You may have noticed that things have been a bit quiet around here lately. If you read this post last year, you will know that Jules and I have been struggling to conceive for the last four years. Last August, after our fourth round of IVF had failed, I made a wish on the tree above that our two remaining embryos that were frozen that same day would one day become a baby. I can not quite believe that I am writing this – I am still in complete shock and none of it feels real – but nearly a year later my wish has come true and I am so pleased to be able to tell you that I am 13 weeks pregnant.
I really want to share this with you because the love and support so many of you showed me after I wrote my last post about how much I was struggling with our IVF journey helped me more than you will ever know and I hope that by writing about my experience it may help others. I gave myself permission to have a break from IVF after that, looked after myself, had some fun, reconnected with friends I hadn’t seen for months, in some cases years, because I had been hiding away throughout the treatment. We enjoyed ourselves for the first time in a long time and not every dinner at a restaurant ended with me in tears after the discussion strayed to IVF. We spent eight months with not a single hospital appointment, no discussion of treatment but we began that break with some intensive IVF counselling. It was a gruelling process but we came out the other side feeling so much more positive and with a far greater understanding of each others feelings and anxieties. We agreed with each other that our next round of IVF using our two frozen embryos, that we planned to do when I felt ready, would be our last.
By April this year I felt like a different person. I felt like I had reclaimed my life and could be so much more present than I had been for the last few years. The break did us both the world of good (even though Jules is still annoyed that I made him makeover our kitchen and living room in that time – ha!). I was ready to start our final round of IVF and the whole process felt so different to the previous four rounds of treatment. Firstly, it was our first frozen embryo round so it was far less invasive and involved very few visits to the hospital. Physically, it was so much easier on my body as they didn’t have to stimulate my ovaries to produce loads of eggs; not being pumped full of strong hormones made it far more bearable. The hardest part of the process was the day that they thawed the two embryos and we had to sit at home waiting for a phone call from the hospital to tell us whether the embryos had survived the thawing process (about 10% don’t survive). We got no phone call, which we took as good news, and went in at lunchtime for the embryo transfer. The doctors told us that both embryos looked perfect and they transferred them both. Jules and I promptly took ourselves out to lunch and then I went for an acupuncture session at Zita West (I would really recommend it). And then the two week wait to find out whether one or both of the embryos would implant began.
I was on a complete high for a couple of days and felt so incredibly positive but on the second night stomach cramps began and continued throughout the night and kept me awake. I had had the exact same experience during the last round of treatment, which failed. I woke up the next day and for a split second thought it had all been a bad dream. I was convinced the treatment had failed and I would begin bleeding any second. I cried and cried and cried that day and didn’t leave my bed. All the while Jules was his usual positive self and refused to allow me to give up hope. The next week felt like the longest expanse of time possible. I caved a couple of days before I was supposed to take the pregnancy test and did one at the crack of dawn. My heart sank through my chest as no line appeared. I picked up the stick to have a closer look and I squinted really hard and there was something there. Maybe not visible unless you held it up to the light or angled it a certain way, but something. I marched into the bedroom (it was about 4am) and switched on the light and shoved it in Jules’s face and told him to look. I’m pretty sure he didn’t really wake up but confirmed there was something. Obviously, I couldn’t go back to sleep after that and just kept staring at that stick. I then got on the internet – massive mistake. My one piece of advice to anyone undergoing fertility treatment is DO NOT GOOGLE ANYTHING. Seriously. I ended up in some hideous forum about faint lines on pregnancy tests after which I concluded that the line should be far darker nine days after an embryo transfer and what I was seeing was traces of HCG hormone after a chemical pregnancy. More tears.
The next day, one day before I was supposed to take the pregnancy test, I did a digital test at about 5am. I was so ready and prepared for it to be negative and I could not believe it when the word ‘pregnant’ appeared. We went for a dog walk and I refused to believe that the test was accurate so on the way home I picked up another test that I did as soon as we got home. The test took three minutes to work and there was no line at all for at least two of those minutes – I shouted at Jules, “I told you! It hasn’t worked – I knew it!”. But then a line appeared, still very faint but definitely a line. The next day I did two more tests, obvs!
That first week after we found out I was pregnant was the worst. Throughout the last four years, having a baby was all about getting pregnant with not much thought beyond that. I had never thought about what would happen next and I was suddenly faced with the absolute crushing fear that a third of IVF pregnancies end in miscarriage during the first trimester. I was completely paralysed with anxiety that something was going to go wrong: I couldn’t focus, concentrate, feel any joy. This was our only chance of having a baby; miscarriage became the only thing I could think about whilst trying not speak, hear or read the word. I began to obsess over what symptoms I was or was not feeling. If I went a day without a wave of nausea I was certain that it was over. I was a mess.
We had an 8 week scan booked in with the IVF unit (we had our treatment at Guy’s Hospital ACU, which I would recommend). I can not explain to you how nervous I was. Luckily, one of the lovely nurses who had treated us was doing the scan and she was as nervous as I was and she could not have been kinder or more reassuring. She grabbed my leg and swung the monitor round and exclaimed that everything was ok. Jules and I both burst into tears.
The time after that went so much more quickly and and as every day passed I felt a little more confident. However, I was terrified before our 12 week scan and I have to admit I didn’t enjoy a single second of that scan and the accompanying screening for various syndromes. I think I have to accept that I’m going to find this pregnancy pretty hard as I don’t think my anxiety levels will drop much; it feels as though so much is riding on this.
If you are going through or about to go through fertility treatment please do get in touch and feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences – I have found sharing as much as possible has really helped me. Before I go (and I promise to get back on the blog as much as possible now I feel far less sick than in the first 12 weeks) I want to thank again those of you who have sent messages of support, shared your own fertility stories and sent positive vibes my way. You really have been amazing and made all the difference. I’ll keep you updated on how my pregnancy goes and the nursery plans, of course!!