Staring down at her feet, now sporting the blue, oversized synthetic slippers/socks that the hospital provided, a fashion conscious friend about to have her eggs ‘harvested’, tucked the last bits of hair under her hairnet and casually commented to me: “Well, no one told me I would have to wear these.”
She was joking, of course, but it is true that the process of IVF is full of situations you would have expected – and those you never saw coming.
Every woman’s journey is different, but some things are universal. Here are five things I know you’re going to learn on your IVF journey.
1. You’re going to learn more about human reproduction than you ever thought possible
The first steps of the IVF process are finding out what exactly is preventing you from falling pregnant – and that means tests. Lots of them. Blood test? No problem! How about 12? And scans? There will be many. Then, when your doctor believes she knows the problem, there will be the first failed IVF attempt and all the subsequent tests to discover the cause. Then the next attempt…
At every stage and after every test, your specialist will explain the problems and the treatments, until you are able to hold entire conversations about the embryogenesis, morphogenesis and oogenesis processes like a medical professional. Only without the degree. Or the big pay packet.
2. You will buy graph paper
At one stage, just before an embryo was transferred, I was on six different kinds of medication – all which needed to be taken at various times of the day – as well as one daily injection. That’s a lot of tablets to keep track of! Yep, you might start off by making mental notes, you might even progress to writing notes or post-its, but eventually, you’ll be heading down to the newsagents and buying some graph paper. It’s just easier.
3. You will laugh
Assisted reproduction opens the doors to many, many lines of comedy – and you should definitely take a peek inside. As a mum of donor-conceived kids, I’ve always gotten a bit of a kick telling people I don’t know who their father is, and my brother has an entire routine of test tube and petrie dish jokes. It’s not just OK to laugh at the turn your life has taken, with the mounting pile of evidence showing that stress is the enemy of conception, a good belly laugh once in a while is also absolutely recommended.
4. You’ll become a bore
I don’t think anyone goes into IVF treatment half-heartedly – I’ve met no one who has ever said, “Yeah, we’re doing IVF and whatever happens happens…” To begin with, IVF is a massive financial commitment, with every round costing around $1,000. Then there is the emotional commitment; the physical invasions, and hope invested. And while becoming pregnant will become your priority, coming a swift second will be trying not to bore your friends and family by becoming a one-conversion dinner guest.
5. Pregnancy will be a shock
When my nurse called me and told me I was pregnant, I squealed with delight – and was then struck by panic. What, pregnant? Me? Wait, I don’t think I’m ready! This was after four years of fertility treatment.
The strange fact is, when you finally become pregnant, it will be a shock. You will feel caught off guard and you will feel unprepared, no matter how long you have been preparing.
And you might be unprepared. But you’ve nine months to get it together.