IVF Journey Part 1

It’s been over 6 months since I wrote Our Infertility Journey and I’ve been desperate to finish where I left off and share our journey before our IVF treatment started! 💉🙏🏼✨

We had our initial consultation at the fertility clinic in the hospital on 15 October 2018. After several months of waiting for this appointment, the ball was now officially rolling! We were told we could get NHS funding for one round of ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) and a subsequent FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer) should our first transfer be unsuccessful but only if we had more than one embryo. You following? 🙈 In IVF terms this is called “one fresh, one frozen”. Honestly, at the time I didn’t have a clue. I heard the words “referral for funding” and I remember feeling extremely happy and grateful for anything.

On 23 October 2018, Joel completed another semen analysis and the consultant advised us to freeze this sample to have insurance should Joel not produce good sperm on the day of my egg collection (which is the same day they put the egg and the sperm together and wait 5-6 days until it becomes a blastocyst/embryo ready for transfer back inside me). The results came through straight away with a count of 21 million, good morphology and motility… now all on ice! We were pleasantly shocked and confused all at once. Joel hadn’t had the greatest of results over the years and to now get this was incredible! But of course, it also left us feeling a bit sad that getting pregnant couldn’t happen naturally for us. The doctor said sometimes sperm is just very variable and in Joel’s case this could be why but they couldn’t say for certain without us really paying a lot of money to find out. We made our peace with just never knowing exactly why getting pregnant never happened for us. Luckily, we were content with having IVF and so excited to get started with great sperm in the freezer ❄️ I had an AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) blood test completed on the same day which is a standard test to check your egg reserve. I remember it taking three different nurses to get blood out of me. I was poked three times in each arm until they finally got it! Good job by this point I felt absolutely fine with blood tests and knew there were a lot more needles to come 😬

I then attended my GP for a thyroid blood test and on 16 November 2018 we had our initial consultation at our new fertility clinic, Wessex Fertility. We found out that our NHS funding had been accepted, which was incredible news! I had an internal scan which thankfully showed my uterus was all good. The consultant raised that my TSH level (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) was a little on the high side at a 5.74 meaning I have an under-active thyroid and for fertility treatment at their clinic, it needed to be a 4 or less before starting. I was prescribed a low dose of Levothyroxine (25mcg) and needed to have another blood test in 4 weeks time to check it had gone down. My AMH results came back at a 29 which we were told is all good, so we were told we’d be having a mild round of ICSI/IVF so as not to overstimulate my ovaries, as I already had a healthy egg count. Last but not least, the only thing we now had to do was wait for my next cycle/period to start and we could book our consenting appointment and prepare to start our treatment! It was a full on appointment! I remember coming away feeling all the emotions and like everything was now moving so fast after waiting so long and having to be patient.

A few days later, I started my thyroid medication and had a smear test just to tick all the boxes and make sure I was a-okay. Then on 3 December 2018 my period started and for the first time in a long time I was so excited but then after sitting down with Joel, working out dates, it hit me like a tonne of bricks… if our treatment was successful, our baby would be due right when Joel would be in Japan for work. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him, that we’ve all been building up to for years and there was no way I’d want him to not only miss that BUT obviously more importantly miss the birth of our child. We did a lot of soul searching that night and decided it would be best to delay the start of our IVF by a month. It made sense, even though it hurt a lot. I also wanted to make sure my thyroid levels went down and it meant we now didn’t have to do this all over Christmas. There were a lot of factors and it felt like a sensible decision but painful nonetheless for two people so desperate to be parents. I think maybe this just shows how optimistic we were and how much we so wanted to do everything right by ourselves and our future baby. I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted it all to go right and be in our control. I called up the clinic the next day and they were so lovely after I told them everything and I’ll always remember them saying “if you just said you didn’t want to do it over Christmas we would have absolutely understood. It’s so stressful!” I cried happy tears at what a great experience we were having with these lovely people. So we enjoyed the lead up to Christmas, both alcohol free, eating super healthy and just enjoying ourselves, thinking this time next year we will potentially have a little baby 😭 I had another blood test to check my thyroid and my new cycle began on 30 December 2018! All systems were now a go! Happy new year!

In the beginning of January, I booked our Consenting appointment at the clinic, the GP confirmed my TSH level was at a 3 and we booked a delivery date for the IVF drugs. I was feeling anxious but so excited to get started! I was healthy in mind and body… looking back it was actually a really happy time but of course, tinged with uncertainty.

On 3 January 2019 we had our Consenting appointment, which is where you’re shown how to administer the injections and drugs, then we went through our treatment plan. This is what I affectionately called the “no-no-go” appointment… there was no turning back after this. It was REALLY happening this time!

