The Darkness. Part One, My IVF Struggle

In previous posts I have made mention that Stormaggedon was conceived via IVF. It seems more and more couples are turning to assisted reproductive technology (ART) in order to fall pregnant. I’ve known about a dozen couples to use IVF in order to have their babies. I wish I could give you a statistic on how many people actually use IVF, but the Internet can be surprisingly unhelpful sometimes (why does the Internet work for everyone else but me? Other people ask questions and get answers straight away. I ask “How many couples use IVF in Australia each year”, and all I get is boobs). Considering the large number of people who do turn to ART for help, it’s amazing that more people aren’t out there desperately reaching out for emotional help and support from others. It’s once again another taboo topic to hide away and bury deep down, because it belongs to the realm of “Mental Health”. Because by the time your contemplating or using ART, you’ve obviously already gone through a minefield of emotions and are probably struggling on a deeply personal and financial level. In which case, if you feel like you’re the only one in the world to suffer from doubts and black thoughts and “what if” demons, then allow me to open up for you and tell you my tale. 

I always knew I would struggle to have a child. I was diagnosed at the early age of 18 with endometriosis. When people would ask me what that was I would always reply with the short version of “Basically my uterus just explodes itself all over my inner cavities every month causing excruciating pain”. I’m a bit smug to say I made a lot of male friends squeamish to the point of vomiting over this description (men hey, just can’t hack it sometimes). If anyone would like a serious definition of what it is, then I can recommend this website: http://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/about-endometriosis. And seriously, if you’ve ever experienced extremely painful periods, periods that last longer than 7 days, extremely heavy and irregular periods, back pain, pain during intercourse, pain after orgasms, and pain during bowl movements, seriously read the information on this website and get yourself to a gynecologist quick smart.

So when my husband and I first started trying for a baby I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. I just didn’t realise how hard it was actually going to be. And really, when I look back we were only trying for 2 and half years before I finally fell pregnant. Our story is not as devastating as the stories I’ve heard of people who tried and tried and tried for over a decade with no results. But when you’re in the moment, knowing exactly how tiny a window of opportunity each month has, you can’t help but feel how painful each of those 25 other days in between are.

Now I’ve never suffered a miscarriage, not that I’m aware of in any case. I can never begin to imagine just how emotionally and devastatingly painful a miscarriage can be. But for 30 terrible months (yes, I counted them) of failing, I couldn’t help but mourn the potential child that was never to be. 30 potential children. What would they have been like? Boys or girls? Would they have been shy, or boisterous? Blondes or brunettes (or even redheads, as it is a recessive gene in my family)?  Adventuous or cautious? Quick or slow learners? Whatever they would have been, one thing was clear, they were now NOT going to be. That version of whatever human that could have been made out of my current egg and whatever sperm was to meet up with it, was now lost to a parallel universe (for some quick info on the many-worlds interpretation watch this little clip, or any episode of Rick and Morty: https://youtu.be/KNwKPfOKipk). So I would cry for them, this little human that should have been mine. How could I not? I was supposed to be their mother. I had one job to do, create them. And I couldn’t even get that right. 

Seeing a brand new fertility doctor only brought more heartache with the realisation that I had gone 10 years undiagnosed with Polysystic Ovarian Syndrome (more information into THAT little gem can be found here:  http://www.healthdirect.gov.au/polycystic-ovarian-syndrome-pcos). But at least it was just another further explanation into symptoms I’d had and the constant failure of conception.

