This is going to be a long tale, (so if your invested in this story then feel free to grab a brew around now) It’s very long, but we would never ever want to make anybody struggling with infertility feel like crap and so fully explaining what we’ve been through is the only way to tell this story.
I always said that If I ever managed to get pregnant I wouldn’t post it all over social media. For in the worst times of our most horrendous forty four months of heartache, seeing other peoples happy scan photos flash up on my newsfeed was the single biggest heart breaking moment for me. It didn’t matter who it was, friends, family, celebrities. In my mind I hated every one of them, and then I’d unfriend them, or block them….. because that’s what infertility does to a person. It destroys the very core of who they are and turns them into a jealous, selfish, angry shell of a human. So I apologise in advance if you are suffering with infertility and have found yourself reading this.
I didn’t know this until we started trying soon after we got married in May 2015. I thought it would be easy, like most people. You spend the best part of god knows how long trying to avoid getting pregnant because it’s drummed into you at school that merely looking at a willy will end in a baby. Well at least that’s what happened at my catholic school. We didn’t get sex education, but it was damn well made sure that we knew about the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy. The only memory I have of learning about reproduction wasn’t in science, it was in RE, when just aged 14 we were made to watch a VHS of an abortion in graphic detail along with images of dead babies in buckets. I actually didn’t give it much thought after school, but I think it stayed with me deep down. Only when I’ve become a teacher have a realised how wrong that lesson was and how now, looking back, I think that could well be to blame in some part for my infertility because in my twenties I was petrified, and I mean petrified of falling pregnant.
We have been open about our story but after our first failed IVF attempt we became very closed off. Not through not wanting to share, but we felt like we had disappointed our friends and family. As strange as it sounds, I wouldn’t change a thing about the last four years. What has happened to me as an individual and to us as a married couple has, in a weird way, made us better people and made us live our lives to the max. It’s made me the strongest version of myself I have ever known, it’s made me see my husband in a whole new way and it’s brought friends into my life that I never knew I had the capability of meeting or even keeping. It has also forced me to focus on my business to the point now where I’m in an amazing place and and happier than ever. All this, thanks to a very difficult journey.
So yes, We’re preggers! After 44 months of heartache, 2 biopsies, 1 failed hysteroscopy resulting in the creation of a false passage whilst fully conscious, 2 hysterosalpingograms, 1 laparoscopy, 6 months of clomophene treatment, 1 year of weekly acupuncture, countless weird Chinese herbs and potions (not to mention the expense), vitamins I’ve never heard of, 6 months gluten free, 6 months off the booze, two copies of ‘The Secret’, 4 months of hot yoga, 1 full IVF cycle that retrieved 14 eggs, 8 of which fertilised, 1 used and failed, and created three frozen ones - one of which was used in our second IVF cycle in February (and now wriggling around and causing mayhem in my tummy) we got there. Not forgetting of course, the 147 arguments, 6 friends I’ve probably done irreversible damage to due to my mood swings, three Christmases I’ve ruined with my family and 1 horrendous argument with my husband that resulted in me throwing my road bike into a field off Rutland Water and screaming that I wanted a divorce…….
Oh and did I not mention….. the reason for our infertility? - Unexplained. There is absolutely no medical explanation as to why we can’t conceive naturally.
This story primarily starts the months after our wedding. I was 31 and one of a tiny handful of friends who were yet to get married or have children. I wasn’t particularly maternal, never have been, but I knew I had a lot to offer a child and that I’d be a good mum. I’m not going to bore you with the details of the previously mentioned treatments but just to stay it was tough. I felt time was not on my side. I found my mental health slipping and I became an entirely different person, completely consumed with self diagnosing in a desperate attempt for answers.
