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What If IVF Had Never Been Invented?

I can’t help it; I sometimes read Samantha Brick’s infertility posts, which are just as brash as her statements on beauty.  Sometimes I like that, other times, her inconsistencies or emphatic statements grate on me.  But her latest post contained an idea that has been discussed in various forms throughout the ALI blogosphere: what if IVF hadn’t been invented?

You usually see the writer take the path of gratitude: if not for IVF, I wouldn’t have kids.  If not for IVF, I wouldn’t have options.  We muse on what life would have been like — usually concluding more difficult — if we had struggled with infertility prior to the advent of IVF.  I know I have certainly written a post or two like that, grateful that I live in a time and place where there are numerous options for family building.

But Samantha Brick takes the other path, and it’s one I’ve read too: if not for IVF, I could have moved on easier.  If not for IVF, I wouldn’t have people second-guessing my choices.  If not for IVF, I wouldn’t be $50,000 in debt.  She writes,

For every woman lucky enough to fulfill her dream of motherhood, there are many more disillusioned women like me who remain childless.

Lives have been destroyed as well as created. Frequently, marriages do not survive the turmoil unleashed by IVF. There are also those who, years after their IVF has failed, are still paying off the cost of their extortionately-priced treatment. 

I admit that I wouldn’t be writing this if IVF had given me the child I longed for — but it hasn’t.

She lost me with that last line, because her argument is reduced to sour grapes with it.  It makes me write off a lot that comes after it, especially her statement: “I also believe that there are some things we simply shouldn’t meddle with — and artificially creating life is one of them.”  It’s not that people aren’t entitled to try IVF and then become uncomfortable with it once their feet have been in the stirrups.  But it’s difficult to swallow a statement like that when it comes after her earlier admittance that the whole post wouldn’t exist if her last IVF cycle had been successful.

Which is not to say that overall, the idea that IVF = positive progress is true either.  Take success or failure with ART out of the picture (since few who end up with a child are going to complain, and few who do not end up with a child are going to say it was a great experience and well worth their time and money), we can look at the bare facts and see that the existence of IVF causes all kinds of issues depending on your personality type.  Which is why I fully support anyone who takes a look at IVF and decides that it isn’t something they’re willing to undertake.

Even if I personally am grateful that IVF exists and feel comfortable with the risks, I can’t deny that it’s a procedure that comes with a high price tag — financially, emotionally, and physically.  It really isn’t an option that fits everyone, and I’m not just talking about people who don’t medically qualify to do IVF.  Which is why I don’t think people should think of IVF as a simple solution akin to slapping a band-aid on a bleeding knee.  It’s a big deal; and it deserves to be treated like a big deal.

If the option wasn’t there, you wouldn’t feel guilty for not trying IVF.  I mean, yes, that clunky sentence assumes that you feel guilt, and perhaps you don’t, but I have read on more than one blog an internal debate made external explaining why the writer couldn’t progress to IVF or why she needed to walk away from it, and the overriding sentiment in the post is almost always one of guilt.  But why?  Why should we ever feel guilty for taking care of ourselves or listening to our limits?  Probably due to the reactions of others, or this myth perpetuated by the media (and secretly believed by some of us as we judge ourselves) that IVF is as easy as pie.  So if you’re struggling with treatments, there must be something wrong with you.

[A side note: there is nothing wrong with you.  The media lies.  IVF isn’t as easy as pie.]

But if IVF didn’t exist, you wouldn’t feel the pressure to save up your money.  If it didn’t exist, you wouldn’t build your life around your cycle, forgoing all other opportunities.  If it didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have to overcome your fear of needles and anesthesia.  How many people enter treatments without really wanting to enter treatments simply because they think they should want to do treatments?  I don’t know — I don’t have an answer to that question.

I wrote in my manifesto many years ago:

Infertility is so different for every generation. When our mothers and fathers were experiencing infertility, they had few choices. They had fewer answers.

Now, we have many choices–maybe too many choices. It makes it difficult to step away.

I believe that I probably won’t understand much of what my children are going through if they experience infertility. I’ll try to be there for them and I’ll do my best. But I also know that they will have opportunities or choices to make that I never had. And it will affect them in a way that I will never understand because I didn’t go through it myself.

And that will make me sad because I really want to be there for them. That’s the closest I can come sometimes to understanding how you feel when you are dealing with me.

I remember a friend telling me that she was overwhelmed by choices when she came to America.  She would stand in the peanut butter aisle and have no clue which brand to buy.  In her country, there was one peanut butter option, and it came with a generic white label printed with the word “peanut butter” across it.  If you wanted peanut butter, you purchased this tub of peanut butter.  I can see the appeal in having a lack of choice even if I personally embrace my deluge of choices.  It can take a long time to get through a food store in America with all that choice.

