I am truly hoping that people find this post helpful and not at all upsetting. I have always kept an eye on this forum since I became pregnant, as I could see so many people battling their way through the process and asking the same questions that I used to ask, and struggling with the same things that I used to struggle with. All I can say is that as time goes on 'after BFP' you start to see things with different eyes as you are in a different place emotionally. I decided to write a post to share what I learned through my treatment process and also the 'what happens next after BFP' which you so rarely hear about.
Like I say, I do not wish to upset anyone as the fact is that I am now 34 weeks pregnant - and I know myself how sad it is to hear about other peoples pregnancies, the guilt associated with feeling annoyed and resentful, and also how fed up I used to get at hearing about IVF success stories as if they had some kind of bearing on what I was going through. People mean well but being told that 'my next door neighbours cousin had IVF and got twins', or 'my work colleague had failed IVF 7 times then a year after they gave up fell pregnant', or some other anecdote, just did not help at all. It would if anything just make me angry. Everyones treatment journey is different and sometimes all that we want is for people to acknowledge just how crappy things are for us right now. We don't need to be told to 'think positive as the treatment might work', we know this, it is why we are doing it!! We need our fear that it might not work to be acknowledged and understood, even while we are still trying. We are of course all different, but for me THAT is what helped me to get through it. I found the one friend who said "shit it sucks to be you" easier to talk to than the one that said "think positive and I know it will happen".
What did I learn?
Think about who you tell about your situation & treatment. I applied a simple rule: unless I am going to gain something from telling you, I am not telling you. This worked really well for me, I told my bosses and got a huge amount of understanding and flexibility from them. I told a couple of friends who I knew would give me support and understanding. The family and friends that I knew would not understand or who would throw the anectodes, 'think positive' advice, or 'why dont you just adopt' responses at me.. I just didn't bother telling them.
One, two, three years ago I would have given anything to get my elusive BFP. I struggled through diagnoses of endometriosis, scarring from chlamydia/PID, blocked tubes.. 3 lots of surgery (eventual removal of both tubes) and 2 lots of IVF. I now feel hugely lucky that I had a great GP, consultant and clinic, and although hugely frustrating at the time I now recognise that they were following a process and everything was done as it should be done in my case. I know a lot of ladies unfortunately do not get this lucky.
What did I learn?
1. Make an effort to understand the process as much as you can. I found this book helpful and matter of fact: amazon.co.uk/Wests-Guide-Fe...
2. Think about and write down your questions before you see your doctor, then write down the answers. If you are still not clear next time, ask again.
3. If you are not happy with how you are being treated, explain that to them, and that you need to be communicated with better. Don't just take it, push to get the info and action you need. Try and get a GP on your side, if you can't, change GP.
I remember googling symptoms probably 10 times a day during my first IVF cycle. It didn't help. I never found what I wanted to find (which was a clear message that my latest twitchy leg/cramp/mucus/boob ache meant I was definitely preggers) and in fact only found more things to stress about. I do not think that any 2 women have the same symptoms. I also now realise that a lot of what I was noticing, twinges etc, actually happen all the time but I had just not noticed before I was on the IVF rollercoaster. For me, both rounds of IVF gave me sore boobs, crampy feelings, discharge, tiredness and dizziness. One resulted in a BFN and one in a BFP - so there you go - it tells us nothing really.
What did I learn?
1) After transfer, don't google symptoms and always remember that no 2 people or pregnancies are the same
2) Each time you get what might be a pregnancy symptom, think to yourself, 'could this just be a normal life thing that I actually get all the time and don't think about?'
My first IVF attempt ended dramatically as I started a very heavy period a week before my test date. My consultant believes my embryo(s) implanted but were rejected probably as they were not chromosonally normal. I was utterly devastated obviously but knew it to be just the (bad) luck of the draw that time, not my fault.
What did I learn?
It is good to focus on things like having a healthy diet etc, mostly because they give us a sense of control over a process that we really do not control. However obsessing about having had '2 cups of tea today and will the caffeine blow my chances' just causes more stress, and those 2 cuppas are not going to do ANY harm in the bigger picture. I believe that general healthy living without stressing the detail is the best way to keep a sense of doing everything you can but not obsessing or panicking.
