The Taboo that is Miscarriage…

I have not managed to finish part 7 of our story yet, as I seem to have lost my words a little. I’m still struggling with a few things after our most recent loss earlier this year. I’ll tell the story properly when I get around to it, but in short, we had an embryo transfer in April and lost again in June. I was nearly 8 weeks pregnant with identical twins.

I may be finding things a little bit difficult right now, however I feel extremely passionate about publishing a blog post today. Today is Baby Loss Awareness Day, and as 1 in 4 of us know only too well, it’s that there is a real taboo surrounding miscarriage and people don’t, or won’t, talk about it. This really needs to change.

The featured image in this post is of the candles that we have lit tonight, for the Global Wave of Light. There are two candles, with 4 flames, one for each of our angel babies.

When I talk about miscarriage, I’m not looking for any sympathy, I really really don’t need it. Lyn and I have a superb support network and we’ve been open about everything with family and friends. We are so lucky for that, and being comfortable and unashamed to talk about it, is how we’ve gotten through it. I talk about our losses to raise awareness of baby loss, to educate those fortunate enough to have never experienced it, and to try to change peoples perceptions on miscarriage. Why should we hide it? Over the years, I have been told many a time that I should keep our losses quiet, as no-one needs to hear it. It’s our business, not theirs. In a way, I do understand because I used to be quite private in that sense, however in so many other ways, I really really don’t understand that opinion at all. Not one bit. If I had a low blood sugar, society wouldn’t bat an eyelid. If ‘Mr Jones’ down the road had a heart attack, he would get the support from the community and his network of family and friends that he needs, so why is it different for baby loss?? It is a well known opinion that you should wait until 12 weeks to reveal your pregnancy, just in case you lose. But what does that say to a woman if she does end up losing? That she should feel guilty and ashamed of being open about it, that’s how. It’s as though miscarriage is a very scary word, but the truth is, if you lose a baby, at any stage in your pregnancy, you will need support from those around you, and you will need to talk about it.

I dealt with this recent loss a little bit better than the first two, and I truly believe that it’s because I finally realised that it is not my fault, and I realised it, because I have been open about it and talked to a lot of people about our situation. Their support has helped us to come to terms with our losses and I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to each of them, because without them, we’d be in a far deeper hole than we are right now.

Miscarriage is so incredibly painful and the loss that you feel will never ever leave your soul, but talking about it will make it a little bit easier to deal with. Like I said above, I don’t want sympathy. In fact, I couldn’t think of anything worse, but what I want from this post is your support in reducing the stigma that surrounds talking about baby loss. Miscarriage happens to 1 in 4 women. It happens every single day and it’s likely that it has happened to you, or someone close to you. Please help me today, by sharing this post or one of the pictures, or by sharing your own experience of baby loss.

Together we can break down the taboo, just please keep talking.

 

Part 6 – Zita West Clinic & Top Quality Eggs, finally!!

Part 6. The Final Round – ding ding. London Baby!!

I had been given tremendous advice by Dr George and the Zita West team in relation to supplements, nutrition and keeping calm for what was set to be our final ever round of IVF.

I was in an extremely good place, mentally, and my health was on top form. I was finally losing weight, which was utterly liberating for me!! After years of struggling to lose weight, I stumbled across the possibility that I could suffer with a dairy intolerance. It had been suggested to me before, but I wasn’t ready to accept it, as I loved cheese!! Although, apart from a little cheddar, some mozzarella and the occasional use of creme fraiche and yogurt in cooking, my dairy intake wasn’t huge, because I really really hate milk. Yuck. However, I was struggling to lose weight, even after I cut out gluten,  processed foods and kept everything very low carb. I was also regularly suffering from IBS type symptoms!! So, following a simple blood test, it was revealed that I had a sensitivity to dairy and I was advised to cut it out. Although, we agreed to allow small amounts of feta, cottage cheese and halloumi, and see how we go.

Within 2 months of no dairy, I felt like a new woman and had lost 7lbs, which is utterly amazing for me, but the most shocking of all, was the fact that my body and face had changed shape completely!! It suddenly dawned on me that I’d been chronically inflamed and swollen for years!!!!! I was thrilled with the results, and didn’t look back. I settled into life without dairy with absolute ease, and I felt AMAZING. I am no longer bloated, inflamed or swollen, see this before and after picture of my face below!!

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Wowsers. I still have a shock when I look at the before picture.

I had more energy as a result of cutting out dairy, couldn’t remember the last time that  I had IBS type issues, was more flexible, happier, hadn’t suffered from back pain in months, and was finally losing weight!!! By this stage, I was also convinced that the dairy intolerance was playing a huge role in our IVF outcomes, as chronic inflammation is no good when it comes to fertility. As a result, I was feeling super excited and optimistic for the next round of treatment, and was sure that my new found health would support the cycle in an extremely positive way!!

My diet is mostly a Mediterranean style eating plan. Although, I would like to stress that it’s not a ‘diet’, but a new way of life. I understand that for some people, going to a weight loss club is the best way for them to lose weight, but I couldn’t stand the thought of becoming a yo-yo dieter, to me it seems so unhealthy. I wanted to work on changing my lifestyle and eating habits on a permanent basis, not just for IVF and weight loss purposes.

As a self-confessed foodie and lover of cooking, I was also worried about changing things too much. I mean, what food lover doesn’t eat bread and cheese for goodness sake?? However, I quickly found a new style of cooking, to maintain my foodie status, and I quickly discovered that you can maintain an extremely healthy lifestyle and be a foodie at the same time!!!

So, as stated above, I follow a Mediterranean style diet, with plenty of fish, plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, grains, beans and nuts. I replaced butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil, and I also ensure that I maintain a low carbohydrate and high protein diet. Both of which are perfect for IVF and diabetes. This diet is also considered anti-inflammatory, so win win.

An average couple of days in the life of Emma’s diet go something like this….

Day 1

Breakfast – Smashed avocado, smoked salmon and 2 poached eggs

Snack – Hummus and rice cake

Lunch – Emma’s home made hearty stew, with beef chunks and butter beans

Snack – apple

Dinner – Monkfish wrapped in parma ham, with a chorizo and cannellini bean ragu, and a side of wilted greens.

Dessert (just a couple times per week) – Peanut and Dark chocolate Eat Natural Bar

It is recommended to eat 80-100g of protein per day when undergoing a fresh round of IVF, to support with egg quality, and the meal plan above has a rough total of 110g.

