Story of #miscourage by Katie,
In March 2011, I experienced my first pregnancy loss at 4 weeks. My now husband and I had only been dating for 6 months, and we were not trying to have a baby. Due to irregular bleeding, I took a pregnancy test which showed a faint positive. I felt confused but realised I'd had a very early miscarriage.
We got engaged one month later and married in May 2012, and we started trying for a baby around that time. I was 39 and although I realised my age wasn't on my side, I believed it would be ok as I had a family history of advanced maternal age.
I got pregnant within a few months of trying, but in August 2012, I suffered my second pregnancy loss at 5 weeks. I felt devastated, empty, and alone. My husband appeared to get over it after one day, but I suffered weeks if not months of overwhelming sadness. I was on the verge of depression, and couldn't get out of bed on Saturday mornings after my husband had gone to work. I felt I had nothing to get up for, and I kept thinking why me, while everyone else is having babies. I had no medical support, but then I didn't ask for help. My GP said to just try again straight away and not to worry about my age.
It took a long time for me to get pregnant again. My husband suggested we look into IVF treatment, and in October 2013 we went to a local clinic for an initial consultation and tests. They said my hormone levels were OK, not great but in line with my age. They also checked my Fallopian tubes were not blocked. We would have gone ahead with treatment but I became pregnant again naturally in December 2013. Then in February 2014, I miscarried at 10 weeks. I suffered severe physical and emotional pain, with very heavy bleeding. I was screaming from the pain. My husband was very worried and upset, and he called an ambulance on the advice of the midwife. I was taken to A&E where they examined me and retrieved the foetus. Subsequent testing revealed a chromosome abnormality. At least I didn't do anything wrong. Now that I'd had three miscarriages, I was referred for blood tests on the NHS to check my anticardiolipin antibodies (thrombophilia). I had three blood tests carried out three months apart, and my results showed borderline raised levels. I was advised to inject myself with Clexane (a blood thinning drug) during subsequent pregnancies.
For months after my third miscarriage I suffered very heavy and irregular periods, it was like I was miscarrying again every single month. Eventually in September 2014 I decided to do something about it, and went for reflexology and then acupuncture treatment. The acupuncture put my body back into balance, my periods became lighter and more regular again. I didn't get pregnant again though.
In April 2015, we went back to the IVF clinic. My hormone levels now indicated I had a low ovarian reserve and the consultant advised I would need donor eggs. Finding a donor would take at least 6 months but we could try with my eggs in the meantime. Upon leaving the clinic, I was devastated, the bottom had fallen out of my world. Once the initial shock passed, I felt disbelief. I still believed I could get pregnant with my own eggs.
We had two attempts at IVF with my eggs in June 2015 and September 2015. The first time resulted in a negative pregnancy test. The disappointment was indescribable. The second time was worse. I didn't even have an embryo transfer because my eggs failed to fertilise. Receiving that call was devastating, I was at work and had to go home early I was so upset.
Around this time, my husband and I started having fertility counselling. It proved to be invaluable in helping us to come to terms with and deal with all that we were going through.
In October 2015, on my 43rd birthday, the clinic emailed us with details of a donor. I felt excited and we went ahead with treatment, resulting in a positive pregnancy test in February 2016. Three days later, as soon as I got home from having acupuncture, I started miscarrying. I felt devastated and guilty - had the acupuncture caused the miscarriage? I'll never know. I carried on having acupuncture on and off for years, as I believed in and could see the benefits, but never again while I was pregnant. Less than a week later my father passed away, and a new, even stronger grief took over.
The consultant at the IVF clinic said we'd just been unlucky, and we tried again with the remaining donor eggs in April 2016. This time I had treatment to dampen my immune system as my killer blood cells had been found to be raised (an unreliable test that often results in false positives). This time it was a 'chemical pregnancy', a faint positive pregnancy test followed by blood tests that showed my hCG levels were not raised enough, the pregnancy was not progressing. Again the consultant told us we'd just been unlucky. All the embryos had now been used. We would have to wait at least another 6 months for a new donor.
We didn't want to give up. We decided to try one more time before considering adoption. We felt it was time to try a different clinic, and we knew of two couples who'd had success with IVF with egg donation in Spain. We found a clinic with excellent success rates that was affiliated to our UK clinic, which meant I could have my scans there.
We flew to Spain for the consultation in June 2016. We were very impressed. Everything was state of the art, and to be honest, they made our UK clinic look like amateurs. They were concerned about the number of miscarriages I'd had, and recommended PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis). This meant that the chromosomes of each embryo would be checked and any embryos with abnormalities would not be used, therefore eliminating the main cause of miscarriage. It took only two weeks for them to match me to a suitable donor. Once the eggs were fertilised with my husband's sperm, the PGD eliminated five of the twelve embryos leaving us with seven healthy embryos. I had two of the embryos transferred on 19th September 2016. During the procedure I was overwhelmed with a strong feeling of joy and positivity. I realised that I still had a long way to go, but somehow in my heart I knew that this time it was all going to be ok. During the following few days relaxing by the pool at our hotel, I could feel implantation pains in my abdomen. I tried not to let myself feel too excited. On the 30th September 2016, I had a strong positive pregnancy test, followed by a blood test with hCG levels off the scale... I was pregnant with twins!
Due to my history of recurrent miscarriage, I was given additional scans at 6, 8 and 10 weeks on the NHS. All was well at 6 weeks, but at the 8 week scan there was only one heartbeat. At least I didn't bleed, but I was worried for the remaining foetus. However all was fine at the 10 and 12 week scans, and the pregnancy progressed well. In fact I loved being pregnant and that feeling of positivity stayed with me. At the 20 week scan we found out we were having a boy, and I couldn't have been happier.
Our healthy, beautiful son was born on 24th May 2017. I am so glad we didn't give up. All the pain and heartache has been worth it. I've experienced hell but every time my little boy smiles at me I'm in heaven.
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