Blog continued…Here we go again:

Frozen cycle round 1:

I knew this day was coming. The day when I’d have to write down all of my feelings to process what’s really happened this year…my heart just wasn’t ready. Thank you to everyone who has supported us throughout our journey. Your kind words mean the world to us. Lets get started. 

In September 2019 I headed back to my GP to ask to be re-referred to the Fertility Clinic. I knew there would be a wait so this was to give ourselves enough time to go through the tests, consultations etc and our big plan was to go ahead in January 2020. December came and I still hadn’t heard anything so I gave them a call. The woman on the phone said that they hadn’t received anything from my GP. I explained that I actually completed the electronic form with my doctor in September to which she said “We must have lost it.” And so we had to refer ourselves once more through our GP and then wait (again) for a further 6 weeks. Hmph. The only problem with being an organised person is when it’s left completely out of your control and you have to rely on other people.

By the time our appointment came it was already mid January. After lots of testing and discussions, we finally had our start date. March. It was quite a surprise to me when I was told for a frozen embryo cycle I wouldn’t need any injections. Yay! All I had to do was take tablets. I started on 3 a day and this was upped to 4 after a few days. Little did I know what “just taking tablets” would do. Eep! So first came the headaches…then the bloating…then the nausea.  I had acupuncture throughout my treatment and 2 scans to check on my lining. In order to go ahead for transfer I needed my lining to thicken to 7-8mm. By day 10 my lining was 8.5mm which was fantastic so I was booked in for transfer. The transfer was pain free, quick and easy. Now came the two week wait…

My transfer was Monday 16th March. The same day our country went into lockdown. The same day pregnant women were considered “high risk”. I was SO stressed out. I felt so anxious with what was happening in the world, or more so, the uncertainty of it all. The two week wait is by far the longest wait of your life. I was unable to pick Zach up which I found really difficult. I needed to rest but again this is extremely difficult with a toddler. 

I had to continue to take the oestrogen tablets as well as progesterone pessaries every day/night. The medication continues to cause unpleasant side effects and during the 2 week wait, they mimic pregnancy and premenstrual symptoms. Your mind can do very cruel things to you during this time. One minute you’re convinced it has worked and then the next you feel a slight niggle in your back and you’re certain your period is on its way!

At the end of the two weeks, I’d had no period. Could I possibly be?! I mean I must be; I hadn’t had my period. Unfortunately I took the test and it was negative. I didn’t understand. I phoned the clinic and the nurse apologised and said that the medication I was on actually delayed a period however I was to continue to take this and test again in 3 days as there was a still a small chance that I could be pregnant. In my heart, I knew I wasn’t. Three days later and I got another negative test. The clinic said I could stop all medication and book a follow up review appointment with the consultant. We were devastated. 

Not only did we have the disappointment of a failed cycle to contend with, we now had to deal with the fact that we couldn’t plan for our future as all fertility clinics were closed. The world had completely shut down. I felt SO lucky to get to the stage we did in our fertility as there were people who were mid cycle who had their cycles completely cancelled or had to reach egg collection stage and have their transfers cancelled and embryos frozen in storage. What an unfair, heartbreaking, stressful position to be in. We now had no option but to sit and wait. All future plans for a family put on hold. We knew once clinics were reopened that we would be last in pile to start treatment again so we used our time to focus on what we could control. I took an online anxiety course and we spent time together healing as a family…

Frozen cycle round 2: 

One of the most painful things about infertility is having decisions taken out of your hands. I’ve become so used to this and so numb by it, it’s something I barely think about anymore. It’s just something we’ve learnt to accept. I know I’ll never have the opportunity to surprise my husband with a positive pregnancy test, we will never really have control over choosing when we have another baby (the clinic decides when they have space available and the doctor decides what he deems to be best for us) and we will always put our life on hold (working injections, scans, transfers) around plans (weddings, holidays, life in general). This isn’t our choice. We didn’t choose infertility. 

Round two came in July. I was well prepared. I had given up exercise, other than walking, I continued to take prenatal vitamins and kept my vitamin D topped up with supplements and lots of sunshine. The fertility clinic had put several procedures in place in order to reopen which included no partners at transfers or scans, two COVID swabs throughout treatment and minimal contact with doctors/nurses. 

In the back of my mind I knew this was our last embryo. This was our last chance for a sibling for Zach. Safe to say this all created extra stress, worry and a lot of pressure. However, I’d been working on my mental health for some time and I knew I could get through this. A frozen transfer is relatively straight forward and having one under our belts already, we went through treatment pretty quickly. I was unable to have acupuncture due to COVID and my lining only reached 7.1. I asked for a review of this to be sure and the consultant was happy to proceed and so we had our transfer. 

Not having Rob by my side during transfer was distressing. Obviously it was a sacrifice we were both willing to make but that didn’t make it any easier. Transfer went smoothly so that was a bonus I suppose. As I laid there, the doctor said, “Think positive thoughts Robyn” which made my day. 

The 2 week wait was horrendous again. The toll the medication takes on my body and not being able to be as active, when my days are usually spent running round after a toddler, is hard. When our test came back negative, we were devastated once more. Rob had found this cycle particularly hard. He felt as though he had no involvement at all.  He hadn’t needed to help with injections, he hadn’t needed to provide a sperm sample and he wasn’t even able to come with me to transfer our last embryo. As I mentioned in the beginning, IVF really does take away lots of things for a couple including the intimacy whilst conceiving. And obviously this is my account of things as a way of dealing with it. I can try to speak on Rob’s behalf but that doesn’t mean I know what he is feeling or how hard he is finding it. 

So we decided to run away from it all. The boarders in France had opened up and we decided we needed this break more than ever. We drove to France and had a fantastic holiday, just our family of three, our own little bubble. This was cut short after just 5 days due to COVID but we were so lucky to escape and spend some quality time together. We had chance to forget about the IVF result, even just for a short time, but equally time to discuss what we wanted to do in the future as a family.

Round 3: Full fresh ICSI cycle:

The last two cycles literally seem like a long distant memory so this round is going to be quite a tough one to write. I will apologise now if things don’t come out in the correct way but this one is still very raw so prepare yourselves for a bit of emotion…

Whilst I hate to mention money, I feel it does have its place. In total we have spent £18,000 on IVF treatments. Many, many questions go through your head. Can we afford another round? Why should we have to pay? How can you put a price on the life of a child? Should we be spending this money elsewhere? (On Zach?) Will we know when to stop? When does enough become enough?

We decided we would give this one last try. One last full fresh cycle. I knew it was going to be quite invasive and I’d already struggled having Zach to care for through the last two rounds, so this was all taken into account. 

We had our online nurses consultation in September. We discussed the protocol, medication (injections eek!), scans, blood tests, sperm analysis, COVID testing and isolation. The clinic booked our egg collection and worked backwards to find out start date (this was the clinics new way of working through COVID which allowed only 3 egg collections to be undertaken per day). I had a lot of trouble with the fertility clinic in the lead up to starting this cycle. It’s not something I’m going to discuss any further but it didn’t make the rollercoaster we were on any easier and definitely created unwanted stress! 

