Infertility: One Year After Ending IVF

What happens when you’re just done?

Just a quick recap: This is my seventh (and final) post in what has become a series about this topic. The first was about my initial struggles of dealing with infertility, and then I went into detail about starting IVF and the egg retrieval process, the IVF transfers and how it felt, a post about grieving, the aftermath of 3 rounds of IVF and where I was at that moment, and finally, the overwhelming guilt I felt about being terrified to continue IVF.

My journey through dealing with infertility has been an endless one of frustration, hope, pain, hormones, doctors, procedures, and medications.

In my last post, it was October 2019 and my husband and I were planning to restart IVF in January 2020. I was still off of my anti-anxiety meds (can’t be on them during IVF) and we were actively making plans to move forward.

In this, likely my final post on this topic, I want to tell you what happened next.

By December 2019, my anxiety and fear of restarting IVF had skyrocketed. I definitely, 100% was not ready to try again.

I didn’t want to get back on the rollercoaster.

I kept thinking, “Not yet.”

Until one day, I realized it wasn’t a not yet. It was a no.

In December 2019, I (we) made the firm decision NOT to move forward and do more IVF.

The mental and physical toll the previous 3 rounds had taken on me was quantifiable. The recovery from it all took several months (and even now I still get flashbacks and think about it). I know that is nothing in the grand scheme of life, but it was real and scary and serious.

As an already-anxious person, the process took a serious toll on my mental health, including plunging me into my first-ever depression. Not fun.

Therapy and time helped a lot. But I did not get over the fear of doing it again and facing the same odds (60% possibility of it working). The doctor, a renowned expert, said we should “just keep trying, even if it takes 9 or more cycles.” [Note: And not just transfer cycles, the whole process multiple times — we only got 3 embryos from the first harvesting.]

Even now, a year and more doctors and procedures later, there is no diagnosed reason why my uterus won’t let an embryo stick to it. Why I have never conceived, in years of trying and medical intervention.

Author’s Note added in 2021: I was officially diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) in January 2021. While PCOS can cause infertility, it is not the definitive cause of MY infertility and conception issues. However, it is another piece of the puzzle.

Selfish? Maybe.

The day I decided not to do IVF again, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Yes, I still wanted a child.

But for the first time, I was starting to truly accept and be okay with NOT having a child.

Now, months later, I am even more accepting and okay with it.

The relief has continued.

When I see a squishy baby, I still adore them and cuddle them and am excited about them. But I feel less yearning for one of my own — which surprised me.

Two of my closest couple friends have had babies in the last 6 months.

And instead of feeling jealous and hurt, I felt joy and love.

I sometimes get struck by a feeling of selfishness. I mean, I stopped trying. I stopped the meds and procedures and just kept living my life. I gave up on my dream and plan for having a kid.

Other times, like currently being quarantined due to a global pandemic, I feel glad I don’t have small children and can focus on my work and not going crazy and trying to manage my own mental health in quarantine and not have to worry about a tiny human.

I see social media posts of parents struggling to keep their young children entertained and engaged. I even spent a week at my brother’s house at the very beginning of this pandemic after the schools were closed down staying home with my niece and nephew, since both their parents had to go to work every day. It was awesome to spend the time with them, as I adore those two. But they are 12 and 10 and not even little kids and it was still hard to keep them entertained and engaged all day in the house.

I’ve never felt more guilty or selfish, and yet I also feel WAY better mentally and physically than I did at this time last year when I was in the middle of the third embryo round of IVF.

Infertility is a mental journey as much as it is a physical one.

Three years after we started trying for a baby, I just can’t be on that merry-go-round every month anymore.

And the more time that goes by, the more I have come to accept it.

The IVF process alone was over $33k out of pocket and that doesn’t even account for the many hours of missed work/wages of doctor appointments, specialist copays, research, phone calls, procedures, IUIs, recovery times, dozens and dozens of pregnancy tests, ovulation strips, and more.

The money certainly is part of it, but I think my mental health and security is the final and most important reason to stop trying so hard.

You know what? If it happens, it happens. I know it probably won’t — we've been given a 2% chance by many experts. But through this entire difficult, horrible, sometimes painful, emotional experience, I have given it my all. I gave it 100% of my attention, my body, my mind, and my effort.

So, now I choose me.

And maybe that makes me selfish. For the first time, I am okay with that.

Entrepreneur, writer, editor, book coach, cat lover, weirdo, optimist. Author of “Write. Get Paid. Repeat.” & “Concept to Conclusion.” jyssicaschwartz.com