By early December last year (2017), I’d moved through the motions and I was ready for round 2. I had read about treating the first IVF cycle as a “trial and error” round and that you shouldn’t be too disheartened (if you can ever say that to a woman desperate for a child).
The consultant made adjustments to my drug cocktail recipe (we upped the dose to 450iu Menopur) and the protocol (we needed ICSI – see lessons from my first IVF cycle here). The clinic was closing over Christmas for a few days, so we would only be able to start the second round if my period arrived by 3 December – and lo and behold, it arrived on that very day. Aunt Flo had never been this compliant. This had to be a sign that it was our turn, surely…
The timing was perfect, we were staying in London over Christmas, I was off work for two weeks so I would have plenty of time to relax after transfer. Not that I’m religious, but this had to be our very own baby Jesus?! Another sign, surely…
Almost exactly a year ago, in early September 2017, H and I were super egg-cited [sorry bad yoke 😂] to start our first IVF cycle. After a traumatic 11 months of the miscarriage (read my letter to my angel here), the discovery that I had Asherman’s Syndrome (more here), the uterus surgeries and the various hormone therapy treatments (HRTs), we were ready. It had to be our turn now, surely…
I’d received the drug delivery a week earlier. Not knowing what to expect, I ordered it to work. My office used to be located in one of London’s largest shopping centres, so the delivery guy got lost. He called me (from a withheld number) in the middle of the afternoon and asked that I meet him down a dark alley outside Zara Kids. (Shady AF, if you ask me.) I rushed out of the office, not knowing what he looked like. As it turned out, he wasn’t hard to spot – there was one guy standing next to a HUGE box (see picture on my Instagram). Et voilà, my first drug exchange was completed.
I consider myself lucky because I have a lot of wonderful friends in a number of corners of the world. With my closest friends, I talk about EVERYTHING, but yet through this process I have felt very lonely at times. I feel that they just don’t get it. In no way have they been rude or unsupportive – in fact, they are my cheerleaders – but there is no way I can expect them to understand what I am going through because they haven’t been through the same thing. They can empathise, but it would be unfair of me to expect them to understand fully the pain and the trials and tribulations of the infertility journey.
One day when I was feeling particularly low – after my second IVF cycle had failed – one of my besties called me. She acknowledged that, having just had her second baby without difficulties, she’d never be able to understand fully what I am going through. She wondered if I’d like to speak to one of her university friends (who I knew briefly) about her infertility journey. She connected us and my friend’s friend (who lives in the US) called me one evening. We spoke for over an hour. She shared her experience of her four-year long IVF journey that ended in a traumatic birth of her beautiful baby girl. She gave me tips on how to cope through the lows and cherish the highs. For the first time in a long time, I felt a little less lonely – there was someone out there who knew exactly what I was going through. And for that I was, and still am, grateful.
I didn’t write an update regarding my little chicks as I had planned to on day 5 because as Ronan Keating so nicely put it “Life is a Rollercoaster”. On day 5, the rollercoaster took me up high and then, 30 minutes later, threw me back down low.
The high: the embryologist called to let us know that we had two hatched blastocysts (grades AB and BB). These two little embryos were the best looking, highest grade embryos H and I had ever produced. In IVF round 2 and The Disaster Round (round 3), we only ever produced BC quality embryos and no hatched blastocysts on day 5. A few cells from each embryo have been sent off to a lab for PGS testing, and Elsa and Anna went off to the winter wonderland [a.k.a. the freezer] for their for their beauty sleep. Saturday’s straggler had degenerated, so it is our of the game. The three remaining embryos were still developing on day 5, so the embryologist said she’d take a look at them again that afternoon and on the following day, day 6. She hoped that at least one of the three would develop into a blastocyst. I did a little happy dance.
The Low: 30 minutes after the embryologist called, my dad called. He asked if I had any news about the embryos and I delightedly told him about our two blastocysts. Sadly, that wasn’t why he had called. He wanted to let me know he had been diagnosed with bowel cancer. My world crashed.
Asherman’s Syndrome, also referred to as intrauterine adhesions (IUA), is a condition that occurs when scar tissue forms on the lining of the uterus, often resulting in infertility. There isn’t any one cause of Asherman’s Syndrome, but it is expected that 90% of the cases are caused by a surgical procedure, and especially D&Cs. The main reasons for having a D&C are:
- after a miscarriage to reduce the risk of a serious infection;
- after childbirth to remove a retained placenta;
- to stop excessive bleeding at birth; and
- after termination of a pregnancy.
Thinking about this, it seems odd that a surgical procedure, which is supposed to help you, causes you further trouble… So, why is this?
Fast-forward six weeks to mid-November 2016. I was feeling a little better following the miscarriage. We had had a lovely week in Dubai to load up on vitamin D ahead of the winter, so things seemed brighter. My period had returned (somewhat normal – I can’t remember to be honest) at the right time, so I felt hopeful. My body was back to normal!
I went for an ultrasound scan with the guy I had been to see previously on Harley Street to track my ovulation (I wanted to make sure I was ovulating regularly again). The good news was that I was ovlulating, but the bad news was that the scan showed that part of the foetus was still in my uterus. WTF?!!
It turned out that the little foetus, my bean, was more stubborn than its mother (what comes around…) and would not give in. Sobbing loudly I walked back to the Early Pregnancy Unit (EPU) (again) at the London Hospital and asked to be seen. The lady at the desk asked if I had had my period. Yes, I replied, but I KNOW there is still a piece of the foetus inside me. She didn’t believe me until I managed to get the private ultrasound report sent over.
Dear Beautiful Bean,
Today, Thursday 13 October 2016, is a very hard day. Yesterday they removed you from me. Tomorrow you would have been 11 weeks and while this may seem like nothing in real time, it felt like a long time to me. I had gotten used to having you in my tummy, and your daddy was used to stroking my tummy. In fact, sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night finding him holding me and my tummy, protecting you little Bean, in his sleep. It was really sweet.
I had gotten used to the idea of having you around next summer. I’d, perhaps foolishly, made cute little plans in my head. I even looked at prams online before going to the appointment on Monday…
The days and weeks felt so long, waiting, waiting, waiting… and I was finally at the point of relaxing a little. I’m a facts and numbers junkie. The stats showed that by this point we were down to 3-4% risk of miscarriage after the scan at 7 weeks showed a heartbeat and all being well. That’s 96-97% chance of a healthy baby. So, it feels so unfair and unlucky that you were in that 3-4% group. FFS, that’s really, really bloody unlucky! Last Friday I proudly said to your daddy that (my pregnancy app told me) you’d graduated from embryo to foetus – in truth you never made graduation. Your little heart had stopped before then.
I know this is nature’s way of making sure you weren’t born with defects. I know it’s nature’s way of telling us you weren’t meant to be. But, nature is cruel sometimes because I so badly wanted you little beautiful Bean to grow into a beautiful baby. I’m sure you would have been a little boy, but I’ll just never know now.
One of the hardest things in all this is seeing your daddy so upset. I’ve seen him sad, stressed and angry, but never this sad. He’s lost his spark. He misses you too, very much so.
I know we will go on to make another one, but I will never ever forget this moment or you. The tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this. You’ll always have a piece of my heart.