Our drugs arrived on 18 January 2019 and they consisted of:

Gonal-F injections – to grow my follicles that contain the eggs
Fyremadel injections – to suppress my body’s natural instinct to ovulate, so the follicles grow bigger making my eggs mature ready for the sperm
Ovitrelle injection – affectionately called the “trigger” injection to kick start ovulation at the exact time it’s needed before going to surgery a few days later
Cyclogest pessaries – to be taken after Egg Collection to thicken my womb lining ready for Embryo Transfer day
Sharps bin – for all the lovely needles
Pregnancy test – an unexpected surprise! A free test was welcome but I already had about a dozen First Response tests stored around the house 👍🏼

I was so excited to get this delivery! Joel was working from home and under strict instructions to put the injections straight into the fridge. I really couldn’t concentrate much at work and as soon as I got home home, I just stared at it all. It really hit me that I’d soon have to start injecting myself every day with hormones and have surgery to extract my eggs. It’s something that never ever crossed my mind I’d have to do to make a baby but here I was, ready and oddly excited for what was to come. The very next day, I hopped on a plane to Spain for a long weekend away with my mum and sister. It was so nice to escape reality for a little while and relax. Even though it was cold we managed to sit on the beach, soak in some sun, listen to the waves and just have nice chats… mostly about my impending treatment but it was still really great quality time. I felt very lucky I got to do this before life got crazy.

It’s insane looking back at what it took to get us here in this moment before injections started. IVF rules your world. I haven’t even touched the surface on what really goes on with your mental health because honestly, I find it hard to explain and understand myself. There was a lot of healthy eating, beetroot juice shots, yoga, meditation, no alcohol… being mind body and soul ready for what I was about to put myself through. It’s not a simple process and while I was positive and still am even looking back, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I was so determined to make our dream become a reality. I visioned my baby. I knew I’d be pregnant one day, this is just how we were going to get there.

My Mother.Heart.IVF Instagram was my saving grace during this time. It was a place I could talk with likeminded women currently going through or have been through the same treatment, where I could diarise my journey to one day myself look back on but also hopefully help others and just be my creative outlet! I love social media. I love connecting with people more and more as I get older and staying anonymous on there at the time was a life saver for me… especially with what was about to come…

…to be continued!

Instagram Posts
15 Oct 18 Initial Consultation at Hospital
23 Oct 18 Semen Analysis & AMH Blood Test
16 Nov 18 Initial Consultation at Wessex Fertility
16 Nov 18 Initial Consultation at Wessex Fertility (Test Results)
3 Dec 18 Delaying IVF Treatment
3 Jan 19 Consenting Appointment
18 Jan 19 Drug Delivery

Our Infertility Journey

Our journey began way back in September 2015. I can’t explain to you how magical it was. We were newly married, blissfully happy, on honeymoon and we were finally trying for a baby! A BABY! Our own little human! Part Joel and part me. It was without a doubt the best time of my life. We were both twenty-five and just knew we were ready to be parents. We’d been ready for a long time.

Time went so slowly those first few months of trying but we kept ourselves busy. In February 2016 we moved into our new house and at the time, I was late on my period. I worried because I was lifting heavy boxes and inhaling paint fumes. I didn’t want to be dramatic but I felt I was pregnant. I remember that time feeling like we’d been trying for ages. Suffice to say, I wasn’t pregnant. If only I knew back then how the long journey ahead would be.

After 6 months of trying and still no baby I stopped drinking alcohol, opted for a heathy diet and started practicing yoga and meditation every day to help me stay calm. My biggest obstacle right now was stress. I regret letting this time affect me so much. I regret not opening up to people more. I regret thinking trying for a baby was some big secret. I regret feeling so angry at anyone who was pregnant and not me. I regret staying put in a job I hated for so long in the hopes I’d “just get pregnant and go on maternity leave.” I’d find myself breaking down at work, watching TV, driving in the car… any thought or mention of a baby was really tough for me to handle at this stage. Looking back, I was really hard on myself and the mean girl in my head was starting to take over.

I had never been pregnant. No miscarriages. Nothing. My cycles either ran exactly on time (28 days) or I’d get the odd few a year that were slightly early or late by 2-3 days. Then there are certain cycles you never forget and June 2016 was the hardest of them all. I was around 10 days late on my period. I had two doctors appointments (crying hysterically in both) and several negative pregnancy tests. My Mum and I were due to go to Australia and I told her I thought I was pregnant (which was a big thing for me) because I had all the symptoms, every… single… one. Except the positive test. We’d be on a long flight and I didn’t want to keep it from her. I hoped I would be okay flying and keep the (non-existent) baby growing inside me but a few hours before we were due to leave, I came on my period. It was the cruelest moment of my life. Not only did it finally show up but it was one of the most painful, heavy ones I’d had since before I was on the pill as a teenager.

