By the fourth round of failed IVF it didn’t hurt so much any more.

There was a pattern.

A new normal existed.

I was numb.


Just like when I first rode my bike.

The same scab would be knocked off again and again where I fell.

The same grey grit entered the same bloody wound.

And in time, that didn’t hurt so much any more either.

There was a pattern.

A new normal existed.

I was numb.


Childlessness had changed from being a place we were passing through.

To a place that seemed increasingly likely to be a final destination.

I told myself stories of what childlessness would be like.

I tried to make the stories feel OK.

And, actually, they did.

To me.

I would have been OK.

But Lisa wouldn’t.

And that hurt more.

The Bottom.

As we entered this fourth round, I felt that we were at the bottom.

There was nowhere lower to go.

We were getting nowhere except poorer and sadder.

I think it’s harder when you’re older.

Medically – and mentally.

Because time is against you.

But then – something happened.


There are a lot of desks in the IVF process.

You and your partner sit one side.

And various doctors and nurses sit the other.

Sometimes they ask you things.

Sometimes they tell you things.

But it’s almost always across a desk.

One day, across one desk, one doctor smirked childishly and said this:

You have eleven.

She told us we had eleven embryos that were heathy enough to implant.


This was, honestly, at this juncture in the process – round four – a miracle.

Previously we’d had two.

Then three (but one was weak).

Then two again.

And they’d not worked.

Yet this time.


Some way.

We had eleven.


We were told to go home.

To leave this spinning room.

To take in the news.

To stay calm.

To think about and talk about how many we wanted to implant.




No more than that of course because that would be too many.

My head was spinning too.

My face ached from grinning.

We skipped out of the office.

Ran down the corridor and ran down the hours until the following day when we had to return with our decision.

We were so lucky!




We had eleven to choose from.

We were king.

And we were queen.

At least, for a day we were.

The eleven. 

We’d decided.


Just two.

Google said two was best.

So we chose two.

We smiled at each other in the waiting room.

As we were called in.

I didn’t look at the doctor this time.

As she sat across the desk.

I just looked at Lisa as we strode into the office and sat in our chairs.

The exact same chairs we’d sat in the day before.

One of us was going to tell the doctor a number.


Then, I did look at the doctor.

The same doctor as the day before.

But she didn’t have the same expression as the day before.

Lisa was to my left.

And I knew it.

I held Lisa’s hand as the doctor said it.

The thing I already knew.

I’m so, so sorry. They’re gone.

I didn’t look at Lisa.

But saw her head nod down.

And stay down.

The doctor spoke for ten minutes or so.

But all I really remembered were her two words.

They’re gone.

And a high pitched whistling that had, quite suddenly, appeared in my ears as she spoke.

I sat silently.

Eyes closed.

Until we left that particular office, and that particular desk, behind.


My daughter Izobel is 3 years old this month.

The eleven were round four.

Izobel was round five.


This story is not about IVF.

Or Izobel.

It’s about choices.

And how lucky we are to have choices.

Without exception, the worst choices that I have ever made in my life are, ‘no choice’.

Because of the paralysis.

Because of the fear from what just happened and fear of what might happen next.

Not choosing – is a bad choice.

So I just wanted to say that, no matter how dark things get, if you have the ability to choose.


Choose consciously whether to stop or whether to go on.

Choose this.

Or choose that.

But choose.

Because if you have choice then you really are amongst the luckiest people in the whole world.

Choose consciously.

Choose boldly.

Remembering only what the destination looks like and feels like.

Round Five.

We chose round five.

From what felt like quite a dark place for us.

We chose to put our hands back into the fire.

And from it – we pulled Izobel.

Here she is now:


  1. Fantastic Mike, a road can be long, but joy and happiness will always win. Great read of the struggles for life……… ❤️

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I remember those desks, I remember the cloying air when we were told bad news.

    We were lucky with our first round and also got 11. Two put back in the rest frozen. Failed first time, but one of our ‘Frosties’ is now 8!

    We tried again and again with the remaining Frosties but non of them took. We tried the full on IVF again and only got 2, and neither worked.

    We then sat at that desk, with the diffused light coming through the net curtains and were told it’s not possible to have another go. There was nothing left.

    So we made a choice – we chose the leave our crazy life in London and moved to the relaxed North East.

    Four months into that move, I felt odd. Five years later I have a crazy 4yr old.

    Without that choice, I don’t think he’d be here!

  3. As I was reading this, David Bowie was playing on the studio radio. Heroes. King and Queen for a day. It took a moment to register then it was that cool, ‘Ooo-errr, did that just happen?’, feeling that explicit synchronicity often delivers. It was the universe telling me to respond.

    Choices, especially about children are big and far-reaching in their implication. Our ratio of children to pregnancies is 2 for 5. They never tell you the likelihood of a pregnancy failing is as high as it is – until you’ve already made the choice to have a go.

    Our first lasted long enough to get a name but not a breath. The second is our incredible daughter Freya. Three and four were gone almost before they had started. The loss and indignity of multiple miscarriages was a hard burden to bear, but we made a choice. Thankfully we were rewarded with an amazing son, Dylan.

    The suffering as worth it, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.

    To have a choice is a privilege not afforded to everyone, best not to take them for granted or make them lightly.

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