The same is true for infertility.  It can take a long time to resolve your infertility* with all that choice.  Plus, we keep adding to the choices, and those choices have greater risks and price tags than peanut butter.  Do we opt for a womb transplant now that it’s a possibility?  Freeze our eggs?  Try IVIg treatments?  Will we have regrets if we don’t take options that are out there?

I am personally grateful for the options, and for me, a world without IVF wouldn’t be a plus.  I will fight until the end of time for all people to have access to fertility treatments.  But even while feeling only gratitude for Robert G. Edwards work, I can hear the other side that points out the problems that have come with this solution.

Are you glad for choices with family building, or do you think the numerous options cause more problems than solutions?

* As I’ve said before, it’s different – resolving your infertility vs. resolving your childlessness. You can have a child and never resolve your infertility, and you can resolve your infertility before you have a child. Unfortunately, it is also possible to never resolve your infertility nor your childlessness. And it sometimes happens simultaneously, childlessness and infertility resolved at the same time.


1 Peach { 04.17.13 at 8:17 am }

My husband and I have opted not to do IVF for multiple reasons, however I am so grateful for the opportunities. I know that right now I’m not comfortable with the invasiveness of IVF but down be road, it may very well be a choice we make. I don’t think there are too many options, but I do know what you mean about guilt for not trying everything. I feel like I need to apologize for our decision to not try IVF when people ask me…like if I REALLY wanted a baby I’d try everything. But I know that’s in my own mind. Overall, I think IVF is a beautiful thing and one day, it may very well be what starts our family.

2 Rachel Gurevich { 04.17.13 at 8:23 am }

Really good post. I recently wrote about choosing not to pursue treatment (http://infertility.about.com/od/alternativetreatments/a/Choosing-Not-To-Pursue-Fertility-Treatment.htm), and agree that there is tremendous guilt in those that decide not to “keep going.”

Thank G-d for the treatments that exist, but also thank G-d for the ability to choose not to do them. That is so much better than not having the option at all, IMHO. Some people have put pressure on me to try again, but I have already decided I don’t want to go through the stress. Nope, no way. Even my husband (and this was a couple years ago, he may think differently now) asked me why I don’t want to try again whenever “it worked” in the end. I had to remind him that there was A LOT of emotional and physical stress and pain that came before “it worked.” Not to mention time. We didn’t just show up and magically have success.

I do think there needs to be more support for choosing not to pursue treatment. The question is, where should this support come from? The clinics are unlikely to push this sort of thing, mainly because there is money involved. (Don’t take that in the wrong way. I’m not saying they are “money-hungry-heartless-docs” or something, but the fact of the matter is, it’s natural that many of them may present a slightly biased picture.) The potential grandparents are unlikely to be big supporters of a choice like this. So who will be there to say, “Yes, this is your choice, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for the choice you have made.”

Well, I guess you just did, didn’t you. 🙂

3 April { 04.17.13 at 8:28 am }

As a person who is still trying to come to a better place after choosing not to have IVF and who is still trying to resolve both her infertility and her biological childlessness, I can see the author’s point about disillusionment and heartache. I see how much the decision to not pursue treatment further has hurt me. I can’t even fathom if we had done IVF and had it fail how I would feel. I can only guess at the hurt and pain it would bring.
Am I grateful for the options that exist for those of us who are infertile? Yes, very much so. However the high cost, both monetarily and emotionally are not always affordable by those who need them. It’s a double edged sword and one that cuts deeply, no matter if one is successful or not.

4 Catwoman73 { 04.17.13 at 8:43 am }

Such a complicated issue for me.

If you had asked me this while I was pregnant with my daughter, I would have said that I was eternally grateful that we had options. Of course I was grateful- I had survived infertility, and had achieved success, thanks to ART! It’s easy when you’re on that side of things.

The waters became considerably more muddy while TTC the elusive baby #2. How far to take our pursuit of a second child became a source of discord between hubby and I, with me wanting to do whatever it took, and him being unwilling to take it much beyond medications, cycle monitoring, and timed intercourse. It was extremely hard on our marriage, and we are still fighting our way back. I would like to blame the availability of family building options for the challenges we faced (and continue to face) but who’s to say we wouldn’t have had marital issues due to infertility even if there were no options? Perhaps years and years of trying to conceive, with no options and no real answers would have taken an equally harsh toll on our marriage. We’ll never know for sure, but I suspect we would have faced different, but equally difficult problems had we lived in a time when ART didn’t exist.

Now that our TTC days are behind us, I have wrestled with the guilt associated with not doing more to give our daughter a sibling. I believe I have, at least temporarily, laid that guilt to rest. We didn’t try IVF- we didn’t even try IUI this time, but in hindsight, I believe we did try our best, and made the right decisions for our family. But I can’t deny that the guilt was there, and will likely resurface repeatedly over the years, as my daughter gets older, and starts to realize that our little family of three isn’t necessarily the norm in society. She will ask questions that undoubtedly bring back those feelings of uncertainty.

