We met at university when I was 20 (he was 23) and we’ve been best friends ever since. We finished our studies, worked hard, travelled, got married, and renovated two properties before we were ready to start trying for a family. I never had any indication that fertility would be a problem for us - I’m regular, we’re both healthy and there’s no family history of problems. I didn’t think that 31 was old enough to make much of a difference but as the months of TTC (trying to conceive) passed with no success, I started to question everything. I was taking all the supplements, doing weekly acupuncture, peeing on ovulation sticks and trying to eat all the right foods.
I knew we had to try on our own for 12 months before we’d be referred to a specialist so on the 12th month we met our doctor for the initial consult. We needed to do a tracking cycle to monitor my body for a whole cycle and we could start as soon as my next period arrived.
Only it didn’t and when I tested at home when I realized I was a day late there was a faint positive. Unfortunately my HCG (pregnancy hormone) wasn’t very high and it didn’t quite double in 48 hours but at the time I didn’t know to expect the worst. At 6 weeks I woke up bleeding heavily and all the hope and joy of that precious two weeks of pregnancy evaporated.
Obviously it wasn’t meant to be and I know now that the numbers indicated my pregnancy wasn’t strong but at the time we were devastated. As well as grieving our loss, I was also grieving the loss of falling pregnant naturally. The thought of IVF was terrifying at this stage and I was struggling with the idea of putting my body through the process I was reading about online.
I had a break to allow my body to reset and then the following cycle I did blood tests and scans to track my hormones and my partners sperm analysis came back (he wants me to tell you all he’s “above average”).
We met our doctor again and when we told him what happened, he explained that our miscarriage was good news because it showed that pregnancy was possible for us. We were diagnosed with secondary unexplained infertility and advised that some low dose fertility drugs to give my body a little bit help should be all we need. The doctor recommended three cycles of medication and was pretty confident that would be all it took.
I learned to do my own injections (hubby is not confident!) for stimulation (Gonal F) and trigger/boost shots of HCG (Ovidrel). I had blood tests and scans to check my levels, time intercourse accurately and make sure I wasn’t going to release multiple eggs and risk too many babies.
The first cycle didn’t work, we tried again but the disappointment of a second fail was tough to swallow. We knew it could happen for us naturally so why wasn’t it working with all the extra help?!
I was feeling so emotionally drained by this stage and I felt like our third treatment cycle was just a formality we had to get through to move on to IVF. I was very unhappy at work but I was holding on to the fact I could get pregnant soon and then I’d have an exit plan. I’m very lucky to have a lovely counsellor who Ive been seeing for a few years whenever I felt like I needed it and she really helped me to get through it.
We pushed on with our third medicated cycle and on December 3 2017 I tested at home and got a negative. I was heartbroken but I pulled it together to go to a birthday party where the effort of pretending everything was fine was crushing. I again had to grieve that our problem wasn’t a simple fix like our doctor thought it would be and I began to accept that IVF would be our pathway to the family we so wanted.
Things had become so bad at work that I was considering leaving without a job to go to, even with the financial burden of IVF around the corner. Luckily, a good call from a recruiter turned into a fabulous job opportunity (and an unexpected raise!).
We had two months off over Christmas and new year and I even forgot what day of my cycle I was on. At the end of January 2018 I started my new job and a week or two later, I began injections for my first IVF cycle.
My levels went really high and I was told I’d need to do a freeze all cycle but I had about 12 good follicles so we were hopeful at our first egg collection. Sadly the doctor only retrieved three so I was crying in recovery trying to process that and then I cried again telling my husband the surgery didn’t go well. Two eggs fertilised and on the three day call only one was still growing. The five day call wasn’t positive but they gave it another day and it looked good on day 6 and was frozen.
We had two months off for my body to recover and then we did another egg collection cycle (over using our single frozen embryo) to get some embryos in the bank. Second round, we changed up the medication and it was a lot easier on my body. From seven eggs collected only two were mature, and though they both fertilised they didn’t make it to transfer and our frozen embryo didn’t survive the thaw.
We found out on the drive to the hospital for our scheduled transfer and we had to turn around and drive back home - I cried so hard and I was physically feeling the pain of that loss.
We decided to try one more time. Our doctor added an extra medication to the mix (Luveris) and we were told there were no other medications left to try after this. If it didn’t work, our doctor told us to be prepared to consider an egg donor. We walked out feeling like we were on our last chance. After hearing about couples who spend five, seven, even ten years doing IVF, I couldn’t believe our journey could be over after one year of treatment.
We found the strength from somewhere to get through our third round of IVF. For the first time we talked about what our life would like without children and resolved to be ok.
My third round didn't go well. My right ovary didn’t fire up at all and two eggs were collected from the left. We kept telling ourselves it only takes one and we were so happy to find out they both fertilised. One of our embryos looked a bit stronger than the other but they both made it to late day 4 when our transfer was confirmed and the following morning we got the call to come in to the clinic and get knocked up.
We found out the strong embryo would be transferred and the other one didn’t make it. I cried watching a tiny little white speck come down the tube and land inside my uterus. Our little one was back in its home where we hoped it would grow for the next nine months.
I resisted the urge to test early and we both took the day off work to wait for the phone call with my blood test results. The call finally came and I heard the word “congratulations” and then broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe it finally worked for us and our little one was in there and growing ok.
By the next day, the news had sunk in and the cloud of darkness that had been weighing me down lifted. The numbers were strong at four weeks and we had weekly blood tests until 7 weeks when we had an ultrasound and saw a beautiful heartbeat. I felt like I needed at least another five minutes just staring at that beautiful image on the screen to convince myself it was real - we had finally done it, we got pregnant and our baby was ok.
Our fertility specialist became our Obstetrician and we saw him at nine weeks - everything looked perfect and he was so thrilled for us. I found it hard to relax and enjoy the pregnancy until after the 12 week scan when everything looked great. The nausea and exhaustion I felt during first trimester disappeared almost overnight and I’ve been feeling great since week 13. We’ve now made it to 18 weeks and I’m really starting to look pregnant. We’ve told our family and friends and we’re so happy, we finally feel like we’re having a normal pregnancy. We can’t wait to be parents and Daddy talks to the baby every night.
Now that we’ve come out the other side, I can see the silver linings. We have become stronger and closer as a couple, I’ve shared some beautiful moments with others on a similar journey and I’m so grateful for our little miracle. I recorded my IVF journey on Instagram: @cant_wait_to_meet_u and I'm happy to DM with anyone out there in the TTC/IVF community.