We know that having a family doesn’t always go to plan. You may be the lucky one but sometimes there is a lot of heartache to be endured first. From previous posts and the comments from our wonderful community we realised quite how many of you are currently undergoing or have undergone IVF. It’s a subject we very much wanted to cover for you but none of us have experienced it ourselves. We are therefore so happy that the lovely Alexandra from the Bijou Bride has kindly shared her story with us all today.
Like most things, life doesn’t really marry up to what you see in the movies. If it did, my husband and I would have fallen pregnant on honeymoon. Well that didn’t happen. Nor did it happen by our 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th anniversary. At first we were pre-occupied with other projects like buying our first home, moving out of London, changing jobs, becoming proud dog owners – there was always something that kept us busy and stopped us from considering that there might be a problem. In fact I can’t remember the precise moment but there seemed to be a sudden tidal wave of everyone we knew getting pregnant, poof and it just happened. It was time to take action.
So off we went down to the local GP, my husband’s view was if there’s something wrong medically you’d want to know about it regardless of whether you are trying to get pregnant. Unsurprisingly as a woman all the ‘tests‘ were a lot more intrusive; zoning out is definitely a skill I developed along the way! The first batch of blood tests and basic exams didn’t throw up anything to worry about so we were referred to the local gynaecology unit. Cue more tests and inspections taken over the course of a few months. Plus the countless advice of friends and family, I think we heard it all – fertility sticks, holidays, diet changes, clean living, cranial massages, headstands after sex – everyone had something to say.
With nothing obviously out of place, I was then prescribed drugs to increase egg production (it sounds quite battery hen like I know). Unfortunately that didn’t work either and so we were passed on to the infertility specialists. Suddenly when we walked into a conference room at St Barts in London it all felt real. Of course there was comfort in the fact that lots of other couples were there going through the same thing but the science based talk seemed so cold and wholly focused on preparing you for disappointment. I really struggled with my feelings, there was a lot I didn’t know or misunderstood. After further tests we were labelled with ‘undiagnosed infertility’ which felt like a kick in the teeth given the years that had passed (7 by this point) and the various investigations. The doctor in a very matter of fact way told us we qualified for three rounds of IVF treatment on the NHS and a potential start date for treatmet before we were ushered out and replaced with the next in a long line of couples waiting for his attention.
We had a heart-to-heart over a glass of wine at home asking each other all manner of questions – Could we cope with it? What happened if it didn’t work? Was it even something we wanted? How would we know what we were missing? I’m a strong believer in fate, we were pretty lucky in all other aspects of our lives and if getting pregnant wasn’t going to be possible, we were definitely going to be a good family for someone. We agreed to give it one go and if it didn’t work, have a kick ass holiday and buy a really impractical two seater vintage car before looking into adoption.
We’d cut out drinking for a while and are pretty healthy anyway but I also decided to increase my protein intake (I’m a vegetarian). My Mum was really anti the road of IVF and recommended a friend’s company Foresight. We sent off samples of hair for nutritional analysis and received a bespoke program of vitamins and minerals to be taken throughout the course of each day. I didn’t really notice a change until numerous friends started commenting on my glowing skin. A needed boost to keep up the good work with the diet, exercise and alcohol ban given the stressful circumstances.
The IVF treatment start time couldn’t have been worse, we’d just moved into the ‘project house’ had no bathroom, no kitchen, just a microwave and a pipe dream. Strangely it was probably just what we needed because we didn’t have time to stop and over analyse what was happening with the treatment or read every article on what to expect, it was just an injection and on with the day. Once it started we actually never talked about it, just showed up at the doctor appointments as instructed. I developed a cyst and had to have an minor operation to remove that which interrupted things and stoked the fire of my mum’s disapproval.
I remember being out walking our dogs when we got the call to say that only one egg had fertilised to a point that made it viable for transfer and they would implant on the Monday. This was the one appointment I decided to do on my own, I didn’t want to make a fuss when the likelihood of success seemed so slim. Somewhere we’d read that laughter could help with the required egg attachment so off I went to the hospital with my slippers and clips of Peter Kay. Then came the long wait. It was without doubt the longest and most agonising two weeks of my life. We were told to take a pregnancy test on a particular date and of course neither of us could sleep the night before. Finally at 6am my husband made me drink more water and pushed me out of bed to the bathroom. That one piece of plastic in my hand was so loaded with all our hopes and dreams. The colour change was immediate but I couldn’t look, convinced we should do everything by the book. After 3 minutes I slowly walked back to the bathroom to be faced with my first ever plus. In shock and shaking I practically threw the test at my husband as I couldn’t quite say the words. We cried and hugged for a long time then dressed like crazy people and ran to the nearest chemist to buy three more tests just to be sure. Unfortunately that elation was short-lived because with IVF there are still things that can go wrong such as a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. More agonising waiting. We went back to the same specialist for our first scan a few weeks later and once we had the all clear, it was hard to hold back the tears. All the nurses were emotional too. I now realise why the medical staff are so matter of fact in those early advisory stages because it removes the emotion, helps you feel normal just one of many that have experienced the same issues and ultimately helps you to handle the pure stress of the situation.
Of course I know we were incredibly lucky and that for most it doesn’t work first time. I can’t say what we would have done had it not resulted in a healthy pregnancy. But what I do know is how much stronger we became as a couple. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. We knew what each other needed and just when we needed it. If Rory hadn’t pushed me, I would have been too scared or embarrassed to take those first steps and who knows, we may never have had our Zephyr.
I guess the vintage car will have to wait.
Images by Hi June