I am not ashamed to say that I’d often wished there was something wrong with us, that if there was a problem with Richard or me then the doctors could have helped us more, we would have had a diagnosis and it would have been fixed, maybe not giving us a child but giving us closure. Instead it was being sat in front of several doctors basically telling us to keep trying. There’s only so many ovulation sticks you can wee on and there’s only so many periods you can welcome before it becomes unbearable. I am extremely lucky in that to my knowledge I have not had a medically confirmed miscarriage or lost a child and so writing this I am fully aware that our journey is nothing compared to some people but I’m trying to reach out to those who like us, who have no explanation for their infertility, because although it may not seem as tough as those who do have recurrent miscarriages and losses, it is difficult on a whole new level and shouldn’t be treated as anything less. Not knowing what the problem is, is a never ending cycle of questions and becomes a spiral of self doubt and paranoia. For me personally it became a self loathing attack on myself. I was born female, I was supposed to have the babies, I couldn’t… therefore I am failing at being female. If I’m failing at that, then what is the point in my existence? Sad, but true. What else did I have to offer the world?
I spent the first 18 months keeping it a secret, I felt ashamed. In the depths of despair I’d sit in my pj’s for hours on end watching box sets from start to finish. Not exercising, not seeing friends, just feeling sorry for myself. Google became my best friend and my worst enemy. I single handedly educated myself in all areas of the female reproductive system based on Netmums forum. People close to me that knew or had guessed that we were struggling would say
“ It’s because you’re doing too much, you need to slow down”
But that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. The longer it went on, the more work I’d take on, I was drowning, but the work itself was drowning out the hole that had been created from not having my own family. I felt so guilty for not making my parents grandparents, I felt like a failure to my husband even though on the outside he looked like he wasn’t bothered. He did however keep saying that I had done this to myself by stressing, (not helpful I know) but that’s Richard, he is straight talking and can be harsh, but looking back I needed it and he made me so strong through not pandering to me. He was watching his once independent and adventurous wife turn into a self loathing slob. Something he had not agreed to marry. At times, I felt it would be better to just leave him, let him find somebody else. My business also started to suffer, I cancelled 3 newborn photoshoots out of the blue and point blank refused to photograph families and babies for a good six months. I couldn’t control the anger and tears any longer. I was rock bottom.
2 years and 5 months into our journey, most likely because the cookies on my computer had gone into overdrive thanks to endless midnight googles of netmums through insomnia, a pop up came up on Facebook from a government petition to make IVF fair, ensuring that every couple in need was entitled to three full rounds. As it currently stands, depending on your postcode, you might get none, or you could get three. No wonder then, that some couples are moving their entire lives to be funded for IVF. I unintentionally announced to Facebook that we had been struggling, I had no idea what I wrote on that petition post or that it would be reposted on my wall until the floods of messages came in. At first I was horrified that this had happened, then receiving 7 messages in less than ten minutes offering support and letting me know that I wasn’t alone was a massive turning point for me. Initially I wanted to delete the post through embarrassment but I decided to leave it, and that’s where things started to get a whole lot easier.
In the space of ten minutes I’d gone from feeling like the loneliest woman on the planet to being the most supported. People would ask if I was ok, they would tell me their own stories to parenthood and I suddenly realised that all of those scan photos I saw that made me so upset have a story behind them. Not everybody gets pregnant straight away, a lot of people struggle but they choose not to talk about it and so from the eyes of a person struggling with infertility, you are the only one you know who’s ‘broken’, and who’s “bits don’t work properly”. Something I respect, but now I know, that’s not for me. I couldn’t have kept quiet any longer, it had already consumed too much of my life and I think it would have cost me my marriage ultimately.
From that point on, I became more open to talking, because I found that before talking I’d get angry at people for not asking how I was (They didn’t know what was going on) or asking too much (I just wanted them to shut up with their shitty advice like “have you stuck your legs in the air?” FFS) it was a situation in which nobody could ever win. If people don’t know that somebody is struggling with infertility then how can you blame them for asking questions like
“ So, babies next for you then?”
“Come on, you’re getting on a bit now, best start popping them sprogs out!”
Those questions in the early days reduced me to a crying fit in the loos at family get togethers, to the point where I’d avoid family altogether. It wasn’t their fault though, it always comes from a good caring place but when you’re in the middle of the battle you feel like they’re having a dig.
As most of you know, I’m a school teacher too and this at times was particularly difficult. Teenagers can be cruel, they don’t mean it but they can. I’d often get asked
“Miss, have you got kids,”
to which its was a battle to not burst into tears…. that question was usually closely followed by
“ My mum is about the same age as you and she has 5 kids, don’t you want kids miss?”