I had my first COVID swab before commencing and whilst the nurse was faffing, I read my notes (they were open on the page and they are my notes so I didn’t see the problem in doing so). There was a list of reasons for IVF which stated “1. Male factor. 2. Hypo-hypog.” Obviously I was aware of the male factor but if you know me or have read my previous blogs you’ll know that I was diagnosed with PCOS in 2016/17. You’ll also know that this diagnoses made no sense to me as I didn’t fit any criteria (other than missing periods and “so called cysts” on my ovaries). After my diagnosis, every time I visited the clinic for a scan I’d always ask about the cysts. I received many different responses. “Oh no you definitely don’t fit PCOS”, “No that’s just what your ovaries look like, you don’t have cysts.” I had also been doing my own research (I know I’m a geek but I know my own body). I came across Dr Nicola Rinaldi from America. She had written a book about women losing their periods through over exercise and under eating. After reading the book, I paid for a phone call appointment with her and explained my history and she agreed that I had what was called Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. Again if you’ve read my previous blogs maybe you’ll remember Dr.AB (AB used for confidentiality reasons). If you’re new here, I’ll explain. I really didn’t get on with this doctor. I found him very uptight and quite rude. He told me to stop doing high intensity exercise but never fully gave an explanation. Whilst I was an avid gym goer, at the time, I certainly didn’t have the knowledge that I have now…All I can say is, he was right. SO right. I should have listened but also questioned what he meant. But I thought I knew best and I had issues. Anyway I digress. Whilst Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (HA) is about exercising too much and under fuelling your body, it isn’t just for girls with stereotypical eating disorders such as anorexia or bikini competitors even. It can occur due to a quick loss of 10lbs in body weight which happened to me as a result of my car accident in 2006 and it can occur in women of a normal BMI, which I have always had. What I couldn’t understand was the PCOS diagnosis or why Hypo-Hypog had never been discussed with me? In terms of IVF this isn’t something that is a concern to them as the medication completely controls my cycle and with Robs infertility, it would seem that ICSI is the sensible option for us. However I feel this needs exploring for my own health and to increase the chances of our IVF being successful. The really scary thing is PCOS and HA are actually the complete opposite in terms of recovery. For PCOS losing weight and exercise is required, HA is a complete end to exercise, rest and LOTS of food. Luckily, having done my own research I knew what I should and shouldn’t be doing; exercise being the obvious. So a couple of weeks before any fertility treatment, during the whole process and the 2 week wait period, I can whole heartedly say I completely stopped training. Throughout the Summer, I also committed to what is known as “All in” and did completely cut exercise for 3 months. Unfortunately no period returned (I know I definitely needed more time but we had the opportunity to go ahead again with FET #2 so the meds took over and did their thing). Moving on…

My first injection was Friday 9th October at 9pm. I did feel very anxious but I knew once Rob had done one for me I’d be fine. Rob, like an expert, mixed the solution and gave me the injection. All was well. We’d started the process…We could do this; one obstacle at a time. 

Two days in and Zach and I were full of cold. I got progressively worse and I developed a cough and a loss of smell and taste. I have had this many times before and I knew in my heat that it was just the same as before (sinusitis) but due to these being classed as COVID symptoms, I stressed out. We decided that, even though we’d had a test at the beginning of our treatment, that it just wasn’t worth it to risk treatment being cancelled; so we went for another test. Thankfully these came back negative after a long 48 hour wait! Phew!

After a few days of injections, I got my first bruise. Ouch! Then I had to add in a second injection every morning at 7.30. This one was pre mixed so I did it myself. I had regular scans throughout. The first was on day 7 which showed some good follicles measuring between 10 and 13mm. Usually follicles need to be around 18-20mm so they are ready for egg collection. My consultant moved my second scan back a day to give them a little more time. My day 10 scan showed around 17 follicles ranging between 15 and 19mm in size with a few at only 10mm. My lining measured at 10.4mm which was fantastic! Everything was looking extremely positive. And so I was “ready” for egg collection. Due to the COVID situation, this time round, we were told we had to isolate from day 10 for 12 days. 

Day 11 meant an added injection known as the “trigger shot” which tells your follicles to release the eggs (ovulation). I had to take this at the specific time of 10.10pm (timing is EVERYTHING at this stage) and then day 12 was a day of no injections at all; all in preparation for egg collection Tuesday morning again at the very specific time of 9.20am. 

I arrived at the clinic with Rob and I was prepared for theatre. Just before I went in, Rob was called to do his sperm sample. I was then alone and Rob was told he had to leave and be ready to come collect me later. I had Dr.AB perform my scans and egg collection this time. I actually really, really like him now. He is so knowledgable and I honestly put all my trust in him. Funny how things turn out sometimes. For egg collection you are put under a mild sedation. From my first two rounds, I remember nothing at all. This one was very different. I drifted in and out of sedation and at one point I felt a lot of pain and I could hear the team in the background. I could hear the embryologist calling out, “Egg, egg, egg”. I tried to count them. I think I remember 5 but then I was back under. Such a weird experience. As I was wheeled back round to the recovery bay, a nurse took my blood pressure and I was told to go back to sleep until the sedation wore off. I woke up shortly afterwards and once I’d eaten, had a drink and been to the toilet, I was able to call Rob to collect me.  I then took it easy for the rest of the day. 

We got 14 eggs! This was even better than the first and second time. Wahoo! Another obstacle overcome. A day later I got a call to say that all 14 eggs had matured and then 8 out of 14 had fertilised with Robs sperm. If I’m being completely honest, I was a little disheartened as we only had 9 eggs on the previous cycle and then 8 out of 9 fertilised. However it didn’t matter, webjust needed one good grading embryo to make it to day 5 for transfer…I now didn’t hear from the clinic until day 5 (which was also transfer day) and so the first wait began…

I didn’t remember how hard this wait from previous cycles. What if no embryos made it day 5? Treatment would be cancelled. We’d have come this far…for nothing. But I had to stay positive. I tried to keep myself busy and focused on what I could control.

Transfer day came. I was nervous. Would I even be having a transfer? I needed the clinic to call to confirm. I had everything crossed for good news. This time round, I had acupuncture before my transfer. Obviously just as this treatment started…the phone rang. Rob answered and then told me the good news. No, brilliant news. We had 4 embryos!!! Two were the top grading (just as Zach was) and two other really good embryos so we would have one put back and the other 3 freezing. The remaining 4 did look great so they were going to hold them for another day to see how they did (in the end they didn’t make it). As I had my acupuncture I literally felt the weight lifting from me. I’d been so nervous but we’d done it! We were almost there…so close! 

Transfer was easy and quick minus the full bladder which, as always, is super uncomfortable. I had Dr.AB perform the transfer which really calmed my nerves and just made me feel so positive and relaxed. I then went home and had my second round of acupuncture. As I had my acupuncture treatment my thoughts were so positive. I felt so happy and I pictured our life as a family of four. I dared to imagine…I dared to dream…I spent the rest of the day relaxing, taking it easy and having a good laugh with my boys. (Laughing after a transfer is seen as a good thing. “Studies show a higher chance of success. When you’re laughing, you’re not stressed”). And so it began again…the dreaded two week wait…

Trying to be optimistic is hard throughout this whole process but it is SO tough at this point in treatment. My mind always expects the worse and focuses on the negative. You question everything. Rob really is my rock and my driving force. I had my transfer on the Sunday and by Friday I had started to bleed. This time, God had decided to give me an early period, rather than facing the heartbreak of another negative pregnancy test. Anger, sadness, disappointment doesn’t even touch the surface. 

I was crying. Crying because I’m on so many drugs that turn me into a hormonal mess, crying because I’m angry that we’ve worked so hard to get to where are. Crying because it wasn’t meant to be this way. Crying because it was our “third time lucky”. Crying because I am SO sick of trying to do all the “right things”. Crying because doing this probably adds to my stress yet I’d feel guilty for not giving it my all. I blame myself for doing too much. I blame myself for not doing enough. Once again, my body had failed us. And so we found ourselves grieving something that we’d lost, but never really had. 

Rob feels as though it tears a chunk off us every time we fail. He fears whilst we are trying to deal with the hard truth of a failed round, that we are not being our best selves for Zach. I have to agree, it really is hard hitting but Zach really does help us get through, every day. He reminds us how lucky we are to have him and we will never take him for granted. He is our miracle.

