So here’s the third story for the IVF Journey series on Lucky Things Blog. I am so grateful to those who have shared their journeys with me. Each fertility journey is so different. The below journey belongs to Kate from the lifestyle blog lifedaily.co.uk. Kate is in her mid-thirties and she’s mama to H who is 14 and C who is 8. She’s married to her best friend, soulmate and rock, Tom and they live in South East London. Kate is a social media manager for a few lovely clients and as well as running her blog, she also runs the house!
Thanks for sharing your IVF journey Kate. Let’s start with the the outcome of your fertility treatment…
None of our attempts worked sadly. Well, I say sadly, but also happily, because I wouldn’t have the gorgeous 8 year old beast that I have now if it had worked.
We got married in December and I had already come off the pill in the October, to give myself the 6 months “they” say it takes to leave your system. I then fell pregnant, naturally, with our daughter in the January. So, first baby, pretty much instantly. Second baby however? He took 6.5 years, 2.5 attempts of IVF with ICSI (I cancelled the last go because I just couldn’t face it all again) and several miscarriages.
When did you first find out you needed to do some form of fertility treatment?
Once we’d decided to try for baby no.2 we did everything we’d done the first time round, came off the pill, cut back on alcohol, ate better, but nothing happened for a good 7 months. So, we started tracking ovulation with one of those kits (nothing like taking the romance out of things!), and fell pregnant quite quickly. Sadly, we lost the baby at 6 weeks. I wanted to try again as soon as I could, but each month we were disappointed, so we decided to visit the doctor to check everything was OK. This was around a year after we had started trying, because we were constantly told we’d had one baby, we were obviously able to do it, and, doctors don’t like to rush in these situations. We were both in our 20’s, healthy, already had one baby, it sometimes felt like they thought we hadn’t been trying as long as we said!
What were the reasons for needing fertility treatment?
In the end it turned out my husband had a very, very low sperm count and those he did have weren’t the best at swimming and I had developed (or been diagnosed with) PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). So, between us, we were very unlikely to fall pregnant naturally, even after having our honeymoon baby. Secondary infertility is a huge thing, which wasn’t really spoken about. They couldn’t tell us if my husband had always had bad sperm and our daughter was a miracle (she will tell you she is, of course!) or if something had happened in the couple of years since we’d fallen pregnant and finding out. There had been no trauma or illness so who knows?
What were one of the hardest things for you, knowing you had to go through fertility treatment?
Feeling like a failure was my biggest issue. It seemed that literally everyone around me was simply looking at their partners and falling pregnant. There were bumps and babies EVERYWHERE. I could have put my eggs and his sperm in the washing machine on a spin cycle and they still wouldn’t have made a baby. Not that that would work, but you know what I mean.
When you found out you needed fertility treatment, do you remember how you felt?
Shocked. Confused. And, for a while, a long while, my underlying thought was, “why us?” Selfish, self-centred, all of the bad things, but it’s how I felt. It was so unfair.
And how did your partner feel about it all? It must have been tough for him too.
I think for him, it was more of a sadness for me, if that makes sense. He wanted another baby but he was also happy with the three of us, there wasn’t a physical ache for him, as much as there was for me. We both felt like it was an unfair battle we had to go through.
What kind of fertility treatment did you go through?
We looked at Clomid, but it was decided that because of the PCOS and the lack of sperm (too many eggs, not enough swimmers) we would be better off with IVF. ICSI was added on once we had seen the specialist and he decided simple IVF wouldn’t be enough. We also did egg sharing with our treatment, I decided I had so many eggs, I should help someone else who is going through the same hell as us.
Did you know of anyone else who went through fertility treatment?
I met some amazing friends through support groups, and, strangely, another mum at my daughters nursery had gone through IVF for all three of her children, and had donated her left over embryos once she had her twins so I had lots of people who ‘got it’.
Were you scared about anything going through fertility treatment? Can you tell me a bit about this?
Yes and no. I read so much about every single step, I became a bit of an expert on it, it helped me to know what was happening and what was going to happen. Saying that, no amount of reading can prepare you for the emotions that you experience. The lack of control was the thing that scared me the most, I had no say in how it worked. That, and the thought of it not working, that it would all be for nothing. Oh, and the cost! I often thought that I was being a selfish person spending money we didn’t really have on something that might not work, it felt like I was throwing money away but I couldn’t not do it.
What support did you seek when going through fertility treatment?
We had counselling at the clinic due to the egg sharing, apart from that, we relied on each other, our friends and finding as much information as we could.
What support did you find helpful?
