In his shoes

A man’s perspective on his IVF Journey, by Jed Lowry-Hall

This has been the most difficult time of my life, no doubt. We live in the UK and as such are very lucky to get support from the NHS for IVF treatment. One of the factors for this support however is having a BMI under 30 both males and females. My weight has yo-yoed(?) for the majority of my adult life and this was a huge thing for me to do so that we could start our IVF journey.

I have always wanted to have a family, and my wife has to, and you would think that with the goal of getting free IVF treatment that it would give me laser focus to lose the weight.

What I actually found, was that because of the pressure I was putting on myself to lose the weight, I would have a lot of binges and false starts and so within a month I found myself back at the weight I started.I just wanted to give my wife the only thing she wanted, but kept failing at it. We were both fully aware of the percentages and are still realistic about it now, but the not knowing was eating (no pun intended) away at us and was really getting her down.

Eventually, March/April 2017 I got myself together and started to take the weight loss seriously including running and 06:00 gym sessions.

To get to the weight deemed healthy by the NHS involved an incredible amount of stress and anxiety and me taking some extreme measures including dehydration prior to my final “successful weigh-in”. Running in bin liners, taking incredibly hot baths (risking cooking my swimmers) and limiting my water intake to 500ml for 2 days. June 2017 I went to the doctors and was weighed and my BMI was under 30, I was so happy that I cried in front of the doctor and then again on the phone to my wife all the way back to my car, it was a release after 2 years of failing and not being able to give my wife what she wanted the most.

We were so excited to be starting our journey but then came another issue, the health of our doctors assistant! How’s that for an uncontrollable factor. Because she got ill there was no one to send off the results of all our tests and bloods for referral and we were waiting, and waiting and chasing and chasing, this went on for nearly 3 months. It wasn’t until November that we were able to go to our specialist to discuss starting the process. It was so unfair the way that they treated my wife, people whose only option is IVF are already in a vulnerable state and a day feels like a month. The not knowing is the biggest factor and to see my wife stressed and strung out because of a secretary being ill made me so upset. She doesn’t deserve it, women going through IVF need to be supported and cared for not ignored and deemed a nuisance whilst chasing for updates.

Once October arrived and we had our meeting with our specialist, both of us having been off alcohol for 2 months (an incredible feat in itself), to say it deflated my wife would be accurate

I think that more could have been made available about what to expect from that first meeting and we were so keen and eager and all that basically happened was that we met our doctor, said hi, signed a form and left absolutely bursting with questions. My wife cried after this and like I say was just deflated, all I wanted to do was make her feel better but I didn’t have the tools to do so as the only thing that could make her feel better was moving along on the process.
As a man going through this process I felt so helpless and responsible for my wife being sad. I should have lost weight sooner, I should have been more forceful with our doctor, thoughts just kept repeating through my mind and got me down, but I couldn’t share them as I didn’t want my wife to have something else to concern herself with. She needed to focus on her.

November arrived and we finally sat down with the embryologist and got all of the answers we wanted and more, I even managed to record the conversation for us to be able to refer back to should we want to.

I did, quite a few times as we actually started the procedure, it helped me a lot as at the time I was just so focussed on whether my wife was getting all she needed that I didn’t take as much in as I could have. Oh, the embryologist also mentioned that it is vital for her to begin nesting and doing as little as possible from Christmas to produce the best possible lining for any potential embryos.Wow did my wife listen to this bit, but for me I finally felt like I was of use/contributing. I walked the dogs, made breakfast, lunches dinners, got tissues, all the drinks, lip balms carried washing up and down stairs, but you know what I loved it.

We then had to wait for another month, which we were prepared for as we knew her next cycle would drop on or around Christmas, but this was OK because we were prepared for it. It was a feeling of calm and allowed us to enjoy Christmas. Having said that, the last thing I wanted to do was effect my wife’s mental state due to family being over at Christmas and their lack of understanding. It was all a little overly positive and we are/were trying our absolute best to live in the present and not looking into the future for a risk of jinxing it. Crazy I know but show me someone who is perfectly calm and rational during this process and I’ll show you a crazy person.

January came/is here and we finally began…

We called up when her cycle appeared to have started and we were told “oh, the egg collection machine is being serviced until the 15th/16th so it might not be available” thus putting it off for another month! Again with the unforeseen hurdles. This again got my poor wife’s head racing and me doing my best to rationalise it saying well maybe it’s not our time and February will be a better month all the time thinking THIS IS SHIT! Fortunately she did not fully start her cycle for another few days, which I found out wasn’t normal for her. This meant that the egg collection machine would be back and ready for us when we needed it.

