Content warning: Infertility, miscarriage, anxiety, mental health, bushfire & climate. Also some four letter words.
More info: This article is part of a series about my experience with IVF/Infertility as a man. All the articles can be found here along with a note about feedback.
It’s already time for an update. I posted the last article on the 28th of January. But in my mind that left the story in mid-January. I’d like to enumerate some things since then, and provide a bit of an update of where things are at.
I’d probably recommend reading that article so that this one makes sense. If you have and you’d like a recap briefly my wife and I have unexplained infertility. We have one son (now age four) who was conceived through IVF and since then we’ve had to return to IVF to try to have a second child. Last year we had many "weird" IVF results and two pregnancies, one at the beginning of 2019 and one at the end, that both ended in miscarriage. In between these I had an episode of burn-out, and wished to stop trying to grow our family further. And from my perspective, that second pregnancy was unplanned as we weren’t expecting to fall pregnant naturally.
The last pregnancy probably failed on Christmas Day but we didn’t know until the 31st when my wife saw the doctor and then passed the fetus that evening. I closed that article saying that we haven’t yet made our plans certain. And that I’m now in a better place emotionally than I was in mid-2019, and continuing to put things in place to improve that further.
I was going to write at length about some other events, because they’re definitely going on and have an affect on how much energy we have for IVF. But it was too difficult to keep it succinct enough while still providing a satisfying amount of detail. So instead:
There were layoffs at work.
I was reassigned between teams, without being asked, found out via rumour & my new team is not related to my background, skills or career goals.
A family member made a suicide attempt.
I have recurring blocked saliva ducts, causing intermittent pain.
All three of us in the family had some dental stuff in the last few weeks.
Where we’re at
As of February we’ve had some discussions about what we each want. Back in August our doctor had talked about one more cycle with less/lower dose hormones. My wife is ready to give this a shot if it has any chance of working, and I’m finding it hard to summarise my position. If it were up to me alone, I’d say no. I’m done with this phase of my life and I’m ready to move on, focus on the son we have and our relationship and other goals. But this isn’t a hard "no", and so I’m willing to go on a little longer because I believe it’s what’s best for all three of us.
What I’m dead-against is going on and on and on, and this never ending. I need my wife to accept "an end" and move on at some point; but that isn’t today.
What we’ve agreed to is to do one more cycle of IVF, and try naturally until the end of the year and "revise" what we want then. I’m not happy with this, I’d prefer to have that hard "We’re done" at the end of the year. Mostly because I’m afraid we’ll get there and say "one more year", I can’t imagine ever agreeing to that and I’m fairly sure my wife knows this. So revising it at the end of the year will just end in "no" anyway. Maybe what we can agree on is "If nothing changes then we stop", my guess is that what she wants is to be able to revise things if something comes up.
My attitude has changed since last year, I feel like there are two reasons for this: I’m a lot less tightly-wound now than I was last winter, and I think our relationship is in a better position, with more communication, more quality time, and more trust.
What do the natural pregnancies "mean"?
You may be wondering, as I was, why we had two natural pregnancies last year but no success with IVF. Surely IVF should have been more successful. I asked our doctor and she said that it’s likely to be luck in which eggs develop during each cycle, not all eggs are equal so it’s just the way luck worked. I think it’s also partly why next time she wants to try a less hormone-heavy treatment, and not (as I like to say) "overcook" them and end up with abnormal nuclei.
Now in March we’ve had our latest appointment and set about this plan. There were two interesting conversations during the appointment and one interesting outcome.
The first is that our doctor when proposing the treatment asked us what we thought. I told her what I’ve written above and in the last article, and she was concerned until I clarified that I do think it’s best for our family. It also occurs to me why this is so weird to describe. It’s not a matter of whether we want children or not, it’s what we’re willing and able to handle to get them.
The second is how our doctor pitched the plan. One thing that had me feeling a bit more positive about going ahead is how our doctor pitched the plan. We’d give it one more shot while making sure our health and well-being was as good as it could be. Then if it fails we can walk away knowing we’ve done our best. This is maybe 60-70% bullshit, yes health and well-being have an impact, but I don’t believe it’s going to make a significant difference for us. But I’m not a fertility specialist so maybe it will. Nevertheless I feel like this attitude will make it easier to finish, it may help my wife feel like we’ve done our best, and it helps me feel like I’ve not pulled the plug too early and hurt my wife.
A minor interesting point here was that I remember our doctor saying "one" and my wife remembers "one or two". Other than our discussion about what we each remember we’ve not spoken about whether we’d be willing to do a second final try.
The third is part of our doctor checking everything is "ready" was re-running bloodwork for both of us. My wife’s results showed a hyperactive thyroid. We’re now figuring out why that is and what it means, we cannot begin our final cycle until that is solved.