In most aspects of life, hard work pays off. Unfortunately that’s not true for infertility. IVF has a 40% success rate, so you’re already 60% failing to start with. It doesn’t really matter how much hard work you put in, how much effort, how much time or how badly you want it because, at the end of the day, there are no guarantees. That’s not to say you don’t give it your all or that you don’t try to have the “perfect” balance of nutrition and exercise or that you don’t take every supplement available, to give you the best chance. When I think about our IVF journey as a whole, we’ve had, pretty much, what they call “a perfect cycle” every time. Unfortunately, just without the perfect ending. The medication they use has always stayed the same (slight increase in doses here and there), the protocol has stayed the same, there are no “real” answers. Sometimes that’s what you need. A reason. Something to change for the next cycle, something to improve on, something to work towards. For us, this hasn’t been the case. So how can I now imagine it ever working again? Maybe that’s the beauty of infertility. You find the strength to carry on. The pain never goes away and the longing for a child remains. I’ve got to be optimistic. The embryos we have, sitting their with their woolly hats on, are waiting for us. Why shouldn’t they receive as much hope? Don’t they deserve all of our time and energy? Just as our other cycles have? So, no, we will not give up hope. Our desire to have another child, for Zach to have a little brother or sister. We aren’t giving up…

Our IVF Journey: part 7: The second trimester…

Well I feel as though I haven’t written on here for SUCH a long time. As I sit here writing this, at 26 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I cannot believe how far we have come on our journey. I am so thankful ☺

So were almost at the end of the second trimester and what a whirlwind it has been! Yes it feels like I have been pregnant forever but could I possibly love it anymore? I don’t think so…So let’s start right back at the beginning of this trimester…

At 16+2 I went to see my midwife for a routine check. I dragged Rob along with me as I thought we would finally get to hear our baby’s heartbeat. Turns out, this is no longer done as routine but only if you ask for it! This is because it doesn’t determine how ‘well’ your baby is; that is all about movements, which at this stage I was yet to feel. However the midwife didn’t mind and we listened (and recorded) our little bean. Just amazing!

I found out that my blood group was rarer than most: A rhesus negative. This meant that I could have a blood test to find out my baby’s DNA -how amazing is that?! That this can be done before they’re even here?! Anyway it came back that baby Young takes after his/her dad and is rhesus positive and therefore I need to have anti-D injections. These are to help the crossing of our bloods but this is usually okay in first pregnancies. The injections are to protect my future pregnancies. All very clever if you ask me!!

Along came Christmas and we had the baby bedroom almost done. (It still has the window seat to finish and electrics) but by done I mean plastered, carpeted, decorated and the cot, wardrobe and drawers were all in and built!! I will forever be the queen on organisation he he.

My midwife sent a request for a consultation with an IVF consultant. Just before we were 20 weeks we went along and discussed the pregnancy so far. The consultant was just lovely and said all sounded well but we would have extra scans at around 30 and 36 weeks. We are so lucky to be so well looked after by our NHS. At this appointment I also mentioned my medical history as I was a little worried about pain I had been getting along the scar on my tummy. I wasn’t sure if it was anything to do with the adhesions I had suffered with due to scar tissue, 3 years ago. I guessed that these pains were normal due to stretching and things moving around but better to be safe than sorry. The consultant was glad I had mentioned these issues and said she thought it would be best if I had an elective C section. However she wanted to discuss with another consultant. When she came back it was in fact the opposite. They decided I was to NOT have a C section (obviously if this an emergency then so be it) but otherwise C sections often cause problems for the bowel and due to my history, it would mean further surgery for me. So fingers crossed a natural labour goes as planned!!

The next appointment we attended was our 20 week scan! Rob and I had always been that couple that said we would find out our baby’s sex. However, when we found out we were pregnant; Rob decided he didn’t want to know!! I was like what?! I was swayed to and fro and eventually came round to the idea of it being a surprise on the big day!

……..In the end we found out ha-ha! Rob’s decision actually! And while we still haven’t officially announced on Facebook, we are pleased to announce we are having a little boy!!!!! (We decided we would tell people personally rather than over social media so yes most people are aware!) The sonographer told us that he certainly wasn’t shy and wiggled his bum at her (already to the ladies he he!) Baby Young was developing well and I found out I had a anterior placenta. I had read into this previously and thought it meant a definite C section. Thankfully, this isn’t the case and right now it feels as though he has kicked it well out of the way. Keeping my fingers crossed!

When we found out we were having a boy, it was THEE biggest shock to both of us! Everyone we spoke to said it was a girl so I think we had sort of got used to that. Rob picked our girls name a few years ago and it has stuck ever since so we had no idea when it came to a boy!! We headed straight into Leeds and bought our first little boy’s outfit. Just gorgeous! Things got a little mental from then on…Rob and I haven’t gone mental but literally everyone else has! People just don’t stop buying! It’s crazy. It’s all a little overwhelming actually but he certainly is one spoilt little boy.

After doing lots of research I realised that due to the anterior placenta, I may not feel baby’s movement as quickly as everyone else. My midwife said anything between 18 and 24 weeks. I saw other pregnant woman on social media describing these “flutters” and I hadn’t felt anything like this. One day I felt an awful pain in my belly button. Almost like it was being torn off, from the inside! I text my mum and she said, “I remember that pain very well. All four of you did it. He’s pulling the cord.” Whilst this wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences, I was so happy that baby was obviously moving and was okay.

Finally at 22+6 I finally felt him move properly for the first time. I was laid in bed and had had strange feelings 2 nights previously but wasn’t sure. This time I was certain. We were in bed and I nudged rob. “Quick, feel this! I think it’s him moving.” I grabbed Rob’s hand and positioned it where it needed to be and just like that, he did it again. Rob said he could feel a slight movement of my skin. The feeling for me was much more intense. We were over the moon! It was the most amazing feeling in the world! I’m not sure whether I ever felt the so-called flutters. Maybe I just didn’t know what I was expected to feel? Everyone’s experiences are all so different. Since then all he has done is continued to build strength by kicking me continuously. He is one active little boy – particularly when I go to bed and then around 3am! He is definitely a ‘sleep all day and party all night’ kinda boy! He he.

The changes I have come across so far in pregnancy are red cheeks…you may laugh but this is a real thing. I’m sure! I’ve always had quite good skin but during pregnancy I’ve noticed my cheeks are really dry and so rosy (Like all the time!) At first Rob and I used to laugh because Rob is forever putting the heating on full whack and I assumed my cheeks were due to overheating. We soon found this wasn’t the case when I’d wake up with them and they stick around all day long. I’ve also been a sufferer of indigestion. Wow. Again my first thoughts were to listen to the advice: stay away from spicy foods, don’t lay down straight after eating, don’t eat late at night. When this didn’t work and I WOKE UP with indigestion, I just figured there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. Thank God for ‘tums’ because ‘gaviscon’ is just vile! Hey, it’s just another joy of pregnancy.

Whilst I love being pregnant, this doesn’t mean I don’t have down days where I hate the changes to my body, the constant pressure I put on myself and that I hate the fact the number on the scale continues to rise. I’ve been really lucky in that whilst I had to quit exercise in order to fall pregnant, at 7 and half weeks I was able to return to my exercise regime and have continued to do so. I am very clued up about diet and exercise due to personal interest and a lot of research. I have had to make a lot of changes to the way I exercise but I am still able to lunge across that gym floor at 26 weeks pregnant. I mean c’mon! Boom! One of the biggest things I have learnt during pregnancy is to listen to your body. I know I definitely didn’t do this beforehand so I am so proud of who I have become.

And finally, I want to talk about a touchy subject. People Yep. Those who know EVERYTHING! I’d been warned about this during pregnancy and trust me when I say, it is a real thing. From people thinking they can touch your bump at any given opportunity to telling you what you should or shouldn’t do during pregnancy or when the baby arrives. I feel like these people need to give pregnant women a break! Yes I’m hormonal, probably tired, (And no not because you’ve said so!) I’m feeling crappy today, no wait I feel like I’m “blooming/glowing” (And yes I know the cheeks probably make you think so ha!)

