I joined the online group Baby&Bump in January 2010. At the time, I had been trying to conceive for over a year, and desperately needed to commune with people in a similar boat as myself. I have previously highlighted the fact that, even though I had an amazing support system in the form of a wonderful husband and fantastic family and friends, what I desperately needed was to speak with people who had walked, or were walking, the same journey. I couldn’t find any such people in real life, so I started my online search. And then I found the community I had been craving.
When I first joined the forum, IVF was the furthest thing on my mind. I was on Clomid at the time, and joined the support group for that. Before I knew it, I was a member of a plethora of other groups. I became “cycle buddies” with women with a similar ovulation pattern to mine, and we symptom spotted together and consoled each other through our computer screens. And when any of us hit the jackpot, and was able to share the picture of a positive pregnancy test, or announce on the group page that they had gotten a BFP (big fat positive), we would all share in that joy and be encouraged.
Later that year, when I decided to attempt IVF, I finally wandered into the Assisted Reproduction section of the site (a section I had previously avoided like the plague). And I silently stalked a number of the threads, reading and observing what these women were going through. I stalked the diary of a group member named Caz, who was attempting IVF for the first time. I silently walked with her through all her hospital appointments, injections, scans, hospitalization for ovarian hyper stimulation, her pregnancy announcement, confirmation that she was carrying twins, and the early birth of her beautiful son and daughter. I eventually stopped being a silent stalker and stepped out of the shadows, and we became fast friends. I stalked about 5 other diaries this way…some had positive outcomes like Caz, and others didn’t.
By the time I was ready for my own cycle, my doctor was amazed about how much I knew, most of which I had learnt by following the journeys of my fellow B&B ladies. I promptly started a journal on the site, and got some stalkers of my own. I chronicled my own steps day after day, just as my mentors had done.
I also joined a thread for women cycling the same time as I was, and we shared information about our medication, our progress, our feelings, everything. It was great having an outlet. When that cycle failed, my cycle buddies were the people it was easiest for me to vent to. I sometimes felt suffocated by my dear husband’s attempts to console me. My mother was taking it worse than I was, and my friends seemed almost clueless about how to help – but my online friends got it. They understood. They had been down that road, and they knew the right things to say. They gave tough love. When I was still grasping at straws, hoping that there was a possibility that the cycle had worked, even after several failed pregnancy test results, a very low hCG beta number, and very heavy bleeding, they were quick to bring me back to reality, making me realize that the chances of me being pregnant were slim, and that the cycle had well and truly failed. I credit my decision to cycle again, only a couple of months after the failed cycle, to these wonderful women.
For round 2, I was understandably a bit apprehensive. I had to join a new cycle group, as most of the members of my previous one had moved on to pregnancy groups. I started off not really participating in the group, as these new women felt like strangers. It felt like I was repeating a class, and I was resentful of these newcomers, especially those who tried to ask me questions, since I “had done it before”. Eventually, I had to get over myself and loosen up. After all, there were some other women in the group who were cycling for the 4th, 5th, and even 6th time. If I was feeling like an agbalagba, how were they supposed to feel?
And then one day, I got a private message from a group member called Caline, who was cycling for the 5th time. She said she noticed that we were on the same protocol, and starting our medication around the same time, and was hoping we could be cycle buddies. I read her message with an arched brow, and a bit of a side eye. This woman who had already had 4 failed cycles want to be my cycle buddy??! Hian! I foolishly wondered if that wouldn’t be bad luck for me.
In the end, I figured there was no harm done, so I accepted her request. We started by sharing our history till date, and her story broke my heart. Apart from those 4 failed cycles, she had had 2 cycles cancelled due to poor response….so 6 cycles in all. This was not inclusive of her several failed IUI cycles. I silently admired her strength and tenacity to keep on trying. By the time we started our cycles, I realized the benefit of having a cycle buddy. Yes, it was great sharing in the open forum of the group thread, but having a cycle buddy meant I had that one person I could always vent to…that one person who would always be there to listen. The fact that Caline had had so many cycles meant she was always able to give me sound advice. She gave me some useful tips which helped minimize the side effects of the down regulation injections, and made me realize that I was not a freak of nature by not being excited about the process, second time around.
We made sure not to compare numbers, so it didn’t matter that I had a few more follicles than she did. As she made me realize, we simply had to pray for quality, and not quantity. As we approached our egg retrieval and embryo transfer days, we both decided to try some things neither of us had tried before, such as eating pineapple core to aid implantation, and also going on strict bed rest. She transferred a day after me, as I had a day 2 transfer, and she had a day 3. During our 2-week wait, we communicated only with each other, as we decided that participating in the group forum would add a bit more pressure than was necessary. As we had decided not to symptom spot, we didn’t want to have to answer questions about what we were, or weren’t, feeling. So, for the entire 2 weeks, Caline and I tried to talk about anything but symptoms…what we were eating, what movies we were watching, how our husbands were driving us up the wall. Most of the time, we succeeded, but sometimes we didn’t, and briefly inquired about that odd twinge or cramp. Overall, we gave each other the needed PMA (positive mental attitude) boost, when the other was feeling low.
We tested on the same day. Whilst I got a very strong positive, she got a very faint line, and some other sticks she used gave negative results. But you would never guess, as she was literally screaming (i.e. typing in caps…) on my wall, when I announced my positive pregnancy result that day. You could tell that she was over the moon for me. By the next day, her test results were stronger, and when she eventually took a digital pregnancy test…she got the beautiful words “Pregnant, 1-2 weeks). I didn’t realize how anxious I had been for her until her pregnancy was confirmed. I immediately could feel the emotions that had driven her to “yell” on my wall. I laughed, I cried, I screamed! My Caline was also pregnant. We had helped each other through the process, had bonded along the way, and had become wrapped in each other’s heart. We proceeded to become bump buddies, and in November 2011, both our dreams came true with the arrival of our children, born 3 weeks apart.
Today, I know her by her real name, and she is still one of my closest friends….even though we have never met. When she struggled with postnatal depression, when my husband and I briefly struggled to adjust to our new life as a foursome and no longer a duo, when she hit the big 4-0, we were there for each other. And as we both contemplate our frozen embryo transfers, we look forward to being cycle buddies yet again.
The morale of this story is, if you are considering IVF, it is best not to walk the journey alone. Find someone to buddy up with. It doesn’t have to be an online buddy. If you are lucky to make friends with a woman from your clinic, or anywhere really, cycling at the same time as you, that would be just as effective. Trust me, it makes an ordinarily difficult process so much easier to handle. And if you’re lucky like me, you get blessed with a lifelong friend along the way.
If it will help anyone, I have shared the diaries from both my failed and successful cycles, on my website.
Good luck…..and baby dust to all! ☺
Photo Credit: Dreamsime | Monkey Business Images