When Fertility Treatment Fails

I was trying to work out my dates the other day. They’re scrawled in one of my many notebooks, a simultaneous mess of scribbles and dates. My cycles vary from super short (the stimulated ones) to super long (the aborted stimulated ones) with a few in betweeners (the rare natural cycles I’ve had in recent months). The first one I started recording was almost seven months ago

I can’t quite believe it’s been that long. I’ve been so driven to keep moving forward with this (brilliant but bonkers) baby plan that I hadn’t realised quite how long it had been. I feel the heaviness of the seconds in every one of those seven months ticking away painfully slowly. Suddenly events that I’d been considering how to hide an early pregnancy at (work trips, family holidays, girls nights out), have passed by with no such concerns to contend with. The exhaustion from it all creeps in as I slump into my chair.

The baby plan coincided with the new house plan. Now that’s gone ahead successfully its illuminating the stark lack of success in the baby department. For most of last year it’s felt like I’ve been in limbo, trying to push my life forward. While everything was in transition it felt OK to be treading water, not living properly. It was only temporary after all. Now I’m trying to grow roots in my new home it feels like too much to keep my life on pause. More importantly, it feels unfair to keep my son’s life on pause.  The challenges I faced when he was a baby meant I often wasn’t there for him. Hell, I wasn’t often there full stop. The last couple of years haven’t felt much better, balancing single motherhood with a stressful job, a house move and undergoing fertility treatment have taken their toll on me emotionally and physically, not to mention the constant interruptions from my ex who likes to inject some additional chaos as and when he pleases. I’m about as exhausted and unhealthy as I’ve ever been (not including sleep deprivation I might add – sleep deprivation and exhaustion are two entirely different things! Sadly I haven’t got the former just yet – I think only babies know how to dish that out.)

I had a plan. A plan I was going to do everything I could to see it succeed. Deciding to have another child alone was me taking back control of a life that had spiralled into an unrecognisable place. It turns out follicles and wombs aren’t in the habit of being controlled, even by fertility experts. This plan was never just about me or the baby to be – it was also about my son. About creating a family for both of us. In my non-ideal, ideal new family I was going to be on maternity leave for my son’s last year at home before starting school. Finally I’d be able to give him the attention he deserved (and so badly craved).  The short-term loss of my parenting presence while I tried to attain that would be worth it for the long term win: me, my son and my baby to be enjoying a year of maternity leave filled with lazy family days at home. I know, I know, it’s not really like that. You all-knowing parents with two kids are laughing at my naivety just about now, but at least I wanted a chance at this. There’s no way that’s happening now. Every month I write down my dates in that bloody notebook I can feel the bond of friendship between my children slowly growing further and further apart. (Why is it that people insist on telling me it’s best to have children two years apart when my son is four – some of us don’t get to choose you know!).

When I started this process I was hopeful I’d fall pregnant first time, once I realised that wasn’t happening I was confident that it would happen eventually, it might just take some time. Now, not only after living these experiences over the past seven months, but also hearing about other women who’ve tried for years (in some instances ten) to try and conceive a donor child, I’m aware that this might never happen. At some point in the not too distant future I will need to call a day on this. I can’t keep going because it’s too much for me, and too much for my son to bear. He will only be young once and whilst I want so much to give him the bigger family that he and I both crave, if that isn’t going to be possible I need to accept it, preferably before I bankrupt myself – financially and emotionally.

I’ve only had two full attempts so far. But that doesn’t tell you anything about all the other half attempts. The months when I’ve pumped my body full of hormones only to have the cycle cancelled for various reasons. Each month I’m producing on average at least four follicles. Does that mean my monthly emotional cycle is four times as great? I had a month off recently and I started to feel ‘better’. It’s so hard to know which way is up when I’m battling mental health challenges and injecting hormones into my legs and stomach. Having that break made me realise that the hormones are having a bigger effect on my moods than I had realised.

Since starting this process I’ve self-administered approximately fifty injections. Had twenty internal scans. Taken fifteen blood tests. Swallowed five pills. And attended countless hospital appointments. Yet still my body will not comply.

