An IVF Journey – Alison’s Story

My IVF experience – although a positive one in the end – was the one of the most painful and difficult experiences of my adult life.

I met my husband in 2004 and we decided early on that we wanted to start a family sooner rather than later due to my health. Having bought our first house together, we made the decision to begin trying for a baby in January 2005, little knowing the very long journey that lay ahead.

Each month, convinced I might be pregnant, I would buy a variety of pregnancy tests, only to see each one turn negative. This went on for two whole years, by which time the lack of success was really affecting me.

Alison and Adam

We decided to get married in May 2007 and I was sure that, with my mind elsewhere organising a wedding, I would fall pregnant. But again it didn’t happen. When we came back from honeymoon we decided to book an appointment with our GP. All the standard tests came back ok and we were referred to an infertility clinic.

In January 2008, we finally saw the specialist who prescribed 3 months of Clomid (a drug that stimulates ovulation). Once again there was not a hint of pregnancy. By now things were getting rough for me, I was so emotional and our relationship was proving tough, but we held on and got through another two cycles of Clomid at a higher strength…still to no avail.

At the end of May I went for a test called an HSG (a radiology procedure where dye is injected into the uterine cavity to see if there are any blockages in the fallopian tubes). I was in hospital at the time with a bad chest and when the doctor said to me at the end of the procedure “Yep, all blocked, you’ll need IVF” (as blatantly as that!) my world crumbled. I honestly thought after 3.5 years the problem was just be bad timing or misfortune, not that there would be actually something wrong. I was devastated and went back to my CF hospital and cried and cried. There are no words for what I went through in my head at that time.

In August 2008 we attended an open evening at the IVF clinic and I hoped it would make me feel positive and informed, but instead I just remember thinking that I didn’t belong with those couples and how unfair and unjust it was. I felt so sad but went and ahead with all the mandatory blood tests and scans for our IVF funding application and in October I got the letter that said we were successful – the PCT had agreed to one funded cycle! I was overjoyed that finally we would be getting somewhere!

We then had to wait for an initial consultation with the clinic. Our 1st appointment was in December 2008 and we discussed many things including hopefully going to blastocyst stage and how many embryos to put back. We decided that putting one just embryo back was the best plan of action as I wanted to be the healthiest I could be throughout any potential pregnancy. We also decided that we would start treatment in my second cycle from that point. It felt good to be finally at the point where we might just be getting somewhere and I just wanted to start treatment.

So we waited for my second period to arrive (which was 2 weeks late – just typical) and we started down-regulation injections on the 28th February 2009. The injections weren’t too bad as I was used to injecting insulin. Then I went for the scans to see if I was down regulating (which I was told I was doing perfectly) and then soon enough it was time to start stimulation injections which hurt like hell but I didn’t mind in the slightest as it meant we were getting my body ready to make lots of lovely eggs.

Next it was time to see if I was producing lots of big follicles…which it turned out I wasn’t. Only one or two had started to grow, so I was sent home to carry on for a few more days before coming back. At that scan I found out they had been supposed to ring me to increase my dose of stimulation injections, but no one had called! I was cross and really disheartened, but kept reminding myself that the clinic must know what they were doing and to have faith that they would do what was necessary to make things right.

My follicles were still not growing that well and was sent home on the new upped dose. When I went back for the next scan there were 3-4 growing and again I was told to come back. And guess what? When I went back the next time I found out that – yet again – someone was supposed to have rung me and told me to up my dose but had not done so!

After this had happened yet again, time was pressing on. I was already about 10 days behind normal timelines and was fretting that my eggs would disintegrate or my lining wouldn’t carry on being nice and thick. Eventually it was decided that only 7-8 follicles were ready and the other smaller ones weren’t going to grow past this point, so was booked in for egg collection on Monday 13th April 2009…Easter Monday!

We arrived at the clinic at 8 am that morning. I was panicking and absolutely petrified – whether it was about the procedure or the number of eggs I don’t know.

