Our fertility journey started in the August 2020 covid lockdown, when I was 28, and my husband was 29. We were recently married but had known we wanted to start a family for several years - we just hadn’t been in a financially stable enough position to do it. I very naively thought it would be easy. After all, we’ve been told for as long as we could remember that it only takes one accident without contraception to result in an unwanted pregnancy!
I was convinced that our “one time without contraception”, which was at the midpoint in my cycle, would be our happy conception story. It wasn’t. But that was ok, this was still an exciting time for us. We discussed and decided to start trying more seriously. I still didn’t think it would take us long, provided we made the effort, maybe a few months at most.
But those few months passed with no result. There were times when my period was late, I got very excited and took tests. But no pregnancy. With very irregular cycles, I assumed we just weren’t catching ovulation. Although I was as regular as I had ever been, my cycles were still varying from 30-45 days. I thought we just needed to be more regular and disciplined about having sex. Surely, this was in our control - we were just a bit crap at sex compared to other couples, I thought.
But as more months went by with no result, I found it harder and harder to keep up hope and motivation. I was so disheartened every month when there was no success. Some months we couldn’t muster up the willpower to try at all. I was starting to feel very hopeless and very depressed. I had convinced myself that life wasn’t worth living if we couldn’t have children. I had decided that my future happiness depended on the family I so desperately wanted.
I worked out that over a 2-year period, we had managed to try in about 16 months, and about 8 of those I think we tried at the “right time” in my cycle. By this point, we had moved into our own home, and we decided that it was time to see a doctor. We thought that paying for treatment, such as IUI, was preferable to this continuing stress and disappointment. This decision was harder for my husband than I, who was afraid that the issue might be with him. I didn’t care about the why or who - I just wanted a plan that would result in a child.
But our wonderful doctor at Fertility Associates said there was nothing obviously wrong. Sperm count and motility were great, my egg reserve was high. He thought it was simply my irregular cycles and that I might not be ovulating regularly or at all. So I was prescribed Letrozole to get my cycles regular and make sure ovulation was occurring. We intended to do IUI, as we were struggling to have regular sex on our own. But with COVID restrictions, it proved challenging to get into an IUI cycle, particularly with being unable to predict when my period would start and with it getting close to Christmas. So we went ahead with monitored ovulation induction cycles with the Letrozole. I had day 12 scans and a day 21 blood test. These showed I responded well to the medication and that ovulation occurred. We were excited. This was going to be it! We were finally going to be on the way to a child.
On day 28, I got the phone call that I was not pregnant. We were disappointed. But we knew this could take time. So we proceeded with a second cycle. And a third. And a fourth. Still no pregnancy result. By this point, I was again starting to feel disheartened and hopeless. I was coming to dread the week of sex each month. It was starting to become painful for me during intercourse. And we also were having issues with vaginal tightness, making it challenging to physically have sex.
So we went back to the doctor to weigh up our options. I had been putting a lot of effort into losing weight with a dietician to get my BMI down to the level required for public funding and was stoked to discover not only was my weight now within range, but our doctor was also able to put us onto the public funding list for IVF. This was a huge relief. But also still a 15-18 month wait for funding. We decided to proceed with a fifth round of the Letrozole and plan to start a privately funded IVF round if that was unsuccessful.
We have just got the news that I am, yet again, not pregnant. And now, our next step will be IVF. This has felt slightly surreal for me - I sometimes feel confused about how I have gotten from being convinced one time of unprotected sex would lead to pregnancy to 2.5 years later staring down the barrel of IVF. I’ve had to re-evaluate whether or not this is of our own doing - for so long, I was convinced it was our fault for not being disciplined enough with sex. But we followed all the instructions with Letrozole, there was nothing more we could have done. We don’t know why we haven’t had the success we hoped for.
I’ve also found myself feeling angry - this wasn’t supposed to go this way or be this hard. I never anticipated needing to go through IVF. We have both struggled with the uncertainty and lack of control over the situation. Contraception feels like some sort of sick joke sometimes - what was the point of it?
But I have found some silver linings among it all. We love being in our new home, and we now have a dog who has made such a difference in our lives. I can now see that the future is worth living regardless of whether we get our family. My entire happiness does not depend on this. But knowing this doesn’t make me want children any less. Fertility treatment has also helped me to stop blaming myself and to stop blaming my husband for our difficulties with having regular sex. I don’t think that was the issue.
I am both nervous and hopeful about IVF. The doctors think we have good chances, but they also thought we had good chances with the Letrozole cycles. I don’t want to get my hopes too high. But having no hope at all results in a lot of misery and makes this journey even harder. It has also been hard watching other people fall pregnant and have kids, no matter how happy I may feel for them. I really, really hope that it will be our turn soon.
I've found reading about other people's journeys on Fertility NZ's website and in the forum particularly helpful for feeling less alone and normalising the experience a bit. The resources have helped heaps with learning about and understanding all the different options available to us. I have been able to go into appointments a lot more prepared and know what questions I need to ask.
I feel really strongly that fertility issues and trying to conceive are not talked about enough. I hope that our story can help others feel less alone and know that they are normal and this is not their fault.