All of it helped in different ways. Comparing side effects, or feelings, with people going through it at the same time helped a lot. You feel very alone when you’re injecting different drugs into your system and having test after test, visiting London every other day – you get trapped in a bubble of infertility so it’s nice to know that other people are feeling the same way as you and you are normal!
Were you OK being open with friends and family that you were going to try fertility treatment?
Yes, I had to be. It wasn’t something I could hide away as it was such a huge part of our lives. We needed help with childcare, time off work, an excuse for the random tears that would burst out at any given moment. I don’t think I could have kept it a secret at all. I wasn’t working at the time so I was OK, my husband told his immediate boss though, so he was able to come with me to appointments.
Do you have any top tips for juggling fertility treatment and work-life/home-life?
Delegate. You need to concentrate on you as much as humanly possible. Don’t feel guilty about it, it won’t be forever and it certainly won’t do any harm. You just need to be kind to yourself and your partner while you’re going through it because it’s such a huge thing. Don’t over plan, don’t expect too much of yourself. Do what works for you.
Did you ever feel embarrassed or self-conscious about going through fertility treatment?
God no. I have never felt like that, but even less so now. If I can help one person not feel like they’re not a proper woman/man because of it, that they’re not a failure, that they’re not alone, then I’ll talk about it to anyone with ears.
What tips would you share for others going through fertility treatment?
This is a tough one, because what worked for me, might not work for you. We tried acupuncture for both relaxation and for egg production, but I spent the whole time chatting to my therapist, so it didn’t really have much effect on me. For someone else, it might the golden ticket. The one thing I can say, hand on heart, that is more important than anything else is to talk to each other. Don’t assume you know how the other person is feeling, because they might be holding it all in to protect you. The blokes will be scared that they won’t be able to do what they’ve got to do, it’s a huge amount of pressure on them, just as it is on you. Talk, talk, talk. Then cuddle and talk some more.
What support do you recommend for the partners of women going through fertility treatment?
Again, talk! Yes, she’s probably got a billion thoughts running through her mind at all times, but you’re just as important as she is. She needs you and you need her. Tell her you’re scared, she will understand. Also, no blame. Ever. It’s no one’s fault, nobody chose to go through this, you don’t blame her so don’t blame yourself either. You’re in it together.
What should people consider when they’re deciding which fertility clinic to go with?
For me, it was locality, how easy it was to get to – we had to go private because we already had our daughter, so we were in London but we were still able to drive there, a major factor when you’ve had egg retrieval or transfer – but also, how they make you feel. You need to feel like you can trust them. If you don’t like the feel of the place, find another one.
What have you learnt about yourself having gone through your fertility treatment?
That we are strong people. So much stronger than I thought we were and we can get through anything.
Looking back, what is one of the most vivid moments of your fertility treatment?
Ha! Waking up after my egg collection, because someone was calling my name, and talking absolute garbage for a few seconds, then remembering why I was there and asking how many eggs had been collected. 18! Actually, that and having to inject drugs in the middle of a soft play party, I had to hide away in the loo’s and do the stabbing. So many highlights….!
In three words, describe your fertility journey.
Scary. Emotional. Exhausting.
Anything else you’d like to share about your fertility journey?
For us, none of the treatments worked. Out of my share of eggs, only 2 were viable for transfer and neither “stuck”. The two week wait is hell on earth, you’re officially pregnant with however many embryos have been put back and it’s simply a case of waiting to see if they implant themselves.
I chose to stay as rested as I possibly could for those two weeks, I didn’t want to risk anything getting in the way of it working but sadly, George and Mildred weren’t to be. But! There is a happy ending, because after we stopped all treatment and decided to be happy as a family of three, I magically, naturally and completely surprisingly, fell pregnant. We had been told it would probably never happen for us, but it did. I won’t say it happened because we relaxed and stopped thinking about it, because anyone who’s been through infertility will have heard those words a million times or more, but something worked for us, even in the face of everything and we had a gorgeous, healthy baby boy after all those years of heartache.
Infertility, no matter what stage you’re at, makes us all feel the same emotions. We all feel like failures at one point or another. We’re all terrified, angry, tired and we all want a crystal ball to tell us that this round, this treatment, will work and we will have a baby at the end of it. All of that hard work and all of those tears will be worth it.
We don’t ever get that magic answer, we just keep going, we keep fighting. Whatever way we know best. But you’re never alone, just reach out to someone. Your partner, friend, parent, colleague, an online group. You will be surprised how many people are going through the same thing at the same time. And it will help more than you realise.
If you would like to read other IVF Journeys in this series, please see below…