We started IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) at the end of August. The first step of IVF involves several days of injections designed to super-charge ovulation, and hopefully, create a lot of viable eggs for “retrieval.” The “retrieval,” or the extraction of eggs, is a minor surgical procedure. After that, the eggs are combined with sperm and then watched in Petri dishes. The healthiest looking embryos (sometimes one, commonly two, and sometimes even more) are then implanted in the uterus. This is a simplified summary of a very complex process, but that is essentially how it works.
IVF is the most advanced option available for people seeking fertility treatment. Obgyns and fertility doctors often prescribe fertility drugs like Clomid or recommend artificial insemination (a less drastic, more affordable option) before trying IVF. I had, in fact, tried Clomid for six months with no success. My own mother had conceived with the help of Clomid back in 1974. She had been trying to get pregnant for a year and took only one dose of it. The result was triplets—my sister, my brother and me.
During our IVF cycle, I held up pretty well. Physically, I was exhausted, bloated and tired from the medication, and the “retrieval” was a lot more painful than I had imagined. Emotionally, however, I was stronger, getting support from Alex and a handful of my closest confidantes. I was fortunate to have the ear and the encouragement of a friend and fellow IVFer, a brave woman who had been through many fertility disappointments before finally having twin girls, then miraculously, a naturally conceived baby boy a couple of years later.
Alex and I know several couples for whom IVF was the answer to prayers, fulfilling their dreams of having a family after years of trying to conceive. Yet, the chances of a single cycle of IVF working are only about 40 percent for our age group (the mid-30s). Because the media gives attention to fertility success stories (i.e., Octomom and Jon & Kate Plus 8) people tend to think fertility treatment is more successful than it really is.
More and more people are waiting to have children. I personally know many women who have started their families after the age of 30 with no problems, but some of us will have trouble. During one of our many conversations with our fertility doctor, Alex and I asked if we were unusual—a couple going in for fertility treatment that had already had one baby. Our doctor quickly answered “no.” When people start families in their 20s, they have several more years to try and conceive another; when they wait until their 30s, the time to have more children is diminished, so couples move more quickly to fertility treatment.
During our treatment, we became very familiar with the fertility clinic’s waiting room. One time, as we sat alongside other fertility-challenged couples, we reminded ourselves that many of them had no children; some of them would never be able to have their own children. We consider ourselves so lucky to have one child, and yet, we were willing to do the most advanced reproductive technology available to try to have another. That’s how badly we want to love and parent another child. We also want Owen to have a sibling.
I knew in my heart the IVF cycle had failed even before a very early pregnancy test administered in the fertility clinic confirmed it had. In that moment, I was all out of tears. Somehow in those challenging weeks spent shooting hormones into my stomach and butt, I found my inner reserve of strength. I told my mother that if the cycle failed, I would accept it and happily move forward with adoption. Children right here in Oregon and around the world need adoptive families to love them—a reality magnified by the tragic events in Haiti.
A few weeks ago, we submitted paperwork to begin our adoption process. Adoption, we know, can be a long, challenging journey. But we are ready for it.
It feels so good to be in this place.