If I were going to get pregnant with my husband, I had no other choice but to do IVF. I knew this before I married Magic, but I was very naive about IVF. I thought, oh yeah, we'll just do IVF to get pregnant. No one "just" does IVF. Once the reality of IVF got closer, I learned I would have to do things to my body that I did not want to do and was against my personal philosophy. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake in marrying Magic. The instinctual drive to want to have babies can make you think and do desperate things.
Initially, I was terrified of all the shots. First, there is the uncertainty of what the hormones will do to you. You have heard they make you "crazy", but you don't know exactly what that means. You wonder what long-term effects they will have on you. And the idea of sticking sharp objects into your stomach brings up images of "hari kari".
I remember a friend of mine casually saying, "oh, the shots aren't the hard part". I didn't understand at the time how she could be so cavalier. At my first injection training, I looked at the size needle I had to stab in my abdomen and nearly had a coronary. The nurse offered to do my first shot for me, and I kinda felt like a sissy 'cuz it wasn't so bad. I had a hard time with the shots emotionally my first IVF cycle because it felt like I was hurting myself. My second IVF cycle, I had a different attitude that doing these shots meant success, and then they were much easier. Plus, I had learned that the emotional fallout of a cycle not working was much more painful than the shots. Although they are not fun (unless you are a masochist), the shots truly are not the hard part of IVF.
One of the worst parts of IVF is all the difficult decisions you have to make. No one trains you to make these life and death decisions. You have to make fun decisions about which procedures you will have done, if you will do genetic testing or not, and how many embryos to put back. I think the last decision is the hardest. Then, there is the decision of what to do with the embryos if you have any left over.
Most average Joe or Joanne would never think about going to Las Vegas, plunking down $20K of their life savings or borrowed money, and gambling it all away on one game of craps. But that is essentially what you are doing when you embark on IVF. It's a crap shoot, and you never know what you are going to end up with or what is going to happen. There are no guarantees.
You try to play the statistics game. "Oh, I'll put back more embryos than what I want because it's a small percentage of having multiples". Or, "I'll deal with multiples if that is what happens, but I seriously doubt it will happen to me". The fear of not getting pregnant is usually greater than the fear of having multiples because the statistics are more weighted towards not getting pregnant. The thing is about statistics is that when it happens to you, it's 100%.
If you do end up getting pregnant with two, three, or four, then there are a lot of other agonizing decisions you have to make. Selective reduction is an option, but once you become attached to those little embryos, the decision to reduce one of them is agonizing, even if it's the best thing for you and your family. The other option is to go through with the pregnancy and risk endangering your health or your babies health. With IVF, you can have too much of a good thing.
For me, I had to make peace with the fact that I was going to have to endure a lot of medical procedures to do IVF. I first had to have surgery, which was it's own ordeal in and of itself. Should I have surgery? Which type of surgery should I do? What are the risks of each type of surgery? Who should I choose as my surgeon? These were all the questions I had to grapple with, besides the fear that I did not want to have surgery in the first place! As many doctors as I saw were as many opinions that I got, muddying the waters even more. The longer I took to make my decision meant my fertility was slipping away with every day I put it off.
The hardest part of IVF is the emotional part. Women don't blog to discuss just their medical procedures. They do it for the emotional support. The support of gathering additional information to help them make an informed choice, the support of helping them through one of the most stressful times of their life, the support of knowing they are not alone, the support of dealing with failures, and the support of dealing with success. The difficult emotions don't end when you get pregnant. For women that deal with infertility, we forget that pregnancy, birth, and raising a child all have their own emotional challenges. I think we get so focused on the getting pregnant part, which - by the way - should be the easy part, that we forget about how we are going to have to deal with the rest of having a baby! But I digress...
I wanted to say that I now have complete respect for those women who choose NOT to do IVF. I thought I was being a sissy for not wanting to do IVF, but after having gone through it twice, I wonder if it was such a good idea. It's a brave choice to say, "no thank you, IVF is not for me". Modern medicine can bring us miracles, but it can also bring us nightmares.
That is why I like the post from Melissa's blog "One Smart Mama" titled "Regifting Words". It's about what to say when you decide not to do IVF to have children, and people try to be "helpful" by telling you that you can "just do" IVF or some other such medical procedure. She also briefly touches on the related "just adopt" line, but that's a whole 'nother topic for another post.