It’s hard to really explain it in words. It just feels like a physical punch in the stomach when you see blood after thinking “this could be it.” Every emotion swirled in my head. I felt as if this wasn’t my body. Like it was an invader, determined to not give me what I really wanted for so long. I was doing everything right. Everything. I wasn’t drinking alcohol or smoking. I’d never taken drugs. I was eating right. I was taking the vitamins. I’m a good person. I did everything I was supposed to. Why would my body do this to me. 

I kept thinking maybe this just wasn’t meant to be. Where would I be now if we had got pregnant in 2015? Would we be happy? Am I forcing this? I doubted everything so much. Our mantra became “we go again” and at first it gave us comfort but once we hit the 1 year milestone it lost it’s charm. We had been beaten down.

I started opening up to people a little but if anyone asked me on the spot if we were trying I would instantly say “not yet” and laugh it off. I hated myself for saying that but I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it for fear of making me upset or not wanting them to feel sorry for us. It was the loneliest time of my life. The support we got from family and friends eventually was incredible but no one close to us truly understood and I’m honestly glad they didn’t. I wouldn’t wish infertility on anyone.

Throughout 2016 I’d been to the doctors a couple of times. On the back of any other appointment I would mention to my GP that we were trying without success and like always, they just said that because of our age and the fact we’d been trying for less than a year there was apparently no need to worry. In December 2016, I saw my doctor again and pleaded with him that I be checked out. He finally agreed and I had my very first blood test a week later to check if I was ovulating. The results came back all good, which was amazing and a huge relief but my thyroid and liver then needed to be checked again. So I went back in for another blood test in January 2017. Thyroid all good but this time my liver needed checking one more time to see if it was regenerating properly, so I had to wait until April. All the while… still no pregnancy. All the symptoms every month. All the worry. The unbearable 2-week wait over and over again… but nothing.

I worried and stressed about my test results every time. I googled everything (as you do). Thankfully, my liver was clear. I should have been happy. I was completely healthy but it felt like we were back at square one. I wanted so much for there to be something wrong. I know it’s terrible to say that but it’s how I felt in my confused and heartbroken mind at the time.

Now, it was Joel’s turn. Up until this point we had both assumed it must be me. I took on a lot of the burden. This hasn’t been anyone’s fault, it’s just the assumption you make unfortunately in those early days. He was very anxious about the process of submitting his sperm for analysis but stepped up and his results came back okay, not great, just okay (count 15 million) and we were given no exact reason whatsoever why we couldn’t get pregnant by his doctor. I then had an internal ultrasound scan in September 2017 – on our 2nd wedding anniversary (sigh*) but that was all good as well. We fully became apart of the ‘Unexplained Infertility Club’ and my researching and anxiety went into overdrive.

In late 2017, we took our foot off the accelerator and gave ourselves a break from seeking help. I started a new job which kept me busy, we worked on projects around the house, had nice holidays and lots of weddings. Our lives were full and we were happy again. We even added two lovely cats to the family, which was the best thing we’ve done throughout all the heartache. We love them so much. We of course, kept trying. I learnt more about the ‘Fertility Awareness Method’ and tracked my basal body temperature (BBT) every morning. I went vegan and followed a very strict regime of vitamins. I even started having (stupidly expensive) acupuncture sessions once a week and the specialist became my therapist (whether he liked it or not). I became a walking, talking, self-taught expert on everything fertility. You name it, we tried it in 2017! We had moments of sadness, grief and anger that it still wasn’t happening but looking back, I remember feeling a little more content than in the first year.

I remember thinking at the start of 2018, “this is it, we’re going to have a baby! The odds are in our favour now!” I was very healthy, not stressed and loved my now new job. Everything was good! So I called up the GP and confirmed we were ready for our fertility treatment referral now and you know what, they may as well have laughed in my face… I was a little naive it would be THAT easy. They said that because both our tests were now out of date we’d need to do them all over again. I broke down. I couldn’t believe we’d have to go through what we went through in 2016 all over again. I’d spent a year building myself back up after all that. After more researching and realising the wait and journey would still be long, we started the process to get tested again.