Nonetheless… I must try to keep my eye on the ball here… my daughter wouldn’t exist without ART, so even though it became a source of marital difficulties for us afterwards, I absolutely have to be grateful that we live in an age where we have options.

5 Gail { 04.17.13 at 8:58 am }

As someone that didn’t choose to go down the IVF rabbit hole, I appreciate that the option is out there, but I knew it wasn’t for me. Had the doctors been able to determine more definitively what was wrong with me AND my insurance company had covered treatments, I may have chosen another path towards resolving my infertility. But, having a diagnosis of unexplained infertility didn’t bode well in my mind with the idea of gambling $10,000 on a chance that it *might* work with no guarantees that my body could even handle it. However, if a doctor had been able to tell me that the cause of my infertility was X and that having IVF would solve or bypass X, then I would have jumped at the chance.

6 a { 04.17.13 at 9:25 am }

I think the lack of knowledge is what causes the problems. If the doctor were able to say “This is what’s wrong with you. It is virtually impossible to overcome this problem. The odds are not in your favor,” then people would find it easier to make decisions, I think. But there’s so much “we don’t know exactly” that people let their expectations get raised.

I am one for whom IVF did not solve my problem, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to try something. It’s my nature to address the problem in whatever way possible.

7 notwhenbutif { 04.17.13 at 9:34 am }

Are you glad for choices with family building, or do you think the numerous options cause more problems than solutions?

Simple answer? Yes, I’m extremely glad. Honest answer? I’m both glad and frustrated. These choices do very often lead to more problems than solutions.

I recently blogged about how my pro-choice beliefs have been solidified by IF, rather than challenged by them, much to the surprise of many of those around me. The foundation of that argument is much the same as the foundation for my happiness at family building options being available. Namely, IF has reminded me of the power of choice by removing so many choices from my family building arsenal. I’m extremely grateful to live in a world where I have access to alternative paths to building my family (both medical and not), but, I also am glad that I may choose which of those options are the best fit for my family in the here and now.

But, and sorry for extending the comparison, like with a woman’s right to choose abortion, these family building choices are so heavily politicized and criticized by friends, family, and strangers alike. Our struggle has been in trying to patiently explain to all who ask why we are not pursuing adoption without making it sound like we disagree with adoption as an option. I’m glad to live in a world where adoption is a possibility, but I know that the pain of our infertility and our losses is still too strong to make adoption an appropriate option for us at this moment in time. Yet, every stranger on the block (and chipper nurse in the exam room) wants me to sign the dotted line right now to place my baby order. That type of mentality is so unfair to so many parties, not the least of which the adoptive children that deserve loving and supportive homes.

Equally, I find myself having to explain and justify our decisions to continue treatments, especially in the face of my many medical issues. Had I conceived naturally with Hashimoto’s, PCOS, or endometriosis, few would so brazenly question my choices, but because we must rely on intervention to tackle the perfect storm of challenges that these three conditions have wrought, it suddenly means I’m selfish and putting my unborn children at risk. The comments are hard enough to take as is, but my visceral responses verge on homicidal when I’m subject to them from a chain-smoking friend 8 months pregnant with number 4, an alcoholic family member, or an extremely obese intake nurse. Members of the IF community are not alone in having society judge their choices, but so many of these commentaries from the peanut gallery seem to reek of a hypocrisy not nearly as common in other avenues.

A member of my in-real-life infertility support group actually talked through much the same crisis as Ms. Bricking on our secret FB group a few days before the article was published. Her thesis was essentially that in the world before ART it was easier to move on, and it’s a theory I find appealing. The lone reason I strongly disagree, however, rests on one simple fact. In a world without ART we would also likely lack the networks of support that link those of us going through it (or opting out of it or moving on from it). I’d be both a much lesser person, as well as a complete crazy person, had I not had access to my IF friends in the computer and in real life over these past years. So much of the non-IF world already expects us to easily move on and never look back, that I desperately need my enclave of women and men who understand there is nothing easy about moving on. In a world without choice where one is forced to go from lights on (you are fertile) to lights off (you have no option for children) in a single bound, I fear this network of support that is fueled by the gray areas of IF would all but disappear.

8 Anna { 04.17.13 at 9:54 am }

I am so glad for the infertility treatment options that are available and I’m also so excited to see what new treatments will be available in the future. That being said, the work that the parents put into the treatments is so misunderstood and the outcome is not certain, or even very likely sometimes.

Thank you for this article. I’m in the middle of more testing to see what my options are and already I (almost-for-sure) know that I will not pursue IVF even if it looks like I would be a good candidate. If IVF did not work I would not be able to later afford adoption. But I feel like a fake wanna-be parent when going to see my doctor or even telling people about it because if you really want a child you would try anything, right?

