We didn’t want to be late given how important the (initial Group IVF) meeting was and having just dropped Zac off we were cutting it fine, so Jason dropped me off at the door and went off to park the car. As it happened, with only five minutes until the meeting started, I was seemingly the only one in the waiting room.
Here I was again in the same familiar clinic waiting room. The chairs are arranged facing each other in a strange square configuration, which every time I sat there, without exception, I wondered at the thought behind that? Surely people in this situation don’t want to sit looking at other people? Seemingly to alleviate the issue of everyone looking at each other, they have placed some huge fake iris plants in the centre of the square and a couple of coffee tables with magazines and leaflets. It is a weird, surreal set up but one that becomes strangely comforting each time you return.
It felt odd to be sat there again in that waiting room and yet now, to be worrying about Zac. Many times I’d sat in those chairs longing for a baby, wondering if I would ever have a baby and now here I was again, but worrying about my baby! Aside from the worry at whether he was OK, it was a warm, satisfying feeling and I was once again thankful to the team here.
More and more couples arrived, all with the same polite nervous smiles, and the waiting room started to fill up. Usually you only see one or two other couples at most during appointments and quite often you’re the only people in the waiting room. To have the room almost full of people was a bizarre experience, everyone discreetly checking everyone else out whilst still trying to avoid eye contact and mind their own business. Eyes were flitting all round the room, looking for somewhere safe and discreet to stop.
I was suddenly conscious that I was on my own. What if they thought I was a single mother, a surrogate or a lesbian? For a fleeting second I was alarmed at what they might think but common sense fortunately quickly flooded back. What if they did? What did it matter? I could have been any one of those but it didn’t matter and wasn’t important. In fact I could have been all three, who cares? This clinic was hopefully a saviour for everyone and anyone, whatever their circumstance or preference and I couldn’t even believe that those thoughts had entered my head?
I looked around, I didn’t know anyone but I suddenly felt a connection. We all wanted something and for a variety of different reasons were all struggling to get it. All walks of life, all ages, all sexes, some same sexes, various sizes, just everyday people but all with a different story. Every couple had a different path that had led us all here to this room on this night. We were all now here together, stood in the last chance saloon, hopeful of a positive outcome. All with the same desires, same rights, same love to share but probably all with different futures and outcomes.
As we were called through to the meeting room, Jason arrived just in time and we all walked through the doors together holding hands. I was happy and proud to walk through with Jason. It wasn’t anything to do with what anyone else though of me or of us, it was simply that my buddy, my support, my partner through all of this was here with me, side by side and we were embarking on this together. I remember squeezing his arm as I held him close and we walked into the meeting room. I wasn’t first to arrive after all, another twenty or so couples were already seated and we were actually the last group to arrive.
With a swift glance, I realised I didn’t know anyone. If I’m honest it was a relief, though by the time I got seated it was clear that there were some things that were just now not important, and knowing someone in that room was one of them.
Professor Killick had been right, it was useful to be there, to learn more, hear other questions we’d not considered but overall, to realise that there wasn’t just Jason and I struggling to have a child, there were many other couples who were in pain too. It was amazing to think that right at the same time we were starting on our journey, there were about 30 other couples starting too! 30! We were both shocked that there would be 29 other couples starting their treatment that same month with us.
The reality of what that actually meant didn’t escape me either. Hull’s IVF clinic at the time had a tremendous record and was currently the leading clinic in Europe with its success rates at 45%. Still the generally accepted statistic for the IVF success rate is one in three. Was that one in three attempts or one in three couples? Either way there was every chance that a good few of these couples wouldn’t ever have a baby.
That stark statistic, that horrifyingly upsetting fact was unshakable from my mind as I sat in that room. It was gnawing away at me that not everyone sat there would have a baby. Not everyone would know the joy of being parents. The stats suddenly became real when you saw the whites of people’s eyes. I felt a renewed grief at the situation.
We were sat three quarters of the way back in the room and I couldn’t stop staring across the room at all the other couples. It was heartbreaking to know all these couples were feeling as we were feeling and yet, the statistics dictated that some would never know the feeling we had once already felt when our newborn baby was handed to us. The pain, whosever pain it was to be, was already gnawing at my stomach and my heart.
Beyond the sadness and anger at the unfairness of it all, I felt like a cheat. I felt like I shouldn’t be there, that I didn’t belong. Many more of those couples could have already been parents, with the same or previous partners, but I suddenly felt like the odd one out. The greedy one who had come back for more and whose very presence was reducing the chances of others in that room. If Jason and I left the room, would everyone else have a greater chance? If I took up one of the lucky chances of conceiving, would it mean that someone else wouldn’t?
