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Six things I wish I knew before Starting IVF. A mom of two shares her in vitro story, details on the process in hope of supporting other mamas who are TTC

What I Wish I Knew Before IVF

Here I am, watching my “two under two” sleeping soundly after our bedtime routine. These days, my life is an endless cycle of diaper changes, snacks, naps, and all things “parental.” Yet as this tired mommy watches the gentle slumber of her babies, I’m reminded how much I hurt and hoped for these days.

It only takes a second to all come back—my old “normal.” The days I spent tracking ovulation, taking pregnancy tests, avoiding baby showers, and hiding tears on holidays or anytime someone asked when we’d have kids. Yes, five years ago my story was oh-so-different.

When my husband and I decided to have kids we thought it would be easy. Yet, after a couple years of “trying” and no success, there we were sitting awkwardly across from a fertility doctor.

We were diagnosed with unexplained infertility and though we eventually conceived on our own, we experienced multiple miscarriages and finally decided to try something new: IVF. Our “triple rainbow” baby (born after three miscarriages) is almost two and the result of a frozen embryo transfer that would never have been possible if we didn’t do IVF. Yet, her conception went way beyond the science of IVF and so today I’m sharing a few “things I wish I knew before IVF.”

… IVF is a different ride for everyone. Before IVF I thought the process was the same for everyone, but after information sessions, countless doctor visits and late nights searching “Dr. Google,” I learned otherwise.

While some complete a “traditional” IVF cycle, others use ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), assisted hatching, and/or cryopreservation at various stages. There are different drug options and embryos are transferred at varying times. Learning about our options gave me the knowledge and confidence to ask our doctors informed questions and make the best decisions.

…I would feel out of control in a process that is highly controlled. Once you have your plan, every effort is made to stick to it, so why did I feel so out of control?

I’m sure the cocktail of hormones didn’t help, but after tracking my cycles and watching for every little sensation or new “symptom” that might mean I could get or be pregnant, my body felt foreign. Old habits I’d adopted trying to conceive didn’t work. Instead, I had to trust bloodwork results and our medical team.

Ultimately this discomfort is a good thing. You’re optimizing your fertility with IVF, but the drastic change made me uncomfortable.

…IVF is way more involved for the woman undergoing IVF than her partner. Whether you’re conceiving on your own or with a partner, this was my husband’s #1 takeaway. We try to do everything as a team, but there were many times with IVF where my husband felt like all he could do was hold my hand or offer moral support from the waiting room.

Due to regulations, I was on my own for the egg retrieval and embryo transfers. He helped with injections when I asked, but ultimately, I was the one getting pricked. While we endured the process together emotionally, your partner may never fully understand the physical breadth of the process.

…my emotions would be erratic. I can’t tell you how many times I ugly cried during IVF. I was scared about how my body would respond. Fearful I might be one of the few whose ovaries rupture. Terrified the whole process would fail; I wouldn’t produce enough eggs or be able to make healthy embryos.

I’d get stuck in a cycle of fear and then become angry I had to consider any of this. Why was my body failing me? I couldn’t do something everyone else on social media obviously could! Then in the next second I was thrilled to be trying something new. Maybe IVF would work and I’d finally be a mom! My doctors and nurses (and super supportive husband) reminded me my mixed bag of feelings were normal.

…IVF is a business. This may seem obvious, but I couldn’t help but get caught up in how intimate and personal IVF is. After all, I was doing IVF to have a baby and that’s no small life change. However, clinics are in business because of the services they provide, and I came to realize that’s not a bad thing! It’s no secret IVF is expensive and a financial strain for many, but your financial counselor should be helpful in navigating your insurance benefits and keeping costs as low as realistically possible. And when it comes to success, your doctor 100% wants you to have a baby! Hopefully not only to boost your clinic’s statistics, but because you have a caring and compassionate doctor.

…despite feeling alone, I never was. Resolve: The National Infertility Association reports 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility, but those numbers don’t seem real until you’re crammed into a waiting room at your local clinic on a Saturday morning for your 10th day of bloodwork in a row. There isn’t a chair left and women and their partners are lining the walls. Everyone is quietly smiling at the same cheesy infomercial on TV, waiting to do the same thing. Much of IVF can be isolating, but every visit to the clinic was a reminder, “You are not alone.”

…it can take years to heal from IVF and it will change you forever. We experienced the happy ending every IVFer hopes for. IVF helped us have a baby. Yet, when I finally got pregnant it wasn’t until my daughter was born and placed on my chest that I finally began processing my experience. When that little baby became someone I could literally see and squeeze with love, creating life (which had become medical) became human again. This beautiful girl made me a mom and my fear started subsiding and my heart healing.

Yet, here I am, almost three years after IVF and I still haven’t forgotten any of it. Some of the details might take a bit of effort to recall, but I’ll never forget them. I still remember the nurses who held my hand on the operating table and gave me chocolate bars after. I remember the stress balls I squeezed during each blood draw and the inspirational quotes on the walls. My memories of conception may not be as risqué as another mom’s, but I’m forever changed having made a baby with the help of IVF.

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