Friends assumed I would continue, but after three rounds of IVF I knew I had had enough

We like to tell children not to give up, that quitting is not an option.

I remember being reminded as a child by probably well-meaning teachers that there is no such thing as “can’t.”

I also remember the times when, completely exhausted, I thought to myself, “But what if I want to quit? What if I can’t continue?”

Last week, current Red Wiggle Caterina Mete announced she is pregnant with twins at the age of 43 after using a sperm donor and IVF. Reports described the Wiggle as triumphant after a challenging journey to motherhood. She’s one of many celebrities to recently announce a pregnancy after 40, although not all of them have been so open about the details.

It’s great when older, high-profile women talk about their positive experiences with IVF, because it reminds us that there are many women over 40 who would like to have a child, and that there may still be hope for them.

I know, because I was one of those women.

This time last year I was pregnant with twins conceived through IVF with donor sperm. After being mostly single as an adult, I doubted I would ever have the opportunity to be a mother.

At almost 43 years old, I would become a mother of two babies.

The first few weeks of my pregnancy felt like a dream. I had been realistic enough when I started IVF to know that my chances of getting pregnant over 40 were very slim.

Considering the enormous cost of IVF, and just bearing that cost, I had three rounds planned.

But after one round I was pregnant and with twins. I spent a few restless nights wondering how I would handle two newborns on my own.

At my six-week scan, the smaller fetus no longer had a heartbeat. I sat in my car afterwards and cried into the steering wheel. I started to see myself as the mother of twins and then suddenly that future was gone.

Four weeks later, at my first scan from the midwife, my little peanut, as I fondly remembered it, was also gone. The doctor gently placed her hand on mine. “I’m sorry, Claire, there’s no heartbeat.”

I spent what was undoubtedly the loneliest thirty minutes of my life crying alone in a guest room, a room probably reserved for moments like this.

Through my tears I saw an abandoned ECG machine on a table next to me, a layer of dust covering its surface. It seemed a cruel irony.

After enduring an excruciating miscarriage, I mentally beat myself up. I wanted an answer, a reason for what happened.

Frustratingly, when I asked my obstetrician and IVF specialist why I had miscarried, they both gave the same vague answer: “It’s multifactorial.” I wondered if they were trying to spare my feelings that I was probably too old.

But even if it was, my IVF clinic was happy to let me continue with more rounds.

Over the next few months, I climbed back on the carousel to try again.

My life was reduced to waiting. Waiting until 8pm to inject myself with more hormones, waiting for another blood test that left my veins bruised and clotted, waiting as my doctor ran late and then went through my appointment so they could move on to the next waiting patient.

So much waiting.

Perhaps unwisely, after my second round of IVF, while trying to occupy myself during the eternity of another two-week wait, I read Julia Leigh’s memoir Avalanche. I sobbed my way through it one afternoon, desperately hoping that her end wouldn’t be mine, but I increasingly suspected that it might.

In Avalanche, Leigh talks about her six failed rounds of IVF as a single woman over 40. She also shows how addictive IVF can be. That once you’re on the merry-go-round, it’s hard to get off again, to say, “I think I’ve had enough now.”

After my miscarriage I did two more rounds of IVF and then I decided to stop.

I was out of money, but I was also tired of surrendering my body to something that had no guarantee.

Even as I write this, I can imagine the voices saying, “Just three times?”

Friends assumed I would move on. Even my brother asked me, telling me about a friend’s wife who got pregnant through IVF at the age of 45.

What my brother didn’t appreciate is that his friend’s wife is the exception.

The media loves a feel-good story: the miracle pregnancy, the rainbow baby. It’s very tempting to believe these stories and stay on that carousel, desperately trying to get that gold ring. It’s tempting because some people actually understand it.

So if you keep missing out, it can be easy to feel like there’s something wrong with you or that you’re just not trying hard enough. On the one hand, the media celebrates older women having “miracle babies,” but on the other hand, they moralize that women leave motherhood “too late.”

My teachers were wrong. It’s okay to say, “I can’t do this” or “I don’t want to do this anymore.” Choosing to stop fighting does not make someone weak, cowardly, or less happy. Sometimes people just get lucky.

I would have told my children that too.