Day 2

Breakfast – Emma’s Spicy eggs (chopped tomatoes, wilted spinach, chilli and 2 eggs, oven baked)

Snack – Apple

Lunch – Prawn and Feta salad with lemon, olive oil and chilli flake dressing.

Snack – Mixed nuts

Dinner – Chicken and vegetable curry with small portion of brown rice

The average amount of carbohydrate in the above day 2 meal plan is 75g. I try to limit my daily carbohydrate intake to 50-80g per day. Studies have shown that reducing carbs, especially refined carbs and increasing protein can significantly improve egg quality, potentially double your chances of blastocyst formation and considerably improve clinical pregnancy rates. This is also good for non IVF’ers, especially those with PCOS, as low carb diets helps with insulin resistance. Elevated blood glucose levels, caused by high carb intake, can cause a pretty hostile environment for an egg to develop. I’m not talking about blood glucose levels high enough to be in diabetic range, just the general spike that a normal, healthy adult would get after a high carb meal.

I would like to take this opportunity to state that everything I write is my own opinion, thanks to research and actual first-hand experience. I am not a nutritionist or a medical professional, so always consult with your doctor, before making any drastic changes!! I also wouldn’t advise cutting out dairy, unless you feel that it is contributing to inflammatory and stomach issues, like I did.

Ok, so back to the IVF prep and in the 4 months leading up to the treatment, I also began taking a host of Zita West Supplements, including inositol which is known to improve insulin resistance and help with egg quality.

In previous cycles, I took everything under the sun. I am pretty sure that IVF no. 3 consisted of around 30 supplement pills a day!! What I have learned from my experience is that you don’t need to go overboard with this stuff. As long as you eat a healthy diet, packed with nutrients and take a good quality pre conception supplement, you’re good to go. I also found that taking so many things stressed me out, because I would panic if I forgot to take some, and then panic that I wasn’t taking enough, leading me to do hours of Google research and buying another 30 different types of supplements, on top of the 30 I was already taking!!! Ok, slight exaggeration in the amount of pills, but you know what I mean. I’m pretty confident to state that half of the ivf’ers reading this are either taking a considerable amount, or at least considering it!! Take it from someone who knows ladies, please keep it simple, for the sake of your sanity, if nothing else!! Below is the list of supplements that I took in the final fresh round, which gave us the best ever results.

Inositol  x 1.5 level teaspoon

Vitafem x 3 per day

Vitafem boost x 3 per day

Vitamin D spray x 2 squirts a day

Vital DHA x 3 per day

Folic Acid (I need a higher dose due to being diabetic)

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Link to Zita West shop as follows –  http://www.zitawest.com

I’m not on commission by the way, hahaha, I just genuinely believe in these products. They are extremely high quality, and I wouldn’t take anything else now.

De-stressing and accepting our fertility issues was something that I was determined to achieve before this cycle. I firmly believe that stress plays a huge role in poor ivf outcomes, so working on my mindset was a must. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my nephew played a huge role in helping me to find peace with our situation, because he filled a huge baby-less gap in our lives. However, there was so much more that contributed to it. I remember going to a yoga and meditation workshop a few months before the cycle, and I got so much out of it. So much so, that I cried for 2 days afterwards, but the intense feeling of an almighty release was quite amazing. Other things that I did to help with my mindset was talking at length to a counsellor about my feelings, using the app ‘headspace’, regularly exercising, attending occasional guided meditation and yoga sessions, positive visualisation, and writing it all down. I love writing and it has definitely become a portal for dealing with my feelings. I have become my very own counsellor as a result. I also became better at giving myself a serious pep talk when I felt my head slipping into negativity. When I lay it out clearly in my mind and tell myself that ‘thoughts are thoughts, not facts’, it really works for me.

I was also ensuring that I was getting 8 hours sleep per night and began using an eye mask to help with achieving greater deep sleep. It all worked tremendously well and to eventually feel comfortable with the fact that it may happen for us, but equally, it may not was incredibly healing. To know that whatever our outcome, baby or no baby, I’m looking forward to an extremely full and exciting life with my husband, is an achievement so great that it has quite literally changed my life.

December arrives, I’m in a good head space, and I’m fit, healthy and very happy. Time to begin the IVF cycle!! The protocol was long, with buserelin to down regulate and fostimon and merional to stimulate the ovaries. I was to have a course of intralipids before embryo transfer, and begin clexane injections from the day of transfer, as part of my new and additional immune support.

London is fair trek from the Swansea valley, so we hired a gorgeous little flat in St John’s Wood, which was walking distance to Zita West and Care London, where Egg Collection (EC) and Embryo Transfer (ET) would be taking place. Lyn couldn’t take the whole time off work, so me and my mother went ahead, in time for my first stimulation scan, to check how many follicles were present. Apart from a scan and bloods every other day at Zita West, we had nothing else, IVF wise to do, so we packed our diary with every touristy trip possible. My sister came to visit at the weekend, and we had a ball. We went to the Tate, Little Venice, Madame Tussaud’s, Sushi Samba for the nicest sushi I have ever tasted, Camden Market, a catch up in Sketch with some gorgeous fellow IVF’ers,  Churchill’s war rooms and so much more. I honestly loved every second, and didn’t stress once about the cycle. I had the best time ever, and felt like I was on holiday. I fell in love with London during this time too, we had a great adventure in a city that I can honestly say is my adopted second home. My heart will always belong in the mountains, but there is certainly a piece of my soul that belongs in that city!!

During all of this fun, I began to feel more bloated than ever before, and I was occasionally getting pain in my ovaries. Stimulation scans showed that I had up to 20 follicles growing and a lining of 10.4mm, however my estradiol levels were through the rough at 28,000. No wonder I was bloated. I was at risk of OHSS and unfortunately it was deemed too risky to go through with an ET until everything settled down. It was decided that we would freeze all fertilised embryos and return for a frozen embryo transfer (FET) in the spring. I was surprisingly calm about the whole thing, and actually felt happy with the decision. I believe that the pressure a fresh IVF cycle puts on your body is too great, so to wait for everything to settle before a transfer made so much sense to me. Also, we had gotten pregnant via a FET before, so I felt confident that it would work.