It was around the 25 month mark that I really started to spiral down into a deep depression. I have had depressions in the past. I suppose I can count myself “lucky” in a way, for when I suffer from depression it’s usually caused by one significant issue, rather than a host of various problems. Previous bouts of depression have consisted of “I’m never going to find a husband and die alone” (32 year old Truthmummy wishes she could travel back in time to 22 year old Truthmummy and kick her up the butt for whinging about such a trivial matter and force her to get out of the house and make something of herself. Then again, if I had taken the plunge and moved to England like I had been wishfully thinking about, then I never would have met the hubby and in the end had Stormaggedon, blah blah many-worlds interpretation blah). The “I hate my job, and you can’t make me get out of bed to go to it” fiasco. And most recently the dreaded but not really unexpected PND version. But “The Darkness” as I like to call it of infertility had me drawn into such a quagmire of self loathing that it far surpassed the severity of any lapses into depression that I’d had before. I remember crying a lot. I remember not smiling or laughing as much. I remember not wanting to go out, or make plans, or have goals, or do anything strenuous at tae kwon-do training, and stopped eating and drinking all the wonderful things that I loved, all for the sake of “just in case” I MIGHT be pregnant. I didn’t want to risk anything. And again if 32 years old Truthmummy could travel back in time to 28 year old Truthmummy I would tell her “Make plans! Go out! Drink the wine, eat the cheese, dance, go to the theatre, audition for that play, travel travel travel! Because when you have that child you so desperately want, suddenly you still can’t do your favourite things anymore!” But I fear 28 year old Truthmummy would just resent the yelling, then roll up tighter under the blankets and cry herself to sleep again. 

Now around the same time we had been trying other forms of ART, including IUI (basically turkey basting.) and some form of drugs that assist with ovulation, and production of sperm. None of it worked. So there was just one avenue left. IVF. I was scared of the stigma of letting some mad scientist create my baby in a lab. I had initially railed against it, believing that it was cold and clinical, that “Love” somehow wasn’t going to be involved. But I wanted my baby, so I resigned myself to the fact that I was a “failure” and started saving the money towards the procedure. I have to say the treatment itself was a nightmare and something I hope to never have to go through again. From the twice daily SELF injection of needles for 3 weeks, to the horribly experienced operation, I was almost ready to call it quits. My doctor had been called away to an overseas conference the day before my egg collection so rather than putting it off for yet another month, I went with his replacement doctor. Who decided to put himself on the emergency C-Section call list the same day. And got called in. Not happy Jan. Me and four other hysterical women were sitting in a hospital waiting room, crying our eyes out thinking all our eggs were about to escape (IVF egg collection operations have a very small window of opportunity of around 2 hours, meaning the timing for the operations have to be scheduled precisely. Which is why you don’t go putting yourself down on the emergency C-Section list when you’re supposed to be collecting eggs on behalf of another doctor!), and the rude ass nurses were doing NOTHING to comfort us (and apparently refusing to pass on messages of comfort from our clinic’s nurses). To cut a long story short the doctor finally arrived and managed to perform all of our ops on time. The happy ending to the story is I found out that all five of us ended up successfully falling pregnant. Whether the other ladies ended up having live births, I don’t know. But I hope that they did. 

Now in the midst of this all I have to say that the shining light came from advice I’d received from a friend. And when the moments got darkest, and the negative thoughts over whether IVF was the way ahead, I would come back to her words and take comfort from them, knowing them to be true: “Your children wait for you”. Those 30 potential children, they were not meant to be. They were not my children. Because even if I had had even one of those children, they would not be Stormaggedon. They would be a different child, and I would love them just as much, just as fiercely. But they would not be Stormy. So even though I mourn all those potential humans, for who they could have been, I’m glad they reside in those other parallel worlds. They are making the parallel me’s happy. But I have Stormy. In this world, this is where he ended up. And I am forever grateful for him. 

So if you are suffering from your own darkness, I know how you feel. I know how you don’t want to hear that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, because we all know the potential that maybe there isn’t one. It’s a scary horrible thought, and the chances are that there are those out there reading this who will never have that dream fulfilled. So if I can give some comfort, then take comfort in the words of “Your children wait for you”. They are waiting for the time to be right to come to you. And if they don’t, then remember the many-worlds interpretation, and know that there is a you out there in another world who has that baby, and know they are happy. Draw on their happiness and build that into your life now. Because you have so much love to give.  So give it to the world. And one day hopefully, the world will give back to you. 

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