It wasn’t until the June that we got the ball rolling and I had another blood test and Joel provided his second sperm analysis. The results came in and again, I was okay but Joel’s was misdiagnosed as “post-vasectomy” with a count of 10,000 and “0% motility” (the average sperm count is between 40 million and 300 million). Long story short, his sample wasn’t tested until several hours later when it should be immediately for a fertility referral. The hospital confirmed their human error and Joel was called back in for another test. In the August, Joel provided another sample and his now new correct results confirmed “sample is highly viscous (thick) – extremely low sperm concentration (count) and poor motility.” The count was 700,000. We were devastated. No more so than Joel that after all this time it was looking likely that his sperm weren’t the optimal quality and count. I mean, it wasn’t terrible and he was very unwell with extreme food poisoning in South Africa only a few months before which can affect sperm count but for right now, it was an answer (even amongst speculation) and we had to do a lot of soul searching to come to terms with this news. 

At the end of the month, we received a letter confirming our consultation at the hospital for a fertility treatment referral. The only problem was, we had to wait until October which felt like a lifetime away.

On the 15 October 2018 we finally had our initial consultation. I brought along my little notebook in preparation to tell them my cycle length, what my periods were like, my basal body temperature patterns, our health history… I was prepared to fight for some kind of fertility treatment to help us because I had heard so many stories of couples not being able to get funding on the NHS. The consultant called us in and immediatley confirmed Joel and I would need Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a more advanced type of IVF in order to conceive a baby. She told us the likelihood of conceiving naturally was very slim and the NHS would fund us one round of ICSI and another frozen transfer (FET) should we not have success the first time (depending on if we had more than one embryo to freeze from the first cycle). So there it was, after all this time. After 3 years of trying, we were told this is going to most likely be the only way. I remember feeling so relieved but very sad at the same time.

Joel and I held each other a lot over this time in our lives. Coming to terms with your infertility is heartbreaking. You never once think that having a baby will be hard. It’s instilled in us that it’ll just happen. The amount of times we were told to “just relax”, “have more sex”, “are you sure you’re doing it right” is offensive and I know we are not alone. Relaxing has no affect on people conceiving in war torn countries and if anything, you should have less sex but at the right time in ovulation. People never understood that we tried everything for our baby and the chances for everyone are so different.

We are very different people now. Infertility changes you in ways you couldn’t imagine. I’ve learnt so much about fertility and the creation of life with science. It’s incredible what we can do. I’ve learnt mindfulness, patience, accepting the present moment and that my anger doesn’t define me.

Most of all, I learnt I already had a mother’s heart. I told myself everyday that I may not be carrying a child right now but the moment we decided to bring life into this world we were already parents. Our baby was just waiting for us. Waiting for the right time. I wonder who they will be. I dream that they will be amazing, courageous and beautiful inside and out. That they will learn everything about the world and figure out all of life’s lessons.

They are so loved already. I will cherish every moment with them. Every. Single. Moment.

We never gave up hope. We’re sharing our story now in the hopes it’ll help more people figure all this out too. We know that our years of waiting were not nearly as traumatic as many others around the world. I’m so thankful that I was physically healthy. There was no doubt in my mind I would one day carry a child. It was just how we were going to get there that we found the most difficult. Like all IVF journey’s, it wasn’t easy sailing. It was the most challenging thing we’ve ever done, not only the physical for me but the mental for us both. We knew, whatever the outcome, we were ready for this next chapter of our lives.

P.S. I anonymously wrote all about our journey on a separate Instagram account – @mother.heart.ivf – which gave me a huge amount of comfort during this time. I would recommend anyone going through a similar experience to reach out and join a community of like minded people. They are part of the process that brought me out of darkness. It’s also so lovely to look back on and see how far we’ve come.

Hello, 2019!

It feels so good to sit on the sofa, open my laptop and write again! My blog took a big ol’ pause whilst I went through one huge life experience and I’m starting it up again as I transition into another. The start of 2018 feels like a lifetime ago but if you click back to my last post you’ll see I opened up a little about mine and my husbands struggle to make a baby…

“In November [2017], we had been TTC [trying to conceive] for 2 years. It was bittersweet, reflecting on our honeymoon in Mauritius and then thinking that if we’d have gotten pregnant we’d have a 1 year old here right now. After several tests and hospital appointments, there’s nothing “wrong” with us which does fill us with confidence that this could be the year! I mean statistics are on our side! We’re mostly feeling positive about everything and in a much better place than we were this time last year, so really… everything happens for a reason!”

Suffice to say, statistics are a load of bull and we didn’t conceive in 2018 BUT we started the journey to our baby and in the June our fertility treatment referral went underway. I was right in one way; everything happens for a reason and long story (very) short, I’m currently 22 weeks pregnant with a little girl and could not feel more happy and in love.