9 KeAnne { 04.17.13 at 11:07 am }

Oh, Samantha Brick. I read that article too and found myself gritting my teeth because I feel she does a disservice to infertility awareness by writing about it in that grating way she writes about everything in her life.

I am very glad to have the choices I have because given my diagnosis, I actually had very few choices when it came to family building. I think that is key: every option available will not be an option for everyone. If I had known what we were dealing with when we first started treatments, I would have had to go straight to IVF. That would have been my only option for a biologically-related child. So I thank the FSM every day that IVF exists.

10 k { 04.17.13 at 11:48 am }

I am incredibly thankful for IVF, because if not for IVF I wouldn’t have celebrated the gifts it gave me yesterday on their 7th birthday. That said, as we are in the midst of TTC again, it’s frustrating. Because knowing it’s out there but not being in state with mandated coverage means saving and scrimping and sacrificing for a maybe. And if IVF weren’t an option it would be easier to let go. Currently we’re doing IUI’s with the option of potentially pursuing IVF (although that potential is slim). And it’s hard. It’s hard to justify spending that kind of money when we have so many other places to spend it.

Like others have said, I’m eternally grateful for the choice, but at this point in my life/journey, the paradox of that choice is very difficult to manage.

11 Sarah { 04.17.13 at 12:14 pm }

As someone who was NEVER going to do IVF and swore up and down it wouldn’t come to that, I thought IVF was great for those who wanted to do it. After 4 years of struggling, we were lucky enough to have excellent insurance coverage. We chose to move forward with IVF and are extremely grateful we did. We have a beautiful daughter and I’m currently pregnant with a frozen embryo from the same cycle. Without the insurance coverage our choices may have been different.

It was a very hard choice to move forward with IVF treatment, and we struggled for a long time with the decision. We finally agreed after LONG talks with our RE to do the treatment to our specifications. Are there too many choices? No I don’t think so. There are many options available and not every option is right for everyone.

Right now all I know is if IVF had never been invented, I wouldn’t be a parent today. I’m grateful for the options available and respect everyone’s right to choose the option that is best for them. And I agree 100% with you Mel on Samantha Brick losing me with the line, “I admit that I wouldn’t be writing this if IVF had given me the child I longed for — but it hasn’t.” It just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. The whole article kind of did, but maybe because IVF did give me the child(ren) I’ve longed for.

12 Another Dreamer { 04.17.13 at 12:18 pm }

I am grateful for all the options out there, even if we could never take the one we want. By which I mean that many just aren’t feasible to us financially, not with the risks involved. My husband and I decided a long time ago we would never move on to IVF, but that was purely due to finances. If either of us had obtained a job and insurance that would cover it, we would have embraced it. We knew the risk of failure, our risk of miscarriage, and how very much we would regret the decision to continue if it failed. We weighed out limitations and desires, and decided we would rather move on to adoption at that point. So I can’t say how I’d feel from the point of someone who paid for that and failed. I know people that have undergone that and it didn’t work, and I feel for them. I think I would be very hurt, very angry that while it didn’t work for me it did for so many others, I’d probably feel bitter and lost. I think I would still be grateful for that option though. But, not having been there, having chosen not to even try, I can’t say for sure. I can speculate, but unless I’ve been in those shoes I can never know for certain.

13 C { 04.17.13 at 12:39 pm }

The short answer – yes. I’m very glad that IVF and other forms of ART exist. I think choice is better than no choice, in general.

However it does also create other issues…

My husband and I got married at age 39, and started trying to conceive within the first year. After the normal round of tests, I was diagnosed with 1 blocked tube and “old eggs”. We started with 3 rounds of chlomid (as we decided how to proceed), moved to 3 IUIs, and then 2 failed IVFs. My insurance only covered a lifetime $10k (my husband’s covered nothing) and we were close to $25k out of pocket by this point. We took a month off and completed all the preliminaries for donor egg (information sessions, required counseling, etc.). We decided to do one more hail mary IVF before moving right to donor egg. We prepaid the IVF fees, bought the drugs and waited for CD1. And then got pregnant naturally at age 41.

Of course, that was thrilling! However, with the IVF fees being refundable but not the drugs, we were about $30k out of pocket in total. After my son was born, we wanted a second, but agreed that we would not do any additional ART. If it happened, great, if not, great. At age 43, while my son was 18 months, and I was still breastfeeding, I got pregnant again with my daughter. And then opted to get my tubes tied while having my c-section, because apparently, I somehow went from sub-fertile to super-fertile and did not want to risk having a 3rd child at age 45.

