5 things no one tells you about IVF
LGBT+ advocates and Mama's-to-be, Jessi & Millie share 5 things no one tells you about IVF
1. Fertility treatments are a marathon, not a sprint.
Everything takes longer than you could possibly imagine and IVF is 90% waiting for things to happen. If you go into the process with expectations of when you want to have a baby in your arms you could open yourself up to serious disappointment.
Try to let go of any preconceptions you have and just go with the flow, if things happen quicker than you will be pleasantly surprised.
2. The mandatory counselling is actually worthwhile.
Enjoying the counselling was one of the most surprising things about the whole process. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for therapy and believe everyone who needs it should have access to regular therapy. What frustrated me was being forced to pay upwards of $2,000 for counselling as an LGBT couple already spending 10s of thousands of dollars to get pregnant. It angered me that straight couples accidentally fall pregnant all the time and don’t have to have counselling before they
have a baby. I reasoned that surely the fact we were already paying so much was proof enough that this baby was so desperately wanted. I was also incredibly anxious that the counsellor would decide I wasn’t a fit mother or I didn't deserve a baby - yes, it may sound ridiculous but you never know who is homophobic behind closed doors.
The reality was our counsellor was wonderful, she was kind and understanding, but most importantly she wasn’t there to judge us. Her role was to support us through what is essentially a really stressful time. She also acted as a mediator between us and our known sperm donor to make sure that all the questions were out in the open and that everyone fully understood both their obligations but also their rights. It was actually one of the most worthwhile, helpful and I would go as far as saying enjoyable parts of the entire process.
3. There's a community online waiting to support you & you'll make the most amazing friends
There is often a misconception that IVF is something that should not really be discussed or that seeking fertility treatments is in some way shameful. This could not be further from the truth and if you are seeking support look no further than Instagram. One of the reasons why we decided to share every minute detail of our IVF process was because we felt we owed it to all the women who had helped us and those who would come after us.
There is a certain bond that only folk who have struggled with fertility or miscarriage can really know. When we were trawling through the #’s and searching for answers we found so many people who not only understood us but were more than happy to answer our silly questions, or show us step by step how to hold the needle, or told us they were there for us if we needed them. We made the decision very early on that we would be those people for anyone who needed us and we still find our DM’s flooded most days with questions from people who are going through the process themselves for the first time. We ended up forming close relationships with those that were going through the process at the same time and now there are several babies due the same month we are which is pretty cool.
4. LGBT people can also grieve the ability to conceive “naturally”
Most people have a good understanding of the sadness that comes with infertility and IVF. Often people assume that for LGBT people we don’t feel this grief, after all it shouldn't come as a surprise to us that we need assisted fertility right?
Actually, I genuinely used to believe that coming out as gay meant resigning myself to a life without children. It seems dumb now but, growing up, there were no lesbian role models on TV who had children. The few who did have a biological child had them with a man - we all remember Carol from Friends. It seems less dumb when you realise that it was only 2017 when every state in Australia legally allowed access to IVF for same-sex couples and single lesbians.
There is a lot of personal turmoil that goes into coming out, and part of that was the realisation that the road to motherhood would be far from easy. Not being able to conceive “naturally”, regardless of the circumstances, comes with feelings of loss and grief. Yet, so often LGBT people are omitted from this narrative - our struggles to conceive are left on the sidelines.
I did not choose to be gay. No-one chooses their sexuality. I did not choose to be not able to fall pregnant without fertility treatments and donor sperm. I am no different from any other mother who needs IVF or artificial insemination to conceive. Those feelings of helplessness and sadness still apply to us. The out-of-pocket costs, the long waits, the invasive procedures, the praying, the failures and the loss, they still apply to LGBT couples...
5. You will laugh till you cry and cry till you laugh
IVF is wild. Nothing prepares you for the soul crushing lows and the life changing highs. Every single stage opens you up for good news or bad news and you never quite know which to expect.
Oh and then there are the hormones, the cocktails or drugs that just add to the emotions and accentuate them even further. IVF might be one of the most serious decisions of your life, but try not to take the day to day too seriously. Remember to find time to laugh at every opportunity possible even on your darkest days.
Nothing will prepare you for the process of not being successful, or that the baby you have longed for doesn't have a heartbeat. No words can explain the sadness and the trauma that comes from hearing the doctor say “I am so sorry….”
Likewise there is no feeling in the world like finally getting that positive pregnancy test, like seeing your baby on the ultrasound, like hearing the heartbeat for the first time. In these moments nothing matters, the wait, the money, the hormones, the anxiety… none of this means anything anymore and you would do it all again in a second.