I’ve had “Oh My God there’s nothing on you, you don’t have a bump.” (I’m thinking…Yes I do thank you, he IS growing in there, stop making me feel paranoid!) To “Oh wow you’ve come on!” (Oh wait, so now I’m massive?!) No, you really can’t win. I feel as though women should empower other women, not bring them down or make them question everything they’re doing (because believe me we already are!)

Coming soon: The third trimester…

Our IVF Journey: Part 6: Pregnancy – The first trimester

Well after having many requests, I have decided to continue this blog!! It will now be a journey through our pregnancy and again I hope it will touch others and maybe just help them along the way. So here goes….

The first few weeks (well approximately 12 because you can’t tell anyone) drag like mad!! It is so painfully long! I didn’t expect it at all! As we had decided to let our family and close friends in on our second journey, we were lucky enough to be able to tell a fair few people before our 12 week scan. But we just wanted to shout it from the rooftops! We were on top of the world! It was so hard to stay quiet (particularly when this blog was at the point of our first failed cycle)…

What I’ve found has amazed me the most is how quickly you begin to notice changes in your body…my boobs were suddenly huge (Hello!), My trousers got tight very quickly (Goodbye waist!) and I felt (feel) sick at every given opportunity (except when I eat -this makes me feel better ha. Hello weight gain!) Yet none of the above bothered me at all. I wanted to be sick! I’m desperate for a bump. I am embracing it all! I’ve wanted to experience all of this for such a long time…I am literally loving being pregnant (maybe ask me this again in the third trimester ha!)

Another thing I noticed was my heightened sense of smell…cue “OMG I’m gunna be sick!” As well as not being able to stomach certain foods…no more salad, fruit or veggies for me…or not in the foreseeable anyways.

At week 7 we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the fertility clinic one last time for an internal scan. Rob and I were SO scared. I kept thinking, ‘I really hope something is there. I hope there’s a heartbeat.’ And I know Rob felt exactly the same!

Luckily, there was a heartbeat and everything was fine. I measured exactly 7 weeks 2 days (IVF is so clever- if I haven’t mentioned this enough already!) It was amazing to see our little bean. (Yep nickname right there!) We saw the spine, the head, the heartbeat and even the buds where the arms and legs would form. We saw the sac which was nourishing the baby at that time. Just gorgeous! And he/she actually looked like a real baby. It was all very surreal. I said to Rob, “See I’m not making all of this up!” Haha!

And that was it we were discharged from the clinic and told to register with my local midwife through the GP.

I booked in with my midwife and my appointment was at 10 weeks pregnant. She is SO lovely. I explained all about our IVF and how lucky we are. She, too, knew people on an IVF Journey. I was told that due to being an IVF pregnancy, we would have a consultant to see as well as extra scans. This was SO reassuring! After filling out LOTS of paperwork and having some blood taken, I left with a sense of everything feeling just that little bit more real…I couldn’t help but smile at my maternity notes. Who would have thought things would turn out this way? Two years ago, if only I could tell myself that it would all work out…Absolutely crazy!

I was then booked in for my 12 week scan. I had heard all sorts of crazy stories about it being an awful experience. It was in fact very much the opposite. The sonographer was new and although she was a little nervous, she was brilliant! I had drank far too much water and ended up having to go to the toilet 3x!!! (Oops!) We were in there 40 minutes watching our little bean wriggling around. Again we couldn’t believe how much it looked like a real baby. This time with arms and legs! And they were going crazy! It was wild! Moving left to right, waving its arms, kicking it’s legs. “No wonder I feel so sick!” I said. Hehe. We ended up with 7 amazing pictures and we couldn’t wait to show them off!

And so it was finally time to announce our pregnancy to the world…time to go Facebook/Instagram official…

Our baby bean 😍🤰🏼

Our IVF Journey: Part 5: Round 2.

And so we headed off back to the fertility clinic for our follow-up review meeting. We discussed all elements of our failed cycle with a doctor and a lead nurse. At this point I remember feeling like I just wanted a reason. I wanted something to have gone wrong, something to blame; other than just myself and my body. However, apart from the obvious (negative result) it was viewed as a near perfect cycle. My body had responded well to the drugs, I hadn’t produced too many eggs to cause OHSS and most eggs had fertilised in the first instance. I decided to take this positively. It meant that my body had worked the way it should and most importantly, it COULD. I was so scared that I couldn’t actually carry a baby due to my PCOS and my accident. I thought this was God’s way of saying it wasn’t going to happen for me. Yet, I decided to look at it like it was just nature’s way of saying that this embryo wasn’t right. This wasn’t the right time for us.

The doctors told me that if we were to go for a second cycle that they would slightly increase my medication, in the hope that, I would produce more eggs. They gave us the go ahead to start straight away. We decided to go away and think about it. We were so nervous and worried. We had been through so much and I suppose we didn’t expect them to say, “Yes everything’s okay; off you go for round 2.” I think even though we’d been through IVF and knew how it worked now this was our first failed cycle, so we were unsure as to how it worked in terms of what happened next and how soon. Was my body really ready to be pumped full of hormones again so soon? Could we go through that again emotionally?

After a lot of deliberating and letting everything sink in, I contacted the clinic a few days later (this felt like weeks later ha!) to ask if we could see another doctor for a consultation. I was told that the review meeting we’d had was the only consultation we would receive. If we wanted to see a doctor again, we had to pay £200! Considering the costs we knew that were involved in going through with our second cycle, we decided this wasn’t something we could afford to do. The nurse reassured me that if the doctor had said to go ahead, everything should be okay. We were still dubious…

So after contacting the clinic several more times (which seemed like my entire summer holidays), we decided to go ahead. We took out a £10,000 loan as we decided we couldn’t wait any longer for a family and we had to put our faith in the doctors once again.

In preparation for this cycle I had continued to follow the previous advice from the doctor and had not been going to the gym. My body had had a full 3 months off from the gym by the end and I felt better for it. I stuck to attending gentle yoga classes (for my mind) and lots of walking. I was also had acupuncture recommended to me, by a friend who had also had IVF. It was quite pricey but we decided that if it would aid our chances by relaxing my body and preparing it for receiving an embryo, then it would be money well spent! I went for hourly sessions once every one-two weeks for 6 weeks before we began the injections. I also had a session on the day of egg collection to relax my body and one after transfer to also ‘welcome’ the embryo. I then had just one session during my 2ww where I was treated as pregnant in order to not harm the baby.

Acupuncture itself is not something I enjoyed as such. It’s not that I would say I didn’t enjoy either. It was just a rather strange experience for me. I think the reason behind this is because I’m not used to having time on my own to relax and think. It was a little uncomfortable (having a needle in your ankle is somewhat a little painful!) but my therapist was lovely and it was so nice to speak to somebody different about the whole thing. She was fully qualified in infertility acupuncture and had fantastic understanding.

So we booked in for our nurse’s consultation and baseline scan. I was dreading all of the paperwork again and being timed again. In my head I’d be told we could start straight away so that’s what I expected. Thankfully, due to the close timing, we were able to use most of the previous paperwork and just had some signing over to do. The baseline scan came back all fine. My ovaries had settled back down and my body was back to normal (well my normal anyway). I’d not had a second period after losing the embryo but my lining had continued to stay thin which meant we could start again with no provera. I was due to go on a hen do but the date we were given was the day I was actually due to go. After some thought, we decided that we could no longer put our life on hold; we needed to put ourselves first for once. And so we had our date to start. 28th August.

This time round we felt much more confident with the injections and just knowing what was coming up really helped ease our minds. I felt like during my scans (which I had on day 8 and 11 this time) were much more detailed as I was given more explanations and able to ask the questions I needed to. I couldn’t help but think was this because we were now paying? I’m not here to slag the NHS at all. We were so lucky to have had a free cycle on the NHS as some people don’t get any at all and I feel for them so much (working in the public sector myself) the pay cuts and staffing issues are just insane!

