Rachel's IVF Journey“I was absolutely heartbroken the first time it didn’t work.” 

As heard on The Ryan Tubridy Show

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Rachel Scanlon’s lucky toilet came through for her not once, but twice. What – you don’t have a lucky toilet? Maybe Rachel’s story will convince you to reconsider. On Tuesday’s Ryan Tubridy Show, Rachel  who’s been through IVF an extraordinary thirteen times – started by telling Ryan that before deciding on going down the road of IVF, she and her partner Kevin had experienced a lot of disappointment: 

“We had a lot of miscarriages. And a lot of early miscarriages and a lot of later miscarriages. But, yes, we had a lot and so, we sought treatment.” 

Ryan asked Rachel to give an outline of what the IVF process involves and she made some things clear at the start: it’s a long process and different women have different experiencesDifferent clinics treat people differently and every woman’s body is different. So, no two women will have the exact same IVF experience. There are different protocols involved and Rachel found herself, more than once, on a protocol where she downregulated.  

“Your body is kind of supressed into a menopause-like state. And I suppose it’s to allow the clinic to take over and to take over the regulation of your body and so you stop producing eggs so that the drugs can take over and produce the eggs for you.” 

The menopause-like state probably lasts for a couple of weeks, Rachel continued, before hormone injections begin. The injections are intended to produce follicles which will eventually produce eggs. Rachel was injecting herself every evening and sometimes more than once a day and she was scanned regularly to ensure that the hormones are over- or under-stimulating follicle production. Pumping your body full of hormones has other effects besides follicle production, though: 

“Your moods are up and down, you’re all over the place… I mean, you’re hard to live with. It’s difficult. And you’re bloated as well. Your stomach is bloated. You actually look like you’re pregnant because your ovaries are just bulging. You’re just a hot mess, really.” 

That’s one way of putting it. Of course, the long, gruelling, expensive process is worth it when you get a baby at the end of it. But when you don’t, when the process doesn’t work at all, it can be extremely disheartening.  

“Looking back, one of the hardest periods for me was when that first IVF didn’t work.” 

Rachel reckons she was naive in the beginning because she had so much hope invested in that first attempt, only for it to fail: 

“You eventually get to a point where you’re taking a test. My first time, I didn’t even get to take the test, my period just arrived, like nothing had happened. Like we hadn’t spent all this money, like I hadn’t taken all these injections. I was absolutely heartbroken the first time it didn’t work.” 

That first time was just the start of a six-year IVF journey, that took in thirteen procedures in four clinics across three countries and eventually resulted in two joyous positive tests in that lucky toilet, in a café called Wilde and Green in Milltown, Dublin, two years apart. Little Eve and her sister Erin are the two happy endings to Rachel and Kevin’s journey.  

You can hear Ryan’s full chat with Rachel by going here.  

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2020

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