Looking back on all of this, spending $30k to have my two wonderful children is worth it a million times over. And we are grateful to be in a position to afford it. But I wonder if I jumped into treatments too soon, since none of the treatments actually got me pregnant?!?! Did all the drugs and procedures somehow “jumpstart” my body? Or would I have gotten pregnant anyway?

And while this sounds like a fairytale, the “PS” to this story is that the stress of all the treatments, testing, timed sex, etc. compounded by the stress of parenting 1 and then 2 small children was apparently too much for my husband to take. He began cheating on me in multiple ways (prostitutes, sexting, and real-life affairs) and using drugs behind my back. I discovered this a few months ago, and we are both in indivudal and marriage counseling, trying to work on things, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to forgive him. And I know for sure that if I didn’t have 2 children, I’d throw him out and never look back.

Choices are great, but sometimes they make things very complicated.

14 Esperanza { 04.17.13 at 12:41 pm }

The choices piece is a really interesting one. I’ve read some very compelling articles about decision fatigue and how it genuinely affects the decisions we make at different times of day. Trader Joes is aware of the issue you spoke of with your friend, at TJs they have only one of most things (and if they have more–like with yogurt–each is a slight variation on the others–like full fat vs fat free or goats milk vs cow vs soy or flavors) because they recognize that people get tired more quickly when there are more choices and then leave earlier and buy less.

As for IVF, as someone who couldn’t afford it, I both felt immense relief that I didn’t have to make that hard choice and intense resentment that it wasn’t an option for me. I wonder, if IVF were covered for everyone and it wasn’t such a financially devastating proposition, if people would feel differently about the procedure or if it would make the social pressure to try it even greater. Not everyone opts out because of cost and maybe their choices would be harder if IVF were financially feasible. It’s an interesting question indeed.

15 Becky { 04.17.13 at 2:22 pm }

My reasons for doing IVF are different than most. My husband and I went down this route after my uterus ruptured with my pregnancy with my daughter. We lost her 2 days later, and just a year and half earlier we had lost my son during fetal surgery. Trying to get pregnant again was risky so we did IVF so that we could have a biological baby using a gestational carrier. I know things could still end badly for us, since they have already with our previous children, but I am still so grateful for the technology we have today to help women bring home a baby no matter there reasoning. I am also in ahh of the woman who had the uterus transplant and is now pregnant. I know there are risks with anything, no guarantees, but I like having options.

16 loribeth { 04.17.13 at 2:45 pm }

There is some truth in what she has to say… IVF certainly does have the potential to ruin your finances, your health, you marriage, your relationships… But the delivery of her argument leaves something to be desired. :p

I’m glad that IVF exists, even if I didn’t use that option myself, for all the obvious reasons stated. For me, IUIs were hard enough to cope with. But you’re right, just because the option is there doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you, or that you must or should take it. The nagging questions of whether we did enough, whether one more try or trying this or that protocol or new option would have worked — it’s enough to drive you nuts sometimes.

I think each of us has to make our own decision about what’s right for us, what our personal limits are (even if we re-evaluate them along the way) — and then move forward with that decision, in the knowledge that we did our very best with the information and other resources (financial, physical, mental, spiritual, etc.) we had available to us.

We do need to promote a more realistic view of the pros and cons of ARTs, and particularly the success rates. I think there’s a popular misconception that if you’re having problems conceiving, you just “do IVF” — problem solved. (Of course, even people who do read the stats or hear them from the dr never think that it’s NOT going to work for them…) And we most certainly do need more support for those of us who walk away from fertility treatments without a child.

Great post, Mel, and great comments, everyone!

17 Cristy { 04.17.13 at 2:46 pm }

This post reminds me ongoing conversations with other ALIers about when to stop treatments. Obviously, for those who had cycles work right away, there’s usually the gushing about how happy they are to have gone through IVF. This gets muddier for those of us who have had to go through multiple rounds without success (or have had success naturally after treatment).

I think what this post argues for is a very clear idea of why anyone who pursues fertility treatment is undergoing the process. Specifically, if all of this fails will you have the same level of regret as you would have for never trying at all? For some, that answer is easily yes, but for most of us we need to be honest.

A few months ago, I received a letter from my original fertility clinic telling me that my RE was leaving the practice. This was the same practice that was overseeing my care for the 3 failed rounds of IVF I went through. The letter sparked a discussion between Grey and I about all that had happened. We agreed on one thing immediately: despite all the pain and the heartache, we were grateful to this RE for her care as it allowed us to close some doors and make future plans. It doesn’t mean I’d be willing to do it all over again, but I also have no regrets for trying.

Finally, both you and Esperanza make great points about having too many choices. It can all be overwhelming, especially when you’re in deep in the trenches. One thing to argue is that this is why we need to mandate insurance coverage for fertility treatments, as it will streamline a number of these protocols. But another thing is also finding a way to help people manage all the choses. It’s one of the things I greatly respect about those who have a firm idea of what “category” of treatment they are willing to undergo and what categories are off limits for the time being. Stil a lot to think about though.