I injected for a total of 9 days and I had my egg collection day estimated at the nurse’s consultation (between Mon-Sat of the second week of injections). It ended up being booked for Monday. Eek!

At the egg collection we received 9 eggs and 7 of these fertilised. We were a little disheartened as this result wasn’t even as good as last time and we were under the impression that due to the increase of medication that I would hopefully produce more. However we took this on the chin and remained positive. When I received the phone call, 6 out of the 7 eggs were of high grading. Due to our age we were only allowed one transferred and so the best one was. It got the highest grading of a 5AA. We were told that most successful transfer were performed using grade 4 embryos. We were over the moon! It couldn’t get any better than that! This time round we paid for something extra called ‘embryo glue.’

“Hyaluronan occurs naturally in your womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. Studies have shown that it makes secretions from these organs stickier, aiding fertilisation and implantation. Embryo glue mimics those uterine secretions. On your embryo transfer day, your embryos are dipped into the ‘glue’” (NHS, 2017).

After the transfer I received a call to say that 2 of the other embryos were 4AB and 4BA and were suitable for freezing. (Hello siblings!) We were delighted! We now have to pay for these freezing along with Rob’s sperm yearly so it’s safe to say I won’t be waiting around to use these. It’s quite difficult to accept that Rob and I will always have to essentially PAY to have our children. This has only made us appreciate the things you always take for granted more.

And so I returned to work for the full 2 weeks. It kept my mind occupied and to my relief, I wasn’t in ANY pain whatsoever. I’m not sure if this time was just different all round; my mind set, the acupuncture, knowing what to expect…who knows but whatever it was…it worked!!!!! We are pregnant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I know most of my friends and family will already know this due to Facebook!)

I had worked out the day to match the day I bled from our previous cycle. I had in my head throughout that if I could get passed this day, we could be in with a fighting chance of being successful. At 3am that morning (Yes neither of us could sleep) we woke up, to our relief, to find no blood. Rob said, “We need to do a test!” He was so excited! And so hopeful! We were due to test on Sunday 29th September. We had always said we would test on 27th as that was my birthday. However, I agreed and we got a BFP (Big Fat Positive!) It was the best pre-birthday present ever!!!! We tested every day 27th, 28th, and 29th just to make sure (he he) and then phoned the fertility clinic with our news.

We were then booked in for our week 7 scan. If we made it that far…I cannot describe how nervous we both were. Every twinge, every ache, I felt it and we both worried. But we made it! We had done this! Every tear, the desperation, the heartache, the longing for a child, it was ALL worth the wait.

I just want to say how lucky we are. Words cannot describe how we are feeling right now. We have some very close friends who have also been on an IVF journey and are still on this journey 10 years later. I cannot imagine how this feels but this is something we definitely discussed after our failed cycle. During the second round 2ww, I asked Rob ‘Where is the cut off line?’ ‘How do you say we cannot afford to do this anymore?’ ‘How do we keep putting ourselves through this?’ We discussed that it would mean saving each year for one round of IVF per year. We thought about how this would mean no more holidays and this would be what we looked forward to each year.

The reason I wanted to write this blog was not only to share my journey but to help others going through IVF, letting people know you are not alone in this and that there are people out there who are more than willing to support you. I often felt like Rob and I were alone. Friends and family could listen but unless you’re going through it, it’s something you’ll never fully understand (I don’t mean this disrespectfully in any way at all). I also want to give some advice for friends and family supporting loved ones through IVF, please DO NOT tell them “It will happen if you just relax.” These words I heard far too many times throughout our journey and to be brutally honest, they really do not help!!

I also want to take this opportunity to give a huge shout out to Seacroft Fertility Clinic in Leeds. This gift you have given us is beyond amazing. You guys work absolute miracles, we are eternally grateful and will be forever in your debt!

Me and the hubby awaiting egg transfer
 Our little embryo
 One of the best days ever!

Our IVF Journey: Part 4: The dreaded two week wait!!!

And so it began…the dreaded 2 week wait. As I mentioned in my previous entry, doing the injections is a rather overwhelming feeling and you almost get a sense of being actively involved in creating your baby’s life. You have regular contact with the nurses and are checked religiously through various scans and tests. However, when the 2ww arrives you find yourselves, very much so, alone and you’re just left to wonder…Has it worked? Hasn’t it worked? One minute you feel pregnant, the next absolutely no chance! It’s so hard because part of having IVF means you have to continue medication every day to allow your womb lining to thicken in preparation for carrying a baby. These pessaries have crazy side effects such as bloating, tiredness, nausea, cramps, backache, spotting and sore boobs…oh yes, all the symptoms of early pregnancy. And yes also the symptoms of a period. Hmmm. No fun!

These 2 weeks have to be the longest 2 weeks of a woman’s life. I was in so much pain that I ended up having the full 2 weeks off work. I spent my days watching Netflix, reading, researching with Dr. Google, sleeping and snacking.

Having spent so much time on fertility forums I had read ALL SORTS of theories on how to help implantation. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are scientifically proven and advice given by the clinic itself…others not so much. And I’m not about to lie, I did try most of the “theories” out. Apparently eating pineapple (including its core) and 5 Brazil nuts for the first 5 days after your transfer helps…so I did it. This was along with getting lots of rest, sleeping, keeping my belly and feet warm; but not too hot, lying down, reducing caffeine, not drinking ice cold water (my favourite), eating lots of fish, eating protein in general, no exercise, no cleaning, no protein powder, no sex and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

I had a lot of strange feelings throughout these 2 weeks; including some where I didn’t WANT to be pregnant?! I’m not sure if it was my subconscious mind trying to hide how badly I wanted this, but trying to convince myself that it would be okay if I didn’t get pregnant this time, as maybe it wasn’t the right time? I felt so guilty!

I had a huge talk with Rob and explained to him how I’d been feeling. Again I mentioned how injecting meant we were actively doing something, whereas now I said I just felt helpless, awaiting our fate. All of this is such a strain on a relationship! It was so testing for us both.

But the more I talked, the better I felt. It felt good to get it out in the open. Rob was so positive and reminded me how far we had come. We suddenly realised ‘We’ve done this! We’ve made it! We’re going to be a mummy and a daddy! Rob was so excited!

I was now having cramps so badly through the night that I was barely sleeping. I would wake up screaming out in pain. I’m usually quite good at tolerating pain but this was something else!! I said to Rob that if it didn’t work, I literally couldn’t bare going through this again…

At the weekend I went for a date night with Rob to Nandos. I desperately wanted something nourishing and fancied the feta cheese, chicken salad. Rob went up to the counter to order and asked the server if the feta was pasteurised as his “Wife was pregnant.” It was the first time we’d used the ‘P’ word so openly.

On Thursday just 3 days before we were due to test (A test date is given by the clinic exactly 2 weeks after your transfer) I woke up to go to the toilet and noticed blood as I wiped. My whole world came crashing down. I rushed into the bedroom and sobbed. Rob had no clue as to what was going on and all I could say was, “There’s blood…I’m bleeding…it’s over…it’s all over.” Rob was trying to be reassuring and said that we didn’t know that for sure. We need to wait and see what happened. I decided to do a test even though I knew. The test was negative. I cried…A LOT! I phoned the clinic and they asked what the blood was like. At first it was just light pink and there were only spots. They told me that, “Any blood is disheartening but it doesn’t mean that it’s over. Continue to monitor the blood and test on Sunday.”

Looking back now I’m unsure whether the pain I had felt was just the side effects of the pessaries, a mild case of OHSS- even though this was ruled out, or just my body’s way of rejecting the pregnancy…

The blood continued to come thick and fast. I had a dull ache in my tummy and didn’t really have much hope left…The period only got heavier and heavier and contained lots of clots. Sunday arrived and we took another test, regardless. Negative. We were devastated. No words can describe the pain we both felt. I cried every day for 5 days. I just felt lost. I wasn’t sure how I would get through without making it my life again…constantly counting the days as they passed, praying for a period, hoping it would happen naturally. The period I had continued for a full week. It was heavy and painful and yet I didn’t take any tablets to ease the pain. I wanted to feel it all. Almost like my body deserved to be punished.

