Coping with a Failed Ivf Attempt

 When a couple’s attempt at in-vitro fertilization (IVF) fails, they don’t cope – they grieve.

When your fertility specialist gently informs you that you’ll never be able to have children through natural means it changes a lot of things. A big part of why humans have been so successful as a species is because our desire to reproduce is very, very strong. You don’t often realize how strong until you learn it can’t happen for you and your partner without some help and some luck.

So you choose IVF. You go in knowing all the terminology, all the percentages and all the risks. You know what your odds are. You know what it will cost. You know it will be painful, and at certain points in the process it may even be dangerous. You don’t care.

You go home with enough drugs to open a pharmacy, and every night you and your spouse mix up and administer an impressive-looking cocktail. Every morning you start the day with an hour-plus commute for an ultrasound, blood work, and the interminable wait to see a doctor who always seems to be running behind schedule.

You go for the egg harvesting, and the sperm collection. You wait for the call the next day to see how many eggs have fertilized, and the next day to see how many embryos are still dividing, and the next to see if there are any left. You go for the implantation, and then you wait two agonising weeks before coming back for a final blood test to see if you’re pregnant.

But something happens to you over the course of an IVF treatment cycle. You and your spouse remain fully informed throughout the process, and much of the actual work is up to you. You take charge of your fertility, and creating a family stops being something that “just happens” to something that you do, something that is very, very important to you.

You can still find humour in the situation, albeit slightly macabre. Like when you call him from work and excitedly say “We saw two more eggs today – I’m laying like a chicken!” or on the morning of the implantation day when he rolls over and says “Okay, honey, we have to get up now – it’s time to go and pick up the kids.”

And then it doesn’t work, and the reality of being an infertile couple comes crashing back. But now you’re a changed person – you saw those eggs, you felt the ultrasound’s cold probe, and you were watching when the doctor pointed to the screen and said “Look – see those white balls? Those are the air bubbles attached to your embryos.”

For a moment, a brief moment, you were a parent. Regardless of your religious beliefs, or when or how you feel a human life begins, you know that you made a family. When it doesn’t work and all that gets taken away from you the loss you feel can be the deepest grief you’ve ever experienced. It’s not as if you’ve lost someone you love – you actually have lost someone you love.

That’s why you don’t cope with the failure of an IVF – you grieve.