Our IVF Journey – Part 2

I have taught children martial arts for over 20 years and I’m often told how good I am with my students by their parents – they see me as a positive role model in their lives; something that I’m extremely proud to be.

I have always enjoyed spending time with my friends and families children and I’m often the adult sitting in a circle of kids at a party joining in their games rather than hanging out with the boring adults J

Like most men, I had never really given having children much thought.  Being a Dad was something I knew that I wanted to be but not something I had put a time frame on.  Fran and I had and have a great life; we have our struggles like every couple but are generally really healthy and keep ourselves in good shape.

When we first started talking about having children and discussing it with friends, we’d always say that there was no rush and we had “things” we wanted to see and do first before making the commitment.

We made the decision for Fran to stop taking the contraceptive pill to give her body a break from the fake hormones and allow her body to return to a more natural cycle.  Our studies in health and nutrition were behind the decision rather than actually thinking about starting a family.

We were naïve enough to think that when we wanted to get pregnant it would just happen.  After we got married we stopped being “careful” and thought that if we got pregnant it would be a bonus but didn’t actively focus on trying.

I think about 18 months went by before really thought that something might be wrong and we started focussing on putting some effort in.  Another 6 months went by and we went to the doctor to check if there was anything not quite right.

The first step was to attend a group fertility meeting to explain how the system worked in Coventry.  We were told that in Coventry you get three goes of IUI and if that was unsuccessful, one go of IVF on the NHS.

It was really impersonal but I understand why they do it that way, it’s more cost and time effective to have a large group in the room rather than having a nurse spend some time with each couple, although a DVD could do the same job.

I have attention “issues” and struggle to hold focus at times and spent much of my time looking around the room.  Everyone looked really nervous but the main thing I noticed was that everyone also looked really unhealthy.

In the talk they didn’t offer any advice on nutrition or health in general to improve the couples chances of conception.  Nutrition makes a massive difference to how our bodies function and particularly to the hormonal cycle.

I’ve written previously about how several of our clients and members have conceived naturally after following our nutrition and exercise plans.  We have some friends who went through fertility treatment in another County a few years previous to this and they were advised on having an organic diet and making changes in their lifestyle.

I left the meeting feeling frustrated and Fran picked up the big bag of drugs to start taking for the first IUI cycle.  This frustration is still something I feel today because there seemed to be a lack of communication throughout the cycle.

Part of the process for the man is to get your swimmers checked out to see if everything is fine from the male point of view.  Mike described the process in his post here – http://coventrypersonaltrainer.co.uk/639/national-infertility-awareness-week/.

I can’t think of a way that this can be improved other than to have a separate entrance and a nicer waiting area.  Maybe having appointments spread further apart so you’re not put in the embarrassing situation of sitting in a room with a couple of other guys waiting their turn to ‘spank the monkey’.

Knowing that other people are waiting increases the stress of the situation.  Bizarrely, male ego gets involved.  You really just want to get the job done and get out of there as quickly as possible but you also don’t want the people waiting to think that you have a ‘quick draw’ problem.  It’s stupid but it adds to the stress and stress is a major problem in fertility.

As you should have gathered, the three cycles of IUI were unsuccessful.  We took about two years to take them, as we wanted the best chance of success that we could and felt that it was a good option to allow Fran’s body to recover fully between each cycle.  During which time we had a couple of private consultations to see if there was anything else we could do.

We had a test that cost around £200 and essentially told us that without some specific drugs IUI wasn’t going to work.  Again I felt frustrated that we weren’t told this at the start of our journey and we had to go ‘private’ to find out.  We had pretty much wasted the first two cycles.  The reason why the test wasn’t offered to us in the first place was that some couples didn’t have the resources to pay for it and it wasn’t available on the NHS.

That’s ridiculous in my opinion; it would actually save them money because it might increase the chances of success by giving people the information they need to increase their chances.

