Carolyn Martinez is the author of Inspiring IVF Stories, a book prompted by her experience of undergoing nine IVF cycles and the subsequent emotional turmoil that can come with trying to conceive a baby through IVF.
Carolyn’s experience inspired her to interview 24 men and women from all around Australia, to share their own stories and personal insights about going through IVF. The culmination of this is a book filled with pertinent advice for people wishing to better understand the process used to conceive a child outside the body.
On Tuesday 16 October, Carolyn visits Great Lakes Library to present a talk about her personal journey with IVF. The question and answer talk is suitable for both men and women.
Tell us about your personal experience with IVF…
We didn’t plan to be trying for children in our late 30s, but life intervened – failed long-term relationships in our early 30s. We met when I was 36. Two years later, we were engaged and started trying for a baby.
After 12 months and no pregnancy, we were referred to IVF, because of our ages. The first cycle was a shocker. It was a massive blow, and a precursor of what was to follow. We tried seven more times.
Then last year we did an egg donor cycle with my cousin. She and I look alike, so she wanted to be the donor, so my child would still potentially look like me. I couldn’t believe she was prepared to have injections and an operation for us. It was very humbling. I cried.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
You had a warm reaction from the interviewees in the book, who were passionate about providing encouragement to others going through IVF. Were you expecting this?
To find people, I advertised in newspapers and websites. Some people called wanting to remain anonymous, which was counter productive to my reason for writing i.e. to show it is OK and helpful to talk about IVF. The men and women who made it into the book have shared themselves with no defensive barriers.
What has been the reaction from readers?
Everyone says it made them laugh and cry. I’ve had women thank me because the book helped them get through a difficult cycle. People who aren’t doing IVF read it so they can understand what a loved one is going through. Psychiatrist Dr Blackwell recommends the book as “a great resource”. I get a thrill when a friend or family member buys the book for someone they care about.
Tell us about an IVF experience that has particularly inspired you.
I admire everyone in the book, which is why they were selected for publishing. Each chapter is unique.
Wendy is a single lady who had a wishing well at her 40th birthday party and used that money to pay for an IVF cycle. When she fell pregnant, she emailed her friends: “I’m writing to dispel the mystery of my 40th gift. Thanks to you all, your contributions went towards IVF treatment, and you have given me the most treasured gift of all”.
Sally and Dean suffered terrible tragedy during their first pregnancy, and yet Sally still makes readers laugh when she tells a story about misunderstanding an instruction from a doctor. She was asked to identify a vial of her husband’s sperm, and instead of reading the label, she peered intently at the sperm itself and said, “Yeah, I think that’s what it looks like”. Sally and Dean are now the proud parents of Matthew.
And then there’s Dean, who at first could hardly speak about his emotions; a permanent blush on his cheeks, but he opened up and shared secret men’s business that he felt was important to include in the book.
And Jasson, who had never spoken to anyone apart from his wife and doctor about IVF. This big, burly footballer cried during our interview and thanked me for writing a book that would help people like him, who couldn’t talk about infertility.
What are your thoughts on the costs of IVF?
The public health system can only stretch so far. Having said that though, it would be good if IVF was less expensive, because the cost precludes some couples, and that’s not fair. I had a preconceived notion that IVF was more difficult on ‘older’ couples, because they were running out of time. What I found, however, was that it seems more difficult on younger couples, because they are less financially secure and the bills place huge stress on their relationships.
You said that the Medical Journal of Australia reports that 90% of couples choose to destroy leftover embryos at the end of IVF. On Channel 10’s The Project, you issued a plea for couples to donate frozen embryos they don’t need. Why should you be an advocate on such a personal issue?
I don’t believe anyone has the right to tell another person what to do with their leftover embryos. It’s a complex decision, and I don’t begrudge couples who decide they cannot donate. My plea was for couples to find out more about possible recipients, before they made the decision to destroy. There’s no commitment in a conversation, but with more information, perhaps more people would donate. I’ve met special people who are experiencing infertility and who need donated embryos.
What’s next for you and your family?
We’re still trying to have a baby.
And I continue to tell people about the book, because I know how much it helps.
This story was published in issue 68 of the Manning-Great Lakes Focus