As other teachers will know, if you shout at them and tell them to be quiet, that’s a ticket to encourage them to prod even further because they know they’ve hit a nerve. The cruelest blows usually come when you’ve had a particularly enjoyable half term and piled a few pounds on, to which the rumour mill starts whirring and suddenly word at break time is “Mrs Greenfield’s pregnant”. You’ve got to laugh, because the alternative is bursting into tears in front of 24 teenagers. All of this however did make me more determined to educate young people on it. Whilst I’ve never admitted to the students I’ve struggled to have a family I have made sure that in PSHE days I have been put on particularly difficult topics such as Infertility, Abortion and Fostering because I’d rather teach them something I know about first hand than somebody else reading from a text book. This, to me is the problem. Education simply isn’t good enough when it comes to educating young people on their body, and it’s so wrong. Simply telling them how to prevent a pregnancy is not helpful. Educating them on what actually happens during their monthly cycle in full detail is. Not just a paragraph in a book to pass a test. It’s disgusting and disgraceful.
And so, after months and months of frustration I’d turned a corner, I was open about the battle, I’d joined numerous Facebook support groups and a fantastic IVF instagram page called hilariously infertile, along with an amazing community called IVF Babble. Rich and I even visited the science museum in London for the 40th anniversary of IVF. The people I found online gave me such support in the darkest days and I learnt so much about what other people endure on this journey. However, we still were not pregnant,I was now 34. I’d been poked and prodded and investigated several times and no obvious answers to our problem. So we pushed for IVF. We pushed and pushed, asked nicely, asked violently, rang and rang the GP, nothing. So with no choice left we paid for a private consultation at Care Nottingham. We were told there was nothing wrong with either of us after they’d done thorough testing and so we left with very few answers and a price list of how to proceed. We spent a few months again going to the GP to try and get NHS funding we were entitled to and we’d have promises after promises and nothing at the end. Because we were unexplained, in their minds it meant we just wern’t trying hard enough and that it would happen in time. So we looked into loans and we contacted Care. What happened next was truly amazing. The staff at Care were incredible, they told us that we were entitled to one free round on the NHS and that we qualify and that they would contact our GP seeing as we were getting nowhere. We couldn’t believe it. They could have easily taken our borrowed money and put us through but they didn’t. We still had to physically get them to sign the paperwork but Care helped us get further into the process than we’d ever managed on our own. Fast forward 4 weeks and I was sat in the GP office crying and begging once more, she looked at me and said, Ok. I’ll sign the forms. It was as if she needed to see me at my lowest in order to sign the paper.
She then said
“You do know its all about money don’t you?”
I was bitter for a while, I couldn’t help but get obsessed over the fact that all I do is work, I have my own business and I teach kids. I look after my body, don’t excessively drink, never smoked, I take nothing from the NHS, nothing from the government and yet I’m treated like this. It’s cruel, and it is unfair. It turned me into a very bitter and angry person. But somebody somewhere was looking out for us and we got the ball rolling. Within 2 weeks I was sat in Care, discussing our protocol, another week later picking up a box of drugs.
Despite having a few people in my life I knew had gone through IVF I was still nervous and unprepared for what lay ahead. Initially I didn’t think I’d be able to inject myself but Richard told me in the only way he knows how that I had to get used to it because he works away a lot, what choice did I have?. I can’t get my mum to drive 140 miles to Grantham to do it so I had to woman the f**k up and do it. So I did. Every single one for four weeks. You have to do them at the same time every day, regardless of where you are, so notable places I’ve shot up in where the loos in Pizza Express, ironically on the baby changing mat, in my lay-by parked car after shooting a wedding with the police knocking at my window thinking I’m doing drugs, and on the train to London Kings Cross with my little cool bag storing my medication and a miller light yogurt.
