My name is Emma and my husband is Lyn. We are both 36 and live in a little village at the foot of the Black Mountain in South Wales. We have been trying to conceive since 2009 and to date, we have undergone 4 fresh cycles of ICSI, 3 Frozen Embryo Transfers, suffered 3 miscarriages and made a clinic change, for support in reproductive immunology. All of our ICSI cycles have been poor, with low fertilisation rates, however the last cycle resulted in a massive 26 eggs collected and an impressive 12 top quality blastocysts to freeze. All thanks to various changes to diet, lifestyle and mind-set.
I’ve learnt a lot along the way and I’m going to share it all with you. However, before I properly launch into this blogging thing, I want to give you the background on what, where, when and how in relation to me and Lyn, our relationship and our IVF/pregnancy loss journey. There is so much to say, so I will spread it out over a few posts!!
Here is the beginning of our story….
Lyn and I met when we were 20 years old. I was living with my 2 best friends, in a house that could have taken the Young Ones’ residence on in a battle of pure student filth. Uurrgh!! I look back and shudder, but crikey, we had fun. Life was all about our enjoyment, too much booze, dancing, clubs, and of course men! Until, that is, I woke up one Sunday morning to find a handsome musician asleep under my kitchen table, along with his 3 band mates. He was a drummer, with stereotypical long hair and gorgeous big brown eyes.
We began dating and things moved very quickly for us, progressing to the ‘I Love you’ stage within a few months. Goodness he was (still is!!) gorgeous. He had long jet black hair, skin as olive as an Italian, beautiful big brown eyes with eyelashes to die for and a bum as peachy as, well, a peach. His strong muscular arms, thanks to hours of drumming, were glorious to cuddle into and just made you feel safe from the world and to top it off, he was kind, funny, thoughtful, and treated me like a princess. I had found the one, without a shadow of a doubt. We had so much fun together, we were party animals and loved the music scene. We were always the first to turn up at a party and the last to leave. I became a fully-fledged groupie and went to all of his gigs.
Lyn and I dated for five years before we finally bought a house together and got engaged a year later. A further two years after that, in August 2009, we jetted off to the beautiful Amalfi Coast in Italy, and got married in the 14th Century San Francesco Cloisters in the heart of Sorrento . Adjacent to the baroque San Francesco church and with gardens filled with vines and bougainvillea, it is one of the most tranquil spots in Sorrento. We married in front of 49 of our nearest and dearest and to add to the beautiful atmosphere, a stunningly talented Italian opera singer, sang me down the aisle to Panis Angelicas. It was magical.
We proceeded to an open air, terraced restaurant, situated in one of Sorrento’s most panoramic settings, complete with stunning views of Vesuvius, the Sorrento bay and a long stretch of the Amalfi Coast.
We ate and drank like kings and queens, with flowing prosecco, caprese salad, ravioli to die for, a sea bream main course and the most mouth-watering fresh lemon cake I have ever tasted. It was our very own little corner of paradise. I remember sitting at the top table, looking out at all of these wonderful people, who had travelled so far to be part of our special day and I was overwhelmed with love and emotion. We were so happy. We were so lucky. We had it all. What a wonderful life we were going to have. Jeepers, if only we knew what was coming….
We began trying for a baby almost immediately after getting married and 18months later, we found ourselves in a hospital waiting room, wondering how this could be happening to us?! We are nice people, we would make good parents, so why is it so difficult for us, why is this happening??
We were ‘lucky’ that we were seen so quickly and that was due to me having Type 1 Diabetes and having been part of the Pre-Conception Diabetic team at our local hospital for the duration of our time trying to conceive. After 15 fruitless months of trying for a baby, hundreds of pounds spent on Clear Blue products and countless tears wept on the bathroom floor at ‘that time of the month’, they whizzed us up to the top of the list, bypassed our GP (thankfully) and following a series of tests, we were told that we would need IVF if we were ever to conceive a biological child. We were devastated, but hopeful. At least this wasn’t the end of the road, we had a chance!!
And so, my obsession with all things IVF and infertility begun. I needed to know everything I could, take everything I possibly could and do anything and everything I could to ensure it worked first time. I was determined to get success first or second go, as I didn’t think I was capable, emotionally or physically, to undergo 5, 6, 7 rounds. Hmmm, turns out, we really can surprise ourselves….
I found so much confusing information online – Maca root powder, goji berries, zinc, royal jelly, bee pollen, coenzyme q10, selenium, asparagus, dark chocolate, walnuts, brazil nuts, pineapple, avocado, kiwi fruit, cutting out smoking & alcohol (obvs!!), acupuncture and more! We incorporated all of my findings into our diets and promptly found a Chinese Dr who specialised in fertility. The amount of information out there really stressed me out, and I convinced myself that if I didn’t take it all, it would fail, and it would be all my fault. Over the years however, I have found that I really didn’t need half of this crap!! I was so vulnerable and desperate for success, that I would take the word of every single woman on these fertility forums, who had gotten pregnant via IVF and taken it as gospel that it would help us. The truth is, all you really need is a healthy Mediterranean style diet, a good quality pre conception vitamin, folic acid and vitamin d (I use all Zita West products and they are fantastic). Acupuncture is also key.
