What if IVF treatment fails: three peoples stories

Eleni Kyriacou talks to three couples about how IVF and fertility treatment can turn lives upside down
Carole Waters, who has now adopted
Carole, 43, lives in Hampshire with her husband Andy, 43. They have had one IVF cycle and one frozen embryo transfer (FET). They have a daughter, Bea, five.

I was 29 when we first started trying to conceive and we waited five years before having IVF. I was against it for a long time – I didn’t like the thought of all those drugs. I was determined to get pregnant naturally and all the tests had shown that we were both highly fertile, so there was no clinical reason why we shouldn’t be able to conceive naturally.

Eventually we got sucked into it. I was told that I had the egg reserves of a woman in her 20s, so we were very hopeful. In our area there was no NHS funding, so we paid for it. A woman in the next town had three IVF cycles, all paid for. I hated injecting myself and the mood swings that came with it. I remember the moment I saw the blood and realised it had failed. I screamed and at that point I couldn’t have got any lower. It took me six months to deal with it. I became paranoid and felt depressed. For those six months, Andy and I became very insular, almost attached at the hip. We felt only we could understand each other, so we hardly socialised. And, frankly, I was getting fed up of all the platitudes, people saying: “It’ll happen, just relax.”

IVF made me feel such a failure. Friends were having their third baby and we were still trying for our first. A year later, we had FET – using the frozen embryos left over from the IVF cycle. But that failed too. I had a gut feeling that I would never get pregnant, so we decided to stop. The doctors kept saying there was nothing wrong with us, so we couldn’t see what IVF could do for us that we couldn’t do ourselves. We had already spent £4,000 and continuing would have felt like throwing money away.

So we agreed that we wouldn’t have children. It was heartbreaking, though deep down I don’t think I really believed that. Eventually we started socialising again and we’d walk into parties, heads held high, and pretend everything was OK and that we were quite happy the way we were.

We had briefly talked about adoption but dismissed it, as we had read that you couldn’t adopt a baby if you were over 35. We wanted a baby, not a toddler; it was a basic need in me and we wanted to be as much of an influence in the child’s life as possible. About a year later, by chance, I bumped into a colleague in the car park at work. She was adopting two siblings. She told me that there weren’t the age limits on adopters we had assumed. I had also heard that the process was harrowing, but she said, “It’s nowhere near as bad as IVF.” That resonated.

Andy and I agreed that, though we were happy now, we’d be full of regret when we were older. In 10 years, we might be holidaying in the Maldives but what would it mean without a family? And what about when we were older? We regularly socialise with our parents and my Mum and I are very close. We wanted that for us in the future. We decided to explore adoption and it took two years, from that first phone call to having Bea come to live with us. She was nine months old.

I had to give up on the idea of having my own genetic child and there was a certain amount of mourning involved. The notion left my head but it was still in my heart. I can pinpoint the day when the idea finally left me for good. It was the day we were approved for adoption. Before that, I was still thinking, maybe I will still get pregnant, as everyone says it will happen when you least expect it. Since then I haven’t cared about getting pregnant and now I wouldn’t want a birth child, because Bea might feel left out. I don’t want that complication for her. If someone said I could go back 10 years and get pregnant, I categorically wouldn’t do it.

I feel so proud of our daughter and what we’ve done. Anyone can have a baby, but not everyone can adopt. There’s no doubt in our minds that we weren’t meant to have a biological child, because she was already there waiting for us. It’s one of the best things we ever did. I know women on their seventh and eight IVF cycles. It’s heartbreaking. I wish they would consider adoption as another way to achieve a family, rather than as a second best.

For more information on adoption, visit www.baaf.org.uk

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