I’m a 37 old woman living in Athens, Greece. My name is Aphrodite P. and I’ve been married for 7 years. I became a mom last year with IVF (in vitro fertilisation) at EmBIO.
I’ve decided to share my personal story with you so as to give hope to the women who are struggling with infertility, hoping that I could give them a boost and make them feel less alone on their difficult journey.
I know very well that each woman will follow a different path on her way to achieving the coveted pregnancy. I consider myself lucky to have succeeded this with the first attempt, however, most women have 3, 4, 5, or even more attempts, changing doctors in between, and hoping that the next attempt will be the lucky one. Unfortunately, medicine is still far behind in assuring you a 100% success in your IVF attempt.
I tried to get pregnant as soon as I got married
I got married 7 years ago. I was a healthy woman and so was my spouse Petros, who was far from the age where fertility issues begin for males. I was 30 and he was 32.
We started trying to have a baby quite some time before the wedding and we always followed an active and healthy way of living and were cautious about our diet and health in general. Regardless, years were passing and there were no signs of pregnancy.
4 years into our marriage we realised that something was going on and needed to investigate further. I was disappointed with my gynecologist who, although he found no pathologic causes, did not offer any substantial explanation for my infirmity which was keeping me from getting pregnant.
The pursuit of a fertility specialist
This is when my long journey began collecting information from women I knew and endless website research from fertility experts and maternity forums.
I discussed with three gynecologist specialists before I ended up at EmBIO. Talking to them made me realise that when it comes to infertility, there are no exceptions. It can happen to any couple, regardless of the amount of time we spend in the gym per week, the number of glasses of fresh fruit juice we drink, or the number of bowls of salad we consume.
I also found out that a couple in their 30s should not wait for more than a year before they realise that there is a fertility issue. We lost four years just because we listened to friends and acquaintances who assured us that we are still young and that as soon as I got became relaxed, I would become pregnant.
From the moment I started to look for the best fertility expert, up to my selection of whom was I going to trust, it took me another year. Then, the onset of the Covid19 pandemic hit us and the quarantines held us back for yet another year since it was very difficult to perform the required tests. During the tests phase, my anxiety to get pregnant reached its peak.
The medical tests requested by Dr. Paraschos revealed that there was an issue causing infertility. Neither I nor my husband could believe it. We are both very healthy individuals, and yet we discovered that the chances of getting pregnant without assistance were minimal and were becoming less and less because we were approaching our 40s!
Upon hearing the diagnosis, we felt extremely sad and devastated. As if we were violently crushed by a huge wave making us lose complete sense of our direction. When the initial shock subsided, it was replaced with a huge gap and an endless sadness that held up for many days. Especially for me, it was very hard to deal with my job and my daily responsibilities. I burst into tears very often and out of nowhere. It was like I was in mourning.
I was not sad about having to go through an IVF, besides it’s a common procedure for thousands of couples, but I did have my doubts as to whether I’d have my own baby.
As far as I can remember my adult self, I always took it for granted that I would be able to have a baby at any time. But out of the blue, as we were planning our future by saying "when we have kids", we now had resorted to saying "IF we have children …".
These relentless questions are embedded in the mind of a woman undergoing fertility treatment. We have all created this picture of the future, taking for granted that whenever we decide, we will become mothers. When this certainty disappears, however, then we are haunted by dark thoughts such as “what will happen if I never have children?” or “what if the treatment fails?”
Relax, everything will be just fine
It was very hard for us to deal with the grief of infertility and there were so many aspects of our situation that people surrounding us just did not seem to comprehend. What seemed to be a harmless comment or comforting remarks of consolation, often worked as an intensifier to our sorrow and pain.
To have people in your close circle saying "try to relax and everything will be fine" does not help a woman who is struggling with infertility at all. Since there was a specific medical issue at hand, what was the point of me trying to achieve nirvana? Have we forgotten how many people have children in times of war and under any other circumstances of extreme anxiety and uncertainty? The eggs and sperm don’t need absolute calm in order to unite as one, they are "all weather".
I used to believe that myself, but now I am aware that it’s the opposite: stress does not cause infertility but infertility thrives on our stress. All we could do was follow our doctor’s advice and hope for the best.
We listened carefully to the promising success of IVF rates for cases such as ours, but the seed of doubt had rooted itself so well into our minds since no fertility expert can guarantee the result.
Commencing our IVF journey
Finally, all the medical tests at the doctor’s request came to an end, a treatment plan was laid out, we were thoroughly informed about every stage of the treatment, and were ready to start our IVF adventure.
Although IVF is a routine global treatment, it is not an easy task. It is not painful or dangerous physically, but it is psychologically tiring.
I started my IVF cycle the day appointed by my doctor. I underwent the necessary hormone therapy and hoped that my ovaries will produce the best eggs in my entire life. I witnessed my body respond and go through changes exactly as it was laid out to me. I felt good that the time for real action had finally come, instead of the constant delay and the endless waiting, which had been prolonged for even longer by the coronavirus epidemic.
After the hormone treatment was completed, we proceeded with the egg collection. Of those developed, 5 were mature. Of the 5, 3 were fertilised and we waited anxiously to see which ones would develop well in order to proceed with the embryo transfer at the blastocyst stage. Eventually, 2 of the 3 reached the blastocyst stage and these were transferred to my uterus.
Now I had to wait two weeks for the pregnancy test.
When two weeks seem like two centuries …
I had to wait two weeks to find out if I was pregnant. These were the longest two weeks of my life! Only women who have been through this can understand me.
Petros and I had planned various activities that would help us spend these two weeks more pleasantly and with less stress. I was constantly trying to figure out if there was a "pregnancy symptom", something out of the ordinary from how I felt every day. Truth be told, I felt nothing at all which made me even more anxious.
When the two weeks were over, I bolted to get the necessary blood test done which would show if there was a pregnancy or not. I struggled a lot with myself not to perform a pregnancy test at home, always respecting my doctor’s advice against the use of home pregnancy tests due to their inaccurate and possible false-negative results they have.
On the contrary, the blood test offers 100% accuracy, but its disadvantage is that it takes a few hours for the result to come out.
I went, gave blood, and returned home feeling my heart pounding. We waited three hours for the nurse’s phone call.
For those of you reading my story, of course, there is no suspense since you’ve read the result in my story’s title. But though to imagine my agony that very morning!
Pregnancy on the first IVF
When I heard that I was pregnant, I felt that it was the happiest day of my entire life. Finally, the moment that Petros and I had waited and fought so hard for was here. We were extremely lucky to conceive on the first attempt. All in all, we felt so incredibly lucky that we had a positive experience with our IVF treatment and that we succeeded at once. I am fully aware that this is not the case for all couples.
I am lucky that I responded well to the treatment. We are also very fortunate to have had Dr. Paraschos’ magnificent team guiding and supporting us throughout every step of our treatment. Finally, from the two transferred embryos, only one was implanted and developed. Today, I have a four-month-old daughter and I am an exhausted very happy mother. Petros and I are thinking of having another baby in a year from the first labour.
I hope that my own successful IVF experience will shed some light, hope, and strength, to couples undergoing IVF treatment now or in the future. Brace yourselves with optimism and patience, hold your head up high and dare to dream of a beautiful pregnancy and a wonderful family!
With loads of love,
Read more: IVF in Greece