The Reality Of IVF

{I don’t typically put disclaimers at the top of my posts. But, as my readership is continuing to grow and more people are reading my content, I felt that I should add a brief disclaimer. This is MY story. This has been my experience and I share it to inform and educate others. It is also to help foster healing within myself by writing. If this wasn’t your experience? Super. If it was, I’m sorry and I hope you’ll feel comfortable enough to share your story in the comments. That being said, please respect my situation and the old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say- don’t say anything at all}
Oh this post. THIS post. Sigh.
This is the one that has been brewing since June 28th, 2013. The reality of IVF.
You can check out my 4 part IVF series and all of the posts pertaining to my actual IVF cycle: HERE
Recently, a blog friend mentioned that she had been reading through my IVF posts. It was really making her rethink her previous stance on IVF and making her want to actively pursue it, when they previously had decided not to. Now, I’m absolutely NOT wanting to dissuade someone from choosing IVF. I do still stand by my previous posts. They are filled with information and truth about the IVF process and if they help to bring more babies into the world that wouldn’t have been here otherwise? Well, that thrills me to my very core.
There always has to be one of those, doesn’t there?
All of those posts were written BEFORE I went through the actual IVF experience. Before I lived through the medicine. The unknowns. The fear. The hurt. The physical pain. The stress. The cost. The loss. All of it.
I have wanted for SO LONG to write about the “dark side” of IVF. I have wanted to share what it was *really* like for me{and Jim}. I have wanted to teach people and inform people and share with people what the side of IVF that doesn’t end with a take home baby looks like……
and it has taken me a very, very long time to be in a healthy{or at least, healed} enough place to be able to write it.
I have felt so conflicted.
I don’t know how to explain this.
To me? My IVF experience was the most horrific and awful experience of my life.
I hated everything about it.
It was not worth it to me.
I have eight babies that now live in the arms of Jesus because of what I went through.
How can I sit here and say it was not worth it?
My small and insignificant brain can’t even begin to share the words, the emotions, and the pain of that internal conflict. I think about them and deal with them every day since and I have struggled with how to share any of this information with you.
But I have to. I have to be real and I have to be honest and you HAVE to know what it was like.

What I expected

I expected to spend a lot of money.

More money than Jim and I had ever spent on anything together.

But, another child was worth it to us.

We crunched numbers, we looked at our savings, and we agreed to make it work. I expected to not want to do the shots, because who would?

I expected to have to sacrifice a lot of time driving, going to appointments, planning my life around timed medication.

I expected to *possibly* not get pregnant, but the odds of getting pregnant were the same percentage of my previously not getting pregnant through other methods, so I felt good about our odds{60-80% FYI}.

I expected to bloat, to have symptoms from the meds, but ultimately, to be a “textbook” IVF case.

The Process:

I’ve written about the entire process before: HERE

Re-reading that now? I’m just shaking my head in disbelief. I can’t believe I lived that.

If you skimmed to the bottom, you’ll notice I took 142 pills and 39 injections during my ONE IVF cycle.

I’m sorry, but that is INSANE.

I bring this up also, to talk about something that completely blew my mind about the entire process. You take care of all of that medicine, by yourself.

Sure, your office gives you your “instructions”. But they aren’t there to mix it for you. That’s right! You have to mix it yourself like a genuine pharmacist. Your meds come by mail and there are needles and syringes and alcohol swabs and powder and liquid and pre mixed meds and meds to mix yourself and different sized vials and different sized needles. Some go into your muscle. Some go into your stomach. They have to be given at a specific time. They have to be mixed a specific way. They cost thousands and thousands of dollars.

Goodness, I sure hope you don’t use it wrong.

The Appointments:

I’ve pretty well documented or have listed all of my appointments, but it’s hard to grasp just how many there were. Especially once I got to the stim phase of my cycle, I had to have appointments every other day to keep a close eye on my follicles. I also had to have blood work every time to check my hormone levels. I ended up living at my in-laws for two weeks just for appointments. If I hadn’t, I would have been driving myself and Abigail 6 hours back and forth every other day or so.

I was so bruised. My elbows ached, my stomach and arms were bruised from needles.

Another fun fact. They had IVF days at my office. Appointments where they lumped everyone going through an IVF cycle together to make their schedules easier. I could hear through the doors. Follicle check after follicle check after follicle check. Filing us on through. Checking the boxes.

I was dealing with life and death, and I was treated like just a number.

Egg Retrieval:

When I finally arrived to egg retrieval day I was SO excited. The hard part was over. RIGHT? I thought my hardest job would be injecting myself over and over to grow the eggs. It turns out, that was actually my easiest job.

Another fun fact. Egg retrieval’s are also scheduled like an assembly line. I can’t remember the number now, but my Dr. had something like 7 other egg retrievals the same morning as mine? Talk about feeling special!

