If you’ve followed our journey of infertility, through IVF/ICSI and up to my first viable pregnancy you’ll recall the following: I went through one ‘full’ round of hormone injections, egg collection etc and from this one round we were granted 5 viable embryos at the blastocyst (day 5) stage. Our first didn’t take, but we were incredibly blessed when our second, which had been frozen, resulted in our firstborn, a perfectly healthy baby boy.
This meant we still had 3 frozen embryos, for which we paid approximately $250AUD every 6 months to keep them cryopreserved. At various stages in the future we intended to have each of them transferred in the hope that they would become viable pregnancies and hence add to our family. We already counted ourselves so incredibly blessed though to have our 1 and my heart goes out to so many who’s journey has been significantly longer and they are still waiting, hoping…
When our son reached about 18 months it was time to try embryo no. 3. They simply used my natural cycle again and the same protocol: a series of blood tests so they could identify when I ovulated, then the embryo transfer on day 5 after that. Interestingly, we followed the same pattern with embryos 3 & 4 as we did with 1 & 2… our third was unsuccessful but our fourth took beautifully. This ultimately led to the arrival of our gorgeous daughter, such a delight!
We knew, of course, that we had one final frozen embryo remaining. Which we always intended to use. We had a gap of two years and four months between our two children so, as that gap approached again, it was time to get serious about making our plans for the last time.
For a long while we had been at a place where we wanted to know whether or not our family was complete… it still seems so strange that this is something we essentially have no control over. We weren’t yet in a position though, at least I wasn’t, to actually try falling pregnant again and, potentially, having a newborn. To be completely honest, becoming a mum had completely rocked my world, and not entirely in a good way. Once the initial infertility journey was over and I held that beautiful babe in my arms, an entirely new season commenced and I felt absolutely clueless. I found myself consumed by worry, self-doubt, a complete lack of control and discovered an impatience I never knew I had. We absolutely adored our children though and were always, always, going to try every embryo we had been given.
In my head, I’d always told myself the probability was slim. We’d had a 50% success rate so far: first no, second yes, third no, fourth yes… so following that pattern and the fact that this last one would technically be the lowest ‘quality’…I’d always told myself it probably wasn’t going to come to pass… but I believe that ‘negativity’ was also a coping method of self-preservation the infertility journey can give you.
As the time came though, I really felt challenged and built up to being genuinely excited about the prospect of welcoming another child into our family – though of course there was the ever-present battle of not wanting to get one’s hopes up.
What I find quite hilarious is that my husband had actually undergone a vasectomy months prior. Given our track record of infertility it probably wasn’t necessary lol, but I’ve mentioned before how meticulous I had always been with contraception! What a ‘scandal’ it would be were I to fall pregnant again to those who knew only that side of the story (the vasectomy) and not the other side (the frozen embryo), ha ha!
Once the decision was made to have our embryo transferred, it all went quite quickly. Again my natural cycle was used, a series of blood tests performed, and an internal ultrasound. What this final chapter did again bring to the forefront was all of those old familiar emotions that hadn’t surfaced in a while. And boy did they come flooding back. It wasn’t fun going back there and I was very pleased to be doing it for the last time.
It was exciting to see our embryo again on the screen and watch it being drawn in to the transfer device. Hubby was with me, as he had been for every single previous attempt. I am so incredibly grateful for his constant love and support. Then out of the clinic I walk, technically with a baby inside of me, and the waiting game beings!
Before my scheduled blood test though (to see if the embryo had taken and I were in fact pregnant) I started spotting. Unfortunately my period didn’t come in as quickly as it normally would have so again played with my emotions for several days whilst I hoped the procedure had been successful. It really rocked me, back on that crazy roller coaster! Desperately hoping but simultaneously terrified to get my hopes up.