I’d heard horror stories but in absolute honesty, it was a breeze. Occasional bloatedness and a few mood swings but it was a walk in the park compared to the 6 rounds of Clomophene I’d gone through the year before. In case you are wondering what IVF actually is, (because people do ask, they seem to think IVF babies are not real humans) it’s where doctors use hormones to stimulate a womans ovaries to produce as many eggs as they can, extract them, put them in a Petri dish with sperm and hope they fertilise, grow them for a few days and put the resulting embryo back into the womb. In a normal menstrual cycle several follicles in one of two womans ovaries will grow, each containing an egg, to the point where one releases. The others then die off and get absorbed by the body. This first part of the protocol was uncomfy but not painful. After a few weeks of various drugs, one to control the lining of the womb and the other to grow as many follicles as possible to over 16mm each. Nurses monitor you every few days with “Wanda” to see how your follicles are doing. We named ours, just to make it less serious and find the funny in the situation. You have to take a specially timed series of injections that trigger the release of the eggs. Then precisely 36 hours later you are led on an operating theatre having each egg carefully extracted from each follicle whilst put to sleep. This is called Egg Collection.
Whilst I’m knocked out and having several doctors digging for human gold in around my under carriage Richard naturally has to go through similar pain and embarrassment - lol…. I won’t go into the gory details, but lets just say he’s just said goodbye to his wife being wheeled off on a gurney to theatre and was then handed a lovely plastic cup.
Within 30 minutes, I’m back awake and in recovery, they then told us they had got 15 good sized eggs which we were super chuffed with considering I’m classed as geriatric at 35.
Just when you thought the worse was over, it takes a turn in a direction that is a million times worse. Then comes the agonising daily wait. Before egg collection, I’d assumed the doctors got the eggs and then fertilised then easily. Not the case at all. I learnt all this by joining an IVF Facebook page (mentioned later) and despairingly and emotionally watching other peoples posts who’d get 24 eggs retrieved and not a single one fertilise. You are then sent home and have to wait for phonecall once a day where the embryologists tell you how your eggs are doing, the first phonecall is obviously to tell you if the eggs are normal - of 15, 14 were. The second to tell you how many have fertilised normally.
At this point, I need to say that because we were classed as unexplained, on the face of things there was no reason as to why we couldn’t conceive. However, only when you go through IVF can you find out if there’s a deeper fertility issue, for example, that the egg and sperm physically cannot fertilise for genetic reasons or your egg quality is poor. For this reason, we opted to have 9 of our eggs fertilised with ICSI (injecting a single sperm directly into one egg) and 4 eggs fertilising via IVF - in a Petri dish, swimming around hoping for the best. As it turns out both sets of eggs fertilised, not all of them, but 8 in total out of 14 so another potential fertility problem answered. So we received that phone call on The Friday evening. All was good. Now it was a waiting game to see how many survived through to the next day. Again, another phonecall the next afternoon to update us how many had grown, one was showing signs of being a super embryo and had already got to four cells. The other 7 were being lazy shits and still stuck on 2 cells. We were a bit worried but still hopeful. By the Sunday all had got to 4 cells and the super embryo was now at 8. This would be the last phonecall before we were called back in on the Monday to have our super 3 day old embryo put back into my uterus.
Transfer day came, and we were both so nervous, Richard was allowed in theatre with me and I was fully awake and had only a strong paracetamol for the procedure which is much like a smear test only you have two doctors at the business end, an embryologist and a sonographer on your tummy helping the doctor guide the embryo in through a catheter and an ultrasound. I won’t lie, it was painful. I was squeezing Richards hand so hard that he needed to leave the room as he almost feinted. He later admitted that at that precise moment he went funny because he didn’t know how to cope if this didn’t work and they couldn’t put the embryo in. However they did, and that was that. Off to Nandos….
In the following days I did nothing, I took two weeks off school, luckily it fell over October half term so the impact at school wasn’t as bad as it could have been although I did have two weddings to photograph in the days after. I rested, and in the second week we went to The Lake District and stayed in a cottage. All was well. As I was approaching test day I was getting very nervous, I felt normal, but then I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be feeling. After transfer you have to continue taking drugs in pessary form 3 times a day to support the pregnancy, I was classed as pregnant at this point, after I KNEW I had an embryo in my womb, my job was to keep it alive.
