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.