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Why I Never Thought My Fertility Treatments Would Fail

Photograph by Getty Images

I was certain that in vitro fertilization would work for me.

For one thing, I already have a daughter conceived naturally. So I knew I wasn’t infertile in the clinical sense. Yet when it came to having a second baby, I didn’t have a lot of patience for Mother Nature. At 41, I knew my biological clock could run out of batteries at any moment. So after trying the old-fashioned way for 6 months, we made an appointment with a fertility doctor.

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Success rates for IVF at my age weren’t super high, but I was certain—absolutely certain—that we would beat the odds. Here were just a few of my legal arguments in the nonexistent court of I Know I Will Get Pregnant:

  • We live in a major metropolitan area with some of the best doctors in the country. Surely our odds are better here.
  • Our doctors offer special pricing: if the first two rounds of IVF don’t work, the third try is free. If they are that confident, then surely I will have a baby.
  • I’m healthy and reasonably fit—no genetic issues, no celiac disease. I’m open and ready for business!
  • I look young for my age. Maybe my ovaries are young for their age, too.
  • About a third of the babies in my mommy & me class were IVF babies, so success rates must actually be really high! (Never mind that the failed attempts don’t make it to mommy & me class—all I saw was a lot of beautiful babies, courtesy of science.)

Based on all of these closely held and totally made-up beliefs, I was optimistic and fully committed to IVF.

I was sobbing during the final post-mortem with our doctor.

Each night for the better part of 6 months, I stood over my dining room table mixing medications and injecting them into my stomach, which was polka-dotted black and blue. I traveled to the doctor 90 minutes round trip, three to four times per week for ultrasounds and blood tests, always with my toddler—who is not a fan of the car. I made dozens of last-minute trips to the specialty pharmacist as the doctors fine-tuned my medications. The drugs made me dizzy, weepy and more than a little crazy.

Three times I went under anesthesia so that my eggs could be harvested. Three times I went on bed rest after fertilized embryos were transferred back to my uterus. Three times I cobbled together child care to cover me. Three times I endured the famous “two-week wait,” during which I interpreted every twinge as a pregnancy symptom, which in turn led to a flurry of unhealthy late-night Googling. Countless times I peed on sticks, and every single damn one of them came up negative.

So what happened?

Who knows? Nothing went horribly wrong. Each cycle, I ended up with three to four fertilized embryos, some of which were considered high quality, all of which were transferred directly into my uterus in the hope that at least one would implant and start growing. It never happened. Not even once.

I was sobbing during the final post-mortem with our doctor. He offered up a feeble, “If you want to go again, I won’t stop you.” I interpreted that as, “I don’t think it will work, but I’ll take your money if it will make you stop crying.”

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We decided to go back to trying to conceive naturally. It worked for us once, maybe it will work again.

I would never try to talk anyone out of choosing IVF. I think every woman should do what’s right for her to create the family she wants. I’m just hoping to inject a dose of reality, by sharing mine.

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