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In-Vitro Fertilization Is a Long, Lonely Process. It’s Also Worth It.

Here's what I learned and recognized through six years of in-vitro fertilization.

Since 1978, five million babies have been born through in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The process provides assistance to parents who are having trouble conceiving, though it can be physically, emotionally, and financially draining. Though every journey with IVF is different, it typically involves women undergoing fertility medications, transvaginal ultrasounds, blood test samples, and egg retrieval via a hollow needle through the pelvis. The potential father provides a sample of his sperm and then the two are mixed together. If fertilization actually takes place, those eggs become embryos, which are then transferred to the mother’s uterus, and parents wait and hope that the embryo implant is successful. The wait is often long. 

READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to IVF

Rob Pasquinucci was one of those parents. When he and his wife were having trouble conceiving naturally, they tried IVF. The process brought them their first son, and their soon-to-be born second son. His wife is due on March 14th. It took them about 6 years, and several failed IVF cycles, to have both children. It was, as Rob says, well worth it. But what was also difficult was that it was like a “first trimester before the first trimester.” They didn’t tell anyone they were going through IVF because it’s a lengthy process, and one that doesn’t always have a happy ending. If they were going to be disappointed, they didn’t want to disappoint anyone else. 

Here, Rob talks about the six year process that brought him his two sons, and the difficulties he and his wife faced.

We didn’t know how long the process would take. Let’s put it that way. What was tough were the times you have where there is just doubt. We’d spent thousands of dollars. We’d done all these things. We were still not going to have a baby. Those are the times it gets really hard. No doctor can say, “You know what, two more cycles, and this will work for you,” or, “You just need to do one or two more things and things will be better.” That’s the hard part. This true doubt.

We started this process, started a family, five to six years ago. It’s a long journey. It’s gratifying to be at the back-end of it. It’s amazing how many details you forget along the way. It is helpful when we talk to friends who are going through this to say, “We’re here now, and you can be here, too.” But in some cases, you can’t be, because it just doesn’t work out for you. We’ve seen friends fall into that spectrum.

We started this process, started a family, five to six years ago. It’s a long journey.

My son was on the third cycle. We went through a couple rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and then moved to IVF. The first cycle, I think we ended up with nothing. The second cycle, we ended up with a very early term miscarriage. And in the third cycle, we ended up with my son.

I think everyone has a different story, and it was a difficult process for my wife, with all the drugs she had to take. We did fertility acupuncture. I think that really helped our numbers move up, but it’s easy for us to tell someone else, “Hey, you should try acupuncture,” they can try it and they may not end up with a response.

When we began the process, my wife was still pretty young. I’m a little older. You sort of think, “Oh, all we need is a little nudge, maybe some drugs, and this will happen for us.” I guess you aren’t prepared. You just think naively. If we were both in our 40’s at the time, you’d say, “Oh, we have an uphill battle.” But at the time, she was 29. We just thought this will be an easy thing.

In our case, it was kind of on both of us. The numbers on both of our sides, there wasn’t any specific, “Oh, it was the man’s problem” or the woman’s problem. It was a combination. But for guys, it’s hard to just say, “Hey, we’re going through this,” because it leads to jokes and a lot of people like to tell you to just relax, and yeah, we can relax all we want, it’s still not going to work.

Every step of the process has implications. If you haven’t gone through it one or two times, you’re going to live and die with every number and every result.

We didn’t tell our family we were doing IVF. If you’re not feeling well, you have to play it off. If you’re on vacation with family and you have to go sneak off to a bathroom and put shots in your abdomen or something, that’s difficult.

Every step of the process has implications. If you haven’t gone through it one or two times, you’re going to live and die with every number and every result. There are so many steps in the process, and none of them, necessarily, mean what the outcome is going to be. If you’re talking to somebody who has never gone through this, and you say, “Oh, well we had 6 eggs, and 3 fertilized, and they transferred one or two,” they’re going to think, “Oh, you have twins coming!” Nope.

It’s almost like having a trimester before the first trimester, where you just have to be really cautious. I knew our families would be supportive, but it just becomes the more people you have to tell, the more people you have to have a sad conversation with if things didn’t work out.

It was easier the second time around, with my son who is about to be born. We went through all this effort to get three frozen embryos. It felt like we couldn’t leave that on the table unless we were unable to have a kid for another reason. It also would have been different and somewhat heartbreaking to tell our son, “Listen, you’re not going to ever have a sibling.” Because at some point, every kid comes home and says, “Well, so-and-so has a sister or a brother, why don’t I?”

I knew our families would be supportive, but it just becomes the more people you have to tell, the more people you have to have a sad conversation with if things didn’t work out.

I actually think I had a false sense of security. The first cycle and first embryo transfer did not result in pregnancy. The second cycle was successful, much to our surprise, quite frankly. When you go through the frozen cycle they put in so many hormones, my wife actually felt pregnant.  We knew from the first cycle that that there could be a false sense of that feeling.

This second pregnancy felt a lot like the first time. There’s a little bit of disbelief, like, wow. There’s always this cautious optimism. A lot can happen between the first few months. You don’t start feeling it completely. This was a difficult pregnancy. My wife had gestational diabetes this time around. But that feeling was there. It’s different, because you’re sharing it now with your first child. So you’re really excited about that. And you know that this is the way that it meant to be, and this is going to make your family feel complete. It’s pretty clear cut. We’re real excited. And nervous. Like any pregnancy, you’re like wow, this is the way it’s supposed to be.

— As Told To Lizzy Francis