Unfortunately, without warning 3 days before my test date I bled, the day before a wedding I had to photograph and Richard wasn’t there. He’d left for work and I wasn’t going to see him for another four days. I was beside myself. I rang the clinic and they said it’s normal to bleed and it could be implantation and to try and stay positive. However, the next day, the morning I had to shoot this wedding it was very clear that this round of IVF had failed. In that moment there were no words, I felt the most alone I’d ever felt in my life. I had to get out of bed, get dressed and go and photograph a couples happy day and it was single handedly the hardest thing I ever did in my life. I remember in the church I kept crying, and I had my camera to my face the entire time to hide the tears from all these strangers, especially the bit where the priest mentioned children being born. My couple were amazing though, they made me feel so welcome and happy that I forgot it, they didn’t know, (although they probably will now). That’s life though. When you have a job where people rely on you like wedding photography you can’t just call in sick, you have to power through. In hindsight it was the best thing for me at that time. The alternative would have been to cry for hours and feel sorry for myself. So I shot the wedding, and I returned to school a day later, I broke down once in front of my friends and then I decided to get on with life. That evening I booked a ski holiday to Morzine over the New Year break. Rich and I had always said we wanted to go skiing but we always had something else to save up for, a wedding… a baby….
No more, absolutely no more now. Life had been put on hold enough. It had taken too much from us in these three and a bit years and it wasn’t going to take anymore, we had tried EVERYTHING so we grabbed life by the bollocks and learnt to ski, we had the most incredible holiday - just me and him, we got “us” back and it was everything we needed. We had chosen Morzine to honeymoon in 3 years previously in summer so it was a super special place for us, and all the more special that we now got to see it with snow. I became very short with people, family were still asking about children, I shot them down, was rude and just wanted to move on with my life. I had come to the conclusion that I wasn’t made to have a family and Rich and I were destined for other bigger things.
A month and a half later we decided to go again, this time using one of our three frozen 5 day embryos. This time it was much more relaxed. I didn’t worry, I didn’t cry, It didn’t hurt… Rich didn't feint. It was a procedure, there was no emotion this time. The first time had sucked all that from us. Off to Nando’s….
In this 2WW, I did everything I shouldn’t have done. I had a glass of wine - judge me off all you like, until you’ve been through this, you have no idea. I rode my bike to school everyday, ate what I wanted, I did three photoshoots and I didn’t watch a single box set. It was almost as if I didn’t care about the outcome, I was expecting another fail and that was that. My official test day was on the Wednesday. Ironically, God knows how, I was walking to my tutor group in the morning and one of the students said “Miss, are you having a baby? Elizabeth says your having a baby!” I actually was, I just didn’t know! I had made it that far without a bleed like last time and so I was already winning, however my brain was telling me that it was the drugs holding off a bleed. (I was put on different drugs after a frozen transfer compared to a fresh one) Rich was working away again all week and there was no way in hell that I was going though that again on my own. So I waited two more full days until he came home to test. Every single trip to the loo was agonising. Every second of every day was another second ticked off where in my head I was still pregnant.
I peed on the stick, it was 4.30pm in the afternoon and I’d just downed a pint of milk, I told Rich even if it was positive It wouldn’t show because it was the wrong time of day and I’d just drank a cow. He didn’t listen. He took the pissy stick and hid it from me whilst it developed, I watched his face and knew instantly it had worked this time. In true Richard style, there were no tears, no hugs, we high fived, and then he said
“Don’t get too excited, I’ll be very surprised if you don’t miscarry this one”
Awesome, thanks hubby!
We told a few people, my parents knew we’d gone for round 2 and so naturally mum was nagging on Facebook messenger to know. A few close friends at school without whom I wouldn’t have got through the last few years with knew and that was that really. I have to be honest, I forgot about it after that. I rode my bike to school, I went to the gym, I shot 14 photoshoots in a three week period and I just got on with life. That’s the best thing about infertility. It takes everything from you but once you’ve decided not to allow it anymore you become the strongest versions of yourself.
We had a heartbeat scan at the fertility clinic at 8 weeks and 4 days. We both cried for the very first time seeing that little prawn shaped blob with a heart the size of half a lentil on the screen. We were officially signed off from the Fantastic team at Care and into the big wide world of Midwives. Off to Nando’s…. only this time for me, no chicken. Chicken has fallen victim to the pregnancy diet. The next time we saw it was at 12 weeks at Mothercare, because nobody told us we should have registered with a midwife staright away - oops…. the clueless parenting has already begun.