Egg Collection day arrived and unbelievably, 26 eggs were collected. We were floored, because the average in previous cycles was around 10-12!! The next obstacle though, was fertilisation. This is where we struggled almost every cycle in the past, but blow me down, 22 eggs were mature enough for the treatment and a whopping 16 fertilised. Even more amazing, was that 12 of the 16 went on to blastocyst and were good enough to freeze! 12, waaaa!!!! We literally had no words for this amazing result. To go from as little at 20% fertilisation rates, and none to freeze in some of our previous cycles at other clinics, to a 74% fertilisation rate, with 12 top quality blastocysts to freeze, is just unbelievable. We always knew that making the move to Zita West was the right one, but never in our wildest dreams did we expect that result. We would have been thrilled with 1 or 2!!! Dr George and the whole team at Zita West are miracle workers and we’re still blown away by their knowledge and expertise in all things fertility. If you are considering a move to this clinic, do yourself a favour, and go now!!!! Thanks to Dr George and team we could honestly start to believe that after 7 long years, we may actually become parents someday. We can never thank them enough for that!!

Dr George ? Fertility  7/7/13

So armed with this wonderful news, and the London 12 safely tucked away in the freezer, we decided to head out and have a well deserved glass of champagne. We went back to Camden, as we wanted to catch up with family living close by, and I had seen a bar there the previous week, that I fancied. Bear in mind that I hadn’t consumed a drop of alcohol in months, and I had borderline OHSS, so champagne probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas, but I was excited, and drank it anyway. Some friends of mine also happened to be in London on a trip that evening, so we met up with them for a quick drink too. My intended 1 glass turned into 4 and by the time I got back to the flat, I was as sick as a dog!!! Jeeeepers, not cool at all….

I was so unwell, we decided to abandon the flat that was booked out for another 3 days and go home early. The train ride was hell on earth and it was at this point that I was beginning to worry that I had done something to make the OHSS develop and/or worsen. The Zita West team were amazing, they gave me a prescription for Dostinex (Cabergoline), which would help keep OHSS at bay, told me to eat plenty of protein, drink plenty of fluids with electrolytes, inc coconut water, keep off my feet, and they checked in on me every day for well over a week. They joked that I was probably getting sick of them, but the truth was, I was so grateful for their support. I was very impressed by the level of care offered, without a second thought to them.
I soon got over the cycle though, the bloating subsided after a couple of weeks and I was beginning to feel better, and ready to begin the prep for frozen embryo transfer no.1 of our London 12, but transfer number 6 in total. Exciting times!!!

Tune in next week to hear about the transfer, a pregnancy and another miscarriage….

 

Part 7 – A frozen Transfer, a miscarriage, and another nephew on route… Coming Soon.

 

 

Part 5. Reproductive immunology, Chicago tests and NK cells…

By this point, we had been trying to conceive for 5 years, had had 3 fresh rounds of IVF, 2 Frozen Embryo Transfers, and 2 miscarriages. We were almost done with the whole fertility saga, and having Liam in our lives was making the decision to stop trying so much easier. However, we felt that we owed it to ourselves to seek out a new clinic, to try one last round with a new protocol and immune treatment. We felt that we just about had one more round in us, but that was it. If it failed, we’d move on and we knew that that was going to be ok. We would create new hopes and dreams for our life together, we would travel more, and enjoy life as a couple rather than a family of four like we had once dreamed. To be honest, I would have been able to call it a day there and then. I was happy to move on at this point, and needed to, but I was scared that I would reach the age of 50 and regret the decision, because I knew that there was one last thing that we could try. So the hunt for a new clinic was on….

From around November 2014 to September 2015, I was frequently visiting a reflexologist who specialised in fertility. Her name was Barbara. I found the treatment to be extremely relaxing and beneficial, but thanks to her incredible knowledge and experience in all things IVF, I found myself opening up to her in ways that I never expected. This was around the time when I was still struggling to come to terms with the second miscarriage, so I needed an avenue to vent my pain and feelings, and Barbara became it. We talked about everything and she helped me to navigate my way through the confusing thoughts and feelings that I was experiencing. She also told me about some studies that she was aware of, and some potential tests that we could undertake, like the sperm DNA fragmentation test, to try and understand why we were having recurrent implantation failure and miscarriages.

I was also reading the book by Dr Alan Beer ‘Is your Body Baby Friendly’ at the time. His words made so much sense to me as I have an auto immune condition, as do most of my family members. We, as an extended family, have huge immune issues, ranging from Type 1 Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Crohn’s Disease, Migraines, Fibromyalgia, Lupus and a terrifying episode of Hodgkins Lymphoma with my Grandfather just before our wedding. Barbara was also aware of Dr Beer and suggested that we may want to find a clinic to undertake the ‘Chicago tests’. She knew of other couples who had had success at Care Fertility in Nottingham, so we decided to book the tests with them, and a consultation with one of the Dr’s. However, there was one little problem – Nottingham was 184 miles away from our house, but we thought screw it, and went anyway. Jeepers, the things we do to have a baby, huh??!!

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Information taken from the Zita West website states that “The late American physician Dr Alan Beer is at the heart of the work surrounding the idea that a woman’s own immune system might be responsible for repeated miscarriages. In layman’s terms, he argued that natural killer cells, or NK cells, which usually destroy cancer cells and viruses, could get out of control and target the pregnancy.

Research has suggested that during a normal pregnancy, a unique type of immunity occurs that stops a woman rejecting an embryo and aids the growth and development of the foetus. If this immunity does not exist embryos may not implant, early pregnancies may miscarry or later complications may occur for the mother or baby. Special tests may identify couples that are at risk of these problems. Treatment that stimulates the proper immune response (immuno-modulation) in the mother may then improve the chances of a successful pregnancy.”

For more information on reproductive immunology, please follow the link below…

http://www.zitawest.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Reproductive-Immunology.pdf

So, in April 2015 we booked a hotel and went to Care Fertility in Nottingham. I planned on having the full Chicago tests and Lyn a sperm DNA Fragmentation test, as well as a joint consultation with one of the Dr’s. I was very impressed with them and the clinic was lovely, the Dr gave us some good advice, but one of the things that stuck out the most was her insistence that Royal Jelly can actually cause poor quality in eggs during an IVF cycle. By all accounts, the stuff is great when trying to conceive naturally, but for some reason, not in IVF. I was floored, and gutted. I had been taken Royal Jelly for years, thinking that I was doing my little eggies a great bloody favour. Ugh!!

