IVF Clinics Don’t Explain ‘Horrendous Grief’
Lucy is a 34-year-old legal secretary from Farnborough in north east Hampshire, England. Her story in her words:
10 May 2013 was truly a beautiful day. I turned 30 and got married to the love of my life. I couldn’t wait to start our own family. The doctors said it was normal for a lady of 30 to struggle to conceive quickly. I was ovulating and told to ‘relax’ they were sure it would happen. After a year I had a procedure to clear out my Fallopian tubes; a few months after still no luck.
Back to the doctors. In the hospital, the IVF clinic was also the waiting room for maternity ward so I had to endure happy couples with their bumps excited for their scans whilst we waited to see if we could even get IVF. This was the first time I felt truly saddened. Assessed and eligible for IVF on the NHS we had to wait two years. This was devastating as we knew we couldn’t afford the £6000 to go private.
IVF clinic decorated with baby collages
When we turned up for our first appointment you could tell the IVF clinic was posh. I didn’t know what to expect for I had only looked at IVF on the internet. With excited feelings we headed down a long corridor decorated with collages of babies conceived through IVF. There were several couples holding hands and several ladies on their own looking anxious.
The doctor said we had a very good chance, about 48% of becoming pregnant as long as the eggs were top quality. She said we probably wouldn’t likely conceive on our own. The news was a little hard to hear but we didn’t let it phase us, and the doctors didn’t say anything more about it.
Issued a huge bag of drugs, which seemed extremely daunting, I was given instruction how to administer the injections into my stomach up to twice a day and arrange weekly blood tests and internal exams to see how my eggs were doing. We went home scared but positive. We lived our lives by my drug regime and appointments. It was painful and exhausting.
No one tells you how intense and emotional it is. Helpful with the medical side the clinic were not helpful with the mental side.
The big day came after 4 years of heartache, trauma and waiting. We both couldn’t sleep for excitement. At 7am I went into the bathroom and tried to compose myself. I couldn’t believe testing on one pee stick was our future.
This was the most intense 10 minutes of our lives
When I checked the result I was completely numb. The worst outcome hit me in the face: the dreaded one pink line. My husband couldn’t believe it. He kept going back into the bathroom to check the stick. I kept telling him the result is accurate but he didn’t want to believe it.
After another 10 minutes we looked at each other and cuddled. That was it; our fight for a family was over just like that, in a flicker of a moment all the months of hard work over. At 9am I called the clinic to tell them the result; their answer: “I’m sorry to hear that, we understand it’s a difficult time. You will bleed in a day or two.”
Over the next few days I didn’t think much about the failed IVF. I was now focused on having my other two frozen embryos put in. We went to see the doctor. She explained there was no reason it wouldn’t work. It was up to us if we put in both, but it was a high risk of twins.
We wanted our family so badly we opted for both. Again, I was given drugs to get my uterus ready and went in for the transfer and the dreaded two week wait.
The total feeling of indescribable loss came again when we had one pink line. The clinic said the same words. That was it. We were finally done, no more appointments, no more tests, no more eggs, no hope and no family. The clinic advised we come in to see the doctor. I couldn’t face it, what were they going to tell me that I didn’t already know? The next month was a blur.
Our world had been shattered
It was zombie like, going to work and coming home in a state of shock. Everyone was getting on with their lives and seemed happy and I couldn’t understand why this happened to us.
Friends found out and as much as they thought they were helping with their words, they were hurtful and painful to hear: telling me about people they knew who had done IVF and it worked for them after three goes, or suggesting adoption.
I shut myself off from it all. I hid all my feelings about it and pretended to the world I was happy, that having children was not the be all and end all. I couldn’t take going to the same job every day after the IVF failure. Everyone at work knew so I got a job closer to home. In my head it was a new start, a happier start, a place no one knew me or what I’d been through and my pretend happiness would appear real. I knew in my heart I had run away but I didn’t care.
Over the next few months we would go to the pub one day during the week and slowly we went up to 3 nights drowning our sorrows trying to justify our actions and what to do next with our lives. We argued. We were angry with life and took it out on each other. We filled our weekends surrounding ourselves with other people so we didn’t have to talk about it with each other. It was getting harder to hide my anger and sadness. Christmas 2016 was awful. My drinking was getting too much and I knew it but I didn’t know how to deal with our loss.
January a new start but the arguments continued at home. We were sleeping in separate rooms and barely talking to one another. At a breaking point something had to give. I went to work one day and broke down at my desk. I’d been hiding it for months and suddenly I was blurting it all out. My colleagues suggested counseling. My husband was supportive of it. He said he loved me and wanted it to work.
I called the clinic that ruined my dreams. They booked me in for a session. I was dreading it and I was terrified.
I felt physically sick
The day of my counseling session I drove to the place I said I wouldn’t go back to. I parked my car and as I got out I felt physically sick. I had to force myself back up the corridor past all the happy couples and collages of baby pictures on the walls to the reception desk and into the same waiting room.
My heart beat faster and faster and I could feel myself welling up inside. Nurses rushed past me with smiles on their faces. I pushed my feelings away for the sake of all the happy couples sitting waiting for their turn at IVF.
