Our Forever Hopeful Club columnist Kat McKenzie is back with the final installment of her series on the hopes, fears and medical practicalities of trying to be a mother. Over three installments, Kat has shared her IVF journey – you can read part one here and part two here.
It felt good to not be on hormones for the first time in six months. With each cycle I had gained two to three kilograms which seemed like it didn’t want to shift anywhere, and I felt bloated and was ironically, pregnant-looking all the time. Our marriage, while strong, was cracking a little under the pressure of it all. That and I was constantly hormonal. Good practice for pregnancy, but hard when there was no positive result in the end.
Our friends back in Scotland were celebrating their children’s birthday parties. Many had decided to have a child, fallen pregnant, and given birth – all in the time we’d been trying.
First birthdays were rolling around. People I have nothing but love for in my infertility support group were finally having success. Everywhere I looked were bumps and babies in buggies. Our “break” was a break for my body, but not for my mind.
The anxiety grew as we approached our final cycle. Our final embryo. I started acupuncture, after many a friend had gushed about the magic it had worked on them. I fell asleep in sessions, so at least I was relaxing.
The stories still came in – the holiday babies, the honeymoon babies, the “we just stopped trying!” babies. Newlyweds had babies nine months after their wedding day. Friends in their 40s had “oops” pregnancies. All of the anecdotes in the world couldn’t change our situation. Everything around me was screaming at me that pregnancy was oh-so-attainable and we just needed that one magic thing that would change it all. It felt like everyone was procreating.
My new job had me seated three desks away from a pregnant woman who was so graceful and all-bump that when she turned away from me I wouldn’t even have known she was expecting. She wore heels and climbed the stairs every day. A few months later, the colleague next to me announced her third pregnancy.
There was something in the water, but it wasn’t in my cup.
I took time off for our final transfer. I wanted to relax and be calm and collected. I wanted to prepare myself for any difficulty on the day. I wanted to give it everything we had.
The day finally came and the transfer was our easiest yet. I had acupuncture before and after. I spent the afternoon in my pajamas and napped. I planned for a weekend away with my best bud, to take my mind off of it all. Maybe – just maybe – with our last shot we would finally get there.
My parents went away for a week on the day we got the news. My google searches in the final week were getting more and more specific, and despite the tests I clung to the smallest chance that we might be finally getting our answer.
The phone rang.
Our final shot was gone.
We were not pregnant.
We would not be having a baby in 2018.
We had no more likely chances of having a baby at all.
I cried for days.
For twenty-five cycles I have marked a possible due date in my head (and sometimes in a calendar). For twenty-five cycles I have thought about what we would do if it worked this time. For twenty-five test days have come around with negative results.
Twenty-five times my heart has been broken. The last three were the worst, as we were the closest. We don’t know what else we are supposed to do except try again. So we will try again.
I thought if we failed I would never get out of bed again. Through every stage I wondered how we would possibly cope with more bad news – you are terrified you won’t get any eggs, then that they won’t fertilise, then that they won’t develop. You are scared that you won’t have any to freeze. Then every transfer day they tell you that they will call before your transfer if the embryo didn’t survive the thaw. You desperately hope your phone doesn’t ring. For us we were so grateful when we made it to transfer.
I am continually amazed by how I have survived this and still be willing to continue. It has wrenched my heart up and down and out of my chest a thousand times. The mixed emotions and intense anxieties have pushed me to my breaking point. And then, somehow, I find a new breaking point. The bar raises and we rally together.
This is more important to us than anything.
We have been incredibly blessed to go through an IVF cycle that we were able to fund privately. Selling our home overseas and living with family since we have returned has put us in such a place of amazing privilege that we will never regret or take for granted. It is crushing and sometimes difficult to accept that we have spent more than $20,000 and ended up back where we started. But we have gained knowledge and resilience. It has made us stronger. We do not regret it. We had to try.
The waiting list for government-funded fertility treatment is long and full of so many hopeful parents in waiting. We are on that list, and are dreaming of a baby to be in our arms in early 2019. Maybe there’s still something else to try. We will try every avenue we can.
For now, it’s time to concentrate on just being us for a while. The summer is coming and we have so many things to look forward to.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. It is so hard to find words for all of the incredible support we have received this year. Infertility has taken over our lives, but it’s not all we are. It’s only part of our story.
We won’t give up.
Kat McKenzie writes for The Spinoff Parents about trying to have a family the unconventional way. You can find her on Twitter at @koruandthistle, and on her blog at koruandthistle.com. When she’s not writing, Kat is a singer/songwriter and Netflix-binger; she talks to every baby and dog she sees.
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