- The cost. I already complained about this one. Holy CRAP, the cost. It's absolutely debilitating. Enough said.
- The side effects. If I was one to post photos of my stomach online, I could show you. I'd show you the span of bruises, a range of sizes and colors, ringing my entire abdomen. I'd show you how pregnant I look before an egg retrieval, belly as full and round as I imagine it might look in happier times. Baseball-size ovaries feel just like you think they would, actually. And the fatigue is a new level of fatigue, of a body doing things it's not meant to and continually asking you why. Everything hurts... a lot.
- The alienation. An IVF cycle takes over your life. There's really no other way to put it. You can't leave town. You have to show up to the clinic nearly every day. You have to stay off your feet and can't do anything remotely active at all. You are an incubator, plain and simple. The only way to feel more normal through it all is to try and pretend that it's not taking over your life, pretend to be normal. And so you try to be normal with people who don't understand what's happening and you fail miserably. Faking normality is painful. And then you just give in and let it take over your life for real. You become a hermit.
- The reaction. Is there a worse feeling than trying desperately to be happy for someone else's good fortune, but failing? IVF girls know what I mean here, and it's heartbreaking. Feeling like a bad friend is the worst feeling of all. I'm so very happy for your pregnancy conceived after one month of trying... now please let me shut myself away for the next three days. It only gets harder over time.
- The "What If?" What if we go through all of this again, and it still doesn't work? How many times can we try? How old will I be then? How broke? When do we switch to Plan B? What is Plan B?
And now, let's do something that used to come much more naturally to me. What's the best thing about IVF?
- The science. Without a doubt, the science of IVF is some cool shit. I'm not a science girl, either, and this stuff amazes me. Our bodies are amazing on their own. But the ways brilliant people have devised to help biology along? Astounding. Growing dozens more eggs at a time than our bodies normally produce in a cycle is painful as hell, but the fact that we can even do that at all, then mate them in a lab and insert them back into the right environment, all of it manipulated precisely? It's crazy. For the first time ever, I can honestly say I think it'd be cool if my kids became scientists.
- The ownership. One thing I've learned waiting in countless morning monitoring lines is this: IVF gives women choices. Nothing makes me happier for my gender than choice. I've been in line with women freezing just in case, women starting a family with their wives, women with a second chance on life and love... all kinds of women. IVF is a tool that gives all of us dramatically better chances than we've ever had before, and we make all the decisions - whether to go through this at all, how to go through it, how many embryos to implant, how many to freeze, whether to use or destroy them. We choose. That's a beautiful thing.
- The hope. Few jump into IVF first - our roads there are usually long and littered with frustration and grief and even tragedy. With other assisted reproduction techniques, insurance typically covers several procedures, so there's not as much risk or sacrifice involved. With IVF, we put everything on the line because it's the end of the road, because we believe, and that kind of hope is intoxicating. It makes the failures all the more heartbreaking - oh god the heartbreak - but I think it might make the successes more exhilarating, too.
"Hey handsome... what do you say we slip out of here and inject a trigger shot in that fancy hotel bathroom we passed?"