Life after IVF treatment
IVF treatment brings dreams and hopes for children. But, as we've discovered, these hopes are not always fulfilled and couples must confront a future without children .
The journey through IVF treatment brings many emotions to the surface. Couples who undertake the journey are often taken by surprise by the demands that IVF can make. Success and failure are always possibilities. In this program we hear about Anne & Alister's disappointment that is not often talked about but can be a very real part of the IVF journey. In listening to this podcast series please bear in mind that Anne and Alister's experience is not universal, it is their story. This podcast series is not intended to replace or replicate medical advice.
Stopping IVF treatment - life after IVF
It’s such a hard thing to talk about the process. It’s really difficult to really identify the different stages we’ve been through and, for me, what’s brought me to the point I’m at now. Which does feel very different to the point I was at six years ago.
It’s a very gradual process. It’s a lifelong journey I think really. I think for me I don’t think I’ll ever feel that this has totally gone away, in the sense that I think it will always be a regret. A fairly deep regret, is almost an inadequate word. A sort of fundamental regret, a fundamental absence in our lives that we didn’t have children. That was what we wanted to do. And I don’t ever want to deny that, I don’t want to say; oh it doesn’t matter or it’s fine, great. You know, we didn’t have children it’s OK. Because in a way it’s sort of... in one sense it’s not OK, in another sense I think, I have a great level of acceptance now of this is who we are and this is the life we have.
The process between thinking if I didn’t have a child I’d kill myself and getting to the point where it no longer feels as fundamental. It’s very difficult to really articulate clearly I think. I think for me a number of different things have helped.
One is being having... not being actually involved anymore in the active quest for a child I think brings its own healing because when you’re in that active quest you’re always trying to advance that goal. When you let that go you’re then giving some space for something new to happen. You’re also not spending your time in that infertility world. And so you’re not constantly being reminded of the absence.
I think that it took, after we stopped treatment, we probably had about a year where we were living fairly provisionally, not quite sure if we were going to go back to treatment. And also trying to do some fun things. Like we took a holiday in India and met up with some old friends from the UK and they tend to stay. And we did some renovations on our house, we put some money into that.
That was nice, I think we had a year when we didn’t... We were engaging with the healing partly by moving to different things and doing those.
I’d always been very pre-occupied with the lack of any support group for people who don’t succeed. And so I had a big desire to set up a group for people like ourselves. And that was probably a bit part of my healing and coping too. To bring others together. Partly because of the satisfaction in actually achieving that. But also just because actually then we suddenly had a bunch of friends who were in a very similar situation and who we could talk to.
And unlike the IVF support group this is a stable group because none of us are going to have children. And it’s been a very powerful thing to have companions in this journey. We’re all really different and we all deal with it differently but there are some commonalities as well.
So I think to find others in the same situation has been really helpful. We didn’t have many people in our natural social network who were in our position. In fact not really anyone quite. So it was really important for me to have that.
I also did... I guess as well, I think when you finish there’s this big sense of a void and an absence and what, what now. You spend so much time... we spend so much time trying to have a baby that we didn’t really know what we were without that quest. And we didn’t know where I lives were going to go. And I was only 40 and Alistair’s 35 or something. We’ve got a lot of life left but what on earth do you do with it? It’s just this big blank kind of screen. And it’s very tempting to want to immediately fill it with things. So I started a pHd just after I was 40 and ended up not going ahead with it because my interest shifted. Which was good. And I think that’s good decision. But I was OK. And I think it was good to give yourself freedom and not to get the immaculate life plans straight away. It might be a bit of a fumbling in the dark for a while. You might try one thing and that doesn’t work. So that was OK.
And I think for me as well there was a big spiritual component to it as well. But I think everyone... People we’ve met since we finished have all found different resources and supports to help them. But a lot of it has been around finding... enjoying some of the positive things about not having children. As well as dealing actively with the grief and the feelings.
It’s been very helpful for me to say: I still feel sad about not having a child. I think that’s part of who we are now and it’s part of who I am. So I’m not just going to deny that and brush it aside. But at the same time I’m so much more future focussed than I was even two years ago and certainly than I was six years ago.
I’ve moved jobs since I was doing IVF. I’m now working in the same field doing policy work for an organisation that works with older people. And that’s just three days a week. And the reason I chose to do just a very part time job really is to give space to my other interests. And I’m doing a masters in spiritual direction, doing some training in spiritual directions.
And I must say it is good to have the chance to have... well the opportunity not to have to earn as much money as we might have had to earn possibly. And to also have that physical kind of space to be able to do lots of other things.
And we also run a small community church together as well. So life is really full, very busy and it feels very rewarding. And I’m conscious all the time that a lot of things that I do now I would not be able to do if I had children. So we’ve gone on a different path to the one than we thought we were going to go on ten years ago when we arrived in Australia. So it’s a good path.