When it was my turn in the theatre the anaesthetist couldn’t access a vein for the sedation but after prodding about (and bruising me) he finally did. I was awake for it all and didn’t feel woozy at all and this all added to my panic and anxiety. The procedure itself was so painful and uncomfortable and I cried throughout. I still can’t quite believe how painful it was as everyone had said that it wouldn’t be. It was also awfully undignified. I expected to be told at all points what was happening to me, not to be ignored on the table with all and sundry having a look and prod at my lady bits!

As I was taken back to recovery I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken to be told that they had only got 5 eggs. Adam (my husband) must have had a right old shock when he saw me and the first thing I remember saying to him was that I wasn’t ever doing it again. I had to wait in recovery for about 2 hours and then we were able to leave.

I got home and tried to recover. I couldn’t wee for hours at home as it hurt so much and felt like my insides were about to fall out and I was so low about only them only having got 5 eggs (nowhere near the average of 12). I felt I had failed, just like I had ‘failed’ at any attempt to get pregnant over the last 4 years.

Waiting to see how many eggs had fertilised the next day was awful and I was still in a considerable amount of pain. But I was overjoyed when they rang and said that three had fertilised! I had been panicking that none would be mature enough! They then said we would have one put back the next day and if the other two were great they would be frozen. I desperately wanted to have some frozen as we couldn’t afford anymore fresh cycles. Still in pain, I spent the rest of the day on the sofa.

The following day (Wednesday) we had a call in the morning advising us that egg transfer was booked for 4 pm. We were also given the news that of our three embryos, one was grade 2 (1 being the best -4 being worst), one was grade 3 but abnormal and one was grade 4. One could go back in but neither of the other two would be suitable for freezing. I was kind of elated that we had one that was going back and that our pain and effort was not in vain, but I was sad that none could be frozen and that now there was no back-up plan left.

4-cell Harriet

Harriet at just 4-cells old!

I was very scared about transfer as I was still very tender dwn below still but it went fairly  well. It took the nurse about 30 minutes to get past my cervix as it was at a funny angle but it went in and our 4-cell, 2-day old embryo was in! I felt so many different emotions – hope and excitement that this tiny embryo in me might make me a Mummy, concern that the odds weren’t high, pressure to make it work somehow (even though it was beyond my control) and relief that this was going to be over soon, one way or the other.

I spent the next 16 days off work and relaxing which I am sure was vital to the success of our IVF. On the morning of the 1st May 2009 – 4 days before our 2nd Wedding Anniversary and the morning of our celebratory weekend away, I did the pregnancy test but I couldn’t look so sat under the covers of my bed! Adam went to look at it and just said “It’s positive!” I just cried and my first words were ‘I am really pregnant!’

Nearly 4 and a half years to the day we began trying, we were finally pregnant and the joy was amazing! It made every tear and heart-breaking month of waiting worthwhile. It felt magical and I was so emotional and thankful to finally be here but at the same time it still didn’t feel real, as if I was just pretending. I did a pregnancy test every day that week and I still felt the high when I saw that second line of the words “pregnant” on the test. I’d done hundreds of tests of the years and finally I was seeing these positives straight away when I tested!

Harriet (from Facebook group - no permission)2

I am amazed we were one of the lucky ones to have been blessed with a relatively easy IVF journey. I happily tell people that Harriet is a long awaited IVF baby and am very proud of the journey we had to go through to get our little miracle. I hope that by being open about it, infertility will become less of a social taboo. When people ask “When’s the next one coming along?” I proudly answer that there won’t be another as Harriet was an IVF baby and will be our only child. It makes me very proud to say that, as there was a time when I didn’t think I would have any let alone one.

Harriet is now 2 years 9 months, she’s full of mischief, full of things to say, she’s get the attention span of a fly, she’s clumsy, she loving, she’s always deep in thought, and best of all…she’s ours.