“God willing, we will be even closer to meeting baby, or even delivered by the time you read this.”
It seems our previous clinic had been leaving my eggs to 'overcook', not monitoring sufficiently and therefore not retrieving my eggs at the optimal time. We felt such a relief in having this explanation in the early consultation process and really trusted that Dr Francis would finally be the one to help us be successful in achieving a healthy pregnancy.
We are cautiously hopeful, optimistic and excited and it will be a special moment to eventually introduce our new born baby and express our thanks and joy to Dr Francis and the brilliant teams at Nottingham and Birmingham.
It took 9 years to reach here, losing our first born, Leo (IVF) to pre-eclampsia, followed by 2 early losses and some failed cycles, numerous tests and scans, operations and procedures. We eventually visited Lourdes last year to pray for divine intervention, before our 5th cycle in 2018. This will be the most magical Christmas gift we could wish for. We’re forever grateful for IVF and its advances, yet we still thank God every day - science can only do so much; the rest is in His hands.
As one might imagine, this pregnancy has not been free of anxiety. I’m taking nothing for granted, being very closely monitored by a great consultant team and community midwife. I probably won’t fully believe until I have a healthy baby in my arms… that’s just how it is when you’ve suffered the loss of a baby; but I remain hopeful that this is our rainbow after the storm…
As a pharmacist by profession, I always found it slightly ironic being on the receiving end of such an invasive form of treatment as IVF with so many drugs and several administration routes. A typical treatment entails 'down-regulation' with subcutaneous Buserelin to close your reproductive system. Ovaries are stimulated with injectable hormones to produce multiple follicles, then a procedure to retrieve the eggs after regular monitoring scans.
Most of my scans were in CARE Birmingham - we live closer to that clinic. The egg collection was carried out in CARE Nottingham. We were incredibly reassured by the exceptional level of skill and technology needed to combine eggs and sperm- we had ICSI – where individual sperm are injected into each egg. This was followed by an even greater need for the powers above to help fertilisation happen!
If you are lucky enough to have an egg fertilise, embryo transfer happens up to 5 days later, with regular embryology updates in between. If you are even luckier to have multiple embryos, they can be frozen if suitable. Some women depending on circumstances and history may be allowed to transfer more than one. We transferred one, discovering on arrival on transfer day that we had one more suitable for freezing; something we struggled to achieve previously, so this was a major breakthrough and miracle in itself.
Then begins the ‘2-week-wait’ - if the embryo has implanted successfully, this produces a positive pregnancy test. This ‘limbo’ phase requires you to look after yourself, have faith, positivity, patience and lots of progesterone - crucial for supporting a potential pregnancy. I also injected Heparin to assist implantation, remaining on this and progesterone till 12 weeks, adding aspirin at 8 weeks due to my pre-eclampsia history. I was on I think at least seven different medications at one point, including the higher 5mg dose of folic acid and a 10mcg vitamin D tablet I had started soon after the advice at our first consultation last year. My husband also took a fertility supplement for 3 months before the IVF process.
Another addition recommended by Dr Francis for this second cycle with CARE was intralipid intravenous infusions - unlicensed in infertility but popular and recommended amongst private clinics which many patients and clinicians attribute successes to. We had undergone more testing since my last loss, including DNA fragmentation test of my husband's sperm (negative) and Chicago blood tests for me, which revealed elevated natural killer cells in my immune system. Intralipid infusion theoretically reduces these cells’ activity, allowing embryos to implant and thrive without being attacked. I can’t be totally sure intralipids made the difference this time in sustaining the pregnancy or a combination of factors including the changes in my life in general; naturally I can’t help wonder.
One thing is certain - nothing is guaranteed at each stage of IVF treatment. The term ‘rollercoaster’ would be an understatement. IVF affects every aspect of your life and only you will know how long you are willing and able to keep trying.
If you’re experiencing infertility or the agonising heartbreak of loss, please don’t give up hope. Parenthood will often seem unreachable, you’ll question everything, you may endure joyful highs and deepest lows; but keep going, draw on your strength, keep talking, arm yourself with information, care and expert knowledge; take the love and support of your partner, family and friends. Believe me - amazing things can happen; take some leaps of faith, whether it be via IVF, or other routes- above all, dare to dream.
We are absolutely delighted to announce that since we first put pen to paper – our beautiful son Theo was born in December. Words cannot express our joy and happiness to finally have the baby we have waited years to hold.
Our warmest thanks and appreciation go to the CARE teams in Nottingham and Birmingham without whom we would not have Theo.
Lisa and Shelley xx