Gaza diary: my IVF pregnancy came during the war

Hello World, 

First, I prefer to write anonymously for several reasons that I’d like to keep for myself. I am a 29-year-old woman from Gaza. People here see me as a very optimistic and energetic person and a good science teacher. I’ve always tried to live my life to the fullest even in Gaza. I’ve always pushed myself to see the full half of the glass in order to survive, but now I admit it this war has turned me into a totally different person. I look at myself in the mirror and I no longer see the same person. Pale face, sleepless eyes, dark forehead, and heavy emotions. With my thin fingers tracing my lips, “Where’s my smile?” I asked myself while looking in the mirror last week before the ceasefire went into effect.

Over the last decade, I’ve told myself repeatedly that I survive. I survived three wars with Israel. Yet, this fourth war opened my eyes and I realized how mistaken I was. I haven’t survived anything.

Over the last decade, I’ve told myself repeatedly that I survive. I survived three wars with Israel. Yet, this fourth war opened my eyes and I realized how mistaken I was. I haven’t survived anything. I am seriously traumatized. I need psychotherapy. I’ve read online that the first step in psychological treatment is venting all thoughts and vocalizing emotions. I have therefore created a Twitter account to post my diary, a “young Gazan Woman.” I am no strong person. I am no superwoman. I am just a regular woman. 

Few people abroad know what is really like to live in Gaza. I call it a big open-air prison. We are now living our worst nightmare in this prison. I used to think people are safer inside of prison than outside. I turned out to be wrong. We are never safe. We are being tortured and murdered by the Israeli army.

You must have read lots and lots of stories about the people who lost their lives due to the atrocities over the last two weeks. It’s time to share mine. It’s a different and private one, yet I believe a lot of women around the world will relate.

My loving husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for two and a half years. After exhausting other options, we decided to give IVF a shot. We went through this very painful and expensive process in order to reach our dreams of becoming parents. 

I won’t bore you with all details of this process, but I will let you know I endured all of the pain of bloodwork, transvaginal ultrasounds, hormone injections and a heavy course of medications. I hoped and prayed it will not be for nothing. 

During the IVF cycle, my doctor told us everything looked good and there was nothing to worry about. My body responded well to medication and that was the first happy news we had gotten in a while. I had more than 40 injections in 17 days. I could feel the eggs growing inside me and they made me feel so heavy and exhausted. I consoled myself by imagining these are going to be my beautiful children. 

And then the eggs were the perfect size to be retrieved. Big day! Egg retrieval day! Although I was excited, I was scared to death since it was the first time I underwent surgery with general anesthesia. I told my husband I felt I would never wake up again. “Sweetheart, you’re gonna be fine. I’ll be here with you all the whole time,” he assured me while firmly holding my hand and kissing my forehead. 

The day of the surgery I wore a pink gown and took a selfie with my husband because we wanted to look at this picture later, after we have a baby, and laugh at all the concerns and fears we had. My husband was trying to cheer me up as he could sense how scared I was. It was a futile effort because he was scared too. So I decided to tell a couple of jokes to lighten the mood. We were laughing so hard that other patients were surprised. 

I was taken to the operation room and prepped for the surgery. Everyone there was nice to me: the anesthesiologist, the nurses, and the doctor. I wanted to calm myself down before I was put to sleep so I started chatting with them. I told my anesthesiologist that I want my husband to be the one who wakes me up. He said very nicely with a big smile: “as you wish, don’t worry.” 

The surgery went well and the doctor collected 12 eggs, which is a good number. I stayed at the clinic for an hour to rest and then went home. My husband took good care of me. Two days later, our embryologist called us and said eight eggs of the twelve were fertilized, and they wanted to transfer three embryos the next day, which was day three post-op. We were hoping they would survive until day five, making it to blastocyst stage of embryonic development. We asked the embryologist why we couldn’t wait another two days, as the chances of successful implantation are higher then than on day three. He got angry and didn’t want to “go into scientific details” with us. He said “it was best for you” and that this was “his decision to make, not ours.” 

We went to the clinic the next day, embryo transfer day. It was an easy procedure. Three embryos were successfully transferred while I was at the clinic for three hours lying on my back. After, we called a taxi and ride home. My husband told the driver that were not in a hurry and that he should drive safely and patiently. We were so careful and afraid that something might go wrong. 

We arrived home and I lied on our bed. I was very conscious of every movement in my body. I would walk slowly with my hands on my belly, thinking this will protect my babies. My husband did his very best to make sure I got everything I wanted and that I followed all the doctor’s post-surgery instructions. We didn’t want all that pain to be for nothing. 

My husband told me to be relaxed and in a happy mood to enhance the chances of success. We had no clue there was a bloody war ahead of us the very next day.

The sound of Israeli warplanes hovering over us was so frightening and irritating. My heart jumped every time I heard a bombardment or a missile dropping nearby. 

For nearly two weeks I would go to bed, and all of a sudden woke up to a sound of terror. I would unconsciously put my hands over my belly to let my embryos feel safety, but it was not safe outside. I couldn’t help but follow all the news about what was going on and who was killed by the Israeli army. I cried for all the people whose houses were leveled to the ground, some upon their heads. The world seemed so cruel to me that for one moment, I hoped I wouldn’t bring children into it. I reversed a moment later. I still want to be a mom. I will do everything in my power to keep them safe, I thought. 

Fours days of terror later, we decided to go to my husband’s family’s house. We thought it was safer. Watching the news, hearing all the airstrikes and feeling the ground shaking underneath me was not on the plan for the days after my surgery. This is not how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to relax and cheer up. I was supposed to be in a good mood. I was supposed to rest. Waiting for death is more terrifying and horrifying than death itself. I wished I were dead so all this agony would put itself to an end. 

On the tenth day after the IVF surgery and I was not hopeful. How could I be after all I went through in the past nine days? All these days, I’ve been obsessed with observing every little detail of my body. Last night, I told my husband that If my babies make it, they’re gonna be heroes and I am going to be so proud.

I took the pregnancy test on day 14. I can’t explain to you how scared I was waiting for the results. I’d like to let you know that the test is positive. My babies made it!

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