When I think back to that morning, I just shake my head. I can’t believe that was my life. That I had actual, full blown, anesthesia induced, egg retrieval. I was in a hospital bed. I had an IV{that was improperly inserted multiple times}. They wheeled me in all by myself. They put me to sleep. I woke up in a recovery room by myself. I had just had a surgery. Mind boggling.

My Dr. gave Jim the fertility report. 13 eggs retrieved. They were going to give them ICSI and then we would hear in the next day or so how they were all doing.

Fertility Reports:

I wish I could tell you what these meant to me. That quick little email. That one short phone call. These were MY BABIES. I frantically wanted them all to keep growing. There were already so few.

First report: 9 received ICSI, 8 fertilized normally.

A few days passed, while I was on complete bed rest{and then ultimately OHSS}.

Second report: ALL 8 still growing normally! That was on Father’s Day. It was one of the happiest phone calls I’ve ever received.


I had two of the risk factors for developing OHSS. I was young{24 at the time} and my estrogen was high. We went through a roller coaster of plans and emotions over finding out a few days before retrieval that I would develop OHSS.

It was a medical certainty.

Do you realize how terrifying that was for me?
There was nothing I could do to stave it off. The numbers didn’t lie. The eggs were all grown at that point. They had to be taken out. There wasn’t anything that we could do to keep it from happening. I felt great, I felt normal, and I knew that in a few days I would be in horrible pain. That I was at risk of ending up hospitalized due to the OHSS. It was so scary.

Then, on top of that. I couldn’t go home. We had planned to go back after retrieval for a few days and then pop back up for our 5 day transfer. Instead, I had to spend another week and a half at my in-laws{God bless them}. I needed to be near my Dr. in case of an emergency. I was on more bed rest. I couldn’t take care of my little girl.

I vividly remember going to Panera Bread with my sister in law, right after she had driven me to my Dr.’s office to confirm that I did indeed have OHSS and they confirmed our 5 day transfer cancellation, just sobbing in the middle of the restaurant. I could hardly walk I was so swollen and in so much pain. I could hardly eat. I kept having to use the bathroom. I was so emotionally depleted and sad.

Transfer: Jim and I started pondering if we could go ahead and move forward with the original plan of a 5 day transfer. I emailed my office Sunday night{retrieval had been Wednesday} to let them know that I was feeling a little better{emphasis on little} and that if there was any way we could move forward with a transfer, we would be open to that. We didn’t have the money to proceed with a FET{frozen embryo transfer} for what looked like a very long time and that upset me so much. I wanted to take some of my babies home with me, RIGHT THEN.

A nurse called me first thing on Monday and actually recommended that we proceed with transfer that day. Like, a few hours from the time of the call. She said that my 3 embryos were ready to go, but that they were concerned they wouldn’t make it to freeze. So, while frozen cycles are typically better- in this specific instance they wanted us to move forward with fresh.
Since all of this was so sudden and so last minute, things were done quite a bit differently than they would have been for someone who had been scheduled and planned out. Usually{or so I hear} the embryologist calls you and tells you all about your embryos and you discuss with your Dr. how many you will transfer and all sorts of things like that.
We didn’t have that.
We just showed up, ready to implant whatever they were willing to give us and hoped that our 5 other babies that I hadn’t heard about yet were still doing okay and capable of being frozen too.
They had me take a Valium{or some other equally crazy pill} to “relax” me before the transfer. We showed up at the office and I fell asleep on the couch in their waiting room.
Relaxed indeed.
They had to wake me up to take me back to the transfer room.
It was small. There were two nurses milling about, my Dr., and the embryologist right through the door on the other side.
My Dr. says, “Courtney, we’re going to go ahead and transfer two “poor quality” embryos today. We’re going to see if the third will make it to freeze”.
I asked her, “what about the five other embryos that were perfectly fine yesterday?”
“They stopped dividing”
I went from the high of knowing that all 8 of my babies were growing well one morning, to the next not even having 2 decent looking embryos to implant. And another that probably wouldn’t make it to freeze-(and it didn’t)
The Dr. told us to look up at the screen and they would show us a picture of the embryos.
And for what was not nearly long enough I saw my babies for the first and last time.
They flashed them on the screen and all I could think about was how I couldn’t believe they were real. And they were mine. And I loved them so very, very much.
And then they were gone.
I sat there quietly while the transfer happened. My Dr. yelled to the other room, “All clear?” The embryologist checked the catheter to make sure the embryos weren’t still stuck inside, they weren’t, all was clear and it was all done.
She slapped my thighs that were up in stirrups in the air and away she went.
I never saw or talked to my Dr. again.
The nurse said she wanted me to lay there for a couple minutes and then I could get up and use the bathroom.
As soon as she left the room I just erupted into a mountain of tears. I couldn’t stop them.
When she came back in a few minutes later, I still laid there. Weeping.
I could tell it took her completely off guard and she got a bit flustered and wasn’t sure what to say to me. She just helped me to the bathroom and made sure I was taken care of as we left.