And so here we are, 15 and a bit weeks today, 5 days away from our 4th wedding anniversary and just a few days short of 10 years since we met. Our baby is the size of a avocado and is fully formed, has all its organs and now just needs to spend time getting fatter. We still can’t believe it, it doesn’t feel real. We are very aware it’s still early days and we are realistic. Infertility forces you to see the negatives in what should be a happy time, but when you’ve first hand gone through the difficulties of falling pregnant it doesn’t go away that easily. I’ve never felt better. I think my body is so used to drugs that pregnancy is a walk in the park for me, I haven’t puked once.
So, if you managed to read this far then you’re probably thinking why bother write all this, why not just embrace and enjoy what’s happened and forget about the past. I get what you’re saying, but there is one thing in life that I cannot tolerate and it’s bullshit. I hate the fakeness of life, I hate the competition and I hate how people make others feel like shit when their own lives are a far cry from perfect. People should just speak the truth and stop pretending. Many many people struggle with infertility and they don’t tell a soul, many celebrities get pregnant really quickly and secretly have IVF and don’t admit it like it’s some disgusting shameful secret. I understand why people don’t talk, I didn’t for a long time but by talking about it reduces the stigma around infertility and helps people. We have been through tough times but we got there in the end, the sheer amount of reading and educating I had to do in these four years consumed every inch of me and so I decided that I’d tell the truth and hopefully try and help even just one couple who is experiencing the same thing as us. It won’t always end up in a baby, but if you can try and find the positives out of a shitty situation and live your life regardless then it won’t all be for nothing. It’s obviously easy for me to say now because we have got what we wanted but there were times when we had to come to the conclusion that our lives may only ever be us and was that going to be enough. The answer was yes. We started living our life and seeing a future without children and bam, it’s happened. Of course, we considered adoption, but Richard wasn't for it, and so we are in a marriage, we discuss these things. Many many people thought it wise to add their two pennies worth by suggesting
“Have you considered adoption? there’s loads of children needing a home”
to which I promptly and sarcastically replied,
“ Yes, I have, did you not consider adoption when you were trying for your fourth??”
A few snapshots of our journey…. The time when the hormones got too much and I burst into tears whilst eating a chicken fajita. Richard, being Richard didn’t rush to my aid, he decided to photograph it and walk off. The scan of my follicles growing before egg collection, that next one doesn’t need any explaining, signing the forms, and going into theatre…. the last one when I’d just come round.
So if you’re going through this and feel lost, please visit those websites, please feel free to message Rich or I and ask us any questions. If you have a friend, daughter, son or anybody you know who you suspect is struggling here’s some advice on how to talk to them.
1) Let them talk to you, don’t be the one to bring up the subject, they will avoid seeing you if you do, I did, I avoided anywhere I felt I was going to have to talk to somebody who knew bugger all about it.
2) Don’t suggest things, even if it comes from a good place, like “have you tried”…..
Legs up in the air after doing it, ovulation tests, cutting out certain foods, praying to some god, acupuncture, yoga, sending them websites with info on….
I can guarantee that they have tried all of the above. They certainly won’t appreciate it coming from somebody who falls pregnant easily. These people are consumed with this, that’s all they do. Sometimes the best thing to do is say nothing.
3) Don’t tell them stories of “I know a girl who tried for years and years and gave up and went on holiday and bam got pregnant” - they’ve heard this a million times, it doesn’t get easier the more they hear it, In fact it makes it worse, because they do the math in their heads…. maybe, just maybe I am completely unable to have children.
4) Be mindful of them if you get pregnant, whilst they will be happy for you it will tear them apart. Before you announce it on social media, tell them to their face or personally, and explain the reason why you’ve done that so that they know you’ve considered them. Their problems are really none of your business but being a decent human being and at least looking like you give a shit is the right thing to do, but don’t be angry with them if they cry infront of you, this news will send them off kilter for the next few days.
Suggestions of what to actually do:
1) Treat them to a day out of relaxing
2) Buy them a bunch of flowers every now and again to remind them that you’re thinking of them, I imagine it’s hard when you have an infertile friend (I was the worst) I cut myself off from people, didn’t visit them, wouldn’t go out, and so they didn’t know what to do.
3) Educate yourself on what they are going through. Then if you really want to support them suggest outings to the fertility show or google local support groups. This kind of help will be appreciated over some old wives tale of drinking some shite potion.
