It was the very early hours of Day 28 of my medically induced cycle and I was clutching my first ever positive pregnancy test in my hands. I was in disbelief. Could I allow myself to believe this was really happening. Was I actually pregnant?! My husband was chuffed to bits but all I could see was the faintest of lines. Why wasn’t it darker? Could it be residual hormones from the trigger shot I’d had two weeks previously?
On Day 29, a slightly darker line but still faint. A glimmer of hope that finally after months of turmoil we were going to get our happy ending. I send the photo to my acupuncturist who confirms it’s definitely a positive. Let’s just wait for tomorrow, then it will be darker.
Day 30. Negative. Dream shattered.
Sadly our first IVF cycle resulted in a chemical pregnancy, confirmed with a blood test in what would have been the fifth week of gestation. The embryo we had created through 21 days of down-regging, 10 days of stimming, and five days of incubation had implanted and produced the hCG hormone resulting in two positive pregnancy tests but some time shortly after implantation I experienced a very early miscarriage.
In the days following the embryo transfer I experienced period like cramps which made it very difficult to determine whether the twinges in my abdomen were caused by period, pregnancy, or just side effects of progesterone pessaries. I did however have an unfamiliar dragging feeling in my uterus and an increased body temperature. And then on Day 30 my temperature dropped dramatically. I woke in the morning feeling desperately cold. Call it women’s intuition, maybe I’d even be allowed to call it mother’s intuition, but I knew in that second we had lost our tiny little embryo.
As you will know from my previous posts we have always tried to be focused on the task in hand; hopeful and positive. Despite the crippling fatigue we’d had an uncomplicated cycle and thanks to you lovely readers we were able to live alongside IVF rather than in it. Nine months earlier we had been told that my husband had azoospermia. The odds had been totally stacked against us but with each day we had reached a new milestone. After a change in his diet, his sperm count had gone from untraceable to detectable; the most amazing news. Now we had to cross everything and hope we could get the sperm naturally. I remember laying on the ward before egg retrieval desperately hoping this would be the case. The nurse poked her head around the curtain and casually said to my husband ‘your sample is fine’. The relief was immense. He didn’t need to go into theatre for the Surgical Sperm Retrieval procedure.
My pre-treatment scan had detected 20 follicles so it was a little disappointing to come around after anaesthesia to the news we had the lower end of average collected with 8 eggs. The following day along came the next hurdle. Would we get fertilisation? We had sperm but would they be healthy enough?
Four of the eight eggs fertilised. ICSI would normally produce a 65% fertilisation rate so this was on the low side but we’d overcome our biggest fear and in the lab we had conceived! I wanted to march up (or waddle – I was in a bit of discomfort after the procedure) to the doctor who had told my husband so flippantly that he would never conceive.
The Day 5 transfer came with just one embryo making it to blastocyst stage. We were putting everything on black with nothing to freeze.
We left the clinic clutching the photo of our embryo and the scan of my uterus with the teeny dot; the fluid that showed the trace of new life. The marker of the most incredible experience of both our lives was when we watched a flash of light across the monitor as the embryo was placed safely in my uterus.
And then came the waiting. After friends, family and medical professionals had all said how level-headed and focused I had been during treatment, I was shocked at how much I struggled with the two-week wait. Perhaps that’s one to write about another time.
If our IVF had resulted in a successful healthy pregnancy I’m sure I would look back on the last eight weeks and think how incredible it was that a short intense investment of time and emotional upheaval resulted in what we have been waiting for over several years. However it’s difficult to have the same perspective when all you’re left with is a broken heart. We faced the questions as to when we will try again but it has been difficult to look forward when my body was still stuck in the past. It wasn’t until 8 days after the negative pregnancy test that my body began to bleed which stalled the grieving process. For over a week I wondered if maybe they had got it wrong. It’s still early days but I can’t believe how something smaller than a grain of rice has left such a huge hole. I wonder if the ‘what might have been’ will ever leave?
Despite the sadness I have been determined to find positives from the experience. Fertility treatment can make you bitter and resentful and I’ve resolved to take something from this unsettling and isolating process. In the last year or so I’ve lost count of the unintentional cruel remarks and thoughtless comments from so many people. Conscious of this, I’m growing to be more self-aware. I hope I can learn to be a more empathetic and compassionate wife, friend, daughter, sister, auntie and ultimately, more prepared for motherhood.
Our follow-up appointment was very in-depth and we have so many unexpected things to consider before we try a second time as well as the financial implications. I can’t thank you enough for all the support and kindness you have shown me and hopefully once we’ve had some breathing space and my body has recovered I’m sure I’ll be back to share my experience of climbing aboard the fertility treatment rollercoaster once again. I’ve always been one to face my hurdles head on, and with reflection I know I will be determined to tackle this in the same way.
Photography by Little Beanies.