I had to phone the clinic and leave a voicemail to let them know we had had a negative test. The clinic then phoned me back and arranged a follow up appointment with a consultant to discuss our failed cycle and what to do next. We were aware that next time we would have to pay. Where the hell were we going to get the money from? £6,000! I started to think that I would never be pregnant. I didn’t know how much more I could deal with or how much my body would let me put it through. It sounds silly but I just thought ‘Most of our friends already had children and it seemed that more and more people around us were getting pregnant. What if we can’t? What if were waiting years? Could I face that?’

We had to start thinking about where to go from here. Could we face going through this again? In my head I knew I wanted nothing more than to start again right away but I promised myself that I needed to make sure I was in the right head space and that my body was ready for this all over again…

Next time: Round 2.

Our IVF Journey: Part 3: Injections, egg collection and transfer…

Everyone who knows me will know that my passion is children and as I work with children every day, I absolutely LOVE my job. This all started to change…I began to hate it. Some days going to work lifted me up because I just loved being around children. Other days I couldn’t face it. It was almost a constant reminder of what I couldn’t have. One day we did a show for the parents and I remember thinking ‘What if I never get to go to one of these?’ That really hurt.

I felt like my whole life was on hold. I didn’t enjoy work the way I used to, I couldn’t enjoy my hobby anymore, we couldn’t have a break or a holiday as we were constantly saving and I couldn’t start my new business venture (becoming a childminder) because I was yet to have my own children and it wasn’t clear as to when this was going to happen…

In the meantime, Rob and I had decided that, for this first round of IVF, we were going to keep it quiet. We weren’t going to tell any family or friends. We were so scared that if it didn’t work it would mean having to tell everyone that we had failed and yet if it was successful, we really wanted to surprise everyone, like normal couples.

When we returned to the fertility clinic we were told that I would only have a small dose of the drugs, as having PCOS they didn’t want to over stimulate me as it causes something called OHSS. We were then shown how to administer the medication by a lovely nurse. If anyone knows Rob they will know his biggest phobia is needles, yet he wanted to overcome this fear and be the one to do the injections. Bless him! Our date to start was Saturday 17th June. (Again another wait but this time at least I knew it was finally going to be the start of something.)

During this 12 day wait, I was stressed beyond belief. I had this irrational fear that whilst I hadn’t had a natural period for over a year, that for some unknown reason I would come on, meaning we would be unable to start the injections. I’d say, “It’d be just my luck!” Thankfully I got through those 12 days, somehow. When the day finally came I was nervous but so excited! I wouldn’t say I like needles but having had a fair few from my time in hospital, I was used to them shall we say? Rob was brilliant! I was so proud of him!

The first injection we had to do was Merional. I used this for a total of 10 days.

As Rob was due to go on a stag do on Friday 23rd we decided that I needed some practise, to be able to do the injections by myself. On Monday, Rob closely inspected me doing my first injection (ha ha- he was an expert now!) I did scratch myself a little but I thought it went rather well. I felt like I didn’t have enough hands as the solution was really to push through as well as pinching my skin with the other hand. I continued these by myself for the rest of the week.

Tuesday: I had to introduce a second injection. This was called Orgalutron.

Wednesday: I began to feel a dull ache in my right ovary and on Thursday I felt very tired, which are common side effects.

Friday: Rob and I headed to the fertility clinic for our 7 day scan before Rob went off to Tenerife. The scan was rather uncomfortable and seemed to take ages to do. I didn’t really find out much information, I just heard the nurse counting 12 follicles (I think?) I was told I needed to be scanned again on Sunday.

Saturday: I went out for some drinks (yeah no alcohol beverages for me!) and a curry with the girls from the gym. I had to keep an eye on the time as you have to take your injections at the same time daily. I made an excuse, popped home to do my injection and then went back out. No one suspected a thing!

Sunday: I went back to the fertility clinic on my own for my day 9 scan. It was the same lovely nurse I’d had originally for my nurse’s consultation. Again she counted the follicles and this time I was able to see them on the screen. I received the most amazing news! Eeek! There was the possibility of having my egg collection on Wednesday or Thursday. I was told I would receive a phone call later to explain what to do with my medication. My egg collection was then booked for Wednesday. (Eek!) I was so excited to tell Rob the good news.

Monday: I had to take my usual injections at 9pm as well as an extra one called a HCG trigger injection at 9.30pm. This one is used to induce ovulation (realising the eggs), in preparation for egg collection. This whole process can seem quite overwhelming but you really do feel like you are actively doing something towards creating your future child.

Wednesday: I was first on the list for my egg collection. We arrived at the hospital for 7.30am. For this procedure, Rob wasn’t able to come into theatre with me; however, he had his own very important job to do.

Rob had to produce a fresh sperm sample in order to have our eggs injected with, to create embryos. I can not quite imagine what this is like for a man. To have to go into a room and produce this on tap just seems bizarre to me, but he did it and we therefore didn’t have to use the frozen sample we had as a backup.

I was sedated but still in a conscious state. I was told I would probably just be very sleepy. It was the strangest experience ever having my legs put in stirrups and having a doctor look right up there, but I told myself it would all be worth it and probably something I should get used to for the future (ha-ha! The joys of pregnancy).

I came round rather quickly, remembering nothing whatsoever. Rob then came back in and we were then told how many eggs they had collected. We got 9! We were so happy!!!

Thursday: I woke up very bloated. I received a phone call to say that all 9 eggs had matured and that 8 out of 9 had fertilised with Rob’s sperm. Wahoo!! We were over the moon! Rob said, “See I told you they’d like each other!’ (Hehe) The clinic made me a provisional appointment for transfer (day 3) on Saturday. This was the next time the embryos would be looked at and they would then decided whether we could wait a further 2 days for a day 5 transfer. I was beaming ALL day.

Friday: I woke up in a bit of pain today but continued to return to work and just made a call to the clinic to check. They advised me that I should continue to take paracetamol to ease the pain and that they doubted in would be OHSS due to the number of eggs I had produced (apparently it only happens when a lot more eggs have been collected).

Saturday: I was due to go to the races at York but I was also booked in for my transfer. Dilemma! Luckily the embryologist phoned at 9.30am and said the embryos had a fantastic rating! They were all making 6, 8 and even 10 cell divisions and were really high quality. (It was all too scientific for us and to be honest we weren’t really sure what this meant but it sounded extremely positive!) I was told we would not be having a 3 day transfer after all. I suppose this is a real risk in IVF as there is a chance that not any of the embryos will make it to day 5 but again this was out of our control and a decision made by the experts so we had to trust their judgement. And so I enjoyed a sober day at the races.

Sunday: In the early hours I was up in unbearable pain! I got up during the night and had more paracetamol but it just didn’t take the edge off it at all. I felt sick, dizzy and I felt as though I was bleeding. (I wasn’t)

Monday: We received a phone call with bad news. None of our embryos had reached what is called ‘blastocyst stage.’ It is recommended that embryos reach this level of development for the best chance of implantation. However, the clinic told me I would still have my transfer today as they would reassess the embryos in a few hours.

I had to drink LOTS of water before transfer and not go to the toilet. I was so desperate! I was very lucky as all the lovely staff I had come into contact with were in the surgery unit today. It was so reassuring to see all their faces again. When I went into the theatre the embryologist explained that one embryo had in fact reached blastocyst stage and had began to hatching. This was brilliant news! We were told if the others reached the stage by tomorrow, we would receive a phone call to say they could be frozen. However, none of them did.

