Woman With Failed IVF Wants People to Know It Doesn’t Always Work

Woman With Failed IVF Wants People to Know It Doesn't Always Work

  • I’ve done three intrauterine inseminations, four rounds of IVF, and had two losses. 
  • My IVF journey is not ending with a baby, and I want to be transparent about it. 
  • My partner and I are now adopting an embryo as our last shot to become parents. 

It seems the No. 1 rule of being in the “IVF with no baby club” is to not talk about how in vitro fertilization didn’t end how you wanted. Everyone wants success stories. The picture of a baby surrounded by hundreds of syringes in the shape of a heart thanking “a little bit of science” for your miracle. We want a happy ending. We need a happy ending. 

I wanted and needed it too. I just didn’t get it. 

IVF is often presented — especially in the world outside of a fertility clinic but sometimes also inside — as a cure-all. A sure thing. The easy street on the hard road that is infertility. But here’s the thing: It’s not. 

I first walked into a fertility clinic in December 2018 when I was 40 years old. After an examination, the doctor proclaimed I had the eggs of a 30-year old. Everything seemed smooth sailing.  

After three unsuccessful intrauterine inseminations, where sperm is injected straight into the uterus, my doctor suggested IVF to get the job done. After four failed attempts and four years of trying, my partner and I are now moving into adopting an embryo as our last shot at parenthood. 

Some can spend all their money and walk away with no baby

According to a 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the percentage of transfers that resulted in live births was 22.2% nationwide for women over 40. Which is funny, because in 2019 when I would have been 41, I wrote after my first round failed, “75% chance of a successful birth felt like good odds. Failing in the face of them feels like a sign. The most unfair of signs.”

While the information I received from my clinic was not realistic, the fact remains: Sometimes you can spend tens of thousands of dollars, do all the diets, supplements, and acupuncture, and still not walk away with a baby. 

I’ve had “perfect” embryos implanted into “beautiful” uterine linings but no success. Drunk people and teenagers get pregnant by accident, my acupuncturist told me. I need to stop thinking about it. But you keep chasing the high of possibility. It sounds like an addiction because it becomes one. This time will work.

IVF changed me

Four years later, I’m walking away with less than I started with — financially, emotionally, and physically. I’m a changed person in the worst way. 

My body will be forever bloated, it seems. And I have a hard time trusting it at this point. If you buy into the “our bodies were meant to create” story, mine clearly is malfunctioning. 

My IVF quest to parenthood predates my current relationship. I started as a single woman on my own. I told my partner about my then-upcoming first transfer on our third date, and two years, two losses, and two more rounds later, he’s still here.

The toll IVF has taken on our relationship goes beyond hormones, even though I would be remiss to acknowledge that navigating those has been debilitating at times. I tell him he got the least fun me I’ve ever been as this journey has changed the person I am. But what makes me most sad is that in choosing to stay with me, he’s also giving up the chance of a biological child. And while that is his choice, that is a heavy load to bear.  

I know life isn’t fair and that people have to deal with other traumas, but I want us to be talking about this one more. Because even though it’s not my fault, I’m here paying the price. I want my money back. I want my time back. I want my body back. I want me back. 

The conversation around IVF needs to change, both in public and behind the scenes. Clinics should be clearer about chances and offer resources and therapy for those who don’t get a happy ending.

I’ve found a therapist who specializes in infertility and a supportive online community, but it took doing the work myself, and when you’re already exhausted by disappointment, that can be hard. And just because we can do hard things doesn’t mean at a certain point we don’t feel like we’ve done enough. 

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