Our Forever Hopeful Club columnist Kat McKenzie is back with the second instalment of her series on the hopes, fears and medical practicalities of trying to be a mother. Over three instalments, Kat is sharing her IVF journey; you can read part one here.
An embryo transfer is one of the easiest steps in the process. Usually. You drink a whole bunch of water, lie on the bed in your gown and they feed a catheter through your cervix to your waiting uterus and push the wee embryo into its rightful place, guided by ultrasound. You’re not medicated, but it’s only a small amount of discomfort.
Unfortunately for us it was not straightforward. Some have anatomy that is not particularly conventional and further tools are needed. For some reason or another, I fall into that camp. Our first transfer was 30 minutes of poking and prodding and adjusting and pushing while I lay there, crushing my husband’s hand and desperately needing to pee. All I wanted was for the embryo to be okay, and to see it finally go in. We did, and it was done. I had the best pee of my life.
Then we waited. Again. Infertility is all about waiting.
For many undergoing IVF, getting bad news over the phone from a nurse is incredibly difficult. They often tell you to wait but we knew we couldn’t cope not knowing before blood test time. So we tested at home. Six days past transfer… Seven days past transfer… Eight days past transfer… By then we knew it had failed.
I was not pregnant.
The drug cocktail reached its hormonal peak and I spent an hour crying in the empty building site we’ve been renovating to become our new home. It felt impossible that we would ever have children. Why decorate our spare room in hope for a baby? Why plan anything at all?
It felt like the end.
The next day we had our blood test.
“It’s not good news this time, I’m afraid.”
I felt for those nurses, having to call with the worst news someone undergoing IVF can hear. No baby was growing. No luck this time.
I felt better the next day. A good cry always releases all of the ache for a while. We were sad but knew we had two more chances, and after considering whether to have a break or not, we decided to go ahead again straight away.
Our June transfer went very much the same way, down to the day.
Cycle started on the 1st, scan on the 13th – another perfect 10mm lining – then a transfer on the 18th. This time we had a different doctor, and the transfer went a bit smoother, though it was still uncomfortable and unconventional.
“Here we go, little one,” she said as she pushed the embryo through. My heart swelled and I thought about the second picture they had given us. The embryo was already “hatching”, which is a great sign. It was given pride of place by the bed at home, with my ever-growing containers of drugs.
Come on, little one, I thought.
We’re all here waiting for you.
It’s harder to be a planner and have no control over any of this process. Every time we have been given a treatment plan, I have been an A+ student. We have put our all into this and followed every instruction or suggestion we have been given. Everything taken eight hours apart. Lots of water. Walking. Positivity. Good food. Vitamins.
Aside from difficult transfers, everything has gone as it should.
They tell you something is broken, and then you’re told what you need to do. This is supposed to be the fix. Why was it not working? We had skipped so many steps in the process – no ovulation timing needed, no insemination failures – our embryos were made for us. They just needed to get cosy. They just needed to become a baby.
It’s impossible not to get your hopes up, no matter how much you tell yourself to be realistic.
You want to guard your heart, but at the same time your brain is taken over by possibility every minute you’re awake.
Every month since we began this process has had these small moments of excitement.
In the early days we knew it took time to conceive, but it didn’t stop us thinking about what could be. Even after you receive an infertility diagnosis, even after you’re told your chances and you know how unlikely it is to conceive on your own, you still can’t give up clinging to that tiny glimmer of hope.
This is unfortunately how I am built.
And it’s how I know I could never believe in the power of positive thinking or putting things I want “out into the universe”. This baby has been wished for a million times over by now. I should have a whole rugby team.
The second phone call from the clinic was difficult but again, we knew it was coming. By this point we were feeling less and less like this was going to happen for us. I felt that another transfer straight away would be too much to handle.
We decided to take a break.
Third time lucky, they said. One more chance.
Kat McKenzie will be writing 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, Netflix-binger, and talks to every baby and dog she sees.
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