Fran added the extra drugs in to her routine and we had our final go of IUI, which was unsuccessful.  The next step was IVF which Fran wrote about here – http://coventrypersonaltrainer.co.uk/628/our-ivf-journey/.

As you know that was unsuccessful and we are now about 6 months out from fertility treatment and are making decisions on what to do next and the direction we want to take our lives.

Throughout our journey my underlying emotion has been frustration.

Frustration at a system that lacks communication.

Frustration at the quality of advice given from a health point of view.

Frustration that as a man my role is to provide and fix things; yet I have no solution to our fertility issues.

Frustration with myself for feeling bitter.  Bitter about people whom are barely surviving their lifestyles conceiving and still not making changes for the benefit of their unborn child.  Feeling bitter doesn’t help anybody and only exacerbates my own frustrations.  I feel guilty about this too; I try to maintain a positive out look but sometimes wonder why people with such obvious health issues seem to get pregnant by watching Jeremy Kyle?

My biggest frustration though is with the system when you have a negative result.  Throughout the fertility treatment process the nurses were supportive.  When we had a positive pregnancy test, the nurse that told us was genuinely pleased, she let it sink in and noted that we were in a slight state of disbelief.  Her communication was great, she explained what happened next, what we needed to do, and got us booked in for our next appointment.

However, following our appointments when we were told that there was no baby all communication and support stopped.  It was like; we can’t tick the box that says success so you are no longer important.  Here’s what will happen, see you later.

We are very fortunate and privileged to have a really supportive network of friends and family.  Not everybody does, it wasn’t until this point that I truly understood the reason why many couples don’t survive the IVF process.

As a man, you put so much energy into supporting and caring for your wife during the treatment.  As a health coach I am better armed than many men in to what the female is going through from a hormonal point of view.  How emotions and moods can flip at the slightest thing, I’m far from perfect and provide many opportunities to flip at, and would listen and try harder.

It’s at the point when treatment fails and you’re waiting for the miscarriage that as a man you feel truly impotent.  Nothing you can say or do, can help.  The focus is fully on the female, and rightly so, but the man needs support too.

We feel the same loss and flood of emotions as the woman, we just don’t have the physical effects to deal with.  And with our situation the physical effects were horrendous and led to surgery.  Again providing the opportunity to feel helpless as the man in the relationship.

We are meant to be strong, protect and provide.  Yet when in a hospital you are brushed aside and told to ‘just wait over there’.

Following the negative scan and resulting procedure, we were given zero advice on Fran coming off the powerful hormonal drugs she was on other than reduce gradually.  Again, we are more fortunate than most as part of roles as health coaches includes helping people through hormonal issues.

It’s been a long process and after 6 months, I finally think Fran’s body has recovered from the treatment and drug regime.

The mind is a tricky one, we thought we had got past it but Fran had a ‘moment’ a couple of weeks ago because she needed to cover a place in an obstacle race.  She had some nerves about doing the race and then realised that she shouldn’t have been able to do it because she was meant to be heavily pregnant.

Again, I can’t thank our friends and family enough for being there for us.

We have shared our story to provide a reference for other couples that are struggling with fertility issues to see what they are facing.  I shared my side because the fertility journey has some really shit times and both parties need support.  The man is often just an after thought in the process, yet we are equally mentally, if not more, as invested in the process as the female.

It is hard to be strong all of the time and it is ok to talk and even break down without feeling like you’re weak.  This side of things is a major part of the Movember campaign we are doing this month.

Men need to talk and share their feelings and health concerns more openly and I hope to set an example by doing so.

    2 Comments

    • mike ashworth

      Reply Reply November 4, 2013

      Hi Daz,

      Having seen what this was like for you both, I have to say you both rock!

      You should see if the Good Men Project would be interested in hearing more about your perspective on IVF. Andrew Bellamy (the shoudler guy) has some contacts I believe.

      Mikey

      • Darren

        Reply Reply November 4, 2013

        Cheers dude. I’d never heard of that before will check it out properly later in the week x

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