18 Pepper { 04.17.13 at 3:22 pm }

Yes, without question, I am glad IVF exists and that I have choices.

However, it is frustrating to feel the need to justify my choices when it is no one’s business but my family’s (my husband, my daughter, and I). And the media does over simplify things.

We used IVF to have our daughter. She is the light of my life and I would not change anything we did. However, due to a variety of unexplained issues, to do IVF again would, I feel, be unwise. I had unexplained preterm labor. I am over 35. We have a daughter, now, here, to think of. If we ended up in a similar situation with a second child, not only could it be very dangerous to my health, but it would put a heavy strain on our family, and the child we already have. Hours spent in a NICU with a 2nd child would take time from our 1st. Not to mention the risk we would be creating for the hypothetical 2nd (or 2nd and 3rd) child/children. My husband and I feel that to do IVF again would be dangerous (this comes from the med community) as well as selfish. That is OUR PERSONAL feeling. I would never put that on anyone else as everyone is in their own heads and hearts.

Yet others – family included – cannot grasp why it is hard for us. Why we truly feel we cannot do it again and the fact that this is a difficult pill to swallow. They believe we should just ‘try again,’ which is obviously no big deal, right? (And putting aside the actual experience of the procedure, what about if it is unsuccessful? Yes, I could get pregnant but the other option is there, too…the sadness, the loss…) .

They assume it is the expense, and judge us for buying a new house. They assume we must not want a second child and don’t understand my sadness.

So, although I am so grateful to IVF and feel everyone should have it as an option, I really wish the truth was out there so it wasn’t so damn easy for everyone to tell me to ‘just try again.’

19 Brianna { 04.17.13 at 3:50 pm }

While I cannot comment on IVF specifically, I am so glad that there are choices. While reading your post, I tried to put myself into a time when fertility treatments were not available. How I probably would have felt shame at not being able to get pregnant. How I probably would have felt more broken that I do in this age. How I am so grateful that researchers have thought it scientifically beneficial to investigate these topics. Each woman and couple must make their own decisions during their infertility treatments, but I think having a choice is much better than BEING TOLD you’re done with treatments. It should, ideally, be your own personal choice to be done trying to have a child or to continue treatments.

20 Mina { 04.17.13 at 4:54 pm }

Someone sent me the link to the latest samantha brick article – and what a very apt name for such a subtle ‘journalist’. Anywhoodle. The moment I saw the title, I thought ‘Give this topic to Mel, and she’ll bring out the shining diamond from the darkness. But in samantha brick’s hands it will sink like the Titanic.’ And I was right.
I am glad that we have options. We are not guaranteed success, who can do that, even under the best of circumstances, but thank god we have options.

21 FrozenOJ { 04.17.13 at 5:16 pm }

We have recently made the difficult choice to pursue treatment for my DH’s low T that would consequently make him sterile. We could have tried treatment that would leave his fertility intact or even improve it, but it would be 5 times the cost. We could have frozen sperm before starting treatment for future IUIs or IVFs but we did not. When we came to the decision to stop fertility treatment, him becoming sterile to fix his other problems and me going on meds that would prevent ovulation for my endo, there was resistance. Not from our doctors, not from our family, but from the ALI community. I think that is some of the problem. My infertile friends and blog followers have so much hope for us they don’t want us to stop because maybe next cycle it would work. I can’t count the times people have told me “but you did conceive the third time you ovulated so you probably would again soon if you just hold on a little longer! His sperm really can’t be *all* bad!” I know they want us to be happy, but it’s not like we took this decision lightly. This community should first and foremost be about support, and sometimes that means supporting the decision to stop treatment. If we had just as much support when we decided to stop as we did when we decided to try I bet less people would have these negative feelings about options they chose not to pursue.

I am still personally very glad these options exist. In my eyes they definitely do more good than harm. Very rarely do I believe the treatments themselves harm anyone, and that is when there is some medical complication. It is we who harm ourselves and our friends by pushing us and them toward treatment we will not or can not do. It is infertility that hurts us, whether it be a failed IVF or years and years of trying without help.

22 Mali { 04.17.13 at 6:03 pm }

Interesting. As someone who tried IVF, didn’t get a baby out of it, and is living without kids, I can look at it from both sides.

Ultimately IVF gave me hope. And I was very grateful for that. I still am. So I don’t think that the procedure is itself to blame. It’s like blaming chemotherapy treatment for cancer, looking at all the pain, the cost (if you have to pay), the stress etc, if it doesn’t work. She talks about the “devastating cruelty of false promise.” It seems to me that she’s beating herself up for having had hope, but is instead blaming IVF. But hope is nothing to be ashamed of. Hope helps you through the stresses of a cycle, of waiting between cycles. And if it works, you are forever grateful. And if it doesn’t, the hope helped. I know my hope helped.

