“I got together with my boyfriend, now husband, Tom, in July 2013. By November, I was pregnant. Yes, ok, we had been ‘irresponsible’, but it had happened, and we dealt with it. I was almost 34 years old. Tom moved in and we found out we were expecting a baby girl in August 2014. She came 2 weeks early and we named her Summer. My labor and birth were very traumatic. I was in labor for 63 hours and in and out of hospital. I ended up being taken to theatre in preparation for an emergency caesarean, but baby Summer ended up being delivered by forceps. It was all very surreal, and I certainly didn’t feel like it was a ‘magical’ moment meeting my baby, like everyone seems to portray that it is. My husband joked that I had been through such trauma that he didn’t think my body would allow me to ever have another baby again! The irony was, this turned out to be true…
The next few months were a blur as I suffered with bad post-natal depression. With the help of my GP, anti-depressants and a counsellor, I got through it. Motherhood was tough. I’ve always known I wanted a second baby though as I couldn’t imagine having an only child and having a brother and sister myself who I am very close to, I wanted this for my child.
Tom and I got engaged when Summer was 10 months old and planned to get married the following year. I used to joke that he wasn’t allowed to touch me as I got pregnant so easily, and I didn’t want to be a pregnant bride!
The thing is, I also got pregnant many years before at aged 24. It was the first time I’d had unprotected sex, and I had split up with the father. Having a termination was, in my head, my only option. It just wasn’t right to go through with that pregnancy for many reasons. This has hugely troubled over the past 3 years of my ‘infertile’ life, but I am not ashamed to talk about it. I feel like I am being punished for this decision, but then in the same breath, if I hadn’t terminated, I wouldn’t have my daughter now, as my life would have taken on a very different path. I guess we have to make decisions in our lives at the time of event, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but life isn’t a rehearsal. We live and we learn….
So, Tom and I got married in May 2016! I assumed I would get pregnant on my wedding night! I was 36 and a half years old, Tom was 30, and our daughter was almost 2. Months passed and my periods kept coming. I started doing ovulation test kits. I was ovulating, and my periods were regular. Soon, a year had passed. I went to my Dr. who mentioned that I may have Secondary Infertility. I had never heard of this! Surely if you can have a baby, you can have another one? Right!?…. Wrong.
We had all the standard tests paid for by the NHS. I had my fallopian tubes checked, my AFC – to see how many follicles I had on my ovaries producing eggs, and Tom had his sperm tested, I had hormone tests. All came back normal. I had ‘unexplained secondary infertility’. And so, the disagreements with my husband started – IVF was our only option, but he did not want to do this. It was a stressful time, but he came around and we decided to go ahead with IVF. Hooray! IVF was a guaranteed baby wasn’t it?! ………Nooooo…..
The fertility Dr. explained that I could have one final test – but it wasn’t paid for by the NHS, but it was only £100, and it would indicate my ovarian reserve, and how well my ovaries would respond to IVF stimulation drugs – the Anti-Mullerian Hormone test. I thought it was crazy that I hadn’t been offered this before. I had been having tests carried out for 10 months which I knew would come back as normal as I’d conceived before. I was told that my AMH could come back as anything between 0 and 100 pmol/l (measured differently in the USA). I assumed mine would come back normal of course! But no, it came back as a reading of 2.1. I was absolutely devastated. This explained everything. I had a severely diminished ovarian reserve. Not enough is yet known about AMH levels and egg quality, but it is thought they could be linked. And so, I had very little chance of IVF actually working.
We were advised to maybe think about using donor eggs, but I was dead against this, I wanted to, HAD to try with my own eggs. So, we ‘bought’ 3 rounds of IVF with a financial package which at the end we got back a partial refund – miss-sold as a 50% refund, when actually it was a lot less as it didn’t include the extortionate cost of the drugs, and other procedures.
We started our first round of IVF in December 2017. As expected, I responded poorly to the drugs and had to be put on maximum dosage. Our first egg retrieval gave us 8 eggs. Waiting for the ‘fertilization phone call’ the next day is agony. Absolutely terrifying. It’s could all be over with one phone call, as it is possible that none fertilize overnight when mixed with my husband’s sperm. But 4 had fertilized, and 2 survived the next 5 days, and these embryos were both transferred back inside me. They both had to be put back as neither were good enough quality for freezing. But I truly believed I was having twins!
I had to wait 11 days to do a pregnancy test. It was negative. I was heartbroken, but as I had 2 more rounds, I looked forward. We moved onto our second round quite quickly, with a new combination of drugs. I learnt that IVF was a bit of trial and error which horrified me somewhat. Again, I produced 8 eggs and 4 fertilized, with 2 left on day 5 again. Both were better quality and I could freeze one! So, I had one put back in me, and one went into the freezer. I had been eating more healthily and had been having acupuncture – I would have done anything and everything to help. I started pregnancy tests on day 7, and pretty much knew it hadn’t worked.