During this time however, the NHS had told us that in order to have treatment with them, I had to lose nearly 4 stone! They wanted my BMI to be under 30 and mine was 34. Now, I was obviously overweight at the time, but I was a size 16/18 and ‘heavy set’. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that every other fat woman claims to be just heavy set, but my entire family weigh so much more than they actually look. I don’t know why, we must have lots of muscle or heavy bones or something. Haahaaa. When I met my husband, I was a slim size 12, flat stomach, the lot, but my BMI was 28!! My sister was size 8-10 and looked seriously ill, but her BMI was 27 and advising her to lose more!!! So, with my type 1 diabetes a factor and knowing how long it would take to lose that much, we decided to go private. Although, I was still doing everything I could to lose as much weight as possible, and I did manage to lose 2 stone before the first round!! Chuffed.
So, in May 2013, we finally begin the ICSI process. I was on a long protocol and down regulated on buserelin, followed by Gonal f stimulation treatment, and all was looking wonderful. Considering I had had pockets of endometriosis and a huge ovarian cyst removed just 12 weeks before, my ovaries and womb were in tip top shape! I had read all sorts of horror stories relating to down regulation and the stimulation process, so naturally I was incredibly nervous, however I actually found them both, physically, fine. I had a constant headache, but I was so used to that thanks to my diabetes, that it didn’t really affect me day to day and I ensured that I was drinking up to 3 litres of water a day to help with it. I did have a lot more hypos than usual, but that was easily managed and I kept on top of it thanks to being on an insulin pump. However, it was the emotional stress that I really struggled with. I felt like I was completely out of my depth, I didn’t have a strong enough grasp on the ins and outs of IVF, and the lack of experience and understanding was freaking me out and causing untold stress and anxiety. You see, I’m the kind of person who needs to be in control all of the time and I partly attribute my control freak like personality to my diabetes and the absolute necessity to be in control of my condition at all times. I’ll credit my Mother with the rest. Heehee, sorry Mam.
And so we arrive at the clinic for egg collection, after 4 years of trying for a baby – it’s D-Day. Panic started rising rapidly, have we done enough to ensure success? How many eggs will we get? How many will be fertilised? Is this going to work? Arrrggghhh.
They retrieved 12 eggs from me, but sadly, many of them turned out to be soft or not mature enough, but we managed to get 2 fertilised and they did so to the best quality possible. Grade 1’s. I had them both put back on Day 3 and we called them Zippy and George, after our favourite TV programme as children!!
Our official test date was 6th June, however, thanks to my acupuncturist telling me that my pulse had ‘changed’ and that she knew it had worked, curiosity got the better of us, we tested early and got our very first positive pregnancy test! I wept with pure joy at seeing those 2 precious lines on that test, after nearly 4 years of feeling like this day would never come, here it was!! One day and 7 pregnancy tests later, I began browsing all of the very best baby furniture websites available, making beautiful plans for a nursery, thinking of potential names, excitement at the thought of possible twins and so on.
How naive, how very very naive….
2 days later, I started losing a small amount of brown blood. I descended upon Google hourly and was half reassured that it was old blood, so nothing to worry about. Then it turned red. Again, I turned to Google and read so many positive stories where people have gone full term following some red loss. I was desperate, I had to believe it.
A few days later, we went to the clinic where they scanned me and although they saw nothing, they assured me that it was too soon to see anything anyway. I was told to call them back if I started to lose more heavily and was given an indication of a full sanitary pad as a point of concern. That calmed me down, as I hadn’t needed to use one to date. Looking back though, I was spending every 10-15 minutes in the bathroom, frantically wiping the gushing red away, thereby telling myself that it wasn’t a significant loss. I think back to that time and feel so much pity and deep deep sorrow for the woman in that bathroom. The utter desperation to keep the dream alive had made me go a little bit insane. I was a mess. The reality was that I had started a full period days before, I just couldn’t accept it. The clinic finally told me to do another pregnancy test at what should have been 5weeks and 3days in our desperately longed for pregnancy, and it was negative, a bio chemical pregnancy they said, very common they said, but the dream was over. My baby was gone, and so was I.
The days and weeks that followed the early miscarriage were incredibly difficult. Lyn was devastated. I was devastated to see him in so much pain. Of course, I was in pain too, terrible pain, but I couldn’t allow it to come to the surface. I’m good at that, keeping things bottled up, at focusing on other people’s feelings and pain, pushing my own to one side. It’s easier that way. I don’t know how and can’t deal with the feelings and emotion that comes with this kind of desolation. It’s easier to forget and concentrate on others, on organising something fun, like a dinner party, someone’s wedding or a holiday with Lyn. Although, we have now been on way too many consolation holidays!! It has cost us a small fortune over the years!!
The breaking point for me however, was upon sorting out my spare bedroom one afternoon; I happened upon my wedding memory box and found our speeches. I am such a sentimental shmuk, so felt happy to be reading through all of the lovely words that our family and friends wrote and later spoke about us. It made me feel so good, until I came to the last speech. I was sitting on the bed, re reading my own wedding speech, reading about how excited I was to start a family with my new husband and how we would strive to be the kind of parents that our own wonderful parents had been to us and I began crying at how naive and happy I was back then. Angry at myself, in a way, but in reality I was just angry at the situation that we found ourselves in. So angry. It wasn’t fair. I was completely oblivious to the traumatic journey that we were about to embark upon. Would I ever feel that happy again? I cried and cried and cried. My husband found me a while later, still crying and in a mess. He just hugged me, couldn’t do anything else for me. That was a dark day.
After that, Lyn was so concerned in relation to my emotional well-being, that he said he wasn’t prepared to see me go through that again. I begged and begged, and he finally gave in. So we began preparing for cycle number 2 in the October….
Part 2 coming soon.