One in 25 Australian babies are now born via IVF. But while success rates are climbing, it’s far from an easy ride. Under 18 per cent of all IVF cycles result in a live birth and the process can take a heavy toll on couples both emotionally and financially.
Here, Darrell Brown, a cinematographer and author of Raised By Our Childhood Voices, recalls his IVF journey and how he and his wife managed to get through it.
It’s emotionally tough
“I think the hardest part for me was getting the phone calls from the clinic. My wife would always know the day that the phone call was going to come through. She could work it out exactly from the process and she would always want me to take the phone call. So I’d be out in a studio somewhere, my phone would ring and it would be the clinic to say: ‘Mr. Brown just ringing to let you know that it was negative again, so we’ll see you next month for the next cycle.’ Then I had to go home and tell my wife it didn’t work this time. That was hard.”
“Sitting in that clinic you actually started to get to know the other couples who were in there. Some of those couples had been going there for six years. When it’s your first month, you think, ‘This isn’t going to take long.’ Then you’d see another couple and they’d explain that this was their seventh year of trying…
“That clinic can be a very difficult room to sit in. You can see the look of desperation on some of the women in that room. For some of them, all they’ve ever wanted to do is to be a mum. To be honest, my wife was a bit like that.”
You’ll feel utterly powerless
“My wife just wanted to be a mum. So there were a lot of nights of listening to her cry herself to sleep. As a guy you can feel quite helpless. Then you can start to blame yourself. That’s where it really tests your relationship because then you start to get angry at life and then you start to get angry at the people closest to you. Your wife can say things like: ‘Maybe it’s your sperm, why don’t you get yourself tested again.’ Like it’s all your fault.”
“As the guy, you feel hopeless, because you’re thinking ‘I’m doing the best I can’. And really you are. Because it’s actually no one’s fault. In our situation, my wife was tested and I was tested and the doctor said there’s no reason why you can’t fall pregnant because you’re both fine. So then it’s just a case of ‘Well, what’s going on? Why are we back here this year doing it all over again?’ That’s why you’ve got to really be easy on each other. You’ve got to keep talking, keep communicating.”
Look after your wife
“IVF will test your marriage. If there’s any chinks in the armour, if you’re not in it for the right reasons, you’ll find out. So it’s all about patience.
“It just takes all the romance out of your life for a while because everything becomes very clinical, it’s all about timing. I might have been on the way to work and then I’d have to quickly stop off at the clinic and someone would hand me a magazine and a test tube. Literally. Then you do what you had to do and then you’d leave.
“For the guy, to be honest, it’s all about working around your partner because her whole body is being turned upside down with the hormones. It’s likely to be all that she’s thinking about – when she’s going through IVF that’s her mission. It’s harder for her to escape it. You’ve really got to be understanding and try to make life as good for her as you can. Try to keep some romance there.”
But take care of yourself too
“At the same time, you’ve also got to try to get on with your life. I think that’s a lot easier for the man than the woman. I found I could put IVF out of my mind and escape into my mission and purpose as a freelance cinematographer. And my advice for men is to stick with your mission, because that’s how you refresh and recharge your batteries. If all the time you’re just focused on your wife in the struggle and clinging around her all the time, then it’s very draining on you both. It’s good to stay focused on your work or to catch up with your mates for a drink. If you do that then you’ll feel better. And you’ve got to look after yourself so that you’re the best that you can be when you’re together.”
Try to go with the flow
“There comes a point where you’ve got to use this beautiful word called surrender where you have to say: ‘If it’s meant to be it will be and if it’s not then life will just have something else planned for us’. It’s in that surrender that you can escape and get on with your life and hand over to something greater than you. Some bigger power. But patience is really important too.”
It can all be totally worth it
“When Jules and I decided to try to have kids it took us about five years. We ended up doing IUI’s (Intrauterine Insemination) a lesser procedure for about two years. Then we did four cycles of IVF. We failed so many times. We were just about out of money, out of patience – we were just ready to give up. But we decided to try one final time.
I still remember taking the call from the clinic. They told me: ‘Your wife’s pregnant!’ I just about fell over. My wife burst into tears.
It had been five really difficult years and there was a point we thought maybe this isn’t our journey. And then Cody came along.
The funny thing was – and you hear this happens quite a lot – after that, Jules just naturally fell pregnant because everything had kicked in, her body had adjusted itself. Five months after Jules gave birth we conceived again. My sons Cody and Taylor are only 13 months apart, that’s about as close as you can get.”