If IVF fails, it is not our fault. IVF success is based on a huge number of factors all being aligned. Being told to think positively, stay healthy, not stress, relax etc are all good advice but only if you can accept that if your IVF does not work, it is in no way because you failed to do any of these things. It just is how it is.
Life after BFP:
My second attempt (frozen transfer) gave us our BFP. I am grateful every single day for this and still cannot quite believe how lucky we are. I sincerely wish this for every single one of you.
However, during IVF we all focus SO much on getting those 2 blue lines that we don't think about what comes next. Some people bleed, and this bleeding can either end very tragically or can be nothing to worry about. For me, I lost one of our 2 embryos at 7 weeks. We thought it was totally game over so the relief to discover at our 8 week scan that we still had one little baby was immense. My clinic refuses to do scans before 8 weeks as you cannot always clearly see a heartbeat and this can cause more stress. This meant I had 2 weeks of bleeding on and off before we got to have the scan. I could have gone to A&E (a lot of ladies do) but I do not believe personally that this is the right thing to do as an early scan may not tell you enough anyway, and frankly there is nothing that can be done if it is bad news. My midwife and IVF clinic both told me to just sit it out, and I was glad that I did. I appreciate that is easy to say as for me it was ok.
The first trimester after IVF is hard. You are super happy, got what you wanted so desperately and would've given anything for, are headed full steam towards the life you always dreamed of, so why do you feel so damn shit??
1) You are still taking hormones. This means that all of the usual pregnancy symptoms are exasperated 10 fold. I could barely move for tiredness, dizziness and nausea. I know, when you are desperate for a BFP you would happily take any amount of discomfort on the chin and this is still true, but that doesn't mean it is easy. When you get pregnant via IVF, the first trimester seems unbearably long as you are 3 months into drug-induced-symptom-hell before you even got so far as the BFP. By 10 weeks I had just had enough of feeling dreadful. If I tried to talk to friends about this, they told me 'you can't complain, I thought this was what you wanted'. I used to get so mad: why are women that get pregnant naturally allowed to whinge about feeling crap, but I am not? How is that fair, especially when I feel SUPER crap because I have hormone overload? My answer was to pick and choose who I spoke to very carefully, and only talked to the friend that I knew would give me the sympathy I wanted - and advice on how to feel better.
2) You are scared out of your wits. I told a few people at 10 weeks then a few more at 12 weeks. What I found hard to deal with was the congratulations! I didn't feel like I was quite ready to accept that I was truly pregnant, and was so concerned with the risks and what-ifs that I couldn't just fall into the 'happy happy joy joy' camp just yet. Suddenly I found myself being treated like any other pregnant woman, but I didn't feel like one, I felt like I was still in this medical process and hanging on day to day by a thread. I couldn't handle the well meant baby advice being thrown at me, and actually lost one friend as a result of her not understanding why I still felt so delicate and didn't want her advice on parenting at that point.
I think in fact it took until my 20 week scan (and learning the gender) to truly accept the reality of my pregnancy. We have decided not to tell anyone the sex until after baby is here, and it feels absolutely wonderful to have that secret, when even the conception of our baby involved about 10 people!! It is our secret, personal to us, and the one thing that makes it all so amazing.
So now I am 34 weeks. I have started NCT classes to prep for the birth, and 99% of the time I feel like a normal mum-to-be. I do get annoyed and frustrated at other women stressing about the (for me) minor details of childbirth and want to scream 'all that matters is that you have your baby, not whether or not you can light your bloody scented candle in the delivery room!!!!'
The last few months have made me realise that the trauma of fertility treatment does not just vanish when you have your BFP. Yes, you got what you desperately wanted. Yes, you are over the moon with happiness. But is it easy? No. Wonderful, yes.
I am now starting to freak about childbirth but remind myself every day how lucky I am and how grateful for the support that I got from this forum. I truly wish the best of luck to you all, and if you actually managed to read to the end of this post then you deserve a medal just for that alone!!!!!