Author: Lisa LLoyd
As we all gathered around the candle-lit cake and joyously sang happy birthday to my now one year old, I could feel the tears spring to my eyes. Desperately trying to hold them back, I continued to sing merrily with the crowd and encouraged her to blow out the candle (to which Daddy did on her behalf).
The feeling was overwhelming, all these people joining us in celebrating the first year of life for a baby that in truth, I never thought I would have.
For years, I yearned and ached to hold her, to cuddle her, feed her, to look at her beautiful face and hold her tiny hands. All these hopes, dreams and wishes for a child that I didn’t have yet.
I was and am indeed very fortunate that my son came to me easily some years ago, this journey however was not to be so smooth. After years and years of trying; miscarriages, infertility, scans, blood tests and a multitude of poking and prodding, I was given the news that my FSH was high (meaning I was closer to menopause) and my egg reserve was that of someone at least 10 years older than me, cue devastation and endless googling to find out how I could grow some more eggs…now this is obviously in-fact impossible but trying to conceive makes you crazy sometimes! My google search history is interesting!
After endless research, I found ways to improve egg quality, I had to work with what I had left after- all. Weekly acupuncture sessions, a vast number of vitamins which I’m sure left me rattling and a protein filled diet (I haven’t been able to eat brazil nuts since) were the approaches I took to hopefully produce the ‘golden egg’ that would make my baby.
Many clinics wouldn’t even consider taking us on as we were not desirable candidates in terms of their success rate stats. We were given a less that 20% chance of it working for us. Most people my age had a 48% chance. It felt that I was forever providing poor results. I felt like such a failure.
With what seemed like such a slim chance of success, some people might wonder why we would go ahead. People have asked me since if I considered not doing it, but we had to, I had to give us a chance. I knew there was a risk the IVF may even be cancelled if response was poor but if we didn’t I would always regret not trying.
Ordering the medication filled me with excitement and an abundance of fear…this was potentially the start of our dreams coming true, but it also had the potential to be the end of a journey that I wasn’t ready to be over yet.
Day one of injections was a scary one, it was fear of the unexpected, was it going to hurt? Would I do it correctly? Would all the medication go in? What if I squirted the medication out of the injection by accident before I had plunged it into my stomach? I sat with a shaky hand, a needle hovering just over the skin below my belly button and just held it there, almost waiting for someone to come and help me. After all the failed attempts where I only just about made needle to skin contact, I managed it and it was ok. Anticipation was worse than reality. It was a good job too as I was to be a walking pin cushion for the coming weeks.
It’s a tense time, lots of effort and commitment into a process that could dash any hope of a sibling for my son and a baby for us to complete our family. I tried hard to keep positive and listened to my Zita West download each night so that I could go to sleep sending positive vibes to my usually rather rubbish ovaries. They definitely needed a nudge in the right direction!
After two weeks of down regulation (hot flushes, headaches and basically menopause) I was ready to start the stim drugs. This part of IVF goes by so quickly, there are regular scans and it feels like something is actually happening. Each time I lay there on the bed looking at the screen, I urged my little eggs to have grown and felt proud and excited when they had.
Egg retrieval was a success, 13 collected, pretty good for my usually quiet ovaries. The protein, acupuncture and brazil nuts along with the contents of Holland and Barret must have done the trick, or maybe the nightly positivity provided my Zita West…I was just relieved we had overcome that hurdle, my part was done for a few days. The sample provided by my other half was top notch, he was of course puffing out his chest with glee at this news!
We had the call the following morning to say that five had fertilised, I wasn’t sure if this was good? thirteen down to five didn’t seem great but they assured me this was wonderful news and we’d go for a day five transfer. There is motherly instinct that kicks in I think, even with embryos, I wanted them safely back with me, I wanted to ensure they were in the right environment and I wanted desperately for them to stick and grow for the 9 months ahead. The days were slow as I wondered how my little ‘future babies’ were doing. My other half laughed when I said I wanted to phone the embryologists for daily updates, I just felt so protective of them.
We decided to have two embryos put back, we of course had the ‘what if both split into identical twins and we end up with four babies’ conversation but realistically that wasn’t going to happen…it has happened to people, but it wouldn’t happen to us-we hoped!
Transfer was ‘perfect’, we focused in on that word, if they used the word ‘perfect’ then it had to work, why wouldn’t it? Its funny the things you take notice of and concentrate on, hearing almost what you want and need to hear in those desperate times.
The two week wait after transfer is like no other two week wait, time seems to go backwards. Every twinge or sensation must be implantation, every wave of nausea but be morning sickness and you just wait and hope for any sign or symptom of pregnancy.
I ate warming foods, avoided hot baths, ate lots of protein (sigh) and again, listened to Zita Wests words of encouragement each night as I fell to sleep. As I made the little heart shape with my hands, just over my belly button, where she said my embryo would be, every fibre of my being went into believing that my little embryo was there, developing and growing. This had to be my take home baby.
I was so sure I wouldn’t test early, I didn’t want to risk a false negative, but curiosity got the better of me. I had a digital test and I had to use it. It was five days before official testing day and I knew I could be setting myself up for a fall, I just had to know in that moment if it had worked, I could think of nothing else. The little sand-timer on the test flashed for what felt like an eternity, my heart was beating hard against my chest, so many thoughts went through my mind in those minutes. Wondering how I would tell my other half if it had worked, what would I say if it hadn’t? Was my dream about to come true? My heart raced even more as I glared at the test, urging the word ‘pregnant’ to appear…and it did!
On reflection, it really was a long and hard journey and there were times I really felt hopeless. Five years of waiting, trying, the hope and despair. Would I change a second of what we went through to get here? Absolutely not. This journey, as hard and heart-breaking as it was at times has led me here, singing happy birthday and holding back the tears through sheer joy and love for the baby that I never thought we’d have.