The transfer itself was quick and easy. Again I lay with my feet in stirrups whilst the doctor did his thing. The whole procedure was performed under ultrasound guidance so we were able to watch the whole thing! And then once completed we could see our tiny embryo! It was amazing! I was told to get straight up, go to the toilet and then continue life as normal. Uh-oh here came the dreaded 2 week wait…

Our IVF Journey: Part 2: Tests, tests and more tests!

It had arrived! I have never been so excited to open post in all my life. We finally had a date for the fertility clinic. WAHOO!
In the meantime, Rob had had further testing done on his hormones but also was advised to have tests on his sperm count. Testosterone helps to stimulate sperm production and we were told this could be affected. As if by magic, Robs testosterone levels had increased. We thought this was good news…surely. Maybe not. Three tests later…Rob’s sperm counts came back at zero. Our hearts literally broke.
On the way to the clinic we were both so nervous…I’m not sure how ready I was to be prodded and poked by yet more professionals or to be told our fate regarding a life with or without children. I was scared of the unknown.
We checked in at reception and were told to take a seat. I noticed the room was rather full with couples who looked much older than ourselves (If you know us, you’ll know Rob and I only look about 12 anyway! Ha ha!) I outrageously thought ‘OMG why have all of these women left it such a long time to have a baby?’ (I know what an awful thing to think of but I promised myself I would be totally honest in this blog…) It later dawned on me that these women could, in fact, have been trying to conceive for years upon years and had yet to fall pregnant. I literally couldn’t bear the thought.
When my name was called, we followed a doctor into a room. He introduced himself as Mr AB (Full name not disclosed for confidentiality reasons). Rob’s GP had passed on his test results and we discussed Rob’s bodybuilding. Mr AB decided to pass on Rob to an endocrinologist (Someone who specialises in hormones) for yer more testing. He would need to have some not particularly nice scans to check for blockages. I was told I would need to have an internal scan of my ovaries and further blood tests (My previous ovarian scan was external at the doctors). My absent periods were then discussed. Mr AB was quite harsh and said the reason that they were absent was because of the amount of exercise I was doing. He told me I needed to stop exercising so much, reduce my heart rate during sessions to no more than 140 and to completely stop my HIIT workouts. I left feeling hurt and deflated. What an awful man I thought!
Rob and I discussed donor sperm. This was such a hard conversation to have and I don’t wish to comment any further on this…
At first I didn’t quite follow what Mr AB had said. I continued to go to the gym just as much (However this did lessen over the upcoming months, I promise!) I did stop all HIIT training (Even my beloved HIIT classes every Wednesday night and Saturday morning; again I was able to blame a knee operation for this!) I really fell out of love with the gym because I couldn’t train how I was used to. I had already put around 8lbs on as my own GP had asked and was uneasy at the thought of not being able to train quite so intensely. But becoming a mum was THE most important thing to me and so training and strict dieting had to take a back seat (For now)!
The day came to have my ovarian scan. My nana had asked if I wanted her to go with me and I said I didn’t mind going on my own but she came along anyway (I think this was God’s way of saying I needed someone with me that day for the news I was about to receive.) With it being an internal scan I didn’t need a full bladder (Phew!) So with no preparation required, we headed off to the fertility clinic. I had an awful feeling when I walked in there that day. And every day I have been since I always make a comment to Rob, “I hate this place.” (It’s not an awful place at all, it’s a wonderful place where so many lives are changed and I am eternally grateful as I write this for all of the professionals we have come into contact with. They are so warm and friendly and caring. But there is just something that doesn’t sit right with me. It is the atmosphere. Everyone is clinging to that word, ‘HOPE’.) Anyway when my name was called, I went in, alone, for my scan. My nana sat in the waiting area.
The scan was uncomfortable but not painful. A probe was inserted and the nurse had a good wiggle around to see my ovaries. She was constantly taking screenshots of whatever she was seeing on screen. When the scan was over she told me, “You have lots of cysts on your ovaries. You have polycystic ovaries.” As plain and as blunt as that. My world shattered just a little more. I’m so glad my nana came with me that day. I couldn’t cry because she was there but I told her the news and took her home. She was so pained for me. I immediately phone Rob to tell him the news. I could hear fear in his voice but he was being the strong one for me. He told me that it was okay and that at least we had a diagnosis now and that we would get through this together. Obviously my searching began…
According to the NHS website, “Polycystic ovaries is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work. Polycystic ovaries contain a large number of harmless follicles that are up to 8mm (approximately 0.3in) in size. The follicles are under-developed sacs in which eggs develop. In PCOS, these sacs are often unable to release an egg, which means that ovulation doesn’t take place. Symptoms can include:
irregular periods or no periods at all
• excessive hair growth (hirsutism)
• weight gain
• thinning hair and hair loss from the head
• oily skin or acne.
The exact cause of PCOS is unknown, but it often runs in families. It’s related to abnormal hormone levels in the body, including high levels of insulin (leading to diabetes/obesity). Insulin is a hormone that controls sugar levels in the body. Many women with PCOS are resistant to the action of insulin in their body and produce higher levels of insulin to overcome this. This contributes to the increased production and activity of hormones such as testosterone. Being overweight or obese also increases the amount of insulin your body produces.” (NHS, 2017).
As far as I was concerned there was no reason behind me having PCOS except the fact my periods never returned after I stopped taking the pill. According to the information I would be overweight…nope, diabetic…nope, oily skin…nope, genetics…nope. I didn’t fit the criteria at all which made this diagnosis VERY difficult to come to terms with. No one in my family suffers with this, I have ALWAYS lived a very healthy lifestyle; watching what I eat and regularly going to the gym and I wasn’t overweight. This just wasn’t fair.
Once we had this information we were due back at the fertility clinic to discuss our options. Rob’s tests came back all clear, no blockages. (What a relief!) Also to our amazement, a further, more in depth, test on Rob’s sperm count came back to say he had 2 million!!!! (This may sound a lot but the average is 15–200 million sperm! Crazy right?!) We felt like God had answered our prayers. We knew that at least some, meant we had options. Mr. AB told us that women with polycystic ovaries do go on to fall pregnant with the use of a drug called clomid which helps to stimulate ovulation. However, due to Rob’s low sperm count, this was not an option for us. We were told that our only real option (at this stage) would be to have ICSI as a short protocol. This is a form of IVF and means that the sperm is directly inserted into the egg and then cultured in a lab over 3–5 days in order to produce (hopefully) a 5-day embryo. We were told due to where we lived (Yes that’s right, a postcode lottery!) that we would receive one free NHS round. If this wasn’t to work, we would therefore have to pay. We were given lots of information and prices and were told to go away and read up on this procedure. I was also sent away with a prescription for something called ‘provera.’ I was to take a pill each day for 5 days to try to induce a bleed, although the doctor didn’t think my body was even up to this at this point. We were very keen and the doctor could see this. He asked when we would like to get started and we both said, “Straight away! As soon as possible.” There was no thinking time needed. If this was the only way we could create our family, then so be it!
After taking Provera for 5 days, I finally had a bleed! Wahoo! I was so relieved, my body DOES work after all, I thought. This was my third period in over a year. The doctor was pleased with result and after seeing him again, at the clinic, I was told to book in for a nurse’s consultation and baseline scan. I was told I would have the provera again to induce a period, in order for my lining to be ready to start treatment. We were also told that our medication would be requested and I would be contacted for delivery. Our IVF journey could finally begin.
Luckily it was the school holidays and I was able to wait in for my medication. A huge box came with specific instructions to keep two bags of medicine in the fridge. I made sure I did this right away and it stayed there until I came to use it. I eagerly went through the whole box; pulling out all sorts of things. I had absolutely no clue what it was or how to use it. But I was excited to say the least!
So after a few weeks we returned, once again, to the fertility clinic for my nurse’s consultation and baseline scan. A baseline scan is an internal scan to assess the woman’s lining and during a long protocol; to check whether, after down regulation, the ovaries have “gone quiet”. During the scan I was told my lining was very thin (This is a good thing!) and it meant I didn’t have to have a further course of Provera to induce a bleed. I was ecstatic. It meant we could start the injections straight away! We then had an hour with a nurse who would explain how to use the medication and go through what seemed like a mountain of paperwork. I was very aware of the nurse constantly checking her fob watch. Almost an hour was up and we had only just completed all of the paperwork. My heart sank. The nurse said we would have to book a second appointment to be shown how to use the medication. I left feeling really low. Rob tried to look at it from a positive and said next time we came we would be given a date and would know what to do to start. I just wished that day was today. I felt like I’d already waited long enough for my baby. But I had to cling on to that bit of hope and start our journey with a positive mind set…
Next time: Injections, diet, rest, the dreaded 2 week wait and a whole lot more…

Our journey to IVF: Part One: Struggling to conceive.

