Over the past couple of weeks, I've found myself inexplicably drawn to the IF message boards. I spend hours scrolling down through the animated emoticons and the liberal sprinklings of baby dust searching for women in a similar position to myself. What I suppose I'm really looking for is hope: hope that our one embryo may emerge from the freezer unscathed and then implant, hope that I may yet have a better response on a different protocol. I read about wheatgrass, DHEA supplementation and oestrogen priming protocols. I torture myself with stories about those who had repeated cancelled cycles, and who then went on to conceive naturally after a course of acupuncture. The boundaries of what is possible with ART are constantly being pushed forward, and the temptation is to assume that there must be something else out there - a different clinic, an experimental new protocol, or some kind of complementary therapy - that may make the difference for us.
A few months ago, several British newspapers reported the story of a couple who had eventually conceived after fifteen attempts at IVF. Over a ten year period, they had spent nearly £65,000 on fertility treatment. They had twice remortgaged their home, and had each worked two jobs to cover the cost of those repeated cycles. They finally brought their baby daughter home from the hospital in January of this year. Implicit within this story was the assumption that, if you want it badly enough, and if you just keep going, you'll get pregnant in the end.
It's an assumption which, it seems to me, also haunts the infertility community. I've recently read a couple of posts written by other IF bloggers wondering whether or not to put themselves through another cycle. In these posts, I could not help but detect a certain note of guilt and anxiety lest they should be perceived by others still in the trenches as having 'given up' too soon.
There is no set number of treatments you should have to go through before you decide that enough is enough; each of us has our own individual limits. Given my poor response on these first two cycles, the chances are that I will be prescribed high doses of FSH on any future cycles. I remain concerned about the possible long-term effects of those drugs. If I choose not to put myself through repeated high-dose stimulations, then it doesn't mean that I want a baby any less than someone who is willing to undergo multiple cycles of IVF. Stopping treatment does not in any way deaden the aching desire to become a mother; in many ways, it brings it into even sharper relief.
I'm not ready to let go just yet: while we still have that one embryo on ice, there is still hope. But I think that I am beginning to move towards an ending, and to acknowledge that that ending might not necessarily be the one that I'd hoped for.