Finally, now we are in the second trimester I feel I’m in a position to write this post. I was so terrified that if I wrote this before our 12 week scan and the worst happened, having this post in writing would just be horrifically painful. Now we are at 15 weeks I’m feeling more comfortable about sharing our secrets of the last 18 months and the story of one of the biggest challenges in my life. This might be a long, emotional post – so if you fancy a read, you might want to grab yourself a cuppa, a couple of biscuits or a slice of cake and get comfy. It’s a bit of a bumpy ride.
Both V and I always knew we wanted children, we talked about it very early on in our relationship and after a couple of years of living together we took the first steps with a visit to the fertility clinic to discuss our options on how to do it. This included all sorts of fertility tests, legal documents and even a counselling session – looking back now I laugh at how nervous I was at such simple tests, little did I know this would be the first of many, many visits to the clinic and way more intrusive procedures down the line. This was just the start to our emotional journey – some of the results of our tests were not exactly as we expected and we were served our first batch heartbreaking news, so before we even began – we had lots to deal with. With long waiting lists at the clinic we had a couple of months to digest and plan a method – this journey was not going to be as easy as we thought.
IUI and Heartbreak
In the new year of 2016, after a rocky end to 2015 following the tests, we decided to go ahead with a procedure called IUI (Intrauterine insemination). This involved ultrasounds every other day to check my cycle and on the day of ovulation, the procedure was carried out. Its a really simple procedure, no worse than a smear test and I had no medication at this point so it was the least intrusive of the procedures. Little did we know it would come with such heartbreak. We attempted two cycles of IUI, with both of them ending in ‘chemical pregnancies’. For some reason, I was getting pregnant but in both occasions it only lasted a couple of days, my body just seemed to reject the thought of it and with excruciating cramps, I lost both of our first potential babies within 2 weeks of the procedure. We were devastated, I can’t even put into words how I felt. I had every hope and faith it would work but I felt like my own body had let me down, I felt broken like there was something wrong with me. I questioned if I’d ever be able to get pregnant if even the professionals couldn’t do it with perfect timing and accuracy. Around me all of my friends were getting pregnant and this was a real low point in my life. We took a month off to let my body recover and considered our options.
Choosing IVF and receiving the medication
We went back to the clinic for a consultation, they advised us we could try IUI again, but the same thing might happen. I felt emotionally, I couldn’t handle another chemical pregnancy and at £1200 a try we also couldn’t afford to try it with such a small success rate. We decided instead we would put all of our eggs in one basket (literally) and go for the biggest, scariest and most expensive method of getting pregnant – IVF (Invitro Fertilisation). In all honesty, the thought of the procedure absolutely terrified me, but I decided not to overthink it and take each day by day as it came – I think thats the bottom line of how I coped through it all. We signed our names on the dotted line (and paid the excruciating fee of thousands of pounds) and the Dr began to order my medication. With this, she taught me how to inject myself safely and talked through some of the side effects the medication would cause, I was in for a real rollercoaster!
One of the most nerve wracking and memorable days of the IVF journey was the day the medication arrived. Delivered by courier, two big boxes arrived packed with various bottles, different sized needles, sharps bins and more. I laid it all out on the carpet at home and just stared at it. The severity of what we’d signed up for sunk in. I was going to have to take all this medication and do some crazy things to my body. Was I going to be able to do it? So many thoughts crossed my mind. I packed the box up and hid it in the cupboard until the Dr gave us a start date and tried not to worry. Secretly, my box of meds was like a little monster hiding in the back of the cupboard, looming over me and reminding me how terrifying things were going to get over the next few weeks.
If I’m totally honest, injecting myself wasn’t too bad at all. The first one was by far the worst and it really is a ‘mind over matter‘ situation. It took me ages to actually make that first move and sink the needle into my skin, it’s such an unnatural thing to purposely hurt yourself, you get a weird mind-block that has to be overcome. Once I had done one or two, I soon realised they didn’t hurt too much (especially if I numbed the area with an ice pack or numbing cream) and I was able to do my daily injections quicker and easier everyday. During the first stage of IVF I had to inject myself once a day for around a week, then twice a day for about 2/3 weeks. The injections then continued after the treatment, but thats a joy I’ll tell you about later! 😉
Left – My first injection and my sullen nervous face | Right – A couple of weeks in, I have a little system set up with Youtube videos to keep me company as I numb my stomach with an ice pack and draw up my medication.