We started our IVF treatment at the end of January 2019 and it’s been a whirlwind of a year already to say the least. I’ve self-administered multiple injections into my tummy, thrown up more times than I can count (and not just from pregnancy), had an ambulance ride to hospital, tiny needles in the form of acupuncture all over my body and I swear, there can’t be anymore blood in me for the amount they’ve taken already. It was the most anxiety-filled but happiest time of my life. We were on the road to our baby and that’s what got me out of bed everyday, knowing we were always one day closer. After 3 years of never being pregnant, not even once, our time was here and it was so very hard but oh my goodness, so worth it. 

In February after my egg collection procedure, I was struck down with Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome, well known in the IVF community as ‘OHSS’ (this was what brought me that joyous ride in the ambulance late one night). My ovaries grew 3 times their normal size and my abdomen filled with fluid. I looked pregnant but no where near being pregnant and in a lot of pain. This brought us a setback because I had to heal before they could transfer an embryo back inside me and then I also had to start the process again in terms of drugs to tell my body it’s preparing for a pregnancy (I’ll go into a lot more detail in future posts). I was now on the path to something called a Frozen Embryo Transfer, again another shortened one to just ‘FET’. Our FET would mean more injections for a longer period of time and more waiting. So we decided to bite the bullet and move house. It was a really exciting time because in our minds, we were manifesting a baby into our lives. We needed more space for us, the baby and our two cats – we now had time, so it made sense! Our house sold in 5 days, for the asking price and a couple of weeks later we had an offer accepted on a new one! It was all coming together! After the horrific OHSS experience, we had some good news and were so excited to get moving. 

Months went by and our chain was developing slowly as people tried to find their next houses but it didn’t matter to us, we were in the IVF bubble and to be honest, things could do with taking their time. As long as we moved in, we didn’t care when it happened! I had my Embryo Transfer procedure at the end of April and it was a very long 11 days later to wait and find out that it had worked! Our IVF was a success. We had a strong embryo. We were finally pregnant. Our lives were falling into place *happy tears

Then in the beginning of May, the morning sickness started aka. all day! Pregnancy sickness is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You’re in a haze of constant extreme nausea, where for me, not only smells were bad but I couldn’t handle the sound of people eating or stranger still, I couldn’t have people talk about food around me! I felt absolutely horrific everyday, especially when the actual vomiting started every morning and you know what, I’m sorry to say… nothing helps! There’s no cure, no secret remedy, nothing even takes the edge off! I just had to persevere, get through each day and make it to the next. I lost weight, energy, drive to get out of bed every morning. It was seriously debilitating and not something I expected. Everyday I would have to remind myself I wasn’t dying – it sounds so dramatic but that’s how I felt. I had to tell myself “I’m pregnant with our baby, right now is so special, I’m grateful and happy”. Looking back it was such a surreal time. I’m feeling much better now I’m in the later stages of the second trimester and am very lucky that I felt I could be open and honest very early on with everyone close around me. It was no big secret we were going through IVF. I wanted everyone around us to not only have awareness but be there for us when times got tough. 

With finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and my life stabilising again, we were dropped a bomb in August that the people we were buying our new house from decided to take it off the market… 2 weeks before we were due to move. It was devastating. We’d imagined our lives there and came so close. Half of our stuff was already packed away in boxes but clearly, it just wasn’t meant to be. I feel there’s no big life lesson to even take away from this experience. I enjoyed planning and imagining our life in that house because it was going to happen. We just got unlucky and it was really unfortunate after waiting for so long. So, when one door closes, another one opens (quite literally)! A week later, we found another house a few roads down from the last, it’s a little bit of a fixer upper, a lot cheaper but the most important, no chain! It ticks most of the boxes and I’m sure we’ll be happy there, I’m just very anxious that as we have the baby arriving in early January, it’ll all feel overwhelming. I’m trying not to think too far ahead and stay positive.

Our lives this year have been so unpredictable. I’ve been living one day at a time and realise now, it’s all been practice for what’s to come. 

A baby, new house, new life… 

I’m writing all of this down to one day look back on and think “wow, girl, you have no idea easy this time in your life really was, even though you thought it was hard!”

So this is my 2019 so far in a nutshell and I’m really looking forward to writing all about IVF, pregnancy and motherhood. I always hope in some small way, it serves a purpose and helps someone out there going through similar experiences. I’m feeling passionate about raising awareness on infertility, which is still a huge taboo for a lot of people, even though 1 in 6 couples in the UK are diagnosed with it. (Yes, it is a diagnosis if you’ve been trying without conception for over a year.) There’s so many suffering in silence and in some way I hope to break that cycle.

So lots to do, lots to write about… let’s go!