I couldn’t help wondering: do they know there is a potential ‘sad’ process after this ‘happy’ process…
I doubt it. I didn’t. I wasn’t told you will have to adjust your entire life and oh, by the way, this process will test your relationship to breaking point. I wish I had known beforehand.
I felt sad and hurt they put me in the same waiting room for grief counseling as the supposedly happy IVF couples.
It’s almost like they didn’t really understand the ‘after’ process and how difficult it is.
Never to counseling before I didn’t know what to expect. She asked me how I felt. I broke down and explained everything. At session end she gave me a leaflet with websites and forums to connect with people in the same situation. She explained the process I am going through is grief, a loss of a life you haven’t been able to have and it would take time to deal with it. She said on the anniversary of the IVF failure either send off a balloon as a symbol of letting go, or bury all of our IVF paperwork, or burn it — do something to help let go of all of the sadness.
At the weekend, we got all our IVF paperwork, lit the BBQ and burned it all. It felt good and it did help. After a few weeks, I went onto the forums and found a whole load of women in the same boat but no one lived close, someone I could call and go for a coffee.
At 34 my old friends are all connected with each other over their children and it’s difficult for us to go out without their children conversations coming up and so I avoid seeing them.
The hardest part is letting go and being happy with life from now on, being happy together. My husband and I are getting on better but we know it will take time to truly become happy. My life continues to be a struggle of overwhelming sadness along with trying to remain positive.
I wish the IVF clinic had fully prepared us for the highly likely possible outcome of devastation, and the impact failed IVF has on your life and how to deal with it. No one was there for us. No local group. No one to talk to. No one checking up to see if you are coping.
No one explained the next stage was in fact the hardest — harder than going through IVF…
It was a good six months before I sought help.
The clinic got their money from the NHS for our IVF session and they were done, unless we paid another £6,000 to have another go. They washed their hands of us. I was alone and sad. I now know it’s a lifelong process adjusting in society that isn’t friendly to the childless not by choice.
If you experienced questionable practices from an IVF or egg freezing clinic and want to share your story, please contact us at info (@) reprotechtruths [dot] org.
I have experienced the situation of sitting in a waiting room plastered with those baby collages. I’ve had smarmy doctors saying “we’ll get you a baby” even after I told them cool-headedly that I’d done the research and I knew my chances were very low. I’ve had to cajole doctors for 45 minutes to force them to admit “OK, yes – we agree you have a maximum 10% chance of conceiving with very high-dose meds”. I’ve had an IVF doctor call me and say “Your bloods show that you’re miscarrying. Just take paracetamol and rest. Have a great weekend!”. Luckily I’m very resilient and was hugely relieved to leave the clinics behind me but I feel for every woman that gets the same rubbishy, deceitful treatment I got.
I did complain, and was accused of sour grapes. Horrible, horrible.
Like you, Different Shores, we feel deeply for you and for all who have had such awful encounters. We know the disbelief and need for great resilience. Thank you for sharing your story and your understanding!
I can relate to so much of your story, Lucy. Thank you for telling it. The zombie like state you describe, people’s glib responses to the shattering of your soul, the intermittent sense of feeling physically ill. And the indifference of the clinics, they’ve gotten away for too long acting as though enduring a treatment is nothing and that there is little to no aftermath when things don’t work. My last cycle upon which the existence of my children hinged was an FET with embryos made from eggs not mature upon retrieval. It had to be postponed a cycle due to the December holidays. I was barely crawling towards the finish line as it was. When I found out the cycle had to be postponed they said at the front desk “at least you can go home and enjoy the holidays now”. WTF???? I looked at them as though I had been punched in the gut, because really, I had been. And those baby collages should be deemed a freakin felony!
Im so sorry for the loss and turmoil you experienced , what a deeply moving story. I’m sure this story will help so many others who have faced this.
I’m reading as am researching ways I can best help a friend who has just been through this process with the same sense of loss at the end, not only for the loss of what might have been, the hope, the excitement, but the loss of your life plan….societies life plan, loss for the way of life you become accustomed too..living life 2 weekly, monthly, injections, probes, tests, doctors. I know everyone says what is not helpful to say to someone who like you has experienced such awful grief (try again, I know someone who had success eventually, adopt!) but what is a useful thing to say, what would my friend really like to hear? I find it so tricky as our natural instinct is to give people hope and be ‘helpful’ but I understand this is not helpful for couples who’s hope has ended….I’d really appreciate guidance in the most supportive way to help my friend. Sincerely I do.
Wow.. the numbness. I have felt it intermittently and then on the rare occasion I’m alone, tsunami waves of sadness. It’s so hard. I’ve had two failed cycles now and the doctor admitted today it’s probably my eggs. I knew it after the two failed cycles of IVF, 4 failed rounds of IUI (even using donor sperm to help overcome some issue on husband’s end). We have one 6 year old little boy who is the light of our lives. We got him naturally when I was 31 and we’ve had no pregnancies since. It’s just crazy to think that one time you are fertile and then you suddenly are not.