I don’t think either myself or my husband Phil could have imagined 5 years into our marriage we would still be sinking heavily in hospital invoices and medications on our quest to try and complete our family.
IVF is relentless and not the romantic or fun vision I had for us trying to make a baby together. Far from it in fact, as neither of us was actually present for the fertilisation of our embryos, that is the reality. But that is ok, whatever you need to do and for us, it was worth it all.
Our journey started a year into our marriage after trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. I don’t think either of us had any idea what we were about to embark on but as another year passed us by, we found ourselves with 7 failed cycles of treatment under our belts.
The next process for us was to move on to IVF. When you start although full of trepidation, the excitement is above all else. Could this be the time you actually have a baby? While I was busy being a human pin cushion Phil was working very hard to ensure we could continue to afford our treatment as our NHS options were very limited. Mentally the stresses were present for both, mine worrying that my body was actually capable and strong and for Phil, making sure I felt supported.
I can confirm you feel neither sexy nor energised whilst in the throws of IVF and although for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised how quick it goes, it must have been hard for Phil to endure months of my moaning and emotional chat. The physical aspect of your relationship will take a back seat, there will be physical contact but in the form of injecting hormones and often lots of crying on shoulders. Sex was so far down my priority list and you do feel guilty about that.
I was so worried I had become a different person, the devastation of not being able to get pregnant had changed me, the fear that I wasn’t the same girl Phil had married.
I needn’t have worried, Phil was wonderfully supportive but I think many partners wonder what role to take during IVF and how to feel involved. The most important point is that you are a team and it is a joint effort, whoever is actually injecting the drugs. Here are some of the ways I think you stay united when undergoing IVF or any fertility treatment:
- Before you start any cycle of treatment make sure you have an honest conversation so you are both on the same page. How many cycles are you willing to try? Financially how much money are you comfortable to spend if you do not qualify for NHS treatment. When cycles fail, emotions are so high and rational conversations are difficult to have.
- If possible, get your partner involved with the medication, maybe learn how to administer the injections. I cried (both through laughter and pain!) when Phil tried to inject me but looking back it is still a story we laugh about today.
- Listen without feeling like you need to offer advice or fix things. It’s ok to not know what to say.
- Offer practical help by trying to take the pressure off, helping with the more physical aspects of home life with the kids or the housework.
- If cycles fail you have to lean on each other. Both of you are hurting and equally devastated.
- Make sure you are honest with your feelings, you both have a role and both need to feel like you can voice your fears or worries. Sometimes the one who is going through the physicality of treatment will be protected more but you both need to feel heard.
- Most importantly laugh and enjoy some time away together when the treatment allows it. Your relationship came first before anything else and you need to work at keeping strong.
Phil and I were very lucky to have a successful first round of IVF and our son Austin James arrived on the 24th March 2016. We have since had a surprise natural pregnancy sadly ending in a miscarriage and a successful embryo transfer that also very sadly ended in a second subsequent miscarriage.
Our journey for Austin’s sibling continues but no matter what happens we are stronger together.