I used to hear this question so often when i became pregnant and began telling people we were having twins……then i heard it over and over when i began venturing out of the house with the toddler twosome as babies…….as they have grown into toddlers and it is a little harder to tell they are twins the question has been slowly disappearing…..until this weekend when i heard it 3 times.
Yes we did have the girls through IVF and yes we did put two embryos back. Why do you ask is what i really want to say.
I sometimes wonder when it became acceptable to ask people such personal questions about their life and their choices….i used to answer everyone (usually total strangers)honestly and then find myself trying to justify our decision to embark on the IVF journey and to put back two embryos in a cycle that was ultimately successful.
I seem to feel the need to defend myself…often unnecessarily i might add….but sometimes with good reason! IVF is an emotional and often heartbreaking journey….not to mention expensive….well it is here in Australia anyway. It is hard to describe the days at the end of an IVF treatment cycle…the wait until you find out whether you will see a positive pregnancy test is just excruciating. You second guess yourself, wonder if you did everything right, wonder if it is all worth it, wonder if you could be strong enough to go through it again…….
The process is tough…without going into too much personal detail about our treatment i will say that is is the most invasive, uncertain and emotional journey i have ever undertaken. I had to inject hormones into my stomach every day (i have a huge fear of needles and was never able to do it myself…lucky the other half stepped up…it did sort of concern me how good he got at inflicting the pain by the end though!) I learnt to place an ice brick on the chosen spot a few moments before the needle…numbed it a little. They actually weren't as bad as i thought they would be…not as bad as vaccination needles anyway!
I then had to go into hospital for a ‘simple' procedure of retrieving the eggs that were stimulated in my cycle….i was fortunate that i could choose to be unconscious for this happy event…especially when i saw the needle used to pierce and retrieve….yikes….no needle that long should be going in that area! You can also just choose to have a local anaesthetic and remain awake….i'm no hero though folks! Just quietly it also freaked me out that so many people would be focused on peering intently into that area that i'm not sure i could have handled any sort of polite conversation!
The specialist told me he would write the number of eggs retrieved on the back of my hand so it would be the first thing i could look at when i woke up……i cannot describe the disappointment when i woke up the very first time and saw the number 2 on my hand. 2 eggs for all that effort and pain…2!
In the days following you wait as they fertilise and you find out if any have progressed and you are in with a chance…time seems to slow and then stop as you alternate between hope and fear…..highs and lows…..always, always glued to the phone.
We suffered a number of failures before hearing that we had had a cycle that was looking very promising….i don't mind telling you that i had already lost hope by then and was seriously questioning whether i could go through with this journey. We discussed putting the 2 good looking embryos back at great length with our specialist. In Australia you must meet certain criteria before being allowed to put back more than one embryo. For us it was a decision taken very seriously with a great amount of thought accompanying it……and then came the day when propped up on a bed, holding hands with his patient self we saw the cells of our future toddler twosome displayed on a screen before they were put in.
We weren't to know that these two little mass of cells would nestle in tightly and come safely into our world almost 9 months later. It wasn't until i went for the 6 week scan and the specialist said ‘ahh we put 2 back didn't we?' that i realised our life had changed forever.
I had morning sickness for 9 months and didn't enjoy the pregnancy at all….as well as being sick i was so very anxious in the first few months as i waited to see if the progesterone levels would rise and whether these two little people would ‘stick' (They could put out a whole new section of the dictionary just with IVF terminology!) The process was indeed long but for us it was successful…i know for many it is not…..and i know many continue to try even though your heart and spirit breaks just a little bit more each time you see a negative pregnancy test.
I am writing about this because i want to help people to understand that IVF is not just a ‘treatment'….not just a means to having a baby….not something everyone wants to discuss….especially with strangers. It is a deeply personal and emotional journey…one that perhaps has taken a very long time.
Don't get me wrong….i am in no way ashamed that we had to resort to IVF treatment to create our beautiful girls….i do often wonder as i look at them who we would not have given a chance of life to if we had only put one embryo back…..we only wanted one baby….but we would not be without either one now, both so different in their personalities and looks….both adding so much joy in their own unique way.
I just wonder when i am asked that question whether people understand how invasive they are being, whether they would ask the parent of a singleton the same thing? Do they realise what an emotional journey it is and how very private? For me the IVF question was always followed by ‘did you have 2 embryos put back ?' and then ‘so you wanted twins then?'
Sometimes i want to scream that we didn't do it to have twins, we did it to try and grasp at our last shred of hope, we thought it was never going to happen and we were so very sad, so very tired and so very willing to take the chance that we might be able to hold a baby in our arms eventually. We needed to increase our odds because strength of spirit was failing.
Well something aligned because today we are blessed to have the toddler twosome in our lives and i can't imagine life without them. To us it doesn't matter that they were conceived through IVF…they were conceived with love and a helping hand and i think that is all anyone needs to know.
Which is why today (and for the last 6 months) i have answered that question with a little white lie….
They usually do then ask whether twins run in the family and i just say yes now. Seems to stop the usual further probing questions…it's not that we don't discuss with loved ones them being IVF babies but i finally understand that i don't need to try and make strangers understand our choices just because we have twins….i don't want them growing up defined as being here because they are IVF…..to me they are here because we tried so very hard to find them and although we needed a little help…..i still know they were always meant to be here…..no matter what.
We never really know the journey others are on….perhaps it is wise to always keep that in mind….no matter what our curiosity and best intentions….