Hundreds of thoughts whirled through my mind as I stared at the pregnancy test lying on the side of the bathroom sink. The words on it ‘Not pregnant’ seemed so blunt. Couldn’t the test manufacturers break the news a bit more gently? ‘Sorry… not this time’ would be nice. That said, not everyone doing a pregnancy test wants a positive result, so perhaps Clearblue and co should sell some packs of tests for women who are hoping to conceive and a different set of tests for those who aren’t. ‘Phew! You swerved it this time.’
But for me, having just been through a month of injections, scans, countless hour-long round trips to the hospital, general anaesthetic, a rather undignified-feeling egg transfer procedure and a long wait to see if an embryo had implanted, those weren’t the words I was hoping to see.
We invested our whole summer – and all of our savings – into this one shot at having another child. My ovaries, being the bastards that they are, only offered up six eggs despite me injecting hormones into myself like a mofo. Only two of those eggs fertilised and we put both into my uterus, hoping that at least one of them would implant and turn into a pregnancy. Neither did.
I have no idea how others feel when they go through IVF and it doesn’t work – I can hazard a guess that they feel disappointed, crushed, sad and frustrated. I feel those things too, and I also feel angry that our summer was stolen from us. We couldn’t travel anywhere overnight (scans happen every second day and the medication needs to be kept in the fridge) and the nature of IVF means the nurses regularly monitor how you’re responding to the drugs and they repeatedly move the dates of the procedures accordingly. So we couldn’t plan many days out or arrange to see friends, because we didn’t know when we’d need to be at the hospital. Any plans we did make had to factor in being at home, to inject, at the same time, every evening.
I feel utterly hacked off with my body. It managed to conceive, carry and give birth to a baby seven years ago, yet for the past four years, it has decided not to play ball. And the heavy, painful period which started around the time I took the pregnancy test serves as a fairly constant reminder of what has happened. As if my body is silently mocking me, prodding at me because I dared to hope that I wouldn’t get another period for at least 15 months.
My mind is scanning over the past few weeks, wondering if I’ve done anything to harm our chances – did I not rest enough, did I lift something that was too heavy, should I have lit those scented candles and wrapped that food in cling film, should I have carried on with the acupuncture I abandoned months ago? It would be easy to send yourself slowly mad with the what-ifs.
Perhaps unusually, I’ve never been one of those fertility-challenged people who feels upset when others announce their pregnancy or the arrival of their baby. Until now. It seems like everywhere I look, there are newborns and bump announcements (both royal and muggle). I should be happy for those people, though, shouldn’t I? No matter how much it makes my heart ache.
Plus points. There are plus points (there has to be). Our six-year-old had a fairly quiet summer of visits to the park, the local swimming pool and soft play. She spent a lot of time getting creative with cardboard boxes and Sharpies, and she has perfected her cartwheels. A low-key summer is probably something all kids should do (we grew up with them, after all, and we’re all brilliant.)
The six-year-old is a plus point in herself. We have her and I’m more grateful than ever. A Facebook Memory popped up on my feed this morning – seven years ago today, I was heavily pregnant and celebrating my friend’s birthday in Whitstable. I remember feeling sorry for myself, struggling to walk around that day with my SPD and heavy bump. I want to go back and tell myself how lucky I was.
After only a few weeks of avoiding alcohol, unpasteurised cheese and seafood, I can now eat and drink whatever I want. ALL THE BLUE CHEESE AND WINE PLEASE.
Of course, we know we’re not the first couple that this has ever happened to – one in six couples struggle to conceive, many of whom don’t have a child already. And for women, my age, doing IVF, only 20.8% are successful. So the odds were always stacked against us. Knowing we’re in the majority should offer some comfort, I suppose. (Can you hear me? Clutching at those straws?)
And the fertility forums make for depressing reading. So many women who have tried – and failed at – IVF several times, but who keep going, determined to conceive. They talk about getting another BFN (Big Fat Negative) when all they long for is a BFP. “What will you do now?” people ask me. We have no choice, which perhaps is a blessing, because if we had the money, it would be tempting to keep trying and trying and trying.
So how do I feel, having failed at IVF?
Right now, I feel like my BFN can F-off.