The truth about fertility treatment for women is that you never think it will happen to you. At 19 I met the man I was going to marry, and ultimately go on a journey that would mean we would become parents – hopefully.
Jeremy had always insisted we waited until after we got married to start a family. So, the day after we did, I knew it was my green flag for baby making. This was something that I wanted so badly, to be a mother. When I was young, people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up, and I would always say the same thing. “I’m going to be a mummy”.
I had made sure that we were prepared. I had ovulation tests, come of the pill and was taking folic acid. There was constant research to find optimum times to make it happen and ‘how to boost fertility’. I thought that meant we were ready and that we were going to absolutely ace it. How wrong was I…
A Waiting Game.
6 months later – nothing. Every month I would convince myself that it had happened. I would take pregnancy tests in the hope one would come back positive. I’m not sure why, but I knew something was wrong. Deep down something was telling me that I wasn’t going to see the two lines or PREGNANT appear on a stick.
It was now occupying a lot of my head space, when I was out – I saw pregnant women everywhere. In the shops baby products stood out and walking down the nappy aisle made me feel a little pang in my stomach. I couldn’t escape it.
It got to the point where it was affecting our home life. Not where we thought it was all over, but there were some heated times. It was Jeremy who suggested we ask the doctors for some help. An idea I had toyed with but didn’t want to suggest it in case it led onto a more heated discussion.
I booked an appointment first. Thinking that it had to be me who was causing us issues. I was ‘overweight’ and thought I had other PCOS symptoms.
Fertility Treatment for Women – The Specialists.
The first appointment felt silly. Trying to explain to a doctor that I thought we had fertility issues when I was ‘only 24’ made me feel stupid. The doctor repeated a phrase we were now hearing all the time, “once you stop trying it will probably happen”. I was then told that we needed to try for a year before we can be forwarded onto the fertility clinic. The thought of waiting another six months made my eyes well and body shake. It seemed like such a long time away and even though I was only 24 years old, I felt my maternal clock ticking, LOUDLY. There were various medications I was told I could take, but because of my age and the length of time we had been trying the doctor thought it was best to wait.
Two months later, I couldn’t do it anymore. It was affecting my mental health so much I had to go back. This time we went together. Jeremy was so strong in that appointment. He totally took control of the situation and got the doctor to refer us to the fertility clinic. The letter came super quick, I think within two weeks we had an appointment and it felt like we were finally going to get somewhere.
The day of the appointment we held hands tightly as we walked through the hospital doors. First, it was a round of blood tests, something I had dreaded but prepared myself for.
The Many, Many Tests.
Being frightened of needles and going through fertility treatment for women is definitely a game changer. Luckily, Jeremy knew how to keep me calm as I cried my way through them all. After the blood tests we waited to see our fertility doctor. Sitting in the waiting room I remember talking through all the possible situations, even opening to the idea of adoption, donors or fostering.
We were called in, and to be honest, the rest of the appointment is a blur. I remember going through the qualifying questions for the NHS funding, asking if we smoked, our alcohol consumption, and how often we actually had sex (just in case we forgot that you actually needed to do it to make a baby). The doctor then explained the statistics, that around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving, and about 84% of couples will conceive naturally within a year if they have regular unprotected sex (which is 2 to 3 times a week). For couples who have been trying to conceive for more than 3 years without success, the likelihood of getting pregnant naturally within the next year is 1 in 4, or less.
The truth is that needing fertility treatment for women is more common than people than you think. 1 in 4 is a lot higher than I expected and to think that we could then be trying for a baby for three years made me feel like it was never going to happen. I kept on thinking of my age and that maybe that was on our side – at least if it does take 3 years, I would only be 27.
We then had a letter through to choose our clinic. I had done the research and was hoping we would be able to chose Oxford Fertility as it had the best success rate and had one of the UK’s leading experts Professor Tim Child. When we could, it felt like another positive step in the right direction.
