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The One Thing You Need To Remember Before Your First IVF Cycle

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Photograph by Twenty20

I’m no stranger to IVF. In fact, after spending six years in the throes of infertility, I’ve pretty much done it all.

When we realized having a baby was going to be more difficult for us than just old-fashioned lovemaking, my husband and I started looking into more drastic measures. I took pills. I charted my cycles and tracked ovulation by capturing the smiley face on pee sticks month after month. After three years, we finally sought help at a fertility clinic and began the first of three IUI cycles, hoping I could be inseminated and we could avoid the high cost and foreign world of IVF.

It didn’t work. None of the cycles ever led to a pregnancy.

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I remember the moment our doctor sat us down and first uttered the words “in-vitro fertilization.” So I swallowed my fear and accepted the instruction manual of all things IVF. It was overwhelming, to say the least. The medication list was daunting and expensive. The needles were long and phone calls with the nurses even longer. Through it all, I was never able to take off my rose-colored glasses. ‌

After all, this was state-of-the-art technology.

I underwent a surgery with anesthesia to retrieve my eggs. My husband’s sperm would literally be inserted into them by embryologists. By the time our single embryo was painstakingly transferred into my uterus, I was already a pro at this.

Here is what they—and I’m talking about the doctors here—don’t tell you, but should: The first IVF is a test.

But here is what I didn’t expect: IVF doesn’t always work the first time.

For many, it does. I know couples who “got lucky,” so to speak, and were able to take home a baby after their first attempt. I thought for sure it would work for me as well.

Here is what they—and I’m talking about the doctors here—don’t tell you, but should: The first IVF is a test. They want to see how your body will respond to the medications. How many follicles will develop and how many will mature? Will this standard protocol work, or does it need to be adjusted for your unique body?

It wasn’t until after my second failed IVF that we started discussing the possibility of an egg-quality issue. And I did eventually get to take home my baby, but it took three rounds of IVF and two donor egg cycles to make it happen.

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I don’t regret going down this path. Had we not immersed ourselves in IVF, we wouldn’t have known that my eggs were bad and we wouldn’t have met our daughter.

Throughout all of this, I’ve learned so much about how my own body works. I wish I was more prepared for the fact that it may not work the first time, because maybe it wouldn’t have been such a shock. Or maybe it would have, anyway. IVF drains you emotionally long before the physical aspects take a toll.

I think we build up IVF as this miraculous technology and are left speechless when it fails us. But at the end of the day, that's a possibility we have to prepare for.

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