Infertility, IVF and Improbable Odds

Sitting here writing this today, 31 weeks pregnant, with my 9 month old mini monkey Noah upstairs napping in his cot, feels surreal. Because it was only just over 18 months ago that I genuinely thought I may never become a mum at all.

A bit of background: I married my husband, Jim, in the summer of 2013. Aged just 24, we were young, madly in love, and blissfully unaware of the struggles to come. The month before, we had decided that I would stop taking the Pill. We were ready! ‘Let’s have a baby!’ we said, truly thinking it would be that easy. I even secretly wondered that day if I might be carrying our first baby as we exchanged our vows.

But it was not to be. Months passed, dozens of negative pregnancy tests were discarded, and suddenly even my periods stopped. Repeatedly we visited the doctors, to be told over and over again that we were young, it took time, not to worry. Deep down, I knew there was something else going on.

Eventually, frustrated with the lack of action, we paid for some private testing and I was diagnosed with severe Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). I found out later a note was put on my file that it was one of the most severe cases they’d seen. To be honest, I felt relief at this point. A problem had been found, it could be dealt with. We could move forward.

Since the private clinic had been so good to us, we decided to stick with them. The NHS in our area were stubbornly sticking with the ‘you’re so young’ argument as to why they wouldn’t help us, but we weren’t willing to wait. Treatment began in the form of Clomid. But just one cycle on, it was decided that my body was resistant to the drug and it was having no effect. We moved on to Gonal-F injection treatment. Day after day, I would inject myself with carefully calculated doses of the drugs, only to find at the end of each cycle that it had not worked. We were Not Pregnant. I was a tricky case – too little of the drugs, and nothing would happen. Too much, and I was at high risk of over stimulation – producing multiple follicles risking illness and other complications. For five cycles we persisted, but each failed. 

At this point, we had been trying various treatments for 6 months. In the scheme of things, not that long, but for us it was devastating. Infertility changes you – something you previously took for granted might never happen for you. Your body is failing you. All I had ever wanted was to be a mum. I spent my early twenties doing everything ‘right’ – I found the love of my life, we bought a house, we got married. We had good jobs, careers, even dogs. It seemed so unfair. Family occasions, previously so enjoyable, became laced with sadness. Not because we resented other people’s happiness, but because we longed for the same with every part of us. And infertility is so, SO lonely. It’s just not talked about. It took us a very long time to even tell our parents, luckily we had each other. It made us stronger, tighter, we were a team. Even on days where I shouldered all of the ‘blame’ on myself and my traitorous body, Jim never made me feel alone for a second.

The next step for us was IVF. The odds were fairly positive. I was about to turn 26, our clinic reported very good results overall. Even then there were setbacks – after my egg retrieval we were informed due to high risks of Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS) I would have to have any embryos frozen, and wait before they were ‘put back.’ Every new wait was agonising. But there was good news too, they had managed to produce 4 high quality embryos for us to store.

A month later, in July 2015, we returned for the transfer procedure. They would only put one back, due to our age, the quality and the risks of multiple pregnancy, and I found the procedure extremely traumatic. There was nothing left to do but wait.  It was out of our hands. 

That two week wait was probably the hardest two weeks of the whole journey for me. I was always very careful to avoid too much ‘hope.’ Hope was dangerous. If I convinced myself the next test was negative, the next cycle had failed, it wasn’t to be, then maybe I could deaden the sense of loss when it was confirmed. This two week wait was the best chance we had ever had…and it was excruciating. At 5am on testing day, I tiptoed into the bathroom unable to wait any longer. I needed it over with, so we could cry, then bolster ourselves and ask ‘what’s next?’ But miraculously, both tests slowly but surely came up positive. I was shaking uncontrollably when I crawled back onto the bed, tears pouring down my face as I shook Jim awake. He instantly hugged me tight, and said ‘it’s OK, we’ll try again’ assuming we’d failed. ‘You’re going to be a dad,’ I whispered…

We were beside ourselves. It didn’t seem possible that we were this lucky. We have several early scans to convince ourselves that there was really, truly, a little person growing in there. Eventually we relaxed a little as my belly grew and we felt kicks and punches. We found out it was a boy! Despite the trouble we’d gone through to get to that point, the pregnancy was actually a breeze. 

At my 38 week check, I was displaying symptoms of pre-eclampsia however, so I was admitted to hospital and induced (I will discuss his birth story in another blog!). Noah James was born weighing 8lb 3.5oz on the 18th April 2016. Our very own little miracle.

Our new lives as parents had begun. And I can honestly say, we really did love every minute. I had finally found peace. Prior to giving birth, we had discussed the future. We had always imagined 2, even 3 children, but knew to even have this one, perfect baby was huge. So we decided to just not bother with contraception, and see what happens. We would start to think about more IVF in a few months time, given we had 3 more embryos in frozen storage. No pressure.

I can’t even begin to describe to you my shock, disbelief, utter AMAZEMENT when in July 2016 I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive. Noah was only 3 months old. How was this even possible? Scans and tests confirmed that he had actually been just 11 weeks old when we conceived! I am currently 31 weeks pregnant with another miracle baby boy, due a few weeks before Noah’s first birthday. We still pinch ourselves, I can’t explain ‘how’ or what changed, but here we are. And we couldn’t be happier. Pregnancy with such a young baby is hard work, I won’t lie (I’ll discuss this further in other blog posts!) but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Because this is everything I ever wanted. There is hope, and this baby is a completely different kind of miracle. And I can’t wait to meet him.

*We will be forever grateful to CARE Fertility in Nottingham for our fantastic treatments – thank you.

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