That’s the thing about uncertainty – you cannot guarantee that IVF will work. And maybe that’s ultimately her complaint.

The bottom line is that when I read this article, all I hear is her pain. To be three months after concluding treatments is VERY tough. I’ve always said it gets worse before it gets better. And those first few months – when the reality and certainty of not being able to conceive replace the fear -are hard. You have to completely reprogram your brain, and that is a painful painful process. She admits that she’s unable to do that. Yet. But I hope that, ten years on, she’ll be able to look back and feel glad that she was able to try IVF, that she and her husband could afford to try it, and feel happy that by trying IVF, they did what was right for them.

23 IrisD { 04.17.13 at 6:18 pm }

Listen to Dan Gilbert explain the nature of happiness. One of the factors contributing to unhappiness is choice. If you have to accept what life has given you because that is all there is, no other alternatives, you tend to (eventually) rationalize that you are ok with your situation. Over 10 years ago, when I was in my early 30s, a friend a few years younger went through three failed IVFs, the last of which ended with an ectopic pregnancy. She and her husband went to counseling because the experience (and I guess infertility overall) took a heavy toll on her and their relationship. I’m not in regular touch, but last I heard they were together, living child free, and it seems, happy. I remember at that time thinking I would never want to put my body through all that and that if I wanted a child, but could not have one biologically, I would “just adopt”. That’s another huge issue, isn’t it. We think it is an easy option. We have no idea. Fast forward several years and it turns out that we cannot have children, and my partner doesn’t want to go through IVF. Suddenly, I begin to regret my choices in life…. If I had not gone back to graduate school, I would have had the money to pay for IVF (no student loans), I would have been younger and had a better chance (our situation was primarily male factor), I would have had more money saved up if I had continued to work full time. From my partner’s point of view, the issue is primarily emotional. He is older and did not want to go through the roller coaster ride of treatments. Because of his condition, he would have to take very expensive medication, before IVF with ICSI. No financial assistance, no guarantee of success, and being older, a huge investment prior to having a child if you even managed to have one. But, I, who had written IVF off, suddenly resented him for taking that chance away from me. The fact that it is out there, the fact that society tends to think that anyone could have a child, and that if you don’t it is because you waited too long, or didn’t prioritize family (I know that is why some people think I’m childless…). I don’t go out of my way to explain. It is a highly personal issue to us. But, yes… the problem with being childless, at least from me, comes from society. People ask all the time when are you planning to have children. They tell you, you will die old and lonely if you don’t. They tell you that having children was the best thing that ever happened to them, that it transformed their life, that they are so much wiser and stronger now. Entertainment news and popular magazines bombard you with the latest baby bumps and mama dramas. Politicians cater their campaigns to nuclear families. Ann Romney equated womanhood to motherhood in her campaign speech and Michelle Obama explained her greatest role as “Mom in chief.” Even products related to elderly care are advertised to adult children for taking care of “mom”.

24 persnickety { 04.17.13 at 7:09 pm }

I found that when I was talking to people about my failed cycles they always surprised by the fact that they hadn’t worked, and then by the quite low odds of success – I had to point out that essentially all they did was raise my odds of success to what a “normal” couple would have if they were just trying.

I don’t regret doing IVF, it was not a pleasant experience, but it did help me articulate how far I was willing to go (four live cycles- and since we have yet to get a frozen embryo, it limits it to 4 cycles). As it is I managed to get pregnant without IVF (even though it didn’t stick) and my RE has consequently dialed my treatment back- injections and timed sex are on the menu. We still have one of my 4 ivfs to go, so may have one more crack at it, at some point, but will be pushing hard for the plan of harvest as many eggs as possible and freeze all option- it appears that the drugs probably don’t help the implanting

25 Guera { 04.17.13 at 9:29 pm }

IVF was never a choice for me for personal reasons and after three failed IUIs we knew without question that we were going to pursue adoption. And that almost didn’t happen. And when it did my world was rocked by the trauma of the birthmother separating herself from her two-day old newborn to give to me.
There are no easy choices. There are no quick choices. There are no painless choices. There are no cheap choices. But we do have choices…for that at least I am grateful.

26 Karen Sanders { 04.18.13 at 5:42 pm }

This is a very complicated issue. Very few know that the 6-week old asleep on my chest comes from IVF. The decision to proceed was reached quickly after a diagnosis of premature ovarian failure after two pregnancy losses and just two weeks before our wedding. I’d already lost my daughter when she was 8.

I never thought of the mental and physical pain associated with the treatments. I worried about cost and have very little debt thanks to in-laws who wanted us to have a child and had the means to help.