My wife was such a trooper with the injections that as the Princess Karen month (nesting time) continued I have enjoyed looking after her. It’s easy to do a few extra chores and just be positive about helping rather than snapping or getting frustrated. I am not the one who has to pump my body full of hormones that mess with my emotional state, all I have to do is make her smile and get her a water, tea and fizzy squash every once in a while. I did make her laugh at inappropriate times though including when she was trying to inject herself…whoops! The double stab made us both chuckle a lot.

We followed the plan and went for egg collection, we got 14 which was more than we thought so it was positive.

I was so nervous that I kept cracking jokes in front of the doctors, which were hit and miss but they made us laugh and took the edge of an already deeply stressful situation.

I then got to go and “do my bit” which I still find a bit weird, particularly the leather couch in a sterile room with the only inspiration being a 1950’s type American car splashing through a puddle. I did have to stop myself thinking about how many other blokes had “done their bit” in there too. I then panicked that I’d miss the specimen pot…that system should definitely be looked at. What do you think about? Will it affect the quality of sperm, if I get weird with my thoughts will I have a pervert baby? Weird things like that were also going through my head along with the obvious…will my swimmers swim this time. I am a naturally lazy person when I don’t have to do something, what if my guys haven’t been told that now’s the time to step up? So, I made sure that I had a word to them whilst in the pot (yes my aim was true) that now is the time to swim and fertilise, swim and fertilise!

I felt an enormous amount of pressure about whether my sample was any good and had to wait 2 hours to find out if it was or not…it was, but that did not stop me wondering what if and thinking back to the caffeine I have consumed and anything else that could be detrimental, including forgetting to take my vitamins on a couple of occasions. If my brain was going this crazy, I can only imagine the thoughts going through the head of my emotionally wired wife.

We decided that the only way to quantify the feeling of each stage was to liken it to the X Factor as in you are super anxious about getting through to the next stage, once you do you feel amazing, then within 5 minutes you are on to anxiety about whether the next step will be successful. It is such an emotional rollercoaster with so many peaks and troughs.

I was then on edge for the next few mornings awaiting on the call about whether or not the eggs fertilised, 10 did, then onto whether or not they would divide properly

I never thought I would know so much about the process of an embryos development.

Day 3 came and the embryologist said that they have 2 that are looking great and 2 that are slightly behind so they’d like to push on for blastocyst stage. We were excited about this as obviously there are better chances if you get an embryo to this stage. I must admit I got a little carried away at this point and was looking at the stats and running away with myself and doing what I hadn’t done until now. If I was doing this I can only imagine that my wife was doing the same.

Day 5 (transfer deadline day) We went in full of the joys of spring, sat down with the embryologist who went on to explain, in a scientific manner (i.e. like a robot) how they hadn’t progressed as well as they’d have liked and didn’t reach blastocyst. The wind was knocked clean out of our sails and my only thought was that I need to up my positivity now to get my wife through this. I was amazed at how I immediately felt selfless and my only goal was to be able to get my wife through this however possible. FYI if they mention the increased risks of putting 2 embryos back, do not ask them to elaborate *5 minutes of utter panic* We went through and agreed to have 2 of the average embryos put back, but the face of our specialist and mannerisms (lots of “you have another go”, “we have had live births from this before”) inadvertently told us that we should not get too excited.

We are nearing the end of our 2 week wait, and we go for our pregnancy test in 3 days

All the literature tells you it is going to be tough and yep, it sure is. My wife has been so strong and only cried a bit, once over burning some toast which we had a good laugh about after. I have found it so easy to support her and make her life as simple and as stress free as possible over this time, I think there is just a switch that automatically comes on when your dearest really needs you and you can look past all the other bullshit and nonsense and provide them with the love and support that they require to get them through to the other side. Providing a balance of optimism and realism is the trick I think, not getting carried away, but also keeping the positivity there.

I’m not sure what will happen on Friday, but if nothing else, this experience has brought us closer together and one which I will not regret.

It’s a good job you’re called ivfbabble as that is exactly what I have just done…I only set out to write a paragraph!

Jed Lowry-Hall – Age 36 & ¼

A huge thank you to Jed for sharing his story with us. We all send Jed and his wife huge love and good vibes for tomorrow!!!! You can follow the rest of their journey on instagram: @jedlowry_hall & @kazlaalowry

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