The 7 stages of Grief | IVF Edition

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The last chapter, in the book called 'IVF Failed Us' on the TTC bookcase.

Every time a cycle of IVF fails, another part of my heart breaks.  Every single time I invest in the possibility of a baby, I have new dreams and when it fails, I have to find a way to cope.  Of course, there are various stages and this cycle has been somewhat different in a good way, despite it being the end of the final chapter of a book called 'IVF failed us' in our TTC bookcase.

I know that we have put the IVF book back and are now browsing other books, we may pick adoption, fostering, IVF again in the future, study, travelling or even moving away.  It is hard to close the book completely.

S H O C K  & D E N I A L

When you test daily during the 2 week wait in an IVF cycle, the shock element of failure is slowly drained from you with a daily mini denial where you tell yourself you won't cry but instead will remain hopeful for tomorrow.  Sadly, when tomorrow doesn't keep its promise and the test is still negative come official test date (OTD), all that denial that has built up prevents the shock.

For me, I knew our most recent cycle was over when we were testing with a BFN at 8dp3dt.  I know it was still early but as 9dp3dt and 10dp3dt arrived, I knew instinctively it had failed.  Therefore the shock was slow and painful and 10 negative tests make the denial almost impossible.

P A I N  &  G U I L T

The pain of the IVF failure doubled this cycle because this was the cycle that 'should have' worked as we used an egg donor.  After failed egg retrievals due to ovary location and then because of poor egg quality, followed by one successful egg retrieval but 2 chemical pregnancies, this 'should have' been it.

My personal pain and guilt of IVF failure is always connected to the grief cycle of my Nan passing away over 3 years ago.  I would say I am still somewhat stuck in the 'anger and bargaining' of that grief cycle as I truly justified her death in my head by allowing the possibility of a baby to be the 'bargaining' of accepting her death.  When you type the words like that, it seems crazy, but in my head, it sounded logical.  I just kept thinking 'If I am not looking after Nan anymore then maybe it's because I am needed for a baby, her great grandchild' but sadly, this is also not the case.

The pain of each cycle that promised hope for that baby has cut so deeply, that now with so many incisions, I feel weaker than before.  Those cuts made me look in the mirror and start to question who I am and what I am capable of.  It made me feel like I was losing an understanding of who I am and what I can achieve in life.  The last cycle that 'should have' worked and was the one we were all hoping on, cut a little too deep and now I am holding pieces together but I know to heal and cure them back to one strong and dependable person will take time.

Despite the fact I was simply the oven to a bun created from a donor's eggs and my husband's sperm I still attach some guilt to the failure.  I know there was not a chemical pregnancy as we did not see any hint of a line on our tests, so it is likely the 3-day embryos did not make blastocyst stage, hatch or implant.  Therefore logic dictates that I had no influence on whether those embryos would make the journey and arrive, our babies.  Yet still, I feel guilt.  I know I should not, but I do.

The guilt of failing another cycle has made me question so much more of myself.  My mind wanders to places and scenarios of the past, present and future that look very different.  I feel tremendous pain knowing we really do not have another chance at IVF for some years and I know we need to recover fully before deciding on adoption or fostering applications.

A N G E R  &  B A R G A I N I N G

My least favourite stage, as I mentioned before, it has been a source of problem for me since Nan died.  Maybe this failure and this grieving process and stage will help me close 2 doors.  There is no bargaining to have right now.

We have no embryos frozen.

We have no funds for any future IVF.

We need to wait 6 months before approaching Foster or Adoption Agencies.

The only bargaining I have currently is with myself when I promised if I did not get pregnant, I would lose the weight I gained over the last few years.  Now I am bargaining with myself that if I lose the weight and become the fitter and slimmer version of myself, I will reward myself with something.

I can't think of anything more rewarding right now than a baby.  My bargaining sucks.

D E P R E S S I O N , R E F L E C T I O N  &  L O N E L I N E S S

Despite the fact there are these seven stages, I genuinely believe you can dip in and out of them.  Let me explain.  I have already been through the upward turn of planning my future, rebuilding the broken pieces, accepting the failure and developing new hope.  I keep stepping back to reflection though.

If I could draw myself I would be loneliness and reflection covered with acceptance, hope and future dreams.  I exude an appearance of optimism, strength and courage.  I want to help others remain positive who are also going through failure.  I want to continue to support those around me who have succeeded with IVF and are having babies of their own.  I love that I am blessed to have the opportunity to be in the lives of lots of little people and I adore seeing them grow.

When reflection hits me, it hits me like nothing else.  I will be happy, laughing and even talking through the emotions of how I am sad the IVF has failed.  I will talk about things, express disbelief at our continued bad luck and mention my future dreams to study, adopt or foster and explain I am still very much in the recovery process of the cycle physically.  Then I reflect and see my home, empty, remember all the times I talked to the bookcase.