Anyway, we had as many tests as we could on the day, but were told that the Chicago tests were only done on certain days, so I had to go back the following week. GUTTED!!! Lyn couldn’t get any time off work, so my lovely sister, who had an 8 week old breast fed baby at home, offered to drive me because I am a wimp on the motorway. It was also a nice opportunity for us to check out her old stomping ground, as she went to Nottingham Trent University. One thing I’ll never forget from that day, is coming out of the 15 minute appointment (368 mile round trip for 15 mins!!!! Eeeek) to find Katy with her electric breast pumping machine strapped to her chest in the car park. I’m sure that the poor guy who decided to park next to her was left more than a little red in the face. Katy however, found it hilarious, as did I.

A few weeks later, the test results came back in and it was confirmed that I had high NK Cells and a mutated gene linked to thrombophilia. If we were going to undertake another round of IVF, I would need immune support treatment. Lyn’s DNA fragmentation was perfect, couldn’t be better in fact. Probably thanks to all of the spinach and kale that I forced him to eat!!! Good quality DNA of the sperm is essential for normal embryo development. High levels of DNA fragmentation in sperm cells may cause implantation failure and miscarriage, but conventional examinations won’t pick up the problem, they just look for issues surrounding sperm concentration, motility analysis, and morphology assessment. DNA damage is caused by oxidative stress, such as smoking, lifestyle, poor nutrition, environmental factors such as high levels of heat. As a potential baby inherits DNA from both parents, if the sperm is damaged or fragmented, it can lead to implantation failure or miscarriage. The good news is that DNA fragmentation can be improved by a change in lifestyle, supplements and better nutrition.

For more information, follow the link below. There is a lot of information regarding DNA Fragmentation available on the site…

http://www.spermcomet.com/

Armed with our newfound information, we decided that yes, we would do one final round of IVF, and having read Dr Beer’s book by this time, I was now aware of a pioneering Doctor in the field of reproductive immunology, who had been mentored by the man himself. His name, Doctor George Ndukwe. He used to be based at Care Fertility, but was now medical director at Zita West, London. Given than he was a world leader in this field, and this was our last shot at IVF, we decided to go to London for IVF with him instead. However, we would go on a little holiday first. Treat ourselves to a luxury break in the sun, before we possibly become parents!!

After a meticulous holiday search, we finally decided on Crete, to a 5* adults only, al a carte, all-inclusive resort. We could not wait. May 2016 came, and we headed to our own little corner of paradise. It was the most perfect week, hands down the best of our lives together. We had a swim up pool, quality food and drink on tap, beautiful views and only the sounds of running water and bird song. I have a 100 mile an hour brain at the best of times, but throw in IVF and miscarriage, and it catapults to a million miles per hour. It’s exhausting!!! However, for one whole week, it slowed to about 5mph, and it was glorious. We came home rejuvenated and happy, but most importantly, mentally ready for one final round of IVF.

 

 

So, it was August 2016 and off we went to London to meet the famous Dr George Ndukwe at Zita West Fertility Clinic. We wanted to find out from him if it was worth trying one final round of IVF, even though we had already discussed this with Care. He is a world leader in reproductive immunology and given my diabetes and history of miscarriage, I was convinced that he was the only man that could help us. Despite feeling satisfied about the next round being the last though, that didn’t stop me from feeling a mixture of great excitement and tremendous nerves at the prospect of meeting Dr George. What if he told us that there was no hope? He’s the best in his field and if he does, that’s going to be it for us!! It was a gut wrenching thought and I felt completely sick.

We arrived at the clinic, dripping in sweat, from nerves and the scorching London heatwave that was well underway, and as we sat in the waiting room, I remember feeling actual real fear, so much so that I was shaking, even my insides were shaking. This was our last hope. He was our last hope. I was silently chanting “please be nice, please help us, and please give us the news that we so desperately need to hear.” I was in a fog of terror, I had convinced myself that he was going to tell us that we should give up.

So we’re there, in this lovely waiting room, with calming music and comfortable chairs. I’m still shaking, and in walks Dr George. The second we met him, we fell completely in love with him. His big joyful smile that made his eyes twinkle, instantly set us at ease and his infectious laugh was just fabulous. I knew instantly that we’d be going back there for treatment and we hadn’t even set foot inside of his office yet!! I trust my instincts implicitly, they are always right, and I had one of the strongest of instinctive feelings ever with Dr George. I just knew. Phew, the relief was unbelievable!!!

Dr George ? Fertility  7/7/13

Our consultation was mind blowing. Dr George took us through all of the reasons why he felt that IVF and FET’s had failed for us in the past and stated that he truly believed we would become parents. He obviously could not guarantee it, but looking at our medical notes, we had a damn good chance!! Thanks to extensive research and having read Dr Alan Beer’s book, much of what Dr George was telling us, I already had a basic understanding of, but to have it confirmed by a medical professional of his stature meant so so much to us.

As you know, we had already been to Care Nottingham for the Chicago Immune tests, so did not need to have them done again and Dr George felt that due to my elevated NK Cells and mutated gene linked to Thrombophilia, I would require 3 intralipid infusions before the IVF and Clexane injections from transfer day. Due to my diabetes, he decided to stay clear of steroids, as they would interfere with my blood glucose control.

We agreed that we would undertake our 4th and final fresh IVF cycle in January 2017. Dr George wanted to wait a minimum of 3 months, to ensure suggested lifestyle changes, new supplements and nutrition changes would have the time to impact on my health and egg quality. We decided to wait a little longer though, as I felt that I needed more time to prepare, health wise and practical wise. We would want to live in London for the duration of the cycle, to minimize the stress of travelling, so I needed to find something fabulous and at a fabulously good price!! I also needed a fresh annual leave supply, as I would be taking 3 weeks off.

I was so incredibly pleased to hear all about the holistic approach to IVF at Zita West, because I had been trying to do it off my own back for around 12months, e.g. looking at my nutrition and finding ways to properly de-stress. The approach at Zita West met my expectations and needs exactly and fitted in with my newfound lifestyle perfectly. The advice provided by the nutritionist was exemplary and just fuelled my enthusiasm for transforming my mind, body and soul. I felt, for the first time in years, hope and excitement. And to top it off, Zita kindly gave me one of her relaxing scented candles to take home. That was the icing on the cake for us. We had been looking for a clinic that was at the top of it’s game, but was also friendly and would become part of our family, so to speak, and we had found them!!!

Stay tuned for Part 6, all about the best round of IVF that we have ever experienced and how we achieved 12 top quality frozen blastocysts!!

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Thank you for reading. Em 🙂 x

Part 4 – From deep dark holes, to baby Liam – the boy who saved me….

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

The missed miscarriage. Part 3 of our story.

Part 3 of our story so far….

