My IVF Story

Victoria shares her experience of IVF and its emotional rollercoaster of a journey.

5am on Christmas Day. I stood in the kitchen at my in-law's house, mixing a solution of drug and prepping a syringe. Finding a spot on my stomach that was less bruised, I took yet another in a series of injections to ensure I didn't ovulate before the doctors felt it was the best time to do so.

After an induced mini-menopause which the doctors used to close down my ovulation cycle, before restarting it with a cocktail of hormones to create as many good quality eggs as possible, the 5am wake up calls were just the latest in the complete change of my day-to-day life through IVF. 

Treatment started on my first day back at work following a holiday. Having started my period on the flight home, I knew I had to be at the IVF clinic within 24 hours to not miss my chance. Missing my chance would mean playing the waiting game of an irregular cycle, not knowing how many months it would be before I would get my chance again. 

I had told my manager I would be doing IVF and called first thing to explain I would be late leading a team meeting. That first morning, I sat in the waiting room with ten advent calendars I had bought for my team feeling completely overwhelmed. 

A lesson in how to mix drugs and inject yourself, followed by a blood test, and then I was free to go. Me, the advent calendars, a sharps bin, and a bag full of medication, got on the tube, and the overwhelming feeling changed to excitement. 

IVF felt like taking control back following years of frustration and disappointment in my own body, and after months of trying to negotiate with the NHS process for fertility treatment. Anyone undergoing fertility treatment will recognise the pain of enforced waiting while tests are organised, your body clock ticks on, and you celebrate the pregnancy or birth announcements of your friends. 

That sense of taking control was essential to my mental health. For every tablet and injection (up to six a day at times), and the four litres of water and milk I had to drink each day, I knew I was doing something positive towards achieving my goal. I placed complete trust in the doctors and nurses determining my treatment.

I was open with those close to me or most likely to be affected by my treatment, including my manager, my direct reports, my best friends and my close family. This meant work knew I needed to be flexible depending on the daily instructions from the clinic, and my family and friends knew I needed support and care - whether a text, a hug, or dinner cooked. 

On Boxing Day, we had the good news that it was time to 'trigger' ovulation. It was exciting but also terrifying. We were instructed when to take the injection and that we needed to ensure we were punctual. Being late could mean the treatment cycle was ruined. At 7.55pm we prepped the injection and then waited and watched the clock as it ticked towards 8pm, when I injected within the minute. At this point it was out of my hands. I could do nothing more.

Two days later I was back in the clinic for sedation, while they removed the eggs. Lying in the ward afterwards, I waited to be told how many eggs were retrieved and had groggy conversations with the women around me comparing numbers. Then I waited. A phone call later that day was to tell me if any eggs have been fertilised. 

My 13 eggs dropped to six embryos, and then I waited each day for a phone call to know if they had survived the night, and if they had, whether they were growing healthily towards a blastocyst, when it has too many cells to count. 

Our embryos made it to day five, but when we got to the clinic, we were told only one was worth transferring. The procedure to transfer the embryo was uncomfortable but fine, followed by 15 minutes lying on a bed to let it settle. Then it was time to go home and start the next phase that all couples trying to conceive will recognise. The two week wait. For two weeks I wondered if this embryo was still inside me, if it was still alive, if it will make me a mum, or if I will need to start the process again. It was agonising. 

We waited until we were due back at the clinic for a blood test to find out the results. The temptation to take a test at home was outweighed by the fear of disappointment or worse, a positive result that turned out to be wrong. 

At the clinic the blood test was quick, and then we waited for two more hours. I slept lying across my husband, exhausted, while he tried to distract himself watching TV. My phone rang and my heart raced. Grabbing it and putting it on loudspeaker, we waited to hear what the outcome was. We were four weeks pregnant. 

It was stunning. I could barely construct a sentence. We drove home, texting family and friends who knew what was happening that day. It was a huge achievement. What I didn't realise was that mentally the challenge continued. 

Each day I needed blood tests to check if my HCG levels were doubling. In effect, it would tell me if the pregnancy was continuing or not. Each day I would wait for the phone call, and listen to the numbers, desperately trying to work out how much it had grown by and if everything was ok. 

At six weeks we had the scan, and it was there. A squiggle, flickering, was our embryo with its own beating heart. 

I think I had naively expected the worry to stop there but the reality is that I've been on edge throughout my pregnancy. That might have been how I would have felt anyway if it had been a natural pregnancy, but there is another layer having had IVF and gone through all the medical procedures and numbers. 

But I am also realising that what I thought was the end of the journey, or goal if you like, is actually only the beginning of another journey with its own set of worries, but it's a journey I'm so thankful to be on.

My Tips for IVF: 

  • If you can, tell those close to you what is happening. It removes the pressure and gives you the space to prioritise this effort.
  • Remember everyone you tell, you may have to 'untell', but they will also be there to support you if you miscarry. 
  • Trust the doctors, they know what they are doing more than you, or the forums, do. IVF will be different for every family, and the doctors will be determining what is best for your unique circumstances.
  • If possible, take some time off as you approach ovulation and egg retrieval.