early stages of IVF (probably my first year) I was always very hopeful for more than one egg (four was my record) but after having a couple of egg pick ups completely fail (not getting any at pick up at all) I soon appreciated the value of the statement “it only takes one”. I also learnt not to compare myself to someone in the next bed waking up to hear they got 8,9,10 or 15 eggs.
The next stage of an IVF cycle involves the transfer. But of course, eggs aren’t transferred, they need to become embryos first and therein lies the next hurdle, those little buggers need to fertilise. In my case this didn’t always happen so you can see what I mean about getting to transfer being a bit of a miracle.
Transfers are a weird experience. Actually, they are just a very expensive pap smear. In less than 30 seconds a long and large needle is inserted into your uterus and then for about a nano second you are pregnant. That’s how it felt to me. “You’ve just put an embryo inside of me – surely that makes me just a little bit pregnant?”
The two week wait.
Up until this point it’s all very scientific. Injections, appointments, bloods, swipe the credit card and repeat. The moment transfer is done is when the games begin. Mind games. This is known as the two week wait and it’s my personal version of hell.
This is a two week period waiting to see if IVF has worked. It’s exhausting and many shades of torturous. Your emotions will swing from one extreme to another. The pendulum is never steady, your emotions never safe. Your heart and head compete for space. It’s not possible to treat the two weeks like any other two weeks and to not think about it. To suggest this is crazy talk. That’s a bit like being told to “relax, it will happen” or “maybe you should take a holiday” or my personal favourite, and yes, these words were uttered to me “just put your legs up in the air after sex.” Don’t. Just don’t.
If I was to ever survive another two week wait, this is what I would tell myself.
Don’t google like a mad woman. Yep, easier said than done but I swear this is the type of behaviour that will truly break you. Stay off the internet forum where fellow IVF’ers discuss their two week wait and varying symptoms. I would hit Dymocks a day before the transfer and stock up on all matter of reading material (just stay away from the parenting section). Reading for me was a good distraction and every time I was tempted to google TWW symptoms I would pick up a book. I didn’t always succeed; however, whenever I googled I always logged off an hour later feeling infinitely worse than when I started. For the love of god, stay off the internet.
Don’t symptom spot. Twinges, cramps, headaches, tired, hungry, nauseous… Any drugs you will be on will make you feel pregnant one minute and not pregnant the next. Those progesterone pessaries really do pack a punch. Don’t pinch your nipples and poke your breasts. Pregnant or not, that will hurt. Trust me, I know this to be true. Just because you’re tired doesn’t mean you are pregnant, it could be that you binge watched Offspring all night. For the record, when I did eventually fall pregnant, in the two week wait I felt NOTHING.
Don’t pee on a stick. There is no value in these activities and coming from someone who spent a Sass and Bide outfit on pregnancy tests this is advice that will save you money and tissues. Remember, any drugs you are on might be telling your body that you are pregnant so you could get false negatives equally as you could get false positives. Do not have any pregnancy tests in the house during the two week wait and do not go near Chemist Warehouse.
Don’t spend two weeks in bed resting and not moving, unless of course this is your doctor’s advice. Assuming your doctor has given you the all clear, just do what you would normally do – work, study, whatever. It’s business as usual even when it feels anything but.
Here’s what I wish I had done (instead of doing all of the above….)
Get out of the house and do stuff. Movies, work, exercise (if the doctor is cool with this). Shop, spend the money you are saving from not buying any pregnancy tests and take a friend out for coffee – decaf if you prefer. Buy an adult colouring book. Watch Baby Mama. Leading up to the two week wait I would suggest writing a big, fat, long list of things you want to do and check them off, one a day. Fourteen activities.
Be kind to yourself. Two weeks is a long time when you’ve invested a lot of money and emotion into trying to fall pregnant through IVF. I always found that as the days went on the emotions heightened and the confidence shrunk. Don’t expect much from yourself. It’s a really exhausting time and you will need resilience by the bucket load. Prepare to be unravelled.
Surround yourself with positive people. Gah, I know, it’s such a cliché but take it from me, it’s hard enough staying positive for yourself so you don’t need to be around negative nancy at this time. This isn’t to say that the two week wait is about being selfish to your friends and family’s needs, it’s more about not being around people who tell you that maybe it’s time to start thinking about adoption. It’s all well meaning, that much I know, but this is about self preservation if nothing else.
At the end of the two week wait the final stage is the blood test and the results. To this day, I remember every phone call that as a “sorry, no” and I am forever grateful that I got to experience “it’s positive”. What I learnt from all of those No’s was that no matter what, you will get up the next day, you will dust yourself off, you will pick up the pieces of your heart and should you choose, you will do it again, and you will get through it again.
This article was first published here on the Baby Hints and Tips website.