So, at 8weeks and 3days pregnant, we went to the clinic for a second ‘reassurance’ scan. Just like the first, the seconds felt like minutes and the minutes like hours, but this time was different. The room was silent and after what felt like ages, the sonographer said that she was struggling to see anything  and that she was going to call the Dr in for a look. That was when I knew. That was when my world fell apart. She left the room and Lyn told me not to stress, that it was nothing to worry about, he was sure that all was going to be fine. But, when the Dr came in and on seeing both their faces, looking at the screen, we knew for sure and then they said it – ‘I’m afraid it appears that your baby has died. We believe that you have had a missed miscarriage’. I didn’t hear much more after that and neither did Lyn. The words coming out of their mouths sounded as though we were hearing them from under water, muffled sickening sounds. We just about picked something up about a visit to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) and were handed a piece of paper with a date for another scan. I was told to stay on the progesterone and oestrogen until the EPU had confirmed a miscarriage and that the drugs were probably the reason why i hadn’t physically lost the baby yet. I was reassured that upon coming off the drugs, the loss should happen quite quickly. That was something, I suppose. The sooner that this nightmare is over, the better.

Walking back to the car, the very first thing that entered my head was – is it my fault for not properly believing it? Has our baby gone because he felt like I didn’t love him enough? I promised that I did want him, that I loved him more than anything in this world, I was just so scared. I then thought about the day, 3 weeks earlier, when I had forgotten to take the oestrogen pill. I doubled up later that day, but I was worried enough to ring the clinic. They told me not to worry; however were they bending the truth to stop me from panicking? Was that the fatal error that caused me to lose this baby?? Was I too fat? Did my weight cause this? Could it be my diabetes? Did that high blood sugar last week cause our baby to die? So many possibilities regarding the cause of the miscarriage going through my mind, all at once, however regardless of the reason, in my mind, at that moment, it was my body that had rejected our child. The feeling of complete and utter failure was overwhelming. This was my fault. I had killed our baby.

Unfortunately, my husband and I had arrived in separate vehicles as we had both come from work. The journey home was the most horrific 50 minutes of my life, his too, but I was on a kind of autopilot and used the time to call our immediate family and my boss. I wouldn’t be coming to work next week. It was a Friday afternoon and I had the weekend to gather myself, but I knew that I wouldn’t be up to it, plus our appointment at the EPU was on Monday. I asked my sister to tell the few friends that we had told about the pregnancy, about the miscarriage and that I didn’t want anyone to contact me for the foreseeable. I couldn’t deal with it. I just wanted to shut myself off.

I got home and Lyn wasn’t in a good place. He was due to play in a gig that night and tried to cancel it, but couldn’t find a replacement drummer at such short notice. He was now playing in a rhythm and blues band, so not as easy to find a dep as a stereotypical covers band. He resigned himself to going and I went to bed. That gig was so hard for him, but strangely, he played the best set that he had done in years. It was like a little homage to our baby penguin.

The next day, we woke to a numb feeling inside. We were awake, functioning and going about our day, but the Lyn and Emma of old were buried deep down inside and would be locked away for some time yet. So, we decided to get out of the house and headed for Tenby, Pembrokeshire. A beautiful part of the world and one in which we are incredibly lucky to live so close to. Tenby would surely cheer us up….

It was a gorgeous, sunny day with blue skies, hordes of holiday makers, fish n chips and ice cream. Tenby had a real air of British summertime to it that day, but the second we arrived we knew it was a mistake. There were babies, kids and pregnant women everywhere. We couldn’t turn for constant, violent reminders of the grim situation that we found ourselves in. We had to go home,almost immediately. We had travelled all that way, only to stay 1 hour before getting back in the car, heading home and resuming our numbness. To be honest, it hadn’t really gone away, it just got worse.

I can’t begin to describe how I was feeling at this point, but my brain was still on autopilot. All that I could concentrate on was ensuring that my husband was ok, because he wasn’t. In the immediate aftermath, it was Lyn that took it the hardest. He began dealing with the situation immediately.  I wish that I was more like that, rather than bottling it all up and saving my grief and emotion for a great big volcanic eruption at a later date. It’s so unhealthy and would have saved me months of therapy, had I just been able to deal with it there and then. Instead, it subtly picked away at me, sometimes ferociously, and affected my life for more than 2 years!! Lyn is a strong person, I’m so proud of how he has dealt with our entire fertility situation so far, I wish I was more like that. He deals with the issue immediately and as a result, doesn’t carry the heavy burden of grief with him for the next goodness knows how many years! He still very much  feels the grief, but it is more manageable somehow. I so admire that about Lyn. I am proud of that. I, on the other hand, was holding it together for him during the first few days after the miscarriage, or at least that’s my excuse. I suppose that I knew I would fall eventually, but I also knew that that is when he would step up and hold it together for me. I like that about us, it doesn’t matter what horrific events are happening in our lives, only one of us will ever fall at a time. It’s like this switch in our brains will flick on and one of us will manage to maintain enough strength to keep the other one from going too far into the big black hole, and once they are strong enough, the other will start falling into it, only to be saved by the other, in the exact same way. Never a truer word spoken than the following quote – ‘a strong marriage doesn’t always have two strong people at the same time. It is a husband and wife who take turns being strong for each other in the moments when the other feels weak’. I can’t remember where I saw it, but it is so true.

So, going back to the Monday morning after the miscarriage and we found ourselves sitting in the Early Pregnancy Unit at Singleton Hospital, with some of Swansea’s finest. Sat opposite us was a loud, crude woman in leopard print leggings, bragging that “this was her 6th pregnancy and what the f*** was she supposed to do with another brat? Looool”.

Yes love, hilarious.

To my left was a 15 year old girl, legs draped over her 15 year old boyfriend, having numerous telephone arguments with her mother regarding the news of her untimely pregnancy and to Lyn’s right sat a relatively normal couple. At least they gave us some sense of normality, ish.

After a 2 hour wait, but felt like 6 thanks to our new ‘friends’, the nurse called us in to the scanning room. It was here that the mmc was confirmed and I was told to discontinue all IVF drugs. We were given 3 options, wait to lose naturally, take a pill to encourage labour or have an ERPC. A close friend had opted for the pill once and went through hell and then an ERPC anyway and I couldn’t face the wait that came with letting it happen naturally and the not knowing of ‘when it was going to happen’, so we opted for an ERPC.