4) Try and find out what their fertility issue is, many women suffer with PCOS, endometriosis and men with low sperm count. There is not a “fix all solution” so sometimes suggesting things will do more damage than good because you may not know that your friend doesn’t have Fallopian tubes so can’t ever ever get pregnant naturally. You don’t know that its a genetic issue thats causing their infertility or that they have poor egg quality. Trying to do this research and gently asking them will allow you to help them more. At the very least they will be more likely to want to talk to you because youve made the effort to understand what they’re going through.
What I did differently:
There were many things I did differently on our successful cycle…
I took a herbal medication called Agnus Cactus (vitex) the month before I had my frozen transfer.
I used a hot water bottle on my feet every evening to keep my uterus warm
I wore socks to bed every night (and still do)
I carried on with normal life, cycling to work, going to the gym, going out with friends.
I took a low dose aspirin every morning (and still do)
All of these could have been a load of bullshit because at the end of the day, this cycle was different, for a start it was frozen, so my body had 3 months off the hormones to return to normal. Do not underestimate the difference this makes. Our frozen embryo had been grown for 5 days - 2 whole days longer than the first one that failed, so already it was in a stronger position. I also knew what to expect because I’d had a previous transfer so I wasn’t nervous. So it all goes to show that you cannot control a damn thing. It needs the perfect mix of things to go right and I simply cannot say with 100% certainty what made this round work. To try and guess would be irresponsible of me. All I can say is that 100% we decided to get on with our lives and not allow it consume any more of us. I make that last bit sound easy but it wasn’t. If you’re reading this and you’ve been trying for while, you won’t stop thinking about it until you’re ready to stop thinking about it. Rest assured, one day you’ll wake up and just say to yourself
“today is the day I no longer have any shits left to give”
Left: Our first 3 embryo - this was a 3 day hatching Embryo
Right, the successful 5 day frozen Blastocyst.
The difference between the two is incredible. seeing them side by side makes us realise how much further developed our second one was.
So what have I learnt?
I’ve learnt to love myself, to be proud of myself and to be happy that I was chosen to go through this. That last bit sounds ridiculous but now in hindsight if I had got pregnant easily then I know for 100% certainty I’d have taken it for granted. Those sleepless nights would have been a chore, I’d probably have questioned why we decided to have children.
We live in a world where everything is instant, we don’t know something? we google it and have an answer in 2 seconds. We don’t know how to get from A-B, we use a sat nav. We want for nothing. I was raised by amazing parents who spent their lives working to provide for us and giving us the most wonderful life, everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve gotten, through family help or sheer hard work in my control. However this is the one single thing in life that you cannot get instantly and is not guaranteed. I’be had to learn to be patient and to earn something for the first time in my life.
Our baby will be the most loved child, we will embrace every shitty nappy, (not actually embrace it - that’s disgusting) and every sleepless night. We will spend our lives giving it the best life we can, taking it climbing, walking, mountain biking, exploring. Yes, I know those of you who have kids will be laughing at that last bit saying
“Yeah right, they don’t know whats gonna hit them”
That pisses me off, unless you’ve been through this and waited so long for a child, don’t say stupid remarks like that because you will never understand what it’s like to want a child so much. We have decided at this point to only have one. We waited so long for this one that we want to cherish every second, I am working so hard in order to hopefully just run my business and not have to go back to a day job although the reality is going to be very different but we will reach that bridge when we come to it. I have realised now that I did work too hard in some desperate attempt to be the best teacher I could be, the best photographer I could be, clearly, I wasn't being the best woman I could be because I wasn't getting pregnant. The sheer pressure I put upon myself was so damaging. I don’t regret it because it’s got me to where I am today, I do regret what it did to my body and my ability to conceive naturally, but then again, I’m a firm believer in everything happening at the right time in the right way.
We are going to be older parents, we’ve lived fantastic lives so far into our mid 30’s, we’ve worked so hard to get where we are and so now the time is right. I couldn’t ever imagine having children younger or in any other circumstance. Maybe, if we do decide to have more then we will adopt a sibling. We are fully aware it’s going to change our lives in the most dramatic way, our freedom gone for the next 18 years but it’s the start of a whole new life and one that we welcome with open arms. Most of all, this is a really wanted child.
