Negative. My pregnancy test was negative. My first IVF cycle didn’t work.
At that time, I had a beautiful three-year-old daughter (who is now five). We got pregnant naturally so quickly with her that I took my fertility for granted. Being a physician, I quickly figured IVF was an option for the near future since I wasn’t able to conceive baby#2 after a whole year of trying. Even with my medical training, I could not have prepared myself for the emotional battle and time commitments of IVF. I confidently started the IVF process by meticulously timing the myriad of my oral, vaginal, and injectable hormones to the calendar. Bloodwork and ultrasound appointments were booked every two to three days. I soon found myself running on a hamster wheel.
I would juggle my Los Angeles commute, seeing patients in the clinic, work on projects, go to my fertility appointments, take my scheduled meds, and maintain my home life with a physician husband and a strong-minded toddler (like her mama). I was constantly moving patients around my own appointments so I didn’t have to cancel seeing them. When I did have to cancel on a set of patients, I felt so overwhelmingly guilty that I would work extra hours to accommodate them. Sound overwhelming? That’s because it was. I was overextending myself and it was nonstop.
Fast forward 2 years from the start of my infertility and IVF journey – I got pregnant! — Only to experience a miscarriage almost 6 weeks in.
The level and depth of that devastation is indescribable.
I felt broken.
I felt hopeless.
I felt used.
I felt guilty.
I felt like a failure.
As an Internist, I am often counseling patients on how to reduce stress, anxiety, depressed mood, and increase their productivity, value, and happiness. Regardless of the situation or trigger, the foundation for change is the same. After my first unsuccessful embryo transfer, I had decided that it was time to take my own advice. It was the only way I got through my miscarriage.
I stopped my guilt.
I acknowledged my feelings.
I embraced vulnerability.
And, I found gratitude.
Was my experience peppered with unsolicited advice? Of course.
Did those two years bring envy while many other couples were growing their familes? Yes.
Did it make me angry? Absolutely.
Can you spin those feelings around to gratitude? You bet.
To those who had expressed comments like,
“When are you going to give your poor daughter a sibling?”
“You shouldn’t have waited so long.”
“Have you stopped your birth control yet?”
“At least you have a child!”
“Just stop stressing. It’ll happen naturally.”
I am not angry with you anymore.
I recognize that I made you feel comfortable enough to comment on such a personal decision, to which I now answer with honesty and with an intent to educate about the fragility of this topic. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to teach you.
I don’t feel guilty anymore. I didn’t start family planning in my 20s. Instead, I met the love of my life, went to medical school, got married, moved to California, started residency, and am now a full-time internal medicine physician. That, in it of itself, is a reward.
I don’t feel like a failure anymore. I didn’t “fail” the IVF cycle. This wasn’t a test I studied for. It was a probability. Without this experience, I would not be the person I am today.
I started trusting MY process. It took breaking my negative cycle and putting myself in a new mindset in order to acknowledge my guilt, sadness, sacrifice, hopelessness, and spinning it into gratitude. You — too — can apply this to any hardship. Don’t ignore your current obstacles, but don’t let them outshine all of the things that are going right. You got this, friends.