Defining Mum – My story
Here I am, make up free in my glamorous hospital gown wearing my lucky orange socks (orange is the colour of fertility, if you didn’t already know!). I’m about to undergo egg collection for either the 3rd or 4th time (to be honest I’d lost track).
When we first started to try, I figured we’d fall pregnant in the obvious way just like everyone else did – we’d have sex at the right time and BAM, a baby! Easy, right?! Who imagines that something that seems so natural, so ‘normal’ might not happen? Unless you’ve been close to someone experiencing infertility I don’t think you give it a second thought; after all, no-one seems to talk about it even if they are having problems. I never expected 5 years on to be sat writing a blog about failing miserably in making that baby!
Something started to niggle away at me, something just wasn’t quite right. My periods were irregular whilst at the same time greeting me all too often every 12-20 days. Every time I was thinking I had just ovulated I would then experience some suspicious spotting. Always the optimist, I would think, ‘maybe it’s early implantation bleeding?’ but every single time I would be proved wrong.
I decided to get help. My first consultation with a female GP resulted in my leaving in tears as she patronisingly told me that I was only 27 and to ‘stop being silly’. I persevered and a few months later got a second opinion. My day 3 FSH hormone results came back as normal. Phew, I was fine. However, with being the curious person that I am, I was interested in understanding exactly how fine I was. I asked for my results and was devastated to discover that the GP had actually got it wrong. With an FSH of 17.9 I enlisted the help of a private consultant and Premature Ovarian Failure was diagnosed. My AMH was just 0.74, indicating with much more certainty a low ovarian reserve and little chance of conceiving. I was devasted to be told I was experiencing Early Menopause at the age of 27.
I always coped better when I was doing something productive, and so I was excited went we were told to start an IVF cycle straight away. I was placed on a high dose stimulated cycle and was delighted to exceed all expectations - they retrieved FIVE eggs! My hopes dwindled however as, of those five eggs, only one made it to day three transfer. It only takes one, Matt reminded me, as I convinced myself it was over.
After a nervous wait I was delighted and astonished to see a positive pregnancy result. After so many negatives I just couldn’t believe it.
A few weeks into the pregnancy I had another niggle. Maybe I have a sixth sense for these things but something didn’t feel quite right. At just under seven weeks I was scanned to find that our embryo wasn’t developing the way it should be. I had to return the following week to be told that I had a ‘blighted ovum’ – such an apt description for what this pregnancy had become, for what I had become. Devastated, I then had to endure a miscarriage which took three long, painful weeks. I tried the natural way, then the medically managed way, finally ending up with surgery. After naively thinking that the hard part was over, this knocked me off my feet.
Christmas came and went and we were ready to try again. I was thrown into a number of back to back cycles, with my consultant not wanting to waste time. My FSH was monitored on day three of each period which for me was as often as every 14-20 days. Over the course of six months we tried four more cycles. Three natural IVF cycles, where we let my body do the work to produce an egg. One was cancelled prior to egg collection, one was cancelled as our embryo didn’t develop and the other I had a negative pregnancy test. One more stimulated cycle also resulted in a negative.
Mid-way through this madness we got married, some would say I was crazy to take so much on at once but I had to have something positive to focus on. The one positive we had taken from the IVF journey was that it had made us stronger as a couple. Matt balanced my over emotional reactions to things with his positive, matter of fact nature, he kept me going throughout the whole thing.
After five all-consuming IVF cycles I was feeling emotionally drained and was losing faith in my own body. We’d always known that donor eggs would give us a better chance, but we needed to know that we had given my eggs every chance. On honeymoon I started to look at donor eggs in a different light. What was it that I truly wanted? Simply, to be a Mum.
I built a spreadsheet to compare our different options and after a number of Skype interviews we decided on a small clinic in Prague. It was the turning point for us. Finally, the pressure wasn’t on my body anymore. I relaxed more than I ever had and we enjoyed a magical break in Prague, now a very special place for us.
Thanks to our donor, we were lucky enough to have five excellent quality embryos. One was transferred and four frozen. I fell in love with our embryo as soon as I saw it on the screen. Now, here she is - our gorgeous, loving, hilarious girl, Mila. A year later we returned to try for a sibling, two embryos were transferred and in the blink of an eye our equally gorgeous twin girls arrived – Eska and Lena.
Any doubts I’d had evaporated instantly when I held them in my arms. I wouldn’t change them for the world. I’m definitely more grateful having been through what we have. Someone once said to me, ‘when you’ve been through this – you parent with every inch of your soul’, and it’s true, I believe I’m a more grateful Mum because of it.