Part 4 of our IVF/Miscarriage journey was among the most difficult of times for me, but also the most beautiful. I’ve found it incredibly hard to write about, and is probably why it took me so long to publish, but I hope I have managed to express the emotion, pain and elation felt during this time.
So the miscarriage itself was over, but the misery didn’t stop there. Just 10 days after my trip to Glangwili Hospital, I was being rushed back in, but this time to Morriston and with suspected Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to DKA and is the number 1 killer in type 1 diabetics. DKA happens when a lack of insulin means the body cannot use glucose for energy, and the body starts to break down other body tissue as an alternative energy source. Ketones are the by-product of this process. Ketones are poisonous chemicals which build up and, if left unchecked, will cause the body to become acidic – hence the name ‘acidosis’. DKA often occurs in diabetics when they are ill with an infection such as flu, as this causes the body to release extra hormones into your blood to help combat the illness. These hormones interfere with the effect of insulin, meaning that you need more insulin than normal.
So, just as I was starting to believe that things were getting back to normal, here I was, petrified that I was going into DKA. It happened really quickly, it was a Thursday afternoon and my blood sugar started to rise and I was doing insulin correction dose after insulin correction dose and yet it was still not coming down. By the time I got home from work, I was 24.6mmol and within the hour 34.2mmol. For those with limited knowledge in diabetes, that’s really really bad. I didn’t have any ketone testing strips at home, so had to ring the GP to do a quick test. In the meantime, I kept pumping insulin and drinking plenty of water. By the time I got to the GP, my ketone levels were sky high and I was sent immediately to A&E. I felt sick to the pit of my stomach and not just because of the high blood sugar; I was petrified and quickly began to melt down. At the tender age of just 8 years old, we went to Cornwall on a family holiday. I was sick from leaving the house to the time we arrived. My parents thought I had car sickness and just kept me hydrated. They didn’t worry too much, until that is, we arrived at the cottage and they took a proper look at me. They immediately rushed me to an out of hours GP and all I remember is the Dr calling for an air ambulance and telling my parents that I had just hours to live. I also remember being excited to go in a helicopter. Unfortunately though, some poor woman fell down a cliff, so the helicopter had to go and rescue her instead, and I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. By the time we arrived, my blood sugar was around 48mmol and I remember one of the nurses being awful to my parents and telling them off for leaving it so long. I threw up all over her, and she bloody well deserved it too. I’d like to point out that diabetes is an incredibly difficult condition to manage as a grown adult and when it’s yourself in control. Controlling it for a child is a different kettle of fish, especially 28 years ago, with no Continuous Glucose Monitoring systems, Insulin Pumps and Blood Sugar Sensors. Throw in a 4 hour car journey with a child susceptible to car sickness, and you have a very difficult situation on your hands and a condition that is very difficult to self-diagnose. I was in intensive care for around a week and got out of hospital just 2 days before our holiday was ending.
In light of this ordeal, you can understand why I was absolutely petrified in that A&E waiting room back in Sept 2014. Fortunately though, I was triaged as a priority case and was swiftly seen. I had carried on drinking plenty of water, kept pumping insulin and had spoken to my diabetic specialist nurse, so by the time I was seen, my ketone levels were on their way down. Disaster averted, but we didn’t get home until gone 2am and the stress of the situation had really gotten to me, as well as feeling terribly unwell. I barely slept a wink all night.
Due to the amount of work that I had missed during the miscarriage, I was determined to avoid taking more sick leave. Instead, i arranged for a lift to my 9am meeting and agreed an early finish with my boss. I didn’t tell anyone about what had happened, because I felt like a moaner, so I played the whole situation down. I was worried about what people would think of me and didn’t want people to think that I was after attention.
That weekend I just slept. My body had been through hell and the sheer volume of hormones coursing through my veins made it clear to me why I was struggling to control my diabetes and why I only just managed to avoid full blown DKA. I was lucky that it wasn’t a worse outcome, but I didn’t feel very lucky at all. However, by the following week, I managed to start work on the Monday with a fresh perspective. Everything that could go wrong, had done, and I was still here to tell the tale. It’s over now, so let’s concentrate on being me again. By the end of the week, I was actually starting to feel better and felt quite positive, even thinking about when we could attempt the next round of IVF and then, 2 weeks later, I was blindsided. Walking to the car park one evening after work, I slipped and felt a snap in my foot. I knew instantly that I had broken something and attempted to walk to the car, and then to drive to the hospital. I completely underestimated how painful it would be and had to free wheel to the local supermarket, dump the car wherever, limp out and beg a nearby driver to park it for me. I then had to call a cab and find someone to go and tell the shop manager that my car would be there for longer than 2 hrs and please don’t let anyone clamp me!!! Good grief.
