Going through IVF takes its toll, both financially and emotionally. And through it all you are still relying on good old-fashioned luck.
As the father of two healthy boys I hold my hand on my heart and say, ‘Thank you science’.
My wife and I had been trying to conceive naturally for a couple of years but sadly she had alarmingly low levels of Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) and her follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels were dropping.
Trust me, with a family history of early menopause, this was a worry. My wife was only 35. The clock was literally ticking.
We also knew we’d left it as late as we probably should age-wise. I was in my late thirties, which meant that could affect the outcome.
As recent research showed, women aged 30 to 34 have a 43.4 per cent chance of a live birth after one cycle, whereas those between 40 to 44 have a 10.7 per cent chance.
I was fortunate with my sperm count, considering the lifestyle I’d led in my twenties and early thirties, so we made the decision to try to conceive through In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
IVF is the closest thing to God I’ll ever understand, but it’s an emotionally and physically laborious process to go through. And bloody expensive.
And it’s also hard watching your partner suffer through it all knowing you can’t really do much about it. You constantly remind yourselves that it’s just the process and you have to wait it out.
Get ready for the injections
IVF is a very specific process. First of all, my incredibly strong wife had to endure hormone stimulation. Every morning she would inject herself with a bunch of hormones to help stimulate follicle growth.
Gonal-F was the drug used daily to stimulate the follicles. Orgalutran was injected to prevent premature ovulation. This would be injected around day six or seven. Then Ovidrel was the ‘trigger shot’, injected exactly 36 hours before the scheduled egg collection.
Once the follicles are stimulated, they’re monitored to determine an optimum time to harvest.
This stuff can give you mood swings, headaches, and make you feel emotional, bloated, tired, nauseous.
An element of shame can also hang over the two of you. Shame you can’t conceive, that you’re not ‘normal’. IVF can make you say “IV…F-this” at times.
All this gets really clinical and sucks the romance right out the situation. You’re down to numbers and timing.
Sometimes it takes a few goes to get the right dosage together and, even then, you’re not 100 per cent sure you’ll get anything you can use.
My wife had three full, stimulated rounds, producing six to seven eggs. About 75 per cent fertilised each time, but by day three only roughly 50 per cent were still growing normally.
At day five we had one or two left and our leftover embryos never went through the final step that our clinic required for freezing.
Because they reached the blastocyst stage at day five, but did not perform the next step, my wife had to go through the hormone injections all over again.
Halfway through her cycle the clinic would put her on a different drug and tweak her dosage, which sounds like she was a guinea pig. But the way we saw it they were individualising her needs.
There were also daily blood tests to monitor her hormone levels, plus ultrasounds every two to three days to check on how many follicles there were and what their sizes looked like (ideally 20mm).
Then in the two-week wait after embryo transfer you’re just left to your own devices. Analysing every twinge or tweak, waiting for the blood test to see if you’re pregnant.
Daddy’s little trick shot
Men have it way easier in this scenario, apart from the demeaning experience of making eye contact with the nurse as you hand your semen sample over.
You go into a clinic where everyone is pretending to be engrossed by a glossy magazine in the waiting room, but they all know what you’re there for.
So off you pop to your designated room to have your own personal Brexit. It’s a sterile room with a TV on the wall, a variety of pornography to choose from, beer in the fridge, and a big blue leather armchair sitting in the corner like the Ghost of Wanks Past.
I chose to stand like a gentleman. But catching your future child in a tiny plastic cup isn’t easy like that, so I had to bend over like a half-opened pocket knife to make it work.
Now, I gave what is known as a standard amount but when I looked at it, I thought ‘that’s not enough’! I’m not going to hand these slim pickings over to the nurse waiting outside.
She’s gonna get a jumbo slurpee from this fella. So, I opened the fridge, grabbed a drink, waited half an hour, then went again!
What an insecure idiot I was to think the nurse would even care how much I handed over. I went twice in the same cup. Two jerks, one cup.
Thankfully we got lucky. We put two fertilised eggs in the first time and got nothing, then one egg in the second time. And we got our son.
While it’s not cheap (our kids set us back a cool $10K each), it’s worth it. Although the cost did niggle at me a tad.
Do you feel lucky, spunk?
The strangest thing that stuck with me since going through IVF was after our first embryo transfer.
We met with our doctor, who said it was a complete success, and that there was indeed a fertilised egg now sitting safely where it should. But then he smiled, shook our hands and said ‘good luck’!
Good luck? Hang on, we’ve just paid an extraordinary amount of money, you’ve been scientifically experimenting with my wife, everything has been meticulously planned out, and a fertilised egg has been implanted thanks to the ground-breaking work people have been doing over the years.
Plus, I had to masturbate standing up next to a blue couch, and now it’s just down to good old-fashioned luck?
Yep. There’s still no guarantee. Good luck! Thankfully we, like more than 200,000 Aussies and New Zealanders, have enjoyed that luck.
So, for anyone going through IVF or thinking about it, I wish you the best. It’s not an easy ride, but it’s worth the price.