To My Friend On Her 40th Unsuccessful IVF

I marked the date on my calendar your period was due. I counted down the days in my head until your test date, knew more about your menstrual cycle than I do my own. When we met two years ago we bonded instantly. Both stuck on the same horrible roller coaster that is IVF. Shortly after I disembarked that roller coaster only to board a new one. Pregnancy and then parenthood. Hard, but nowhere near the same level of hard as the place I left you.

You didn’t follow. I hoped you would. I have hoped every month that this would be ‘your time’ and that you would join me on this crazy journey I took after I left you behind. You watched my belly swell as I watched you endure month after month of unsuccessful cycles. Then, a couple of weeks before I had my daughter ‘your time’ came. Those two precious beautiful lines appeared for you. Before my daughter arrived your dream had turned back into a nightmare. Just like that the baby you had been trying for years to create was gone. As I welcomed my daughter into the world you grieved the loss of the baby you would never meet.

There was no time for you to slow down. Time was a luxury I had but you didn’t. Each month that passes your chances drop. Each month a new retrieval cycle, as you never have enough embryos to make it to the freezer. On the off chance you do have some to freeze they never survive the thaw.

When I was trying to get pregnant a friend shared with me some of the origins of the medications I was shooting up into my body. One from Chinese Hamster ovary cells. Another made from the urine of pregnant women. I don’t share this information with you as I figure it falls into the ‘not helpful’ category. My skin still crawls when I think of all the times I had other people’s piss injected into me.

The thing that everyone will tell you is its worth it when it works. And they’re right. The hard part is not knowing if or when it will work. Many people have asked you why you don’t just stop. I never ask this, though I do find myself wondering how much longer you have left in you. I get it though, the way that many others don’t seem to. I don’t know if I were in your shoes that I could stop. Becoming a mum was always my dream, the number one non negotiable thing in my life. I know I would fight until my dying breath to make it happen. Others ask why don’t you adopt like you just sign up for a baby and one arrives in the post the next week. They don’t get that it is a long and expensive process just like IVF, especially in a country like Australia. There is no instant baby solution for you.

I try to find the right balance of talking about my daughter when I see you. You ask about her and so I answer your questions. I tell myself each time just to give the bare minimum response wise before changing the subject so as not to make things more painful. I do my best to restrain myself by trying to limit the amount of time I spend gushing about her. As soon as I talk about her the floodgates of adoration open and it is hard to close them again. I try to stem the flow as best I can, while trying not to dial it back so much that I sound ungrateful for her. It is a delicate balance.

Each time I see you I try to tell myself don’t say what is on the tip of my tongue. Don’t tell you that being a parent is the most incredible wonderful thing that I have ever experienced. You don’t need to hear that. The part that makes me saddest is that for all your wanting this, you can’t imagine just how incredible it is. For me, the experience of parenting has far surpassed any joys I could have imagined prior to becoming a mum.

After a year of keeping the words ‘being a mum is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever done’  from you (I get verbal diarrhoea when I fall in love,  I am one of these annoying people that gushes) I finally say them. Over a year ago the doctor recommended an egg donor. Using a donor to create your family is a hard idea to get your head around, especially when you are straight and haven’t had most of your life to picture making your kids that way. You have been hesitating going forward with this and struggling with a heap of questions and worries about using a donor that are totally normal and understandable. I let you ponder and keep my opinions to myself as I know the chances you finding an anonymous egg donor before you reach menopause is very slim. In Australia it is illegal to receive any payment for any sort of tissue donation. Resultingly there is a shortage of donor sperm, and donor eggs are near impossible to come by. I ask myself if I could ever donate my eggs to you. I want to but after serious thought I decide that I couldn’t disconnect myself from the child and it would be damaging to me in the long run.

Then you come to me and tell my an acquaintance who knows your struggle has offered to donate her eggs to you. I see you hesitate. Now is the time I speak up, I say what I’ve been trying to hold back for a year now. You cannot miss out on this opportunity. Your fears about not loving or being connected to the baby are understandable and most people in your shoes would have those worries. It doesn’t make you a bad person and worrying about it doesn’t make it true. You will love your baby no matter what. You will love it as you nurture it while it grows inside you, while you comfort it when it is upset, you will love it more fiercely than you have ever thought possible. It will not matter one damn bit that the baby is half someone else’s genetics. It will belong in your family and you will be forever grateful to everyone who helped bring the two of you together.

I worry for a moment that perhaps I have overstepped, or caused you more pain by showing you for a second the missing piece of your life that you so desperately want. Somehow it seems to be what you need to go forward with the donor egg.

I wish I could end this happily by saying you were pregnant. You have two donor embryos left and I am so desperately hoping that one of them works for you. I am so desperately wanting for you to get off this horror of a roller coaster and join me on this crazy but much more enjoyable roller coaster of motherhood.

I will do what I can do be some sort of comfort to you during this rotten process. Your menstrual cycle and pregnancy test dates will continue to be marked on my calendar. I can’t get you pregnant but I can cry with you, hope with you, and if the day comes when it does work I will remind you that the baby inside you will be loved more fiercely than you can possibly imagine.

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