Those who’ve been through this will understand what I mean: Once you start all the fertility treatments, it’s very hard to stop. For lack of a better way to describe it, it’s like being addicted to drugs. I realize that statement seems counterintuitive and also a tad crazy, since the process is very taxing and not in any way, shape or form enjoyable (as I imagine drug addiction to be to an addict). Many times throughout this ordeal I’ve wanted to stop, but I can’t. It almost seems like the further along I get, the more I’m willing to put myself through to achieve a successful pregnancy. Somewhere in my subconscious mind, I think: I’ve come this far; I’m not about to give up now. Just one. more. try.
After our failed IUI attempt in July I wasn’t sure what we should do next, but I knew we were going to do something. That nagging statistic was in the back of my mind: Women my age have about a 17 percent chance of getting pregnant on their own. That’s not a statistic I could ignore, no matter how much I wish I would've never heard it. (My fault: I asked.)
Our decision to try in vitro fertilization (or IVF), after our IUI attempt failed, was the hardest decision we’ve made thus far. The whole idea of it scared me, mostly because it seemed like such a major commitment to make (especially with one kid already and a full-time job). You’re committing to more frequent doctor appointments, more shots and more drugs, not to mention what all that does to your body and mind. We gave it some thought of course, but it didn’t take that long for us to make our decision.
That’s the tricky thing about infertility: It’s a roller-coaster in every sense, but it’s the kind of roller-coaster you don’t want to be on, yet can’t seem to get off, no matter how terrifying and dizzying it is. You want to get off—you even make promises to yourself, and your husband, like: This is it; this is the last time. But you know deep down you can’t let yourself quit. You’re not going to quit something like this…not after everything you’ve already put yourselves through.
The numbers don’t lie, but you also can’t get too caught up in the statistics, because that’s all they really are. I know plenty of women who put themselves through hell for years—emotionally, physically and financially—only to get pregnant naturally. These women are the exceptions. Their success stories were also in the back of my mind, but I’m a journalist so by nature I tend to put a lot of emphasis on stats.
I knew of the possible risks too: ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (or OHSS) being the biggest one obviously. I’d seen what it looks like on reality TV: The minute I thought of doing IVF, the image of Giuliana Rancic doubled over in pain, being rushed to Northwestern Hospital while suffering from OHSS, on “Giuliana and Bill,” popped into my head. I certainly didn’t want that to happen to me.
But you tell yourself you won’t be one of the 1 in 10 women going through infertility who suffer from OHSS, even though that’s a heavy number to digest. You think positive thoughts, and you always hope for the best. You can’t go through this thinking the worst is going to happen to you, which is why I’m convinced the doctors don’t warn you of all the possible side effects of the drugs upfront, unless you ask. They don’t want to scare the living crap out of you. Someone should invent “physician controls” for our computers so women being treated for infertility can’t use Google.
All women are built differently; we all react differently to the medications; and we all have a different threshold for pain and discomfort. That’s why infertility is such a personal experience—it’s so hard to go by the numbers, or someone else’s experience, because none of that necessarily applies to you.
That’s another driving factor in all of this—you convince yourself that you won’t be the one who gets OHSS, but you will be one of the 60 percent in your age group who finds success with IVF.
So maybe it’s the stats that seem to be my drug—and infertility is my merciless dealer.
How many fertility treatments is your absolute limit? When do you finally say, enough is enough?
When I'm not trying to squeeze in a few hours of sleep at night, I'm blogging at www.thecosmomom.com. Follow me on Twitter yet? If not, you should! I'm @spgorenstein. And if you friend me on Facebook, I will happily accept.