There was no way to prepare for the loss of my embryo babies. I have a friend who has gone through IVF{successfully} multiple times, and she mentioned to me that she still thinks about the embryos that didn’t implant. She told me that before I was really even going through treatment and I remember thinking, “hm. that’s weird.”

I read a blog post from a Christian woman who had gone through{successful} IVF and she talked about grieving the loss of her embryos that didn’t take.

I really do remember contemplating it. I remember talking to Jim about it beforehand. I know I didn’t expect for every egg to fertilize and turn into a take home baby{the statistics certainly don’t support that}. But, I don’t know if I deluded myself into thinking it wouldn’t hurt that much? That it wouldn’t feel like a loss? That it would be worth it anyway?

I’m not really sure what I believed about it beforehand, but I know what I feel about it now. And I can tell you this,

I think about those babies every.single.day. I think about the picture of the two of them up on the screen in that little room. I think about the sweet 3rd little one that I wish I had fought to implant too, so at least it could have stopped growing inside me. I think about the 5 others who never even made it that far and how much I loved them all. All 8 of them. And the loss of knowing their existence and the subsequent end of it has taken me months and months and months of processing and healing to even begin to move on.

It isn’t easy. It isn’t flippant. And it’s something to be heavily considered and thought about before choosing to move forward with IVF for yourself.

Ending Treatment:

I’ve written about the loss and the specifics of how everything went down in previous posts, so I’ll try to not repeat myself. When I got the final call to tell me that my numbers were negative now, there was no more pregnancy, it was so cold. There was no, “I’m so sorry.” There was no alternative or suggestions for the future. It was a simple, we did what we can. We could try the same thing again, but there are no guarantees it would work and there is nothing to be done to fix your diagnosis. Bye.

Not that I even would have wanted to try again or realistically consider alternatives{hello, IVF made me broke}, but it would have been nice to have been treated like I had just suffered a huge loss. Because I had.

And you know, I think too, what about the women who can only afford to try once and it just doesn’t work. Straight up, negative test. Is that the same call too? Just, sorry no baby for you! The end? 
I was blown away by the amount of time I had spent in their office, the money I had invested in their business, and I was sent off into the sunset without so much as an I’m sorry for your loss.

What I didn’t prepare for:

Having to spend more money than planned on canceled IVF cycles, potential FET cycles, and extra medicine that hadn’t been previously budgeted in.
Being filed through like a faceless, nameless number.
What it would feel like to lose embryos.
To not have my loss and my diagnosis acknowledged.

And the biggest thing I didn’t prepare for, was the flippant attitude about life.
At a reproductive office it completely blew my mind, since….isn’t the whole point of a RE to help create life? Particularly going through the IVF process, we had to sign SO many papers stating what we would choose to do with “excess” embryos. Destroy them? Donate them to science? Freeze them? Use them? What happens if we get divorced? If one of us dies? And, while I completely understand the legal reasons behind covering every.single.situation. the thing that stood out to me more than anything else was how it felt like we weren’t talking about children.

Our own children.

It never felt like that and it was never treated like that. It was just a cluster of cells that you were deciding what to do with.

One of my best friends asked me recently if someone offered me to pay entirely for another IVF cycle, would I do it?

My honest answer is this. As tempting as that would be, because IVF essentially condenses a year{or more} of trying into a month and because I want to be pregnant again so badly, it would be so, so tempting. But, no. Absolutely no. Because of every single thing listed above, I absolutely could never go through IVF again, even if it was absolutely 100% free to me.

And that’s something I want people to consider before they ever decide to move forward with IVF themselves.

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  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I know it was hard and probably re-living it all over again 🙁 stay strong, mama! Have you considered embryo adoption? Just throwing it out there – not a lot of people know about it. 🙂

  2. Courtney, thank you so much for sharing your experience. My heart hurts for you, Jim and Abigail. What a reunion there will be in Heaven! You will get to hold your babies one day.

  3. Courtney, thank you for so boldly, and honestly, sharing your story. I remember praying so hard for you and your precious babies when you went through your transfer. YOUR BABIES, who are now safely in the arms of Jesus. I'm so sorry that you and Jim have been through this, but am thankful you are at a place that you feel you can write out and express your experience. Continuing to pray for you.

  4. I am so late to this. I just found your blog through another. I am so heartbroken for you to have gone through this. As an IVF mom and someone who works at a fertility clinic, I am so so heartbroken about your whole experience. I cannot fathom experiencing that as a patient and I cannot imagine working for a practice like that.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this and being honest about your experience. I would say maybe I had a rare case where everything went really well and we did get pregnant the first time with IVF (We also did a couple of IUI’s that did not work). I hate to hear how your clinic treated you, no way should that be the case. I loved all of the nurses and doctors I saw. They genuinely acted like they cared through every step of the process. Congrats on baby #3 by the way, that is amazing news!!

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