I had a child. I had been lucky once. I was a mother and I had been given everything I had prayed for. That night I had kissed my son’s sweet head as I left him with friends and promised to tuck him into bed with more kisses and cuddles. I loved bedtime and I loved my precious boy. Now, here I was saying “more please”. Whilst others still had yet to realise their dream of being a parent and have their prayers answered, I was wanting more. Not five minutes ago I had been worrying in the waiting room about my child, and now here I was taking the up the spaces of the few fortunate ones from this group of 30, who were going to conceive. Did one in three mean ten for every thirty? Did that mean that twenty couples, forty people in this room would not have a child?
The sadness, guilt, anger was all consuming. I could hardly concentrate on the presentation. I didn’t know these people, in truth I didn’t want to get to know them, but I did want them all to be successful. To get to the position of bringing themselves along to this meeting, they would have had to have experienced some level of disappointment or heartache for an extended period of time and to now have a real strength and determination to go through with the treatment. For that alone, I felt they deserved to conceive. But that was not what was to happen, short of a lottery-winning sized portion of incredible good fortune. My heart started to beat fast and my mouth went strangely dry. I started to pant and knew I had to try to get a grip of myself and stay focussed on this evening and the meeting ahead. I just had to concentrate on our situation. I could not cry, I must not cry. We were here now, I couldn’t walk out and reconsider the treatment simply because I was sorry for the other people there.
I had to bring myself round by considering that perhaps there were reasons already known to some of them that would mean they knew the probability of IVF working was a long shot. I also had to consider that as far as I knew, perhaps some of them too already had children. Perhaps I wasn’t the only one.
As the presentation continued my concentration shifted and focussed on the team and what they had to tell us. I was amazed that everyone from the consultants to the receptionists, from the nurses to the embryologists all had their turn in explaining what they did and what happened during the treatment. They all had colour coded uniforms and were overwhelmingly passionate and proud about what they did. Just as I had fallen in love with Professor Killick all those years before for the amazing work he did, I felt huge admiration and love for his team, who clearly loved the work they did and were hugely proud of their success.
My thoughts began to centre once more on my family, my body and my chances of conceiving again. I began to concentrate on what Jason and I needed to get through this process. This was me now. In our small family, I was still special, this baby would be special. Forget statistics. Forget the fact that these meetings happen every day all over the UK and the world and that we weren’t talking 30 people we were talking hundreds of thousands of people who need assistance in conceiving. From that moment, nobody else mattered, statistics didn’t concern me and I had to focus on our family. This wasn’t just another cycle, this was my cycle, my next chance to have another child, extend our family and provide a much wanted sibling for Zac. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about those other couples still or stopped wanting the very best for them, it was just sometimes, there is only so much emotion you can deal with and at that moment I realised mine would be best spent focussing on my own situation.
I had prepared questions that I wanted answering and as the presentation went on I chipped in with the occasional question. At the end, they invited questions and I waded through my list. By the end of the session I’d probably asked 8 of the 10 questions from the room! I didn’t care what anyone thought, in fact I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t ask more. It was as if they’d had received some secret information booklet that I’d missed out on, or they weren’t really bothered about what was to come. Either way, I’d got my answers, some I understood more than others, but overall, it was a useful session and I felt it was worthwhile.
At the end, the senior nurse spoke to us and said that a lot of my questions would be answered as we went through the treatment and that I should try not to worry too much. She obviously thought I was some sort of fruitnut! This was the first time we met Denise, who would be a huge part of our treatment going forward. We took the opportunity to ask her if we could arrange for Professor Killick to do our transfer of the embryo as he had been our consultant through trying for our first child. She was quick to make it clear that the consultants were extremely busy and didn’t always do the treatment. The nurses in the clinic did the transfers almost all of the time and were highly skilled at doing so! That told us! We were both alarmed at not being able to guarantee Prof Killick would be involved and at being told so in no uncertain terms.
I could feel my eyes pricking. It probably wasn’t anything to do with the answer to the question. I didn’t care if Boy George put the embryo back as long as I conceived. It was probably more to do with it being the end of the meeting and me needing to release all the pent up stress that had obviously been building.
She softened then and explained that it was normal to feel anxious but that the whole team were there to help see us through it and the best thing I could do was relax.
Denise, we would soon learn was the head nurse of the unit and a critical member of the team. The consultants floated in and out but Denise ran the clinic. Her apparent hardness and abrupt style were to prove to be a Godsend to me in later months and I would grow to love her immensely, but at this moment, when I first encountered her, I just wanted to get out of the clinic, get home and have a bloody good cry!
We walked into Sara’s where Zac was sat in his pyjamas quite happily watching a film with the girls. He was happy to see us but had had a lovely time and wasn’t that keen on coming home! It was lovely to hold him and we had extra cuddles before bed that evening.