When I was about 33, Alan and I decided we were ready to start a family – thinking, perhaps naively, that it would happen pretty easily.
18 months later, I still wasn’t pregnant, so I went to my GP to find out what our options were. He referred me for testing and suggested Alan have some investigations done too.
3 months later, we saw a specialist at a local hospital to review the results. Frustratingly, all tests came back normal, and we were diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’.
The consultant suggested we consider IVF
Even though the process was gruelling, we were really excited – and after around 3 weeks of treatment, daily injections, pessaries, tablets and more, we got the positive test we’d eagerly anticipated.
I called the clinic, but I mentioned that the line on the test was quite faint, and that the digital test said I was only couple of weeks pregnant. They told me to come in the following morning so they could confirm the pregnancy.
I’ll never forget when I got the devastating news
My phone rang when I was at my desk at work, so I went into a meeting room for some privacy.
It was not good news: “I’m really sorry, but your hCG levels aren’t what we would expect at this stage. It looks like a chemical pregnancy.”
I left work straight away and drove home in tears. When Alan got back, we just sat and cried for most of the afternoon.
I went in for another appointment
They could see something on the scan, but it wasn’t clear. My results also showed that my hCG levels were rising, just not at the desired rate.
At this point I was referred to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU). I spent the next 10 weeks going back and forth for tests and scans, as my hCG continued to rise and I was experiencing pregnancy symptoms.
By the time we got to 10 weeks, the consultant confirmed that my pregnancy wasn’t viable. The sac had continued to grow, which explained the symptoms, but there was no heartbeat.
It was hard to hear, but deep down we knew this was the case
I was given 2 options: I could wait and see if the miscarriage happened naturally or have a procedure to manage the end of the pregnancy.
I decided on surgical management and the procedure was booked for a few days’ time – but in the middle of the night, I realised I was bleeding.
Looking back, I think I was in shock and denial – because even though I was still bleeding and in pain, I got up in the morning and travelled into work.
Things went downhill over the next few days
I was signed off work for 2 weeks. When I went to see to my boss, he was incredibly supportive, which I really appreciated.
I was still really struggling, though, so I drove to my parents’ house. They made me call the EPU as I was still in a lot of pain.
When I got to the hospital, they examined me and said I was very close to a serious infection due to my cervix closing. At this point, they had to intervene, and I spent the next week or so in bed trying to recover.
It was a really difficult time for both Alan and me, but we were grateful to have each other.
Sadly, our struggles weren’t over
Following our miscarriage, we went through multiple surgeries, further tests, more treatment, and 2 unsuccessful rounds of IVF. After our third failed round, we were told we wouldn’t be able to conceive using my own eggs, which was really hard to process.
I wasn't sure how I felt about using a donor egg, so I turned to the social media groups I had joined since starting IVF.
I spoke to some amazing people who understood what I was going through – and with their reassurance and my own research, I felt ready to give it a try.
We were gutted when our first donor changed her mind, but we fortunately found another soon after – and, amazingly, they were able to collect 31 eggs! In the end, we had 8 top-quality embryos, all suitable for freezing.
Then Covid-19 delayed our plans
We were meant to start our 5th round in February 2020, but the pandemic held things up. We were devastated to have another curveball thrown at us – but a few months later, the clinic called to say they had been working out how to deliver treatment under the government guidelines.
They said I would have to attend all appointments alone: even the day they transferred our precious little embryo. Whilst it seemed a little bit crazy to be considering IVF in the middle of a global pandemic, we felt like time wasn't really on our side, so we decided to go for it.
We had the embryo transfer in July 2020
Finally, I was able to give Alan the best birthday present possible when I got those 2 strong lines! We tested again and again, with different tests each time to be sure we weren't seeing things.
We were so excited but also super cautious, and anxious that the pregnancy wouldn't last.
At 6 weeks, we were finally able to go for a scan. In the days before, we were so nervous, but the second we saw our baby’s heartbeat, we knew everything leading up to this point had been worth it.
On 18 March 2021, we welcomed our beautiful rainbow baby girl, Robyn, into the world.
The scars from infertility will never leave us
They don’t go away just because we have Robyn. That’s why I’ve made it my mission with Rain2Rainbow to support others with their journeys, in the hope our story can provide that much needed comfort and reassurance to anyone who is struggling.
As part of Rain2Rainbow, I’ve also created a special collection of IVF, fertility and baby loss support bracelets. Every piece of jewellery I own means something to me, and so my hope is that these bracelets mean something to those on a similar journey to mine.
I wanted to give back with this collection, which is why I choose to donate the profits from the sales to Tommy’s.
The work they do means so much to couples like Alan and me, and to many of the friends I’ve made since sharing what we’ve been through.
You can find the Rain2Rainbow community on Facebook and Instagram and purchase Sam’s bracelets on Etsy.