By day 11 on official test day, it was negative once again. I was incredibly upset but decided to take a break and book a holiday. Plus, we had one embryo in the freezer that we could have put back inside me at any time. We had this frozen transfer in July 2018, and I tested on day 6. It was Negative. Devastated. I was going to a wedding on day 8 so I thought I’d test again to make absolutely sure I that I could drink. I left the test on the windowsill whilst I had a shower as I knew the outcome. I went back to check it, and to my absolute shock and delight and relief that this nightmare was finally over. It was positive! I was finally PREGNANT!!! I went out and bought a few more pregnancy tests and told my husband the next morning. They were all positive – seeing the words ‘pregnant’ on the digital tests were just totally amazing, my life was complete!
My husband’s reaction to my positive test wasn’t what I’d hoped. He was hugely underwhelmed. Maybe he just knew…. Because as days went by, the pregnancy tests got fainter and slowly turned to negative. And I then had a very early miscarriage, or a chemical pregnancy. My world fell apart. How could this happen?? This was so unfair!! I was heartbroken. But still, I had one more round left, so onwards and upwards.
We started our final round in October 2018. This time, we had 7 eggs at retrieval and 3 fertilized. I was very disappointed at this number but tried to remain positive. On day 5 we had 2 great quality embryos! One was even hatching! I though of course it’s going to work this time, this is the best quality embryos I’ve ever had! So, we had both put back. I didn’t want to go through another frozen round and more waiting. It’s tough at the embryo transfer – the embryologist and Dr. come into your room at the clinic, where you’re all dressed up to go to theatre, but you haven’t spoken to the embryologist for a couple of days, so you have no idea how many embryos you have left, or what quality. I cried lots, this was such a big deal and my final chance. So, with 2 embryos on board, we went home, and I started my grueling routine of daily injections for 11 days.
I have an IVF Instagram account and have many followers and follow many going through the same, and I know that within a week, you should be getting positive tests if it was going to work. On day 7, I tested. I just KNEW it would be negative, and it was. I threw the test away and closed the door to my spare room which had become a ‘pharmacy’, and I stopped all my medication. I couldn’t bear to do another injection, and had absolutely no hope left, knowing that it hadn’t worked. I took another test on day 9, which was of course negative. And then I started bleeding, due to me not taking my medication. There was no progesterone keeping my uterus lining in place. It dawned on me that I hadn’t done what I was supposed to be doing and should have just continued with my medication and tested again on day 11. I convinced myself that I’d killed my baby and the next few weeks were the worst of my life. I couldn’t look at my 4yr old daughter without crying, thinking I’d killed her sibling. I was sick to the stomach and didn’t eat for 2 weeks. I couldn’t speak to my husband about how I was feeling so I turned to my GP, friends and a wonderful IVF counsellor.
I went back into my spare bedroom 6 weeks later where I tidied away over 400 used needles and I stared in horror as I started to reflect on what I’d been through. Five months later, I went into my IVF clinic to get rid of these needles and to speak to the head nurse. She was amazing and she reassured me that I hadn’t killed my pregnancy; in reality, I wasn’t pregnant. It hadn’t worked. This was the closure I needed. IVF was probably never going to work for me. I was given little chance of it working, but I was stubborn and naïve. I have secondary infertility caused by a diminished ovarian reserve, caused by my age, and it’s likely that all my eggs are now chromosomally abnormal. I am unlucky, but this is not hugely unusual over the age of 35 apparently. I still have a deep sadness and even anger in my heart that I’ll never be able to give my daughter a sibling, and we have discussed donor eggs and adoption. But there are so many emotional and financial complications with these options, that we are just not going to look into these options now.
So, we will be an only child family, but we will give our daughter the world. Infertility and IVF are such taboo subjects, and generally people haven’t got a clue, especially around the subject of secondary infertility – if I had a dollar for every time someone asks me when I am having another baby, I’d be millionaire. I wish there was more awareness as it’s very upsetting.
I’m pretty content with life at the moment on a day to day basis, but long term, I still have a long journey ahead of me in getting over or getting used to not being able to extend my family. I’m in a difficult place, as I have friends who cannot have any children, and so I am truly grateful and blessed that I have a beautiful daughter. Out of all the sadness, the one good thing that has come from it, is the blessing I feel every day for having had a child. But it doesn’t stop my longing for another child that I will never have.”
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