Fertility treatment is tough, whatever you’ve been through and however you arrive there. For us as a same-sex couple, we began IVF in 2018 after four failed rounds of IUI. My wife was 39 and perhaps we were a little naive at how easy it was going to be to get pregnant.
Find your role
The making a baby game is intense on its own, throw thousands of pounds, needles and a ton of hormones into the mix and it has the potential to be emotionally overwhelming. Being able to properly support each other is hugely important. For me as the non-carrying (and more admin inclined) partner I saw my role very much as the organiser. I was on the phone to our clinic, replying to emails, shipping our sperm, worrying about where we had to be and when, leaving my wife free to focus on her wellbeing.
Change both your lifestyles
The advantage of those failed IUI cycles before our IVF was the opportunity for a complete fertility treatment overhaul which as well as preparing us physically, also helped us emotionally. We overhauled our nutrition, really focused in the gym, studied the best supplements to take and found the most incredible acupuncture therapist. When you begin IVF, you quickly realise that so much of it is out of your control - the number of follicles, the thickness of your lining, how many eggs are retrieved, how many fertilise. But what you can control is what you eat, how you move, how you relax and how you look after yourself. Being in the right frame of mind and feeling positive is ultimately all you can control and doing that as a team has to be the best way to approach any fertility treatment.
Be there to listen
When we moved onto IVF, we had already faced disappointment, so it felt like there was a lot riding on it. I know my wife was feeling a lot of pressure for it to work, and this was something that can’t really be shared. But I could support her by being there to just listen to her worries and thoughts.
Become an IVF medication expert
IVF definitely feels like a game of two halves. The retrieval is the physically demanding first part, followed by the emotional rollercoaster that is an embryo transfer and the dreaded two-week wait.
When it came to the physical aspects of IVF treatment, for us the drugs were a team effort. We would prepare and administer them together. And although I was banned from actually injecting Lynsey after making rather a hash of it the first time, I was there for every single one. There is a lot to remember and working together meant I was able to support my wife and actually felt useful! Six months later I did a retrieval myself and would never have managed my way through the needles alone. I’m not sure going through a round of IVF when your partner is heavily pregnant is something I would recommend but it felt like a good idea at the time! We knew we wanted to eventually try with my eggs, so we decided to do the retrieval sooner, rather than later, age being on neither of our sides. We froze the two embryos we were fortunate to create. We knew our limits, being pregnant at the same time wasn’t something on the cards for us!
Support them post-transfer
Lynsey’s embryo transfer really tested me as the supportive partner. Once I’d got Lynsey to the clinic on time, booked the acupuncture, took her for a nice lunch afterwards, I really had to take a step back. Apparently asking someone every 15 minutes if they feel any new symptoms is not helpful! And that is the difficult part for the non-carrying partner. You have to trust that if there is anything to know, you’ll hear about it. Symptom spotting is not fun, especially when someone is doing it on your behalf. It’s your job to stay positive and create a safe, calm environment. Stock up the fridge with fresh, colourful, nutritious foods, make time for you both to stay active, plan long walks and get plenty of fresh air.
Lynsey was successful with her IVF treatment, and she safely delivered our son in March 2019. When Teddy was around 18 months old, we were back for another transfer, for me this time. With one of the embryos I created when Lynsey was pregnant. Sadly, it was unsuccessful. I didn’t only feel like I’d failed, I felt like I’d failed Lynsey. Her support and reassurance were incredibly important during what was a really sad and disappointing time. She never did anything to make me feel like I had let her down, because of course I hadn’t. Thankfully my second transfer worked, and I gave birth to Sonny in July 2021. Two CREATE babies!
Stay strong and together during IVF treatment
It’s so easy to get lost in the details when you begin IVF, there is so much you need to understand. Creating a support network for us as a couple felt really important. While some choose to undergo fertility treatment privately, our family and friends were fully aware and supportive of what we were doing. We didn’t know anyone who had gone through IVF before, so we jumped feet first into the wonderful world of the online TTC community. Following other couples and families on Instagram and YouTube who had been down this road before opened our eyes to what was to come. It was an opportunity to learn how it works, so that when we were sitting in front of our fertility doctor, the language and procedure felt familiar. We knew which questions to ask and felt more confident about advocating for ourselves. There are also fertility support groups around online, the Fertility Network UK is a good place to start, and The IVF Network is a great source of information, as well as being a platform to connect with other women and couples going through treatment. Counselling is also something many people going through fertility treatment recommend and there is plenty of help available through charities like the British Infertility Counselling Association.
Strike a balance
Expect the unexpected is probably the best way to mentally prepare for IVF. The more expectation you have, the bigger the opportunity to be disappointed. Despite all your hard work, the injections, the heartache and not to mention the money, there are no guarantees. When have you ever spent so much or put so much effort into something with the possibility of walking away empty handed? Never! It takes a while to get your head around that concept. But you’ve got to find a way to stay positive, striking a balance is key. If you can avoid letting fertility treatment take over your life, you might find it easier to navigate.
If you would like to start your IVF journey with CREATE Fertility, your first step will be to have an Advanced Transvaginal Ultrasound Scan at your local CREATE clinic, our scan checks over 30 areas of your fertility.
Following that you'll have Virtual Consultation with one of our highly experienced IVF consultants which you can do via video or phone, from your own home. You'll then have time with your dedicated patient coordinator who is there to help support & guide you through the whole process.