My mum often has conversations with me saying how worrying it is that so many people are having to go through IVF and what is possible going wrong in the world, is it the food we are eating? Something in the water? At first I thought this was in some part true, but after MANY MANY sleepless nights overthinking over the last four years I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply down to talking about it more and being more aware. Infertility has always been around, and always will be, but it was a subject that people didn’t talk about and so now we are opening up more it’s heard more often. In a controversial move I have another opinion on the issue and it’s quite simply that where there is no obvious explanation for infertility on both partners I believe it’s stress. In the last 20 years we have been working harder, women are working as hard as men - probably harder, to earn the same respect and further their careers and not be defined by their womb. But we forget that we are the only ones who can carry babies and so maybe we do need to take a step back and say to ourselves that it’s ok to have a rest, ok to not work as hard as our partners. I have this issue where Rich and I have to be equal, I work as hard if not harder than him because I do not want to be seen as weak and this attitude I believe, contributed to our struggle.
Advice to those going through this.
Let yourself be angry, don’t pretend to be ok when somebody announces a pregnancy. It will piss you off beyond belief, you will cry, and you will hate them, even if it’s your damn sister. You’ll read shite hippy crap on online forums that says
“I was happy for my friends despite my infertility”
I call bullshit. Absolute bullshit, again, it goes back to that age old rubbish of people pretending they are better human beings than others. You will be so angry and upset in those following moments but then you’ll recover. This will happen time and time again, It was 41 times for me, 41 pregnancy announcements before I got my own. When dealing with doctors. Don’t try and cheat the system, that’s one thing I’m against, you need to be trying for two years before they will even consider talking to you. If you think there’s an issue then save up the money and go for private testing it costs £400-£500 - the cost of a few nights out and some new clothes, if you really want a child of your own then you’ll save the money, sorry if that sounds harsh but its true. Once you have that information in your hands the ball will roll much faster. Unless, of course, everything comes back fine and there’s no obvious problem like us. However if the fertility clinic find an issue with ovaries or sperm you will get into the NHS system a hell of a lot faster and skip the agonising wait.
It’s ok to judge from time to time, I found the hardest parts of our struggle were to compare myself to others,
“Why can they get pregnant and have 3 kids and treat them like crap, or abuse them and we’re here struggling, knowing that we can give a child an amazing life.”
Don’t listen to arseholes. You will get people who will be rude to you, saying things like,
“Maybe you’re just not cut out to be parents” “You’re using NHS money to have a baby when people are dying of cancer” “Just adopt” “Why are you always looking so miserable”
Some people will never get it, and that’s ok, it’s not their fault it’s the fault of the education system, you will find plenty of people around you who will be supportive. Talk about it, it really helps, get on these Facebook pages if you’re going through IVF or ICSI . Educating yourself is the first step to understanding what it going on with your body. If you are against assisted conception for religious or other reasons and would prefer to try a more natural approach first then give Gabriella Roses official fertility challenge a go. I started it a few times but then gave up. That was when I was at my lowest and I couldn't pull myself out of the pit of depression.
Anyway, well done if you’ve managed to read here, I never expected to write this much, it just kept coming off the end of my fingers and I couldn’t stop. This must be the most long winded pregnancy announcements ever, but I didn’t want to upset anybody struggling and hopefully I may just have educated you, or at the very least made you feel not as alone as you did ten minutes ago. If you have a friend you know is struggling maybe just share this blog post privately with them. They might appreciate it, they might not, you won’t know which way they will go because they are probably hormonal and very emotional.
Thanks for reading, a special mention to the following people who have been a massive source of support for me over the last four years, Jess, Sarah, Amy, Emma. My wonderful clients who have had to put up with my whittering on, and some I’ve even had to cancel weddings for because of IVF and operations. My husband Rich, who’s harsh attitude has made me a different person, my parents and sister who are a constant support network for me. Every single one of the amazing staff at Care Nottingham, without you we wouldn’t be here today. The NHS, for giving us the funding to start our family. Cannot thank you enough.
All opinions are my own, all recollections are of our procedures and therefore may not be 100% scientifically correct, although between us we did write an awful lot of notes in our phones at our consultations.