I’ve been trying to keep moving forward with the plan. Not dwelling on the cancelled cycles, the failed cycles, or just the plain old missed cycles. Now as I sit here trying to work out what dates I need to hope for to be able to squeeze in another attempt between the upcoming work trips and events I’ve got on, I start to wonder – is it all worth it? When I started this, I never really considered the worst case scenario. That my body fails me. Yet it is failing me. If I were doing this the traditional route would I be feeling the same way. The average pregnancy takes six months to achieve – many much longer. The reality is though that going through so much effort to just have one chance at pregnancy means you place unrealistic demands on yourself. Sure, some of us are lucky and it only takes one IUI or one IVF to get pregnant, but more often it’s only once you have multiple attempts that you succeed.

Perhaps if I didn’t already have a son I’d be better able  to stay focused on this plan. But how long can I keep pushing forward, placing our lives on hold for another life? I keep going though. This time (attempt number five), as I start to inject myself I try not to think about it. It’s just another thing I have to do. I’m sitting here, only two days away from the next scan to find out if the meds have worked and I can try again this cycle. I should be eating healthily doing everything I can to maximise my chances, but instead I’m comfort eating all the sugar and chocolate I can get my hands on. There’s something about my fear of failing again that (subconsciously?) pushes me to not care too much. I could utter some shit about when it’s meant to be it will be, but I know in reality I’m just scared it won’t be.

This time I’m keeping it chilled. I’m not really talking about it. I’m not really thinking about it. I’m just trying to get on with my life. You see the one thing that’s nagging away at me is that if I’d spent the same amount of time and money on finding a new man over the past year, maybe I’d have been a bit more successful in love and then I wouldn’t need to be spreading my legs on an operating table. I had naively thought that with this decision I would be in control, much more so than I was when trying to find a man, but I’m not. I’m only in control of being able to try, something that most couples can do at the drop of a hat. Beyond that though I’m at the mercy of mother nature – as we all are – and until she’s on my side my perfectly-imperfect family remains a dream.

Despite being as relaxed as possible about it all, attempt number five ends before it’s got off the ground again. This time the consultant tried a lower dose of medication in the hope that I wouldn’t create too many follicles. My body – as non compliant as always – created a few, only for them to disappear into thin air mid-way through the cycle. In the end only one reached maturity. The consultant recommended I don’t go ahead with the treatment this cycle. So I’m back to the waiting game. Let’s hope attempt number six is the lucky one.

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This post is part of my single mum by choice series. You can read all about it here:


6 comments on “When Fertility Treatment Fails

  1. I only had one follice when I had stimulated IUI and it worked! It only takes 1…why did your consultant not think so?

    • Very true. I think she thought that we had spent so long trying to get two follicles to increase the chances that it was worth waiting to try for that again. I could most definitely have told her that I wanted to go ahead anyway as she is good at listening to my wishes but I also thought I wanted to try and increase the chances as much as possible. I always have one follicle growing even on unstimulated cycles so it seemed like it wouldn’t be worth having had the stimulation if I wasn’t going to wait until I had more than one to increase the chances. Objectively though I actually think timing is way more important than number of follicles so it wasn’t necessarily the ‘right’ decision – like you say it only takes one. Really glad it worked for you 🙂

  2. Thank you I’m due my first little boy in April so it will be both an exciting and terrifying journey at the same time. I think the anxiety of doing it all alone is starting to sink in but I’m sure it will all be worth it….Really hope you have success soon. Goodness knows you deserve it xx

    • Eek, amazing and nerve wracking I can imagine. Hope the anxiety stays at bay. You will be fab I’m sure. Remember, asking for help is allowed – even encouraged!! x

  3. My clinic are only aiming for one, two is a risk and they won’t even consider going ahead with 3! That’s so frustrating that they cancelled with one healthy follicle, as the other commenter said, it only takes one good one!!
    I’m like you knowing I should be eating healthily but in an attempt not to hope too hard I’m comfort eating and assuming this cycle has failed… if it hasn’t it will be a nice surprise!
    I have everything crossed that your next cycle goes ahead and is successful for you x

    • Thanks. To be fair to the clinic they would have done it if I’d wanted, they were just trying to up my odds by having two. Im actually realising that it’s quite likely when I’ve had more than two it’s been cysts rather than eggs so I reakon this is why they’ve been more lenient as time has gone on to allow me to try with a higher number of follicles. It’s all so difficult trying to find the perfect balance. Good luck for you too! X

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