The bookcase is where I imagine I can talk to my Nan.  My Nan's ashes are at the crematorium under a rose bush but I just can't connect there in a place I knew she never visited and where just her physical remains are, amongst the soil that feeds the roses.  It should be fitting and perfect, but it isn't.  The bookcase is.  She touched those books, read them, left notes in some of them, folded down significant corners.  I can talk to the books and look out of the skylight above and talk to her.  It feels right.

Reflecting on our home never having little people hurts.  I imagine that thy will one day look to the bookcase that has children's books ready for them, they will ask to read books higher up and learn how to read as they grow up.  I reflect often on the times I sat, back against the wall looking up asking a question and took a book for an answer.  In fact, the bookcase is calling me right now.  it is where I feel closest to Nan and also most vulnerable and exposed to my true feelings.

T H E  U P W A R D  T U R N

My upward turn has been writing all the things I want to do and achieve.  it would, of course, be so easy to just completely bury my head in the sand and pretend the world is not out there.  In the past at various times when the disappointment has been too much and the goal has seemed so far away, I have found myself broken and unable to hold myself together.

The quicker and more direct route to the upward turn has helped me control myself this time.  I know if I let myself, I could fall apart completely.  I just am unable to allow myself to do that this time.  It seems when I am faced with the most heartbreaking situations, I do not always cry and breakdown.  Of course, I have actually cried and had a few days when I could not stop once I started, but mostly, I have said to myself allow 2% of a day to cry.  That is it.  Around 29 minutes.

You see, deadlines, they work for me.  If I need to get something done, I do and I won't let time constraints stop me and I get organised.  When I have all the time in the world, I get distracted and do not do what needs doing efficiently.

My 29 minutes to cry works for me.  It's much like the syns of Slimming World that I can spread out over the day or week.  If I have a day of crying, I promise I will make it through the next 6 days without crying and distract myself and keep busy.  I do not watch emotion provoking TV and choose things like catching up on The Apprentice where I can apply the logical part of my brain.  I do home projects and set goals to get things done.

Now I seem to be healthily crying for a few minutes, a few times a day and that works for me.  It allows a pressure release of the emotions and sadness of knowing I will not likely ever carry a baby and have all the things I have hoped for.


As well as reconstructing my broken heart and soul, I am lucky that I have plenty of projects in my home to use as a distraction as part of the reconstruction phase.

Whilst I am starting to get back to healthy food choices and positive mindset yoga, I am keen to get projects we keep putting off started.

So far, we have started updating my craft and office space to a less cluttered and fresh environment to allow creativity.  I work best when I am in bright spaces with little distractions.

We have also turned the 3rd bedroom into Dean's office.  It should be a guest room but we do not have the money to purchase the furniture.  If we got a double bed it would render the room useless as it would take all the space and not allow any additional functionality.  We do not want to invest in a sofa bed, futon etc as we just won't be sitting in the room and again, the room becomes redundant.  So we opted to make another work space where Dean can work so that we both have our own spaces.

Both our offices are clean, white and minimalist with hints of our own personalities.  I can't wait to share the finished rooms with you.  They are certainly a work in progress right now.  With each little bit of progress though, I feel more achieved and positive.  It sounds ridiculous that organising and decorating rooms can help, but for me, it really has allowed me to focus.

A C C E P T A N C E  &  H O P E

I feel like I had acceptance of the failure and hope for the future long before I knew this would fail.  Not because I was being negative just that I was realistic about the outcome once we got our 3-day lab report.  We had hope when 4 embryos were all doing equally well but as soon as we heard 2 had stopped growing and that one was growing too fast, we knew our odds were very slim and acceptance started the day we arranged our transfer.

Some may say that was giving up, by accepting that failure was an option back on transfer day, but as the tests remained negative during our 2-week wait, that early acceptance was probably what saved my bacon this cycle.

In previous cycles, I have spiralled emotionally out of control from being too invested in the success.  It was propelled out of control by the positive tests we saw that we soon realised were chemical pregnancies.  Losing the pregnancies both times, was exceptionally difficult.  We genuinely thought using an egg donor would solve our problems but as soon as the call came in on day 3, we knew the chances were slim.

I also had to cope with this cycle alone a lot of the time.  Dean was away in Portugal working and I had to call him just before he boarded his flight to tell him the bad news that transfer had been brought forward from day 5 to day 3.  My Mum came to my transfer so I was not technically alone but inside, I felt alone.

Hope remains strong in the form of plans to study, home projects and the summer of 2017.  The sun shining through the window makes all the difference to me.  The feel of the warmth on my body and when I can go to the coast, sunglasses on and the summer breeze in my hair makes my soul happier.  I will, of course, hope and wish that one day, I can bring my own children with me, but for now, I will continue to visit the beach with family, friends and of course all the little people I know and cherish.

My friend has a little girl who is 7 and she asked me the other day "do you have a baby in your belly yet?" and when I said no she said, "I hope you will one day".

Hope still remains strongest in the purest form, the belief and hope of a child.

Thank you, Mia Star.

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