So, the first phase of IVF is called ‘down regulation‘ – the injections sort of ‘switch off’ your system, forcing you into a state of temporary menopause. With this phase you get headaches, hot flushes, tiredness and just generally feel pretty awful. This lasted about 7-10 days (I think?) and I felt pretty damn awful like I was living under a cloud of pressure.
Next up you start a phase called ‘stimming‘ – the injections in this phase stimulate the ovaries to produce extra eggs. Usually when you ovulate, you produce one egg, but stimming will cause you to create a lot more, which all come in a follicle the size of about a grape (when fully grown) so you can imagine how heavy and uncomfortable this stage was at the end! At this point, I visited the fertility clinic every other day for an ultrasound to check on my follicles so the clinic to catch them at their very best point!
Ultrasounds of my ovaries (left – right) – this shows how the medication works, the black circles are follicles (containing eggs) – Watch them grow! The last picture was my last scan where my ovaries were so full they were ‘kissing’. Uncomfy, but cute, right?
The final stage of this post (but by no means the last in IVF!) is going to be my egg collection. This was BY FAR the scariest part of IVF. Just as I was a hormonal explosion waiting to happen, the clinic called me in for an operation. As my first ever operation, I can’t tell you how nervous I was. As you will be in the room with your eggs, you have to arrive with no make-up on, having washed in unscented products, you can’t even wear deodorant so it’s all rather strict. I arrived early and was taken to change into my hospital gown and wait in a side room for my operation. Sadly, V was not allowed to wait with me and my operation was delayed for over an hour so my nerves just grew and grew. I felt tearful, shaky and alone. I owe a big THANK YOU at this point to my lovely friend Kirstie who sent me funny Youtube videos to watch and was constantly whatsapping me, it really did save me from meltdown.
The only photo that I’ll ever show on my blog without make-up – but I really wanted to show the reality of my fear before my operation…..
Soon, my time arrived and I was walked into theatre. My heart thumping I laid on the bed and chatted to the anaesthetist, feeling maybe the most scared of all my life. He was so lovely and seeing my nerves he said he could give me something similar to a ‘champagne cocktail’. He popped something magical into my cannula and within 30 seconds my nerves had disappeared. I found myself chatting away to the nurses about beaches and holidays and all sorts. The next thing I knew, I woke up and the procedure was done! I didn’t even feel myself going to sleep, it was crazy. The team were wonderful and handled my nerves so well. I wish I hadn’t been so scared as it really was not that bad at all – I felt nothing. If I had to do it again, I don’t think I’d be even a fraction as nervous, but I guess it was always the fear of the unknown – plus the long wait gave me time to let my mind whir. If you’d like to know what happens during egg collection, see this link as I thought I’d save you from the squeamish details!
After a few minutes of feeling a bit dozy I was back to my usual self, although somewhat sore (less than I imaged though!). The nurse excitedly showed me the results, I had created 14 high quality eggs (a great result) and my little potential babies to be were already on their way to the lab for the next stages. The relief was just overwhelming, I could have cried – all of those injections WORKED! And, the amazing thing, 14 is my lucky number too. I just had this feeling everything was meant to be and felt so proud of myself for facing my fears. The hard bit is over. Time to have a rest while the lab work their magic.
So, I’ll leave you at this point, I decided to break this post into two section as this has got very long already! We now have 14 little eggs at the lab, I’m resting and eagerly awaiting to hear the process of my eggs. Will they turn into embryo’s in the lab? So many questions!
You can now read PART TWO here!
If you are thinking of/or going through IVF or fertility treatment and have any questions, please do email me or tweet me, I’d be so happy to talk to you and give you any advice 🙂
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