How One Woman's IVF Journey Changed Her for the Better
I met Lizzy three years ago at a mutual friend’s wedding in France, where we connected over our shared experiences of marrying Frenchmen and embracing a cross-cultural existence. Lizzy and her husband, Dorian, seemed like one of those perfectly matched couples -- they had a relaxed, easy rapport, and clearly adored each other. They’d met while both students in Boston. Their first date began at the Harvard Coop bookstore in Cambridge, and led to a four-hour conversation over hot chocolate. Dorian stayed in America to be with Lizzy; she learned French for him. They’ve both embraced each other’s favorite sports teams, and their Facebook timelines celebrate their shared adventures and domestic pursuits.
It’s easy to imagine baby-hungry relatives and well-meaning friends prodding the young couple about plans to expand their family. As a society, we do this reflexively, with the assumption that happiness begets more happiness: it’s “then comes the baby in the baby carriage,” not “then the couple embarked on a long and grueling path towards conception.” We also tell prospective parents to keep baby news hush-hush until after the precarious first trimester -- as if only joys and triumphs are appropriate to share with the community, while disappointment and struggle should be borne in isolation.
Lizzy and Dorian had long shared a dream of two kids and a dog, but knew that, because of preexisting conditions, they would likely have to conceive via in vitro fertilization (IVF). Here, Lizzy recounts their arduous three-year journey with IVF, how “coming out” on Facebook unleashed a wave of community support, and the ways in which her infertility struggles have ultimately changed her for the better.
My Journey with IVF
By Lizzy Colas
My husband and I started the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process in January 2016. We knew in advance we would eventually have to do IVF, but we never anticipated what a rollercoaster it would be. The following three years were filled with more doctors’ appointments, blood draws, and hormone injections than I can count, four egg retrievals, four embryo transfers, and two miscarriages.
In our first year of IVF, we had three egg retrievals; for the first two we received the bad news that none of our embryos were viable for transfer, and for the third we had an unsuccessful transfer. The doctor even told us the chances of us having children at all were slim to none. Naturally, I fell apart. My husband did his best to be supportive and strong, although I know he was hurting, too. We learned that we processed grief in different ways, which was something we had to work through by communicating what we were feeling while also giving each other the space to grieve.
we hoped the process would be straightforward and quick, so we wouldn’t have to face the judgement of others and explain to people why we couldn’t have kids the “normal” way.
We were drained emotionally, physically, and financially. We had kept the fact that we were doing IVF a secret from our friends and family up until this point; we hoped the process would be straightforward and quick, so we wouldn’t have to face the judgement of others and explain to people why we couldn’t have kids the “normal” way. However, my husband and I soon realized that the burden was too big to carry on our own.
We started by telling family, close friends, and colleagues and by joining our local Resolve infertility support group. Opening up about our struggles at work rewarded us with more flexibility to go to frequent doctors’ appointments. Also, my HR department offered us free therapy sessions and a second medical opinion, which led us to change clinics and ultimately to a more successful treatment process.
After writing our story, my finger hovered above the mouse for about five minutes before clicking “post.”
Eventually, we decided to come out on Facebook. The decision came not only from the need for support and understanding, but also because the taboo nature of the topic frustrated me. I knew several women going through fertility treatments who felt like they couldn’t talk about their struggles until they were in their second trimesters. It was also becoming impossible for us to hide as it was the biggest and most important thing that was going on in our lives and was very demanding of our schedules; we had to cancel trips, break plans, and deal with the hormone effects, and it felt wrong to make up excuses. I hoped to break this taboo as the burden was too heavy for us to bear on our own. So I did it. After writing our story, my finger hovered above the mouse for about five minutes before clicking “post.” Then, I decided not to look at Facebook for the next few days, so I could prepare myself for whatever reaction I received – good or bad.
That evening after work, my husband started reading the comments on our post out loud to me. Every single one was overwhelmingly positive. I was surprised given the potentially controversial nature of the topic, but my heart was warmed. Little did I know, this post would change our lives. We stopped getting painful questions about when we would have kids, friends and family started asking us questions about the process which we were happy we could finally discuss openly, and people were incredibly understanding if we couldn’t make it to their weddings at the last minute. Also, something amazing happened. We received private messages of support from friends, family, and colleagues, some of whom shared their own personal struggles with infertility, as well as care packages, letters, flowers, chocolate, and books; for the next two years that we continued to struggle, we were no longer on our own.
Success is failure trying one more time
–Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Positive
As I write this, I am fifteen weeks pregnant – the first time we’ve made it to the second trimester. This experience has changed who I am and my perspective. I am passionate about the topic of infertility, my husband and I have become closer on a deeper level, I value a workplace that respects my personal as well as professional goals, I’m cautiously optimistic, I no longer feel the need to be in complete control, I’m more rigorous in my research, I’ve become more outspoken, I am more empathetic to those who suffer, and I am more appreciative of good friends. I’m sure it will change my parenting style as well.
We shared our success with those who supported us, just as we shared our struggles, and our Facebook announcement was overwhelmed with likes and posts of congratulations. It was absolutely amazing to see people from all walks of our lives sharing in our joy, and I hope our little one can feel the amount of love that we do. We feel incredibly blessed and have learned that life can be so beautiful when shared with those around us, even in a time of such pain and uncertainty. We only hope that going forward we can pass on this love and support.