By Jessica – Instagram @infertilityandlife
I always thought that getting pregnant would be the answer to my dreams… and of course in many ways it absolutely has been. However, there have been unexpected feelings, which have taken me by surprise and left me wondering how to negotiate this new path I’m on, without destroying my already fragile mental health.
My five cycles of IVF were brutal. After the third, I wasn’t sure I could do anymore, wasn’t sure I could go on. I began to research how you lived a life without children, how did you survive the heartbreak if you could never have kids? I was sure we would need to know, I’d lost faith that treatment could work. I knew that for many thousands of women and couples, IVF was never successful, I felt that we were going to be one of them.
When we tested 9 days past our 5 day transfer on our fifth cycle and saw two lines on the home pregnancy kit, we were both shocked. Beyond shocked. With the combination of my husband’s mild Cystic Fibrosis and my poor egg quality, low ovarian reserve and terrible response to drugs, I had come to the conclusion that our chances were just too low.
The few weeks that followed just seem to be a blur.
We couldn’t believe what we’d seen, we expected it to all end at any moment. I was too aware of what could go wrong, I constantly read about it on Facebook support groups and on twitter, the devastation of loss at 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks – there was such a long way to go.
The problem with a pregnancy after IVF is that you expect it to fail, because you’ve learnt that failure is a regular part of your life and of your treatment. I was terrified. Every time I went to the toilet I expected to see blood, every cramp I had and every pain, I thought the baby had died. My mind was a racing mess of anxiety and confusion. I wanted to be happy, I was pregnant! But I just couldn’t believe that this was it. Even after fighting for so long, even after six years of heartache, I still couldn’t let myself enjoy it.
Normally when I felt anxious or concerned about my fertility, I would turn to my support groups, I would talk to the ladies online and get reassurance from them. But I couldn’t do that in the same way anymore. I was pregnant. I was out of the group. I felt too aware that any of my worries, were no comparison to those for whom treatment hadn’t been successful yet. Whatever I had to complain about, the same response ricocheted around my head – “but at least you’re pregnant”.
Of course, no one ever said that to me.
But I couldn’t be a part of that community now because I no longer knew how it felt to be beside yourself with worry, that you may never have children. I’d crossed a line…and unless we suffered a miscarriage, I couldn’t go back.
I found a new group, a pregnancy after IVF group, but there was so much loss and heartbreak that I had to leave it, I couldn’t keep reading what was happening. Each one stayed with me for days and I worried endlessly that the same was going to happen to us.
So I found myself alone.
For weeks I felt lost, I didn’t know how to be a part of the infertility community and be pregnant. I didn’t know how to be a part of the pregnancy community, when I still couldn’t believe that we even were. I just hung on for dear life, hoping the weeks would pass and nothing would go wrong. Trapped inside my own head, knowing that worry and stress were the worst things for the baby, but finding it so hard to relax.
I wondered what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just enjoy being pregnant. Everyone I knew was telling me to “relax and enjoy it”. Why couldn’t I? Every time someone said that to me I just felt worse, I felt like I was ruining the one thing I had worked so hard for.
Until I read about survivors guilt and suddenly things made sense to me. I knew that’s what I was feeling.
Having been an active member of the infertility community for so long, I’d seen ladies come and go with their positive news and of course their devastation. I’d felt for all of them, we were all on this path together, all supporting each other. But now I felt like a traitor. I found it hard to leave comments or advice, I felt like they’d be thinking ‘well it’s alright for you – being pregnant!’
This was of course, all in my head.
No one was saying this and no one thought I was a traitor. The reality was that I’d never thought these things about anyone else in the past, so why would anyone be thinking them about me.
The guilt which had been eating me up for weeks, began to ease as I realised what it was. Combine this with no bleeding and good scans and my worry was subsiding, I felt myself, with every week that now passed, beginning to relax.
I posted a tweet about how I felt and immediately I got plenty of reassurance from the online community. They assured me that it was still ok to share and to join. Slowly I edged my way back in and found; that all that support was still there. I still find it hard to share too much about my current condition, but I know that no one is thinking awful things about me if I do.
The mental complications of a pregnancy after IVF is something I was not prepared for at all and something that doesn’t seem to be spoken about. I think most women feel that they shouldn’t complain and that they should put up and shut up; stay quiet now they have the Holy Grail. However, I don’t think that’s what everyone else is thinking. Of course there is the necessity to be sensitive and there are appropriate places to be active and less appropriate. But I think it would help if women were more aware that this is still not an easy time, it is full of anxiety and fear.
I never thought about being pregnant and maybe that’s where I went wrong.
I couldn’t think past the next treatment cycle, the next pregnancy test, so I was poorly prepared. I had no idea what to expect. I thought pregnancy was this wonderful time of enlightenment and glowing. A natural conception is often nothing like that, so how I expected a pregnancy after IVF to be, I really don’t know! I’ve come to realise that pregnancy was not the goal of our treatment, it is simply the next stage, with all its own complications and uncertainties.
The goal is to hold our own child…and hopefully in five months’ time we will.
And then they tell me – the worry will really start!