At what should have been my 9th week of pregnancy, I found myself checking in at the gynea ward and preparing for an operation to remove my baby from the safe haven that should have been my womb. It didn’t feel right. This shouldn’t be happening.

I remember feeling shocked when they asked me what we wanted to do with the baby, burial or cremation. I hadn’t thought of what would happen afterwards, why would I? We opted for burial as I have always been terrified of the idea of being burnt. I couldn’t do that to my child.

I don’t remember too much from that day, it’s a big blur really. However there are 2 things that have stuck in my mind, and that was the distress of being diabetic and nil by mouth for much longer than anticipated and the student nurse who came to assist me down to theatre….

Nil by Mouth is a nightmare for a type 1 diabetic and as a rule, we should be the first into theatre to avoid hypos. For some reason, it was 3pm before I was taken down and I really struggled with blood sugars, so much so that my diabetic nurse had to come down to help me. I didn’t need that extra stress, the situation was difficult enough. The 2nd thing I remember was the student nurse who came to assist me to theatre. She turned to me with a big grin and said “Ready to go? Are you excited?”

WT actual F??!!!!! No, no I am not excited, I am about to have my desperately longed for child, ripped from my womb, what are you on, you stupid woman?!! Luckily for her, I am an incredibly reasonable person and I  just said no. I appreciated that she may not have realised and said it by mistake and we all make them, and then learn from them. However, I will never forget it. I cried all the way to theatre. I’m pretty certain though, that that nurse realised quite quickly what she had done and still lives to regret it, but that’s going to be part of her story now; one of the mistakes she made in training, which taught her to be the wonderful nurse that she will one day become.

After the operation, I woke up a little bit too soon in the recovery suite, as I remember thrashing about and trying to pull the tubes out of my throat. They must have sedated me or something as I passed out again quite quickly. I don’t know how much longer I was out for, but woke up as normal a while later. A couple hours later, we were told that everything had gone well and all ‘products of the pregnancy’ had been removed, so once my blood sugars settled and I had been for a wee, I could go home. One problem with that though, after every operation that involves general anaesthetic, my blood sugars go bananas. It’s nothing I can’t handle and obviously just  the shock to my system that shoots them up. I need 3 times the normal amount of insulin to get them down. The ward sister didn’t appreciate this though, and insisted I stay until they were sorted.  I eventually persuaded her to let me go though , and by the time I was arriving home, my sugars had started to drop. We got home at 10pm. A long and distressing day, but at least it was over. We could now concentrate on moving on and getting over this ordeal. The next day, we booked a holiday to Dubrovnik in Croatia. It was just what we needed to help us get over everything.

Fast forward to 2 weeks later, and I went to the IVF clinic for a follow up. They performed a routine scan and revealed that I had significant retained products in my womb. In other words, the ERPC had only removed my womb lining and the placenta was still there. I went back to the epu and yes, the miscarriage was deemed incomplete. I had been losing on and off since the operation, but nothing too severe, so we asked for as much advice as possible, in order to make the best decision possible. They couldn’t tell me how long it would take to lose naturally and they couldn’t guarantee that the pill would work. My hormone levels were still incredibly high, which is why the little penguin was hanging on. I took a tiny bit of solace from that. At least my body could generate those hormones on its own. I had come off the IVF drugs over a month before, so it was obviously my body that was refusing to let go. Sad really, I suppose.

We were going to Croatia 3 days later and we REALLY needed the holiday, so I opted to leave things be and wait to lose naturally. How bad could it be? I was given antibiotics as a precaution, due to my diabetes, and my medical papers in case I needed medical treatment out there! Looking back, i think we were completely mad to go, especially me being diabetic. Anything could have happened!!!

Whilst in Croatia, we concentrated on trying to have fun and in a way we did, however the incomplete miscarriage was hanging over us like a couple of albatross around our necks.

Whilst in Croatia, we decided to book into an exclusive restaurant for our 5th wedding anniversary. We heard that it was Beyonce and Jay-Z’s favourite place to eat in Croatia. Shwit shwew. It was a 7 course tasking menu and it looked divine! I’m a bit of a foodie, so I was ridiculously excited. On route to the restaurant though, I started to feel really unwell and just as we were being seated, I felt a massive gush. OMG!!!! I excused myself and went to the bathroom, and boy, I have never seen anything like it It was a massive loss.  We had to immediately leave the restaurant and go back to the hotel. I was incredibly embarrassed but luckily i was carrying plenty of supplies with me, just in case something like that would happen. Our excuse to the restaurant was diabetes related and they were very good about it and even gave us our drinks for free, but I was sooo gutted to miss out on the experience.

So back at the hotel and at this point, Lyn and I thought that it was finally over and even felt some relief. We managed to enjoy the remainder of our holiday, but 1 hour after landing in Gatwick, I had a significant loss again. We had to stop in every service station from London to South Wales and took us nearly 6 hours to get home. An absolute nightmare of a journey.

The following morning, I  had another scan at the EPU, only to find the products still there and still the same size! It wasn’t over, and it was at this point that I really started to go downhill. When would all of this end?

I went back to EPU fortnightly and they assured me that the placenta was getting smaller in size, so that meant that my body was absorbing it back. It would be over soon. So, for a little while, i put it to the back of my head. Then, late on Friday afternoon of the 19th September, almost 3 months since the MMC had been confirmed, I begun to feel strong period pains. I assumed that it was my 1st one coming and had read that it could be painful. I left work an hour early that day and went home. By the time I arrived though, I was in agony. I couldn’t even stand straight. I rang my GP who told me to come in immediately and he examined me. By this point I was writhing in pain and the sweat was dripping off me. The Dr said that I should go to A&E, but I was reluctant, we were supposed to go to our friends house for dinner that evening!! He said that if I began to feel sick with the pain, then I was to go immediately. He prescribed super-duper painkillers and I left the surgery. I got as far as the car, before I threw up, so the Dr called ahead to the Gynea ward in Carmarthen and off we went. Obviously, having to reluctantly cancel our dinner plans.

We had to stop around 5 times on route for me to go sick and poor Lyn was petrified, although he never showed it at the time!! I am also amazed that we weren’t stopped by police or got a speeding ticket!!

