Having left things way too late (due to an over-developed sense of optimism) we didn’t qualify for an NHS-funded cycle of IVF. Where we live in West Sussex, only one cycle is funded and one of the restrictions is that they won’t treat women over 40.
Our NHS consultant agreed to treat us privately though, and said that my FSH levels were really quite good for my age – I bet he says that to all the girls!
He explained that he would manage our drug regime and scans, but that when it came to egg collection and then embryo transfer we would need to go up to the London Fertility Clinic in Harley Street.
We discussed the costs – which are really quite eye-wateringly high – and decided to go for ICSI IVF which cost a little more, but had higher success rates for egg fertilisation than standard IVF as the sperm is injected right into the egg.
Altogether, including about £650 worth of drugs, the cost of a cycle came to about £4,200.
I was already familiar with some of the drugs from our IUI experience, and injecting myself, having been a real dread at the beginning, became second nature. My body responded well to the drugs, and when we made our first trip up to the LFC they managed to collect 14 eggs from me. We were delighted! Ultimately 11 fertilised and 10 went on to become developing embryos. By the time we got back to the clinic three days later, 3 had stopped progressing, so we were left with 7.
2 embryos were put back inside me, and the remaining 5 were frozen for potential future use – little did we know then that our little Harri was being placed into the freezer…..
Again our optimism took over. We flew to Belfast the next day so we could attend my Goddaughter’s christening, and the following week we flew away on holiday. I packed the pregnancy tests completely confident that they would be positive and we could really celebrate on our break in Corsica.The tests were negative, and our holiday was ruined. The devastation was too much for either of us to bear away from home. We didn’t come home early, although I wonder why not sometimes.
From Corsica, we rang the clinic and arranged to go in and see them on our return to the UK to start our second cycle. We could not let that one disappointment derail us.
Attempt two was pretty much the same as our first really. Our consultant prescribed one extra drug – Clexane – another blood thinner, but otherwise the experience felt very similar. My body responded well, and although we had fewer eggs collected, they looked to be of a decent quality and fertilisation rate was good.
This time I had three embryos put back rather than two, and there were none extra that had progressed well enough to freeze.
Two weeks after the embryo transfer, I took a pregnancy test and for the first time in my life it was positive! We were simply ecstatic – we couldn’t control our happiness, but agreed we needed to wait until the 12 week scan before we shared our good news. Chris told his best friend, and I told mine, but otherwise no one knew.
At seven weeks, we went for our first scan….
The doctor could find no heartbeat. He could see the sac that the embryo was supposed to be growing within, but no sign of life. We were devastated. Two days later, we went for a re-scan just to be sure that there was no baby and it confirmed the terrible news.
Unfortunately, because I hadn’t bled, there was a danger that I hadn’t actually miscarried but that I had an ectopic pregnancy. This meant that I had to go for regular blood tests to check that my pregnancy hormone levels were dropping. I started to bleed 4 weeks later. It was all over.
It took a while to decide our next move. We had a few months when my Father-in-Law was very ill, so everything was put on hold. When he had recovered enough to leave the hospital and return home we decided we should try again.
The protocol stayed the same, as the doctor and we put my miscarriage down to pure bad luck.
All seemed to go well again, but ultimately the pregnancy test was negative and we had had another failed cycle.
The fourth attempt was driven by Chris. I was emotionally unsure I could cope with either another failure OR another miscarriage, but Chris was sure that if we ploughed on we WOULD end up with our baby.
I got pregnant again, and although delighted, I couldn’t really relax until we’d had that first scan and seen a heartbeat.
I felt fine – too fine really. At six weeks, on a Sunday night, I started to bleed. I knew it was the end. I didn’t even cry this time. I felt totally numb. I also felt that something was wrong with me that they hadn’t detected in the tests. My confidence was shattered, my body was drugged to the eyeballs, my weight was suffering with every cycle and was really bothering me – everything was Black.
When Chris broached the subject of another attempt, I told him that I didn’t think I could do it. I wanted a rest from the drugs and for my body to have some time to recover. I said that the only way we could have another go at that time was to go back to the frozen embryos from our first attempt, and do it without a drug regime.
We went to see our consultant, and he was reluctant to allow my body to receive the embryos without being artificially stimulated by fertility drugs. I was insistent though, and he relented and allowed a natural cycle. Because of the two miscarriages he DID suggest taking a steroid drug, which had been known to help women suffering multiple losses. Reluctantly, I agreed.
We had five embryos in the freezer at the clinic, so they thawed all five and put back the best three. As a matter of fact, only three survived the thaw, so there was no choice to be made.
When I took the pregnancy test two weeks later and it was positive, I didn’t even smile. In a way it was a result that I’d partially dreaded! I convinced myself that I would cope better with a negative result than I could possibly cope with another miscarriage.
The next few weeks waiting for the first scan were agony. Although I had morning sickness, I was so scared that it would all go wrong again.
When we went for the scan, our consultant couldn’t see a heartbeat. I felt sick. Chris, the same.
We went for a re-scan two days later, and miraculously the nurse found our little girl on the monitor. I cried and cried with relief.
I was still terrified though, and we had weekly scans right up to 10 weeks. Then we had a 12-week scan and at that point I started to relax. We were having a baby…..