Once we did receive the official notification that no, it hadn’t worked, I needed some time to grieve and process. This time around, the whole way through, it was probably more raw and emotional than the last because of the sense of finality it brought. Not that we weren’t perfectly happy, content, blessed etc with our beautiful family… but every other time we’d done this there had still always been at least one frozen embryo ‘in reserve’. Not this time. This was it. Final. We now knew that our family was complete. Whilst it felt good to know, and to step off that roller coaster for the very last time, it was also strange because it didn’t really feel as though we had made that decision, but rather that it had been made for us.
I actually wrote this the day we found out:
“When one door closes, another one opens…
A new day is dawning.
Today I learned, or rather had confirmed what I’d already suspected, that our final frozen embryo transfer, and hence our hopes of a third child, had been unsuccessful. What an emotional rollercoaster these last few days have been.
To now be on the other side, to have completed a 9 year journey of trying to conceive and IVF/ICSI treatments, to not know how many would or wouldn’t be successful, to not know the size our family would be… I know no one knows in advance exactly what their family will ultimately look like but the what if’s hanging over our heads have been, at least it feels to me, quite significant.
It was bittersweet to walk out of the IVF clinic for that last time, a truly welcoming and beautiful clinic with the most caring of staff – it honestly was a real joy to be looked after there each time – but I can’t say I’m sad that door is finally firmly shut. As of today, we know our family is complete. There’s a mum, a dad, a beautiful boy and a gorgeous girl. The perfect pigeon pair as so many would say, and incidentally, exactly as we’d dared picture our family way back before the journey had even begun. Ultimately, of course, we couldn’t care less about their genders, only their health, and the fact that they made it here to earth. Our gifts. Our treasures. Our greatest blessings. There is the four of us and we are family. It feels that, as of today, a chapter that consumed much of our lives, our time and our energy, has officially come to an end. And ahead as I look I see our pathway increasing exponentially ever wider and wider.”
We are so incredibly thankful for and so desperately in love with our two babes and so honoured to have been granted the incredible responsibility of helping raise them to become the best that they can be.
One day I hope to be able to have a laugh with our kids about the fact that technically, they’re both the same ‘age’. They were both conceived/created at the same time but were ‘frozen’ Austin Powers style, one for longer than the other! I hope they’ll think this is pretty cool! For us, it was the option that brought us them so for that we are forever grateful.
And you know what, in the end, once you’re holding that divine bundle in your arms, the entire fertility journey, how long it took and how that bub came into being all fades into insignificance… I know it’s so hard to understand this when you’re in the thick of it, but it’s all worthwhile when the time comes.
P.S. Should anyone be wondering why, if we really did want more children, we didn’t try the whole entire process again (remembering I only ever underwent one full IVF/ICSI round from start to finish involving hormone treatments, egg collection etc… apart from the first, all of our attempts were with our own frozen embryos from the first round)… well, you see, we were ecstatic with our two and it’s not so much that we necessarily felt a yearning for more children as I know some do… our journey was different to the natural way. It was the unknown. Are we or aren’t we having another child? What does our completed family picture look like? The main reason I would not have signed up for a whole new round of IVF is that, due to our own personal beliefs, we would again have decided to try every single successful embryo… and that was too much of an unknown quantity and time-frame. To us, all be they only 5 days old, they were still babies. We were happy to have them inserted and then have nature/God do it’s thing. But we could not donate them to science, have them de-frosted on a bench left to die, or even donate them to another couple, as lovely as that would be… I guess they were still our biological children and that was just how we felt. We were also 5 years older (and had already started this journey 5 years later than we originally hoped to become parents) and this brought concerns about the health of both sperm & eggs. Each to their own, it was a personal decision, but this was how we felt, and this is our story J. Thanks for sharing it with us. xoxo
Infertility is one of the toughest challenges a couple can face. Unfortunately, I have known couples who have paid the ultimate price… a time that should have been one of their most intimate and exciting, culminating in potentially the most joyful day of their lives, has instead resulted in the breakdown of their marriage. Don’t let this happen to you! Read my perspective on how to grow stronger as a couple whilst riding that wild infertility roller coaster!