We arrived at Picton Ward in Glangwili Hospital and the first consultant almost dismissed my pain and said that it was probably a period. That really pissed me off, because I know that I have a decent pain threshold and would not go to hospital unless it was a real emergency.  Thankfully another consultant came to examine me and it was during that examination, she discovered that the placenta was stuck in my cervix. They described what I was experiencing as what a woman at 9cm dilated would feel. I was almost in a constant contraction. Ugh, no wonder I was in pain and no wonder it was making me throw up!!! However, the second that they removed it, the pain stopped and within minutes, I was back to normal and feeling absolutely fine. I asked to see the placenta, I needed to see it. To this day, I’m not entirely sure why, it could be closure or just out of interest, no idea. However, seeing it certainly helped me. Lyn didn’t want to see it though, he found it too painful and I completely understood.

We left the hospital and I was genuinely feeling fine, so we called back in our friends house. They had already made dinner when we called to cancel, so I had a bowl of mushroom soup and a glass of wine. We stayed for an hour and then we went home. At least now, it was definitely over….

It was around this time that Gary Barlow’s song ‘Dying Inside’ properly spoke out to me. He wrote it following the stillbirth of his daughter, Poppy. I had always related to it quite strongly, but now I heard and felt EVERY SINGLE WORD of his pain. It was my pain too. I was putting a very brave face on and later, once the MMC was officially over, I would find myself making silly jokes about the whole thing. It would shock people and I quite liked it. I didn’t want them to know how much pain I was actually in. I  was being funny and pretending to be strong, to hide the intense sadness inside and in an attempt to stop people from feeling sorry for me. I hated that pitiful look I would get from people and knowing that so many felt so sorry for us, so I shocked people with jokes in an attempt to avert their suspicions that I wasn’t coping. However, I eventually plucked up enough courage to send my closest friends a link to Gary’s song. It was the only way that I could communicate my feelings to them and it turned out to be the best thing that I would ever do. It forced me to speak to them about it as they all called the following day (I sent it to them at 11pm on a Saturday night, after a bottle of wine for Dutch courage, haa). Their responses were a mixed bag of sympathy and support, some of them even cried. I found those conversations so incredibly difficult, but I knew that it had to be done. It’s good to talk, even when it’s the last thing that you want to do. That day was a very small turning point for me and there begun my long road to recovery. Those conversations have also strengthened some of my friendships with such an incredible bond and one that will never be broken as a result.

My family and friends have been there for me every single day and very much let me lead the way in how I deal with it and how much I reveal about the situation. They know me very well indeed and I’m so grateful for being given the freedom and respect to deal with this my way. I’ll forever be thankful for that.

Part 4 coming soon. Sign up to follow my blog to get notifications of when I post 🙂 x

Em, Lyn and a whole lot of IVF… Part 2

Part 2….

The first round of IVF was so difficult for us, emotionally, that we decided to keep this cycle a secret, even from our parents. To hear and feel other peoples disappointment and devastation was so heart-breaking for me, that I didn’t think that I could cope with it again. We felt incredibly selfish by not telling anyone, but we had to do what was best for us. The added pressure, as well meaning as it was, was just too much to bear. We struggled with answering the same questions day in, day out and repeating the same story to around 8 people every day. By keeping it quiet, we could pretend that life was carrying on as normal and that was a huge relief and stress buster!! I stuck to the same protocol in the 2nd cycle; long, buserelin, Gonal f and cyclogest pessaries. There was no sense in changing the protocol as that last one had worked; they said it was just bad luck that I had lost the baby….

The cycle went amazingly well. Textbook, we were told. Follicles were growing at the perfect rate, womb lining was triple patterned and nice and thick (11mm). Perfect. Egg collection came and they retrieved 12 eggs again, 10 mature enough for ICSI. The wait for ‘the call’ to let us know how many had fertilised was torturous after the disappointing results from cycle #1, but amazingly, 9 out of the 10 fertilised and 3 went on to day 5 blastocysts. Thrilled is nowhere near the word for it, but to us, this was a sign. It was sure to work and even if it didn’t, we had 2 frozen embryos to fall back on, right? Finally, some positive news in this nightmare!!!

We decided to have 1 blast back, thanks to the fertility staff putting the fear of God in us regarding miscarriage statistics from multiple births. We went away, happy and feeling positive that this was the cycle that would deliver us a healthy child and the frozen blasts would be his or her siblings.

Really Em?? Goodness me, had we not learnt to curb our enthusiasm and naivety from the last cycle?? No, obviously not!! But hey ho, it’s good to keep positive in all of this!!!

10 days later, I started bleeding, 2 days before the official test date. I was so utterly shocked as I was certain that it had worked. My body, and blood sugars, had followed the exact same pattern as the first round, which as you know worked, albeit for a short time. I am incredibly in tune with my body thanks to 30 years of type 1 diabetes, you have to be. I have to notice slightest changes in myself in order to catch hypos in time and to ensure good control. During an IVF cycle, this is even more crucial than usual as the high levels of hormones and vast changes to your hormonal system will play havoc with blood sugar control, so it must be kept as tight as possible and you must be incredibly focused. As a result of this, by the 2nd cycle, I had noticed a possible pattern emerging in my blood sugars at around implantation time. They would spike and I would require an unusually huge amount of insulin to bring it back down. This happened in this round and as such, i was quietly confident that it was working. However, the day I started to bleed, all of my symptoms suddenly stopped – soreness of bust drastically reduced, blood sugars returned to normal, bloating disappeared. I suppose i knew that something had gone wrong that day, so what was happening in there, what was my body up to?? This was supposedly a ‘perfect’ cycle, but I had failed and my body let everyone down for the second time.

So, the dream, yet again, was over. We coped with this one a little better though, had a little cry that morning and went about our lives as normal, or as best we could. I suppose we felt quite positive that we had 2 ice babies in the freezer. I didn’t have to go through yet another round of invasive ICSI treatment and he didn’t have to stress for 6 months over ensuring that his swimmers were as healthy as possible. We went to the follow up meeting with the fertility consultant (the WTF appointment as so many call it…) and again, we were told that it was bad luck. There was no reason why it didn’t work. It will definitely work eventually. It was just a case of how long and how far we were willing to go in our pursuit of parenthood.

I decided, following that 2nd cycle, that I had had enough of pumping my body with a load of artificial crap. I was on a metaphorical soapbox about the amount of drugs that I had had to take over the last 7-8 months, so decided that the next cycle, which would be a frozen transfer, would be completely drug free. Was that the right thing to do, considering that my progesterone levels were slightly on the low side? No, probably not, but once I get something in my head, that’s it. I’m a stubborn old mule!!! That transfer didn’t work. My blood sugars didn’t even spike, so I knew early on that it was going to be a negative. We were fine though, and just looked forward to transfer number 4.

