I am SO excited to kick off our “What It’s Like“ series today with my amazing friend, Lauren Citro. Lauren and I connected through Instagram ages ago and since then have formed a genuine friendship, rooted in Christ and laughter more than our commonality of infertility. She’s the real deal, as genuine and kind as they come. Now, we not only get the chance to work together as colleagues at FertilityIQ, but we daydream about the day we can meet in person. I am honored to feature Lauren’s story today and ask you to lift her and her husband Andrew up in prayer as they continue their journey to start their family.
Now without further ado, here’s what it’s like to experience multiple failed IVF cycles.
“It’s almost too bad we’ll never have to do this again, we’ve gotten so good at it!” I looked up at my husband with a little sparkle in my eye, light-heartedly joking as he gave me my very last injection before my IVF egg retrieval.
It was January of 2016 and we had just hit the two year mark of trying to grow our family. When we first started trying a little over two years before, we had been nothing but optimistic, figuring that (like so many of my friends) we would get pregnant quickly and easily. When it didn’t happen quite as fast as I had initially hoped, I began to get discouraged. What if we can’t get pregnant? What if there is something wrong? What if we have to do IVF?
Even as I voiced my fear of needing medical intervention, I truly never believed it would come to something as invasive as IVF. When I asked “What if we have to do IVF?” it was basically the same as me asking “What if the sky falls?” – a very scary question, but something that obviously wasn’t a true threat. “We’re not going to have to do IVF,” my husband would say, “and if we did, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.”
I mostly trusted the reassurance of my husband, I didn’t think we’d have to do IVF, however, I did think that if we did do IVF, it would most certainly be the end of the world. And yet here we were, a bruised stomach, needle in hand, pumped full of hormones, with the finish line of IVF finally within reach. So yes, we did have to do IVF (sorry hubs, you can’t be right about everything), but no, it wasn’t the end of the world. And after a few rough days on that horrific Lupron, we finally had gotten into a rhythm with my daily shots and monitoring appointments. IVF hadn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, so much so that I was willing to make a joke that it was too bad we’d only have to do it once… because certainly, we’d only have to do it once, right?
We were entirely optimistic throughout the IVF process, so it was beyond disappointing when that cycle ended with a positive pregnancy test, but without a baby. Little did we know this would be the first of many heartaches we would face as IVF patients.
Sometimes when people ask about my journey, I flashback to a memory from childhood. I was playing with my BFF at her house when we all of a sudden heard a loud thud against the window. A few minutes later we heard it again, and then again. It was a bird…trying to fly into the house…through the solid window pane. It was failing over and over, but that didn’t stop it from trying- again and again and again. This went on for weeks, by the way. Every time I went to her house, there was that bird, not quite learning its lesson and as determined as ever to fly through that window. There are times in this journey that I’ve thought to myself, “am I that bird? … am I a stupid bird that can’t see I’m hurling myself at a seemingly impossible circumstance?”
IVF isn’t something anyone wants to go through once, and it’s certainly not anything anyone wants to go through multiple times. The past two years I’ve managed to rack up 6 IVF retrieval cycles and 4 total transfers. Of those 4 transfers I’ve faced two completely failed cycles and 2 chemical pregnancies- along with the heartache that comes with IVF in general (embryos that didn’t survive, disappointing PGS results etc.) Recounting those experiences isn’t fun, in fact (for lack of a better word) it really sucks.
The emotions that go into an IVF cycle are truly all consuming. The start of every cycle, feels optimistic and hopeful. The middle can feel tumultuous and emotional. And the end- after you’ve gotten bad news- it’s heart wrenching. You feel gutted with grief in a way that very few people who haven’t walked through this as their lived reality could possibly relate. The pain of heartache is intense, and at times, it really does feel like it’s the end of the world.
But it’s not. Really.
Is it hard and stupid and rage-inducing? Yes. Is it painful and heartbreaking? Yes. Will you cry harder than you’ve ever cried before? I would count on it. But, no, it’s not the end of the world.
And somehow, my husband and I are proof of it.
You really can survive the mess of it all, especially if you have some good survival strategies in place. I never go into a cycle with anything less than high hopes for a great outcome, and at the same time, I understand that unfortunately any number of things can cause a cycle to end poorly, which is why it’s so so important to make your own self-care a priority during infertility treatment. Surround yourself with compassionate people who will support you, care for you, pray for you, and encourage you. Treat your body well- eat healthy foods, go on walks and participate in physical activity as allowed by your doc. Take care of your head and your heart- pour out your thoughts in a journal, talk with a friend, find a solid therapist, and don’t be afraid to give yourself some space to process through emotions.
Facing heartaches in life has the potential to break you down, but it also has the potential to build you into a stronger person than you ever thought possible. When we first started this journey, I didn’t think I could survive 1 IVF cycle, but I’ve proved myself wrong and found strength that I didn’t even know I had. It’s a strength to endure hard days and to be willing to risk more heartache for the reward of trying again.
There are times in this process that I’ve related to that bird at my friends house in a way that makes me feel embarrassed that I haven’t “seen the signs” and moved on by now. But there are other days that I feel a solidarity with that bird. I see her determination and her resilience. I see her willingness to keep fighting. I think of her and I am reminded of a verse from Proverbs 24:16 which says (in my own paraphrase)- a Godly person falls 7 times, but they will rise again.
I truly believe that God is our source to get through the disappointments that so easily could push us past our breaking point. He is the one who sustains us and comforts us. He is the one who has brought so much peace in the midst of turmoil and He is the one who will give us the strength- when the time is right- for us to try again.
Lauren and her husband Andrew live in San Diego, California and have been married for 6 years. She feels a deep connection to other couples walking through a diagnosis of infertility and is passionate about sharing her story in hopes of encouraging others in their journey. Lauren loves traveling and exploring just as much as she loves staying home with a good book, but her ideal day would always be spent at Disneyland. Lauren takes pride in her closest relationships and deeply cherishes her role as a wife, daughter, sister, and friend.
Connect with Lauren more, and follow her along on her journey at her blog Grow My Family and on Instagram at @growmyfamily. (Ps – her last post on her blog on grief is absolutely beautiful. Click here to read.)
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!