5 Things I learned from IVF
5 Things I learned from IVF: By Tracey Montgomery at Champagne Days
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I went through many years of IVF and as I write this, I have a baby monitor beside my laptop and I can just see the shape of my toddler who is tucked up in the corner of his cot listening to the sounds of “twinkle twinkle little star” whilst simultaneously clutching a toy rubbish truck. Never mind the soft, comfortable, cuddly rabbit he has – he’d rather go to sleep with a plastic toy car. He’s a boy’s boy. He is also a miracle.
I hated the whole process of IVF but I would absolutely go through every second and every moment again to get the outcome that I got. I also gained a few lessons along the way and so here are 5 Things I learned from IVF.
1. Ask more questions and question everything.
Whilst the trust I placed in my specialist was unfailing, I also had to trust myself and trust my own instinct. An IVF cycle is expensive both financially and emotionally and every time I handed over my credit card I paid and prayed in equal measure. I absolutely had to trust the process, it’s complicated, scientific and painful and it’s easy to be intimated by the medical profession but I learnt not so early on that I had to trust myself and how I was feeling and to question and qualify. If I didn’t feel like the drugs were “doing anything” I would ask about different protocols, I would research new technology and question if it was appropriate for me to try it. I certainly didn’t question the expertise of my specialist; I just learnt to not settle for something for fear of rocking the boat or appearing to be “difficult”. I had to be my own advocate.
2. Sometimes it is braver to quit than it is to keep going.
The thought was utterly terrifying but my deepest self knew that at some point it was possible that I needed to have the hard conversation with myself. When will I draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough? When will I decide that this will be my last cycle and that I should accept that I wasn’t meant to be a mother? Honestly, a day does not go by that I don’t feel grateful that I didn’t have to make the decision to stop but I know of those who have done so and bloody hell I think those people are beyond courageous. I think this would be an incredibly difficult decision and I think sometimes it was far easier for me to keep going than to say “no more.” Society often applauds those who “never give up” and so there is this awful amount of pressure not to do so and that quitting is weak. I don’t agree at all and I think this counts for a lot of shitty decisions we have to make. Sometimes it is okay to say “I’m done.”
3. You can be vulnerable.
Okay, so I’m bearing my soul by writing this but this is what happened. On a Friday morning, November 2012, my husband and I were driving to work together. We were both pretty tired following a client function the night before and I had already been at the doctors an hour earlier for a scan to see how my follicles were tracking in preparation of an egg pick up the following Monday. The appointment hadn’t gone well and I was distraught. It was probably a combination of being tired from work, loaded with hormones and being incredibly emotional but on this particular drive to work I broke down and I felt as though I was completely lost to myself. I was sobbing hysterically to my husband, begging for him to allow us to go to America to “buy eggs”, I was stripped bare and he witnessed my despair, my desperation. I confessed all of my fears to him and I simply did not hold back. It was very unpretty. Of course a marriage should be like this anyway, but it was at this particular moment that I really understood what it meant to be truly honest and completely vulnerable.
4. Comparisons are futile.
I would often feel guilty about how bad IVF made me feel and I would think of the people who had it way worse than I did. IVF isn’t a life sentence and there are plenty of people battling critical health issues. But here is the thing. Everyone has stuff and life isn’t a competition about who is dealing with the worst of it. I was well aware that there were people in far worse situations than mine, and that I was not battling anything worse than the prospect of having a child but that didn’t mean it still wasn’t reasonable for me to not feel sucky about my situation. I certainly learnt a lot about being grateful but I also learnt that I was entitled to feel whatever emotion I was feeling at the time and just because there were others also having a terrible (and usually worse) time it shouldn’t have to diminish what I was feeling. My stuff was my stuff and that’s okay.
5. I am stronger than I often think I am. It’s a cliché but by gosh it’s true. Even at the lowest moments I deep down knew I would always be okay, whatever the outcome.
IVF didn’t and doesn’t define me but it is a big part of my story and so it stands to reason that I had something to learn from the experience.