We started trying to get pregnant five years ago. No one else in our regular social group had children at the time, and we’d only been together two years, but I was 32 and didn’t want to wait.
After 18 months of disappointment and infertility investigations I started taking clomid and a couple of months later I found out I was pregnant whilst on holiday in California; the day after my husband proposed to me.
It was a very exciting time, life was perfect.
I started back at work after the holiday sharing my engagement but bursting with my secret, especially as a colleague who was a few weeks ahead of me announced on the first day back.
I went for my first midwife appointment and told her I’d had a bit of spotting that morning. She booked me straight in for an early scan that afternoon. I called my husband to meet me at the hospital and our world came crashing down when there was no heartbeat.
We were told to come back in 10 days – it could be too early.
I knew when I’d ovulated and I knew my dates. I had little hope.
The next day the bleeding started. As I lay in bed sobbing, my husband saw a birth announcement on Facebook from one of our friends. I managed to drag myself out of the house and attend a wedding that weekend, at which I was sat next to a baby, and then found out that another friend was pregnant, just a couple of weeks ahead of us.
It felt cruel and relentless and I spent most of the evening hiding in the car, crying hysterically.
I started avoiding pregnant friends. Just seeing their bump had me running to the toilet in tears every time.
At our wedding I would have been 7 months pregnant. I had already looked at dresses and had an image in my head of my bump. At the very least I hoped to have been pregnant again, but we didn’t have that consolation either.
The due date for our first baby fell during our honeymoon. Around the actual day I was in so much pain I couldn’t bear it and felt guilty for what I was putting on my husband as well as bitter that things had turned out like this.
More time passed. More trips to the infertility clinic, which involved walking past the maternity unit and all the heavily pregnant women standing outside smoking. Why them?
Finally we started IUI. I found it a very stressful process. The ‘two week wait’ is nothing compared to the ‘four week wait’ as you worry about the injections, then worry before every scan and blood test whether your womb lining is good enough, whether the follicles are growing, if your hormone levels are okay, if you have taken the trigger injection at the right time etc.
We were lucky, the odds are low with IUI but we got pregnant again. There was no real excitement this time. Initial blood results were poor, I prepared myself for the worst. The next day the nurse told me someone had written the dates down wrong on the form and actually the blood results were fine, there was no reason to believe everything wasn’t okay.
The first scan showed our worst fears anyway. It was all over again. Again, I started bleeding the day after the scan.
I quit the teaching job I loved, after two and half years of trying to get pregnant it was taking its toll and I needed a break. I started working in an office instead. I can’t recall how many months went by before I had a day I didn’t cry.
I withdrew from my friends even more. I didn’t go to the pub in case someone with a bump showed up. I avoided any social situation where anyone might have a baby with them. The dynamic of our social group changed. A lot of them had babies or were pregnant. I couldn’t handle it.
We went through tests and further fertility treatment. Another round of IUI failed. A round of IVF failed.
If I thought IUI was bad IVF was even worse. More drugs, longer time scale, the pain and discomfort of egg collection, the stress of waiting for news on fertilisation etc. We had got pregnant on clomid and IUI and the odds were better with IVF; I hadn’t considered that the IVF might fail, it hit me hard.
I had more tests, paid for privately this time. We had a frozen round of IVF. It failed. Our remaining frozen embryo perished when it was removed from the freezer.
After each failure I crumpled. I can remember getting the phone call confirming what I already knew each time and just sinking to the kitchen floor and howling.
Life was totally consumed with the rollercoaster of treatment, hormones, injections, anxiety, depression. Normal plans couldn’t be made as you couldn’t predict when the next cycle would be and when you would need to be at the hospital.
Life could not go on as normal. I couldn’t throw myself into training (my usual distraction) as I was told to take it easy and save my energy for egg production rather than repairing muscles.
Meanwhile everyone around me seemed to be effortlessly pushing out babies. By this point some friends had managed to have two.
In our area you only get one round of IVF on the NHS. We decided we’d try one private round after further private tests. The tests showed indications that my immune system could be causing my infertility and miscarriages. It had taken 4 years to find this out.
We started the process again and we got pregnant. There were no celebrations, just fear. At 7 weeks the scan showed an empty sac.
I felt numb. Tears came silently but I don’t remember sobbing. I remained numb. Whatever I might have felt was buried deep. It stayed buried. I waited for the tears but they didn’t come.
At this point my husband, who had been absolutely amazing throughout and had held me together, had taken too much. It started hitting him like it had hit me much earlier. I started getting worried about him rather than upset about our losses.
I had found two wonderful support groups online but there was no equivalent for the men. Infertility and miscarriage are often not openly talked about but I talked to anyone who would listen.
I felt the need to acknowledge that I had been pregnant, that those babies were not a secret. If I ran out of a room crying, or changed the subject when it was too close to home, I wanted friends to understand why this might be. And amidst it all, everyone around us continued to get pregnant and have babies.
Life felt so unfair. I had tried everything.
I had followed all the advice in every book, every blog, every website. I had tried gluten free to balance my hormones, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, I had stopped drinking right from the start (years of sober hen dos, birthdays and weddings anyone?) and was careful to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables and cook from scratch. I stopped running, stopped any exercise other than swimming during each treatment cycle.
We’d been through six rounds of clomid before the IUI and then the IVF rounds. And yet women who were making none of these sacrifices or doing any of these things were getting pregnant all around me, and giving birth to healthy babies. Why us?
We had one final try. My husband was initially not keen to put ourselves through it again, but for me it was unfinished business and I just needed one last shot before we had a break then explored adoption.
The final IVF worked. My positive pregnancy test was undeniable even taken two days early. My hormone levels were very high. It all looked far better than it had ever done before.
This time I had had intralipid drips, steroids and hormones to address my immune issues and heparin injections due to a blood clotting issue. All bases covered. We had had two embryos put back this time, and after the second lot of blood results which showed the levels had not only doubled but almost tripled, it looked like twins were a strong possibility.
Then I started spotting with blood. I went to work in a haze. It was too early for a scan to show anything, one was booked for the following week.
I was angry at myself for putting us through this again.
I cried down the phone until the gp arranged for further blood tests to monitor my hormone levels. They were increasing but not as quickly. I can’t describe the emotions as I lay in that scan room waiting for the sonographer to say something. He saw one empty sac. He could see what looked like it might have been another sac breaking up.
We remained in limbo. One embryo might still make it.
The following weeks are all a haze. I had a scan almost every week, paying privately when the NHS ones couldn’t come quick enough.
I was a mess. The anxiety was ridiculous. We saw a heartbeat. We had the harmony tests at 10 weeks and all was clear. We were having a girl. We had the 12 week scan and things still looked okay.
We still didn’t believe it was happening. Every single day I was convinced she had died. Every scan I was waiting for bad news. I was envious of the women who had a positive pregnancy test and immediately got excited about having a baby. I couldn’t get excited.
I’m now 28 weeks. I am still struggling to believe we will be able to take home a healthy baby in three months. We still haven’t told close friends who haven’t seen the bump that we are expecting. We are not decorating a nursery.
I’m feeling movement, I know she’s in there, but I’m still scared.
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