So, we had 1 frozen embryo left in the freezer, and this would be our 4th transfer in total. Following the failure of the natural FET, we decided to have a slightly medicated cycle this time. I would have oestrogen and progesterone support. I had also insisted on having progesterone oil intramuscular injections this time, rather than Cyclogest, as I strongly believed that much of our failure was due to not having high enough progesterone levels. My clinic at that time did not test progesterone levels, so I went on my gut feeling and the hours of research that I had conducted. I also asked for an endometrial scratch, which is similar to a smear test and involves scratching the uterine lining. Evidence suggests that this procedure can cause a ‘repair reaction’, which can lead to higher implantation rates, especially in those who have suffered repeated implantation failure.

The day of embryo transfer arrived quite quickly, it is a much simpler procedure, and almost feels easy compared to the fresh cycles. We were so used to this process by now, that it almost felt like Groundhog Day. It goes something like this….

Early morning call from the clinic, confirmation that the embryo has thawed successfully, phew, hop in the car, day bag in tow, begin drinking water 15 minutes out from the clinic, arrive, desperate for a pee, put the gown on and wait, take a transfer day selfie, get asked a million times if you are who you are, feel even more desperate for a pee, beg the nurses to let me leave a tiny drop out, experience slight relief from the overflowing bladder, walk down to theatre, confirm our details a few more times, scan to check bladder is full (of course it is mun, just bloody hurry up before I pee myself!!!), watch the embryo on the screen, take a picture of it, get a ‘good feeling’ that this is the one that will become our take home baby, legs in stirrups, plastic uterus opening thingy in, catheter with embryo passed through the hatch, Doctor place embryo in uterus, embryologist checking tube to ensure embryo has indeed left the building, or the tube in this case, confirmation provided, best wishes offered, fast walk to the toilet, the absolute horrifying fear that I am peeing the baby out, sit on the bed for 10mins, receive the post embryo transfer sheet with OTD (official test date) details, get dressed, go home and wait….

Since this was now our 4th transfer, we felt like seasoned pros. We decided against going straight home and went for a lovely lunch, followed by a supermarket food shop instead. We figured that if it was going to work, it would. As long as I didn’t perform a sky dive or take up a spot of rock climbing during the 2 week wait, we figured we’d be fine. It was quite liberating to finally feel this way to be honest, I must admit. The first few rounds, I, and everyone else around me, would wrap me up in cotton wool, but not this time. I even went back to work really quickly and embarked upon the most stressful month of my career!! I was happy and confident the entire way through the 2ww…

I should point out at this stage that my sister had found out that she was pregnant around 2 weeks before our transfer. It had taken her 2 years to conceive and as a result of our new found knowledge in all things fertility related, she bypassed the GP and went straight to my clinic, armed with information pointing to a short luteal phase. If she had gone to the GP, she would have been in for a long wait!! Our self-diagnosis was proven correct and she was promptly prescribed clomid, provided with a trigger shot and lo and behold, was pregnant by the 2nd attempt. Very lucky indeed. I saw her pregnancy as a sign that it was finally my time, we were destined to have our children at the exact same time – by now, you guys know that I love ‘signs’, but you’d think that by this point I would be ignoring them all, as they hadn’t panned out to date, but I am forever the optimist.

So, there started the 2 week wait and everything was pointing to a positive outcome. As described earlier and at around implantation stage, my blood sugars went stir crazy. They spiked at the exact time as the other 2 cycles, my breasts were sore, I was super bloated, I felt slightly queasy and a terrible rash appeared at the top of my thigh. I just knew that this was it. I knew it. Of course I was right, so when I did the test 3 days early, as suspected, it came up positive.

Second test 8-6-14

We were thrilled, but understandably cautious. Our families figured that we were home and dry, but for some reason, I didn’t feel quite right. I told myself that it was due to our past experiences and put it to one side, but I couldn’t say ‘I am pregnant’ to anyone. It was strange and again I put it down to what we’d been through, but as the weeks were progressing, I still couldn’t say it.

At 6 weeks and 5 days, we went to the clinic for the viability scan. Petrified isn’t the word for how we felt. I was convinced that there would be nothing there, but Lyn kept encouraging me to be positive. He was scared too, but was also trying his best to be positive that all would be OK! The seconds felt like minutes, the minutes like hours, but then, there he was. Our baby. Finally!! His heart was beating gloriously and measuring perfect for our dates. Our little penguin. We called him penguin due to being a frozen embryo. I’m not usually one for pet names, but somehow this seemed very fitting for him. I also don’t know why I keep referring to him as a ‘him’ either. Mothers instinct maybe…

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I couldn’t stop staring at the scan photo (I always thought he looked a little bit like a teenage mutant ninja turtle in it, due to what looks like an eye mask!!) and watching the beautiful video that we had taken of his tiny beating heart. Was this really happening, were we actually going to have a baby??

All of the stats that I read revealed that once a heartbeat was detected, it was much less likely that a miscarriage would occur, so I cautiously started to believe that this may be the one, however, I was still unable to say ‘I am pregnant’ out loud. I was able to say that ‘the IVF worked’ but nothing else. Still, I began telling a few people. Just close friends and family and a few colleagues who needed to be aware. By 7 weeks, the nausea had seriously kicked in, I had been gagging when brushing my teeth since week 4, but at this point I had to start carrying a zip lock bag around with me, just in case. But I loved it, I couldn’t believe that it was happening. I was almost willing myself to throw up in that bag!!! I suppose that’s one of the things about IVF, it makes you want and enjoy the more difficult of pregnancy symptoms. The stronger they are, the better. Every gag or hurl, every headache and every painful rash is a glorious reminder of what was happening and kept me calm, because that meant that everything was alright and the baby was still there.

My sister and I were so excited, we would talk for hours and hours about the ante natal classes that we would go to together, the maternity leave that we would share but more importantly how close our babies were going to be. I was due on February 15th 2015 and Katy was due on January 24th 2015. We were 3 weeks and 1 day apart. It could not have worked out more perfectly.

However, by the end of week 7, I started to feel very uneasy. The nausea was still there, but not so intense and the bloated feeling and sore breasts had eased. I wasn’t bleeding, but I was worried, my instinct was telling me that something was up. I rang the clinic and booked ourselves in for another scan. It was at that scan, the unimaginable happened…..

Please follow my blog, to get an e-mail notification for when I publish part 3, the hardest and most painful element of our journey to date.

Em, Lyn and a whole lot of IVF. Part 1

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.