Monday, March 31, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Rolling the Dice

I told my sister the other day that I am terrified of doing IVF again. She seemed puzzled. After all, I got one child from it - one more would be a bonus but, if it doesn't work, I still have the one I've got, right?

There is so much that can fail to go according to plan even if a pregnancy is achieved. I watched a truly excellent movie this weekend: The Black Balloon. It's about a 16 year old guy whose brother is autistic and his struggles to accept his brother as he is. It's clever, it's funny, it's tragic and it's inspiring. But I kept looking at the mother. She was warm and loving and patient. I don't know if I could be like her in that situation. Looking after one person with illnesses and disabilities is hard enough. Trying to look after two as well as my Little Dude would be tough, tough, tough.

I look at my friend Pat, and how hard her struggle has been to deal with becoming a mother. What if I have another bad birth myself and get PTSD and post-natal depression? How would we manage?

I think about my friend Tara and the physical health issues she has had since she had her son. She's a doctor with two other degrees and she hasn't been able to work for the last five years. What will happen to my family if I can't work?

To tell you the truth, this all worries me, and that's assuming I actually get pregnant.

I drop in from time to time on an IVF bulletin board. There is a lot of trading of ideas to increase chances. Lots of talk about quitting all coffee, eating organic food, staying positive, etc. It all assumes that this whole process is somewhat rational and somewhat fair. That doing all the right things is rewarded.

I can't seem to bring myself to ruin the vibe by saying that in my experience, doing IVF is more like gambling. We all put down our money, but who wins and who loses seems pretty arbitrary, really. Forty-somethings who keep drinking and smoking and making cynical wisecracks through the treatment can get pregnant, while twenty-somethings who eat all their organic vegetables and think totally positive at all times miss out. An awful lot is down to luck.

It really is like gambling. The odds are against you. You have to know that when you turn up to the tables. But you can't win if you don't play.

I am nervous because, with my Little Dude now two and a half, I feel like I have achieved a kind of tenuous well-being. I was over the fertility treatment/pregnancy/early motherhood phase of my life. My body was recovered. My mind was recovered. My finances were improving. I had a little time and space to myself again.

Now, I'm taking that tenuous little bit of well-being back to the tables, gritting my teeth and rolling the dice again...

Friday, March 21, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Counting the Cost

This morning, as the Big Dude pushed a needle full of Lucrin into my stomach, he said, "Remember, I'm doing this for love".

In all honestly, I'm not feeling very loving.

Last night, I dreamed that the Big Dude told me he'd found someone else. He'd met some woman in a cafe three weeks before, had been sleeping with her for a fortnight, and was going to leave me. I woke up crying. But within minutes, I was thinking about how much simpler my life would be without him.

It's true. After spending most of the last 16 years together, I'm still not sure whether my relationship with the Big Dude has been the greatest blessing or the worst mistake of my life.

I am feeling quite sorry for myself today. I look at my Big Dude, and I'm happy to be with him. Such a familiar, warm, comforting presence. But I look at my life and I'm a whole lot less satisfied. Because I chose him, I will probably never have: (a) a house of our own, (b) a satisfying sex life, (c) a time when I am not looking after him or (d) children conceived in a normal way.

The price of this relationship is pretty high. Sometimes it looks too high.

Friday, March 14, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Preparations

I start IVF on Monday. When my period started, I had this moment of excitment - almost euphoria. But now that the treatment is imminent, a lot about the process is coming back to me, and I can't say that I am looking forward to it.

For the last few weeks, I have been concentrating on enjoying myself. We had a great holiday. I've been swimming and enjoying spas afterwards. I've relaxed the pace at work. I've lain around reading books and taken up meditation. What I've been trying to do is enjoy being me, enjoy being in my body, as much as I can, before it all starts.

Because the truth is that, while an IVF cycle is on, it's hard to feel like your life, your body are your own.

IVF is really an amazing technology. Essentially, they shut your own natural system down. Then they rev it up with fertility drugs so that your body, which normally produces only one egg, produces many more. Then they take the eggs out through a minor surgery called "egg pickup", fertilise them in a dish, and produce embryos that they they put back into your womb. Then, basically, you all just hope like hell that one of them sticks. A decent explanation, with some cool pictures, can be found here.

But the explanations and the pictures don't show what it's like. This week, when they start shutting my system down with a drug called Lucrin, I will experience a teeth-gritting exposure tour of an intensified menopause, complete with mood swings, hot flushes and depression. What I really remember of the last time I was on it is that absence of joy and pleasure. You can have a great day, truly good things can happen to you, and all you feel is that terrible, flat, joylessness. It's so horrible that the fertility drugs flooding into your system come as an incredible relief.

They also don't tell you what it's like to pay for IVF. Have I mentioned that, this week, I will also be handing over a very large cheque? We are still paying off the debt from having our Little Dude. If I get pregnant this cycle (chances are about 25-30% each cycle for a woman my age), we will be in debt for another four years. If not, well, we are pretty much talking indentured servitude to pay for more cycles.

I looked at my Little Dude this morning: His clear, intelligent gaze, the little freckles on his nose, his sturdy little body which wriggles with joy and excitement. He is the best thing I have ever done, my life's work, and I don't regret him for a second.

But it's hard to face up to doing it again. IVF can make beautiful children. But it doesn't make for a beautiful life.

Cross your fingers for us.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Beach Holiday

Emily and family have gone on a pre-IVF holiday.

Sun, sand and surf for us, before needles, mood swings and debt...

Back soon!