Reciprocal IVF

My name is Ranae and I’m a same-sex mama, parenting blogger, LGBTQ writer, and activist. My wife Audrey and I live in Dublin, Ireland with our two daughters. Ava is 3 and her sister Arya is 8 months old. We decided in 2015 to undergo ‘Reciprocal IVF’ treatment in Spain, as it was not available to us in the South of Ireland. We had no choice but to travel abroad.

It’s also known as Shared Motherhood. One partner gives the eggs to be used in IVF along with donor sperm and the other partner carries the pregnancies. Not many people have done reciprocal IVF in Ireland, and it’s an unknown area for lots of couples. IVF, in general, can be a taboo subject and even more so when it comes to something as rare as Reciprocal IVF.

When we went looking for information on Reciprocal IVF in Europe, the information we found on the internet was scarce. This was a hard time for us- we would have loved someone helping us to understand the ins and outs of this treatment. We had so many questions but we were totally in the dark.

Even now, having been through the process many times and having had two children, the information is hard to come by. That’s why I started to write about our experience. In the hopes that we could help other couples and families in the future.

There is so much to think about when planning your family through fertility treatment, regardless of whether you are a straight or an LGBTQ couple. And even more so to think about when travelling abroad; choosing a clinic, what country to go to, how to choose accommodation and how to travel, issues around sourcing medication, scans and blood tests needed before travelling, how to choose sperm/egg donors, issues around known vs unknown sperm donor, the process of egg retrieval, choosing how many embryos to transfer, the 2 week wait, what happens if you get a positive or negative result.

There is so much to think about when going through fertility treatment. It is hard emotionally, physically, financially and mentally. It is draining. And if I have learned anything throughout our journey it’s that it is SO important to take care of yourself through this process. There is so much to consider and so much that is unknown. Bearing this in mind, here are a few things that have helped to keep us sane during the last few years of treatment.

  1. Support Groups

The internet is a wonderful place to find support groups and people to talk to who are in the same situation. There are a couple of same-sex parenting groups we are a part of which have been invaluable.  Look for a group that is particular to your own circumstance, I promise you will find one. And if there isn’t one, why not start your own? It’s incredible the relief you find in being able to ask questions, chat with others about your concerns and see how other people are finding the journey. And just knowing that you aren’t the only ones is great comfort in itself.

  1. Be open with your family and friends

We’ve always tried to be as open as possible when people ask about our IVF. Sometimes people are surprised at my candour when talking about it. But I really believe it’s one of many subjects that need to be talked about more openly. If we don’t have this dialogue, how can we expect others to educate themselves about it? I usually find that people are genuinely interested in how IVF works but were afraid to ask because they didn’t want to be insensitive. If it’s not visible, how can we expect it to be understood?

  1. Cut out the Stress

It sounds so easy to say ‘don’t stress’…but in actual fact, stress can kill your chances at a successful IVF cycle. So it’s actually crucial to minimize stress levels. So do whatever it is that you have to in order to reduce it. Yoga, swimming, meditation, taking time off from work, asking for extra help from family or friends. Learn to say ‘no’ to things that don’t need to be done now. I have an awful habit of wanting to please everybody and in the past I’ve taken on way too much.

But over the years I’ve gotten much better at saying no to things. Especially right now. I have my own health to consider. The most important thing right now is making a baby. So I absolutely refuse to be drawn into stressful situations or pressured into taking on more than I can manage.

  1. Be Prepared

The more prepared you are, the easier the process will be. If you leave things until the last minute or don’t do your research, chances are that you will be more stressed out. *see point number 3* So if you are receiving lots of emails, make a little IVF folder in your email account. Keep screenshots together. Keep a separate IVF calendar and track your periods and take note of medications or changes in your routines. If you are given paperwork, keep it together in a file.

Trust me, you will at some point have to refer back to all of this and you will be cursing yourself if you spend hours searching for the results of bloodwork from 2 years ago. True story!

  1. Sense of Humour

This is actually one of the most important things for us. Let’s face it, IVF is intrusive. I’ve never had so many people all up in my business, asking so many deeply intimate questions. It becomes normal for someone to be giving you a transvaginal ultrasound whilst complementing the thickness of your uterine lining! So it’s good not to take yourself too seriously. A sense of humour is essential for IVF.

  1. Circle of Trust

This is a tricky one. I really think we all need support when going through an IVF cycle, but at the same time, you might not want to tell everybody what’s going on in real-time. So choose a few people that you really trust and would like to be there for you. Keep them in the loop but ask them not to be constantly asking you what’s happening. Let them know that you will come to them when you need support. The last thing you need is 20 people asking you if you’ve taken a pregnancy test yet.

  1. Boxsets and Playlists

Audrey and I are total TV and music fanatics. When doing IVF for the first time we watched our way through countless box sets. Find a few that you are both excited to watch and it’ll be something to look forward to through the inevitable waiting during the weeks of treatment. Having playlists of happy music is also great for the car rides to appointments and if you are having days where you might not be feeling the best.

Either the cycle might not be going according to plan, or the meds might have you feeling like a crazy person. Either way, prepare yourself with things that are bound to snap you out of your slump.

The most important thing to remember is that life will go on… Regardless of the outcome. Try not to lose yourself in the process of IVF and fertility treatment, however hard that might be.

Ranae x