The taxi driver took me to Llanelli A&E (notice how I don’t do pub crawls, but Emergency Room tours instead…?) and there I waited, and waited, and waited some more. My husband and parents drove down to pick my car up and to keep me company and finally I had an x-ray. The result, a broken 5th metatarsal. I was placed in a boot and told to keep it up for a week.
Of course, still feeling guilty regarding the amount of time off taken for the miscarriage, I went straight back to work. I wasn’t allowing my brain any time to process what was happening to me, and it didn’t do my mindset any favours whatsoever!! I was so worried about what my colleagues must have been thinking of me, I couldn’t bear it!! I do realise though, looking back, that I was in a very dark place, and work would have been very understanding of my situation, they were, and always have been, but I was very low and couldn’t see anything positively at that time. I have had some incredible support from colleagues and managers over the years, so I am very lucky. At this point in time though, I was in a deep black hole and my brain couldn’t see past the darkness. As far as I was concerned, I was failing at everything, my job, my health, my babies, my family, my friendships, my life…
During all of this, remember that my sister was still pregnant. Her pregnancy was incredibly hard for me, because I so wanted to be involved and support her at every milestone, but the pain I felt was monumental. This, in turn, also made me feel guilt so horrifically that I could barely talk to her some days. My mind didn’t know what to do and I couldn’t understand what I was feeling. Some may say that I was spiralling into depression and now, looking back, I am inclined to agree.
At 16 weeks, Katy found out that they were having a baby boy. I was so happy for her, but I couldn’t stop thinking that I should be finding out the sex of our little penguin in a few weeks too. I was consumed by my grief and wasn’t functioning at all. That resulted in my sister and family not telling me as much about what was happening in the pregnancy and how she was feeling etc, to protect me. This upset me so much, but in their situation, I would have done the same. If they had talked to me about it normally, I may have been hurt that they were rubbing it in my face. Who knows? All I know is that I was an unstable mess, waiting to erupt. I hated that I wasn’t there for my sister in her pregnancy, but there was nothing I could do about it. We were so close, Katy is my best friend, and this was having an impact on our relationship. Mind you, I always knew that it wouldn’t last. Our relationship is that strong, nothing and no-one could break it. So many of our friends have commented over the years, how ridiculously lucky we are to have each other, and we so absolutely are.
Eventually, I figured that I had to do something about my state of mind, so I decided that I would throw Katy a baby shower. I thought that it would do me good, I was kind of giving myself a bit of tough love, get a grip and get stuck in, it will help you to move on!! In a way, I think that it did help because I threw myself in to party planning, which is always a good distraction for me. Although, I do feel bad that I didn’t involve more people in organising it, as I’m sure many would have liked. Looking back, I know that I did the right thing for myself though. Yes, maybe it was selfish, but they didn’t need fixing did they? I did, and this was what was going to do it. Well, that is what I was hoping anyway. There was a lot riding on this shower for me, I had high expectations of how it was going to fix me. I was tunnel vision’ d, focused on throwing the best party ever, and it did the job of keeping my mind off everything, so in a way, it worked for a little while.
Around the same time as the shower, I had made the decision that I needed some time off work. I wasn’t doing well in any corners of my life and something had to give, temporarily. I took 4 months unpaid leave from mid Dec 2014 to early May 2015 and planned on using the time to undertake our 3rd fresh round of IVF, and what would be our 5th transfer. However, that round was set to be the poorest cycle we’d undertaken to date, and I am not surprised in the slightest. My diet had always been a good one, however I wasn’t losing weight, probably due to stress, my mindset was horrifically bad and I was generally in no fit state, physically or emotionally, to go through a gruelling fresh cycle of IVF.
But, I did it anyway….
Again, 10 eggs were collected, but this time, only 2 fertilised. Again, my eggs were completely crap!! I had 1 x grade 2, day 3 embryo back on the 26th January 2015 and none to freeze. I think I knew there and then that the outcome was going to be negative….
