The road to pregnancy has not been an easy one for Susan* and her husband. She shares her journey with us so that other parents know that they are not alone.
For those of you who have easily fallen pregnant and had the good fortune of not having to work for it, the two-week wait (TWW) won’t mean much to you. You would’ve been blissfully unaware of this time frame when you fell pregnant. In fact, you’d have been completely oblivious to the fact that a little embryo had just miraculously embedded itself in your endometrial lining and that you were at the very beginning stages of your pregnancy.
For anyone who has gone through IVF or struggled to fall pregnant, you’ll know only too well what the dreaded TWW means. So here I am, in my TWW, nervous as hell and panicked beyond belief, filled with dread, excitement, fear and hope, and literally counting down the minutes before I can have a blood test that will reveal whether or not our embryo transfer (the final stage of IVF) was successful. This is quite possibly the most stressful part of the process and the 14 days of waiting feels like three years! Hurry up already!
But how did I get here?
Let me take you back a decade. Three weeks before my 30th birthday, I was involved in a serious car accident that very nearly ended my life. My body was wrecked and I pretty much broke everything except my left leg and my nose. Suffice it to say, I spent the following weeks in a coma fighting for my life until I woke up in time to turn 30.
I then spent the next six years being put back together. I was pinned together with screws, rods and plates, some of which were custom made for me in the USA. I underwent surgery after surgery on my spine, jaw, arms, hands, feet, shoulder, pelvis, toes, you name it. I had to move home to my family to be cared for and I stopped practising in the medical field during my recovering.
“Finally, my 30’s were back on track and although I was considerably behind my peers, I could have everything that most thirtysomethings want and have – a beautiful marriage and a baby to complete our family.”
During all those years, I had one or two serious relationships, but my focus was on getting better and managing the pain, the process and recovering, instead of daydreaming about marriage and babies. It was an epic challenge to reclaim some semblance of my life as it was before the accident.
Little did I know that while my mind was preoccupied with my recovery, my eggs were ageing rapidly. I had always felt that my accident robbed me of most of my 30’s, which it certainly did. But I wasn’t aware that it had quite possibly robbed me of more than just my 30’s … I guess we’ll find out in two weeks.
When I eventually felt ready and decided that I wanted to find someone with whom I could share my life, I was totally blessed and fell in love with my now husband. We met and were married within nine months. It was a dream; he is a dream and the most perfect man for me in every way. Finally, my 30’s were back on track and although I was considerably behind my peers, I could have everything that most thirtysomethings want and have – a beautiful marriage and a baby to complete our family.
Being the type A’s that we both are, we went for preconception tests shortly after we got married. I was 37 at the time and knew that we were now pushing the envelope in terms of my fertility. Did you know that from age 35, a woman is considered “advanced in maternal age”? Did you also know that your fertility window is extended a little once you’ve had a baby? But for those who haven’t had a baby and are starting later in life, you’re on a back foot and at risk for premature menopause.
Be that all as it may, we had the tests in anticipation of wanting a baby in the future, and they confirmed that we should indeed be mindful of the infamous biological clock ticking. We didn’t feel quite ready to start trying for a baby and I still needed several spinal surgeries, so it wasn’t an option at that time.
Aside from the surgeries, I had a strong sense of wanting to solidify my marriage and spend a few years together, just the two of us. We did that and travelled the world for three years. Again, it was a dream! How blessed we are to have found each other and to have been afforded this wonderful adventure abroad.
Four full passports later, on my 39th birthday, we started trying for a baby. We had the fertility tracking app and the ovulation prediction sticks; we knew in which month we were aiming to have the baby; I’d replaced painkillers with folic acid; we were eating a diet rich in all the right things to assist fertility … and nothing happened.
And then nothing the next month. And nothing the following month, even after several attempts at artificial insemination. I wished the entire year away by waiting for the right cervical mucus, ovulation, a positive pregnancy, a good menstruation and then the next hopeful “try” on a new cycle. And before I knew it, it was my 40th birthday.
We’ve now moved back home to Johannesburg and have spent the last eight months preparing for our IVF. Considering I have lived through tremendous physical injuries that should have killed me, I don’t mean it lightly when I say that nothing could have prepared me for what has turned out to be the most crushing, soul-destroying and traumatic time of my life …
… undergoing IVF and the two-week wait …
*Name changed for privacy. Look out for the second part of her story titled “Counting your chickens before they hatch” in September 2018.