The injections were torture. The emotional toil almost broke us. We were lucky that it worked the first time. It breaks my heart for those who aren’t that lucky.

27 Jen { 04.20.13 at 5:15 am }

Thanks to Rachel Gurevich for leaving a comment – it allowed me to follow it back to her article (and subsequently put a link to it from my blog sidebar).

As a lot of comments above have already covered, it’s yet another of the ‘very difficult issues’ that some women must unfortunately face in their lives. From personal experience, I found no support at all from family when I considered not pursuing IF, even after the doctor confirmed that our chances were minimal. It was expected that I should try it anyway if I “really want a child” (oh the ignorance of that statement!)

When you are in the thick of any crisis, and infertility is indeed a crisis, it is very difficult to step outside of the situation and see that there are choices, not just a given answer. A little more awareness of the reality that IF is not the solution for everyone, and perhaps more support around making this choice from successful parents to their less fortunate friends or family members would really do a lot to help with the healing process.

28 Battynurse { 04.20.13 at 7:16 am }

I don’t know if I can use the term grateful in describing how I feel about IVF but I do agree that it’s great that it is an option. I know many people have become parents thanks to IVF. I can understand the feeling though of not being so glad of the expense. It still irks me some that I will be paying mine off until almost 2015 and what else I could have done with that money. I can’t honestly say though whether I’d still be bothered about how much I spent if it had worked. I don’t know and never will. I’m glad I had the chance to try although I wish I had maybe stopped sooner.

29 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 04.22.13 at 10:32 am }

I love options but options do make it complicated to navigate life. I wouldn’t swap it but I think we need to continually work to improve the general decision-making ability. As individuals we vary widely in that skill (and the related skill of resolving ourselves to our choices once the decision point is irrevocably gone) and as a society I think our tools for teaching those skills lag way behind the rate at which we are introducing new alternatives.

But the solution in my mind is to promote skill in dealing with options. Not to start removing (or to stop adding) options to counterbalance deficiencies in these skills.

30 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 04.22.13 at 10:44 am }

Although if you’re talking about removing options from a restaurant menu or something that’s different. Focus and specialisation can be good. The assumption here though is that you’re not the only restaurant in town.

31 Jenny { 04.23.13 at 10:35 pm }

I am a full supporter of IVF because for us, it was the ONLY option. We didn’t have any other way of becoming pregnant. IVF was our generic (and expensive) jar of peanut butter with the white label. Take it or leave it. Maybe my opinion is swayed because it worked for us but after being told it was our only option I knew that we had to at least try it, just once, even if it failed. I also completely understand and support anyone who decides it is not for them. It is not easy and my stomach gets unsettled when I think back on the process. I hope nobody ever feels guilty for choosing not to do it. But at least it is available to couples, who like us, don’t have any other options offered to them.

32 De { 10.21.13 at 8:07 pm }

I am grappling with having too many choices right now. After 4 years of trying everything, I am ready to move on and look into fostering a child, however, I know that my husband is keen to keep trying, which means more IVF, more naturopath concoctions, more acupuncture and more pain and grief. It is so hard to tell your husband you want to stop trying, let alone friends and family who whilst wanting to support you, don’t understand and therefore encourage you to keep on trying. I feel like I need to have exhausted every single type of treatment so I can justify my decision to others. There are so many things now which take up so much time, money and emotional strength, I feel like it’s too much.

33 Adele { 11.04.13 at 8:49 pm }

It is entirely someone’s choice if they choose IVF. But it angers me so much when people talk about not wanting IVF to have been created as my brother and I are alive due to its successes. I know it sounds selfish, but it feels like people don’t believe I should be alive, that because they can’t have children, neither should someone else. I am turning 17 at the end if this week and I am thankful everyday for the sacrifice my parents made once they found out that they couldn’t have children without IVF.

34 Cee { 11.12.13 at 6:56 pm }

I am grateful for sites like this because there really isn’t enough obvious support out there for people who choose NOT to do IVF. This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life and I feel fear – regularly – that I will regret not trying. But that is not the reason to try. The reason to try is because you feel right about the decision, because you believe it is a “good” (whatever that means for you) chance, because you feel that it is best.
There are major risks associated with IVF (OHSS, $, emotional drain, missed work, prolonged stress) as well as pregnancy after 40 (chromosomal abnormalities, preeclampsia, premature labor, etc.) and no single doctor told me all I needed to know.
I am also very grateful for choices – as stressful as they may be. But the pressure to pursue IVF is overwhelming. I am so glad I saw this article and all the great comments.

35 sonya { 04.07.15 at 3:37 pm }

Brilliant comments above, by the way! I’m definitely glad that we have choices in life! Including very difficult, complex choices such as IVF. It does make things take a lot longer to sort through, but which one of us actually wants a choice taken away from us? I don’t!!!

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