I was 29 and my maternal cravings were getting stronger by the day. I had always loved kids, dreamed of being a mummy (this started as young as 10), and had spend many hours, weeks, months babysitting, au-pairing around the world and nannying. My part-time jobs always involved children and I later became a violin teacher, teaching more children. A perfect environment to bring up a family – I had it all planned.
After almost three years of trying to conceive I started to get worried, especially as I found out that my ex-boyfriend now had a daughter! ‘Damn – it’s not him then!’
There are many days, even months where I decide it is time to move on, but other days I take a rare glance in the wrong direction and see a baby in a pram and hope comes down and grabs me.
Living in Cardiff, the waiting list was long and I had to wait over a year to see a consultant. When I eventually saw one, his English was so bad I could barely understand him. I left the room in tears, shocked at the bad reception we’d been afforded. He said he’d do tests. I also made it quite clear that I didn’t want to go ahead with IVF if they didn’t fi nd anything wrong with me, thinking I was still young enough to keep trying o’naturel. The results came back and I was fine!
Little did I know this was the start of a very long journey. Three IVFs, two FETs, one IUI, three miscarriages and seven years later I am writing this, still childless. It has been simply devastating. It has taken over my life, it has consumed me daily and I have fought on, still passionate to achieve my dream. My body has taken a battering, my spirit has been scarred yet I still believe that if I try hard enough I might get there one day. There are many days, even months where I decide it is time to move on, but other days I take a rare glance in the wrong direction and see a baby in a pram and hope comes down and grabs me. I am also losing friends as fast as I can fi nd them, as they are all slowly but surely making babies and most days it’s just too painful to bear.
Three years after my initial appointment, and now aged 33, another consultant at the same hospital told me that in fact I was far from fine. I had endometriosis (level three, four being the worst), and a congenitally deformed left fallopian tube, meaning that natural conception was unlikely. You can imagine my shock – I had originally been misdiagnosed. I was mortifi ed. I had just had a laparoscopy and had already had my first IUI (intrauterine insemination) which obviously had not been successful due to the dysfunctional fallopian tube.
The hospital have since apologised but they can never give me back those lost years. The power these doctors have makes you very much at their mercy; I just shut up and waited for my first IVF treatment.
That first IVF resulted in a pregnancy. Euphoria was followed by complete devastation. I had a blighted ovum (an empty sac) – the embryo had died very early on. I had to have a medically induced abortion which, to anyone who has had one, is quite distressing and very painful. The process was made worse by a doctor prescribing me the wrong medication. I was given a clotting agent and it took me three weeks to miscarry my baby. It was quite horrific and I again received an apology from the hospital.
Despite this, three or four months later I decided to go ahead and have my first FET (frozen embryo transfer). I was lucky enough to have three – the process was less arduous than the full IVF, but emotionally it was still hard going. My embies had made the thaw – they were perfect. Of course, I took the time off work again, and did everything I could to improve my chances. We had just bought a house but ploughed everything into treatment – the decorating would have to wait. Changing my whole lifestyle, I focused my entire body and mind on improving my chances, no stone was left unturned. I was back again. Full of hope and determination and on test day I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had done it again. I was pregnant. But a week later I miscarried again. At least this time I was spared the chemically induced abortion.
After my second miscarriage my husband and I were concerned that something else was wrong. We decided to go for all the tests relating to miscarriages, which would take about six months to complete – I was now 35, and panicking. The tests came back and I learnt that I had Factor V Leiden, a blood clotting disorder that could possibly be the cause of my miscarriages. The test cost £20, a simple blood test that could easily have been done at the beginning of my journey (at the age of 29), but is not considered obligatory in this country; I wasn’t even given the option.
Two miscarriages and £5,000 later they did the test and I was factor five, along with 5% of the population. I was shocked and flabbergasted. They decided to prescribe me heparin for my second attempt of IVF, which was my long-awaited NHS cycle. This one was going to be free at least, but had I known what the hospital would do, I would have spared myself the trauma.
Everything went to plan until after egg collection when, still groggy and sore, my husband and I were asked in to see the embryologist. He proceeded to tell us that my husband’s sample was ‘even lower in quality than last time’ and that he wanted us to consider ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). It was like being hit so hard – it didn’t hurt! ‘What do you mean lower than last time?’ We had never been told that my husband’s sample was of diminished quality in the first place.
I asked the embryologist what he thought considering we’d had nine fertilised the first time with IVF treatment and he said it was worth a shot – stick with IVF. The next day, out of 10 eggs, only one fertilised. The whole procedure had been a waste and my husband and I were completely confused. Not surprisingly, the treatment did not result in a pregnancy.
We have since received another apology and confirmation that my husband’s sperm sample was not below the norm, however it took a small dive on the day. Discouraged, hurting and having lost all faith in the British system, we opted for medical tourism. We desperately needed a holiday too and, after much research, decided to go to the Superior ART clinic in Thailand, Bangkok.
We stayed five days and were treated like royalty. The treatment went very well and I ended up with nine blastocysts, grade A. An amazing result and a huge success, we were ecstatic. The clinic had done its job and now all we had to do was wait 10 days for the results. I had had three embies put in and froze the other six. Test day came – it hadn’t worked! I was inconsolable and knew this was pretty much the end. I knew I couldn’t go on, and that my whole life plans would have to change. How could I keep teaching, staring failure in the face every day?
But I picked myself up and retrained. After some counselling sessions, my first lot of exams, and a lot of umming and arring, in June last year my husband and I decided we’d go back to Bangkok to pick up two of our frozen embies. I was now 36. My motto has always been you have to be in it to win it. We went to the same clinic, saw the same doctor, the only difference this time is that I had insisted on not taking the blood-thinning agent heparin until I got pregnant. I would take it from test day. Both my pregnancies to date were achieved without heparin – I wanted to give it a go. Maybe it was just women’s intuition – who knows?
Ten days later I was back in Britain and pregnant! Finally my body had responded. It was working. I worked! At seven weeks I saw my little embryo’s heart pumping so strongly I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had fi nally done it. We were both overwhelmed and so happy. What a journey it had been. But at seven-and-a-half weeks my embryo’s heart stopped beating. I was told three months later that it was due to chromosome 16, the most common cause of miscarriage and one that doesn’t support life. It was just bad luck.
At this stage, I have just fi nished my Diploma. I feel so proud that I can now focus on my new career and have so much to look forward to. My husband and I are strong together. We have been married for 10 years and are still very much in love. I retain hope and believe that maybe one day, if I am strong enough to continue, my dream might come true. If not, then at least I tried. We are going back to Bangkok to pick up three more embies in October and I have one more fresh cycle left in me. We will see.
We have spent about £20,000 so far. I still have hope and believe that if you have a dream, you have to pursue it. But I don’t let it take over my life anymore, treatment comes second. I try to enjoy the good things and realise that plans don’t always work out. Although it is very painful, I have to look forward and enjoy life. There are so many people much worse off than me.”