Infertility and IVF
Our story began a year into our marriage, when we decided we would like to start a family. Over the course of the next year, we hoped that nature would take its course, but to no avail. Initially, this wasn’t much of a worry, as sometimes these things take time. But gradually it became apparent that things were not working out.
A trip to the doctors started the investigative process, and the end result was that I had poor sperm motility…they didn’t have a great sense of direction! The prognosis was that pregnancy was possible, but much less likely than with healthy sperm. That was the key for us to begin IVF treatment.
While we were waiting to reach the top of the NHS treatment waiting list (at that stage over a year), we went for private treatment. Two cycles came and went with no success, but a hefty bill; IVF is an expensive process. A third cycle, this time on the NHS, apparently ended in failure, just before we headed to the USA for a holiday. On the day before coming home, my wife was complaining of a pain in her side. And on the same day, our flight home was cancelled due to bad weather. The next day, the day we had been due to travel, my wife ended up in a hospital in the States, to have an ectopic pregnancy removed. We were both devastated…to have come so close, yet so far. We also wondered why God had on one hand made sure we were not on that flight, where my wife’s life would have been in danger had a rupture occurred. And yet, on the other hand, He had not given us our desire. When the doctor told us that she had seen a heartbeat, it felt as if we had been shot through the heart. This third failure was a real test of our Christian faith. We asked how God could have allowed us to go through something that seemed so cruel to us, particularly as everyone around us seemed to be having children
At that stage, I wanted to give up…to move on, to enjoy the good things in life, like travel, and eating out. My wife persuaded me to give IVF one last chance. With nothing to lose, another cycle was entered into. And this time, God gave us our miracle, our beautiful little baby daughter. Where hope had been all but extinguished, God answered our prayers, in His time.
Not all IVF stories result in that longed for child. Yet for other couples, success comes first time round. The success rate is around 30%, but the process to get there is long, and can be emotionally draining. IVF can be both physically and emotionally difficult for the woman…she needs to bombard her body with drugs, to first of all suppress her natural cycle, and then to stimulate her body in a controlled fashion, to try to produce multiple eggs for collection. At each stage, examinations are invasive, and egg collection and replacement can be painful. Physically the husband only has to produce a sample…the embryologists do the rest. However, the emotional strain that the husband may also experience is often overlooked.
Then comes the two week wait between treatment and the pregnancy test. During these two weeks as you pray that your embryo has implanted successfully, hope builds, then doubt comes, then hope bounces back. At the end of these two weeks your test tells you if your treatment has been successful.
For us, our little daughter means that all the ups and downs were worth it. She came to us in God’s time…no doctor ultimately decides whether you become parents. Even in IVF, the gift of a child is given by God…IVF is just a door that we push when others are closed.
For us the journey didn’t end there. We had some frozen embryos from attempt number three, and we felt it only right to give them a chance. On day thirteen of the two week wait, my wife could wait no longer. A very faint, but positive, pregnancy test followed. I went off to a business trip in London excited, and planning on changing cars to accommodate the new arrival. The next day, the faint positive had become a definite positive…but within hours, the joy turned to grief again. The doctors use cold terms…in this case, it was an ‘early miscarriage’. But we thanked God for our little daughter, and still have hope that maybe He will provide a little brother or sister.
During our journey, we found different ways to cope. Sometimes prayer seemed very powerful, but sometimes it was all too easy to wonder if God was punishing us for something. We would throw ourselves into other things, trying not to focus all our efforts on parenthood. We had to remember to enjoy being a couple. After all, we got married to be with each other. We came up with a ‘half hour’ rule. We would only spend half an hour on any given day talking about our infertility problems…then, we would put it behind us for the rest of that day. For our first attempt, we confided only in one elder in our previous church, but second time round, we were more open. Ultimately, there are no rules as to how to cope; it will be different for each couple.
So that’s our experience of IVF. It is a technique that has brought over 5,000,000 babies into the world. So there IS hope. And our success came when we had all but given up. Our success came in God’s time.
Our Support Group
Cherished Child was set up by Christian couples within Kells Presbyterian who have experienced infertility and who would like to offer their support and a listening ear to other couples in a similar situation. We are available as a caring and confidential listening ear, willing to share our own experiences in a Christian context with you. The e-mail addresses on our main page can be used to contact us directly.
IVF is probably the best known of the techniques available under the umbrella of “Assisted Reproductive Technology”. As there are many causes of infertility, which technique is best suited to a couple’s situation depends on their medical circumstances. For example, some infertility might be due to nothing more than a blockage in a fallopian tube. This can be cured by a simple day procedure. At the other end of the scale, where a man has a low sperm count or sperm that can’t swim, then a more lengthy and complicated technique may be required. There are also a small proportion of couples where no medical reason can be found for their infertility.
If you want to find out more there are many sources of information available and we’ve listed two below that we found helpful. However, we would ask you to remember that these resources are not written from a Christian perspective, therefore, while they may offer excellent medical advice they may also suggest options or have content that we as Christians may not agree with.
As a starting point to find out about the causes of infertility and the types of treatment available, the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (the medical regulatory body which governs all aspects of infertility treatments), have developed a comprehensive booklet, which can be accessed from their websitewww.hfea.gov.uk/fertility.html .
Once you have the medical view of your situation, there are other resources available where people have shared their own experiences of every aspect of infertility and treatment. One such website, www.fertilityzone.co.ukcontains forums (including a forum specific to Northern Ireland) where people can discuss any aspect of treatment. In addition, this website also provides accurate articles and FAQs on every possible aspect of infertility and assisted reproductive techniques.