From as young as I can remember, I always wanted children. All I ever dreamed of was to become a mummy. Having been involved in a serious car accident 11 years ago, which changed my body in ways I never knew possible, I did wonder if I would be able to have children. But this was just one of those thoughts that just crossed my mind, not something that I decided to dwell upon.
My husband, Rob, and I had just bought our second home together and Rob being the passionate and adventurous builder he is chose one we that we could renovate. It needed a HELL of a lot of work doing to it! But he reassured me that it would only move us up the property ladder and would be the perfect family home. I trusted him completely. So in February we moved in and the work began. We had decided that I would come off the pill in December and start trying for a baby as most of the major work in the extension would have been completed by this point.
Call me crazy but as I work in a school, I was dead set of having a September to December baby. I know it sounds stupid but I had realised that children born in the summer months (Who may I point out, are almost a year behind some of their peers!!) found it difficult to settle into school both emotionally and socially. I just wanted to provide the best start in life for my child and if this meant controlling what month they were born, then I’d do it! This all soon changed…
Just a few short weeks into the build, something inside me changed. My friends had just announced their pregnancy and I was desperate. I talked to Rob and we decided I would stop taking the pill. I’m a big believer in fate and I thought if it’s meant to be, it will be. I remember sending Rob a snapchat of some prenatal vitamins saying, “This is really happening.” I was on top of the world. Little did we know we had a very long, bumpy ride ahead of us…
In April I was due to go on one of my best friend’s hen do. I’m a real worrier and I stressed out so much because with my friends falling pregnant after just 3 short months, I was sure that we would do the same, which meant the possibility of flying when I could actually BE pregnant. Then obviously there was the fact that this was going to be nothing but a big drinking weekend. I spoke to my friend and she said she’d really like me to still go but at the end of the day, it was my decision. I already felt guilty enough that the girls had had to pay extra due to it being arranged in the school holidays, just so I could go! April came and I decided to go. I am not a big drinker anyway and decided I wasn’t even going to have one drink. I could blag my way through the weekend. In the airport one of the girls offered to make me a drink. I’d already said I would have a ‘vodka, lime and soda’ obviously this would be minus the vodka! However when she came to make it, I had a meltdown. I made my excuses and just poured my own drink pretending she hadn’t heard me properly. It was from then that I decided I would just blame my body (To take something lucky out of something very unlucky. My accident has allowed me to make excuses for my body; bad knees, dodgy tummy etc.) So I went away for 3 nights and partied until gone 5am without a single drink! As I say, I don’t drink so it wasn’t a big deal. Although it’s pretty hard when everyone else is so drunk; these girls were big drinkers!!
After 3 months of not taking the pill, I realised something was wrong. I hadn’t had a period. Numbers are a big part of my life, time, organisation…I’m a freak! But I literally counted each day, waiting for a period to arrive. Nothing. No withdrawal bleed, no spotting, there was no blood whatsoever. So I went to my GP. I also love to read and research and I had read that if a period doesn’t return within 3 months, then to visit your GP. At this point, I started to have niggling thoughts in the back of head, “What if it’s something to do with the accident? What if my body is broken? What if I can’t have children?” But again I dismissed them and didn’t even mention this to the GP. The GP wasn’t all that much help to start with. She told me to wait a little while longer. Then after reading some notes, from a Google search on her computer, which stated, “If your period is still absent after 3 months, go see your GP.” Just as I had read; she told me she would do some tests. I was lucky she came across the same thing I had read because most GP’s don’t touch fertility with a barge pole, not until you have been trying to conceive for a year! She also had recorded my height and weight and after working with a PT for 10 weeks I had dropped a lot of weight. The GP told me I was verging on being underweight. I was told to go away, cut back on the gym and relax my strict diet. (Ha!)
I waited a few more months (Which seemed like an absolute lifetime for me!) Each day was draining; I couldn’t focus on anything else. I was checking my CM (Sorry TMI !), body temperature, constantly wanting to have sex as a ‘just in case’ and continuing to hope and pray for a period to come, just so I could start to count my cycle! Nothing.
I returned to the GP who carried out some blood tests to check my hormone levels. All of these came back normal. What was going on? It felt like now I didn’t even have a diagnosis, I was ‘normal.’ The GP told me she was sure they would return and reassured me that it takes up to a year for your menstrual cycle to regulate. It was at this point that I mentioned my worries about my car accident. I had had internal bleeding which lead to a tear on my bowel and 9 years later, I was in hospital with adhesions from scar tissue. Although I had had the all clear from the consultant, who told me my chances of conceiving were perfectly okay, I still worried. The doctor said she wasn’t concerned over what I had told her but said as a precaution they would like to do a scan on my ovaries and yet more blood tests, just to check everything was okay. I booked in for my scan and arrived at the appointment a week later (Having not been for a wee for a few hours and having drunk a litre of water, I was fit to burst!) The nurse who scanned me said he “Had such a clear view due to my full bladder.” (At least that was something!) He reassured me saying, ‘My ovaries looked perfectly fine, there were no cysts, so I didn’t have something called Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS)’ and that my blood tests, again, had come back as normal. How wrong was he…
With this news, again, I left feeling slightly relieved, but still no closer to finding out why I wasn’t having periods. My doctor then decided there was nothing more to do but I couldn’t settle. I still had no answers.
It got to a point where I was now around 8 months without a period and Rob gave me shove to go along to the doctors together and we would say that we had been trying for a year (I know this was a lie, but only a small, white lie, I felt, compared with the heartache I was feeling). It was then the GP asked Rob to also get some tests done for his hormones and we would then be referred to the fertility clinic, if needed.
Whilst awaiting our appointment at the fertility clinic, Rob had his tests done at his GP. Rob has a huge phobia of needles so was not impressed with the amount of blood he had to give for the checks on his hormones, (Bless him!) but he managed. Rob had done a bodybuilding competition the previous year and had been quite ill at this time. His hormones came back so messed up. We believed it was because he had dieted and pushed his body, through exercise, to such an extreme, that his body was just on survival mode. When the results came back, it stated that he had low testosterone. A little bit more of my heart broke. For a man it is SUCH a big deal to have a good level of testosterone. It’s what defines them; being all macho, lifting weights, it’s what they do. I found my mind shifted. I WAS able to cope with this. It was MY Rob and I would support him through everything. We were in this together. Whilst I didn’t have a diagnosis for my absent periods, we both felt that this maybe was an easier way to deal with things. We couldn’t blame one of us as being the reason we couldn’t conceive. We both needed fixing. And when I was weak, Rob lifted me up and when he was low, I was the one who coped.
I’m a fighter and I wouldn’t let this break us. So as usual, I did my research and found that lifting weights (Particularly leg day ha-ha!) in fact, helped to boost testosterone levels as well as certain foods. That was in PUMPKIN SEEDS on his daily oats and plenty of gym sessions (Although not as strict and extreme on his body!) At first he WAS NOT impressed. But I know he sucked it up and did it for my sake.
And so we waited for our appointment with the fertility clinic…I finally felt like we were getting somewhere.