There are many reasons that parents decide to go through the process of in-vitro fertilization, also known as IVF. One or both might be struggling with infertility. They might be of an advanced maternal age. Some couples, like those with two dads, turn to IVF and surrogacy in order to create a family of their own. For all of the myriad of reasons that people turn to IVF to have their babies, there are also a million stories of success, heartbreak, and happiness.
After all, the IVF success rate is pretty brutal: a woman under 35 has just under a 40 percent chance of having a baby while a woman over the age of 40 has just an 11.5 percent chance. The he IVF costs can be prohibitive, too. In the United States, a single IVF cycle can cost about $22,000, and insurance won’t always cover the costs in full, or will sometimes demand that couples try at least a handful of cycles of IUI (intrauterine insemination) before moving onto IVF.
So what is it like to undergo an IVF procedure4 Fatherly spoke to five couples about the surprising reasons they decided to try IVF — and what the process was like for them.
I Had Asherman’s Syndrome
Although Brittany and Corbin, who live in Austin, Texas, had no problem conceiving their now two-year old child, delivery was difficult. Brittany’s placenta wasn’t detaching correctly during labor and after giving birth to their son, she had a handful of surgeries that scarred her uterus to the point of developing Asherman’s syndrome, one of the results of which is difficulty getting pregnant.
“After those two procedures, my uterus was pretty much scarred shut,”says Ashley. She had two more reparative surgeries with an Asherman’s expert, but 50 percent of her uterus was still so scarred that she wouldn’t be able to carry a baby. Still wanting a biological child, she and her husband had to go back to the drawing board and decided to try surrogacy — and because they had their first baby naturally, that meant that they would need to try IVF beforehand to get embryos.
“Personally, the process was a hop skip and a jump from the worst month I’ve ever had,” says Corbin. “The hormones are no friggin’ joke for women. My wife had some complications from too much stimulation.” Still, after the injection and the egg retrieval, Brittany and Corbin were lucky to have one embryo that will be transferred to their surrogate in about three to four weeks. “It was definitely harder than I thought,” says Brittany. “No one gave me the heads up.”
Adoption Wasn’t Accessible to Us
John and John, who live in Quincy, Massachusetts, (who go by J.L. and G.F.) got married and started trying for children before gay marriage was legalized nationwide. That meant that the adoption process — which often occurs across state lines — was really not accessible to them.
“We had to be mindful of which states would even recognize our marriage, and what states wouldn’t — which would also dictate costs and the difficulties of having a family, or if anyone was willing to give up a child to a gay couple,” says J.L. Even though they lived in Massachusetts at the time, which recognized gay marriage, they still struggled to find families that would adopt to them. So they decided to try IVF and surrogacy.
They had a lucky process with no real issues, and today, have two children: a 6 year old and a 4 year old. Their embryos were made with the same egg donor, but child kid has a different dad (one of them).
“If we had gone through adoption, that would have also been wonderful,” says J.L. “But, fortunately, we had the financial ability to do the surrogacy route. They’re just starting to have questions about mommies and daddies and things. As they grow older, we’ll explain to them where they came from, and where they’re going.”
One Of Us Was Paralyzed
Alisha and Colton live in Indiana. Early on in their relationship, Colton was in an accident that left him paralyzed. They already had one child and wanted to grow have another. So they decided to try IVF. “He had zero sperm motility, so IUI was out of the question,” says Alisha. The couple enrolled in a clinical trial at their local fertility center first, which wasn’t successful. They went for traditional IVF next.
“It was very stressful. There were a lot of highs and lows,” says Alisha. “On one phone call, we found out that we had 36 eggs retrieved, but only seven were fertilized, so you go from a really high high to a really low low.” Colton agreed. “I felt about the same, mainly when I was thinking about Alisha, and how she was dealing with it.”
Luckily, their IVF procedure was successful and Alisha is pregnant with their second child, who is due on May 2nd. And as for the clinical trial, although it wasn’t successful, it did give them a no-cost way to experience IVF and understand what to expect when they started doing the process on their own dime.
We Both Had “Plumbing Issues”
Matthew and Kat, who live in Connecticut, successfully conceived two children through IVF after figuring out that they both struggled with fertility issues. “We’d been trying for a while to get pregnant and it wasn’t working,” said Matthew. “It was a mixed bag of everything.” He says he feels fortunate, however, that they both had struggles with conceiving, because it didn’t leave the pressure on just one partner, and even luckier that they had great doctors who petitioned their insurance to skip IUI and go right to IVF.
Unfortunately, in their first experience with pregnancy through IVF, they lost their baby at 22 weeks. “I went into preterm labor and it wasn’t stoppable,” said Kat. It would be another three years until they tried again.
After a reparative surgery and some time to cope, they began to try again and had their first daughter, who was born three weeks early. Kat had high blood pressure in the final trimester and was getting shots to eliminate pre-term labor, and was at the doctor’s office about twice a week monitoring her pregnancy. Then their second son showed up six weeks early. Now, every one is happy and healthy.
“We’re convinced we won’t try again,” said Matthew. “We don’t want to have a baby any earlier than that.”
“Pregnancy was really tough on me,” adds Kat. “Once you go through a big loss like we did, the enjoyment of pregnancy is gone. All you think about is: How do I get to the next day?”
We Suffered Two Miscarriages
Iris and her husband Steve, who live in Illinois with their 19-year-old daughter, had suffered two miscarriages when they decided to turn to IVF. At the time, they were in their early 40’s, and Iris deeply wanted to experience pregnancy. Because she wanted the highest possible chance of having a successful pregnancy and a healthy birth of her child, they decided to go with an egg donor.
“Choosing the donor based on one piece of paper was a very difficult process. You make the most important decision of your life with very little information to go on,” she says.
For Steve, the most frustrating part of it was feeling like he couldn’t do much to help. “Most of what was happening was to my wife and there was not much I could do to help. I was sent to a room with a reclining chair and pornography,” he says. “It felt bizarre and divorced from the whole process. Yet it was the only thing I had to do.”
After their first donor fell through and their second donor ended in a miscarriage, Iris and her husband decided to try only one more time. “That period of waiting to know if the implantation worked is very difficult because you have been through a miscarriage. You know how painful it is. You are afraid to hope for a positive result for fear of being disappointed,” she says. The final process was a success and they were pregnant with their daughter, who is now 19 years old.
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