Way before I lost the baby, Katy had asked if I would like to be her birthing partner. We’d always agreed that I would be there for her, but given my circumstances, she was unsure if I would want, or be able to. It was a no brainer though, I had let her down enough in this pregnancy, there was no way I was letting her down for this part as well. Some people thought I was crazy for agreeing to do it, given our dire situation, but I didn’t really think of that at all. I wanted to be there for her, I needed to be there for her.
She was overdue at the point of my embryo transfer and I had been hoping that the birth would happen before it went back in, but this is my life and there was no way that it was going to be that easy. Instead, 7 days post 3 day transfer, I found myself in Singleton Hospital Maternity ward, supporting my sister in giving birth to her baby boy. Up until that point, I honestly thought that I could feel the embryo starting to implant. I had the traditional spike in blood sugar and everything. However, I swear that I could feel it failing on that labour ward. I just knew that it had begun to implant, but yet again, it was going to fail, and not because of anything that I was doing. I was convinced by this point that it was my body and crappy immune system, as I had recently read Dr Alan Beer’s book ‘Is my body baby friendly’ and every page screamed true to me!!
Back to the labour ward, and being a part of this birth was truly amazing for me, but how could something so beautiful, also feel so ridiculously painful?? I remember feeling a terrible mix of joy and devastation all at once. All I have ever wanted, is to be there, in that labour ward, delivering a baby into this world. How could this be happening to us yet again? And why now, at this very second??? It just seemed so cruel. There was nothing I could do about it at that stage though, so I just carried on with what I was doing, and that was being there for my sister, who at this point was having a rough time of it!!
It was a difficult labour for Katy, she was pushing for what seemed like hours, and at ten to twelve, the midwife told her that if he wasn’t born by midnight, they would be considering a c-section. She is a stubborn git, so by 12:12am on February 2nd 2015, out popped a humungous 10lbs 4oz baby boy. I remember turning to my mother and saying, in total shock ‘he doesn’t look new!!’, because he really didn’t, he was huge, but it was love at first sight. Oh my goodness.
I remember feeling an instant surge of love for this tiny (ok, maybe not so tiny) baby and thinking that if this is how I’m feeling for my nephew, how on earth would I feel for my own?! It was truly magical, this wave of love shot through me and struck me straight in the centre of my heart and soul. I knew in that instant that this child was going to change my life, for the better. My sister Katy is a beautiful person, and knew how much he would mean to me, so within minutes of him being born, she told me that I was his mother from another planet. An odd description, yes, but in her defence she had just given birth to a whopper, and was on another planet herself!! I’ll always remember that comment, not only for how lovely it was, but for how Katy had literally just given birth to this amazing, beautiful boy and yet she was also thinking about me and how I was feeling. Precious girl, always putting other people ahead of herself. If this world was made up of Katy’s, it would be a pretty amazing place.
They called him William Jacob Rees Yeandle, Liam for short, and he saved me. He saved my soul.
He filled the baby-less gap that I had felt so ferociously for so long and holding him on that labour ward, whilst Katy was being stitched up in theatre – gulp – will be a moment that I will treasure to the day I die. I cwtshed him (welsh for hug) and sang to him for the whole time and I can see his little face in my mind now, with his fist in his mouth, obviously starving for his mother’s milk. I remember feeling strange and very reflective, like, how can life just change in an instant? How can this little person be the source of so much love? For 6 months, my emotional state had not allowed me to properly grasp the beauty of this pregnancy, and I suspect that my subconscious had kind of shut off my feelings in regard to the situation. They were always there, of course they were, but my grief was all consuming and I hadn’t been able to focus on anything else. But Liam changed that in an instant. Wowsers!!
I was only 6 weeks into my time off work at this stage, so I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to spend so much time with Katy and Liam in the first few months of his life. I was there all day, every day. Katy was grateful for the help and I was forming an unbreakable bond with a child who was changing my world and my outlook on IVF, fertility and miscarriage. Although transfer number 5 was, as I predicted, a negative cycle, I got over it a little quicker than usual and within a few months of Liam being born, my desperation to become a mother was slowly easing. He had filled a gap that only a baby could. How would I ever be able to explain to him, what he did for me? How he changed my life and saved me from the darkest and deepest of black holes? I felt, still do, like I literally owed him everything and I had suddenly began to remember how lucky I was. I had an incredible husband, one of the best, I had amazing and supportive family and friends, and now I had this baby boy to love forever. I could finally feel the positivity coming back to the surface of Emma….
Part 5 – a break from IVF, a holiday and a trip to see Dr George at Zita West Clinic, London. Coming soon…