At our clinic appointment was when it started to feel more serious. We went through our blood results with the focus being all on Jeremy. Going through his results his hormones were okay, but they discovered he was then a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene. I had heard of cystic fibrosis, but thought it was a breathing and immune condition – how could this then effect our fertility?
I wasn’t a carrier which was apparently a positive, but the doctor then went onto explain that because Jeremy was, it may mean he was infertile. Looking at him I could see the stress vein on the side of his head pulse. He was a little paler as we were told the scenarios, one being that he would have no sperm and then the one we hoped for, no tubing to transfer sperm.
The car journey home was silent. I could see that Jeremy was thinking over everything. I sadly felt a little relief that it wasn’t me but felt sad for Jeremy who was now probably on his own little mental roller coaster. The truth about IVF is it can be lonely. Even when you’re together, sometimes you just don’t know the right things to say. Or there isn’t anything you can say to help.
Fast forwarding on a few weeks, it was time for Jeremy to go on a solo appointment.
All I know it that he had to go on his own and then had to sit in a room, with a leather chair, a cup and a filer that had a sticker on the front saying ‘magazines’.
More Bad News.
Fertility treatment for women is that it feels like a lifetime even if it’s only been a couple of weeks. Waiting for Jeremy’s results were scary. We had a few honest conversations and had decided now, if it came back that Jeremy didn’t have or had a low sperm count, we would look at adoption. If I could take anything from our experience, it’s that you need to talk things over and be honest. We got sad, and sometimes a bit angry but we both knew that we were in it together.
Then came the day that he was told that he had a no sperm count. I felt his pain. I could see how much it was affecting him and we both naturally thought that we were never going to naturally have children. Telling him it was okay over and over was the only thing I could do. I don’t think he ever believed me though.
After this there was one more procedure that Jeremy had to go through. It involved him having an anaesthetic and having a very large needle inserted into his testicles – I know – OUCH. The only thing I really remember from this day though, apart from the fact the found lots of little swimmers waiting to be used is that when he was coming round from his anaesthetic, I asked him how he felt and his reply was “yea – I can fry and egg”.
There are a lot of needles in fertility treatment for women! For someone who had a phobia of needles, this process took me to my absolute limit. Every time we had an appointment it felt like they took blood.
Our treatment process was called ICSI. This is where a single sperm is injected into the matured egg to help increase the chance of fertilisation, then the egg would be placed back inside my cervix and all fingers would be crossed that the egg would then stay and keep multiplying, giving us the baby we so desperately wanted. But before this had to happen, we had a treatment protocol to get my body ready. I had a ‘long protocol’ which meant I was on tablets to supress my hormones and to then control when I was going to ovulate.
After this, you had a nice big injection (I named it the bee sting) to then make you have a decent number of eggs mature ready for collection.
Egg collection day I was so scared. It was now down to my body to make a good amount of eggs to collect. We got eleven which I felt was a good number to have. Then you wait for the phone call a few days later to let you know how many had successfully fertilised… we had eight. I felt positive about this number too. Then you wait to hear back on day five. This is where you will find out how many have carried onto blastocyst.
During this time, there are many treatment processes and words that get thrown at you. To be honest, I really don’t remember it all very well now. But at the time I used the website IVF Babble to help me with positive stories, FAQs and so much more. It had everything I needed, and it was such a handy resource.
Implanting the Eggs
Day five and we have five eggs that were ready to go. This felt like an amazing number. That was five babies ready for me to make into actually real mini humans. Throughout the whole process I always felt relatively positive. I knew it wasn’t the “normal” way to make a baby but it was going to be MY way. So I owned this process like it was my own child. I would talk openly about what we were going through. Even using facebook to let family and friends know how we were doing. Publicly showing that I wasn’t ashamed that we had to make a baby a different way.
The day they put our first egg back, we walked out the clinic hand in hand. That was it, I was technically pregnant. The first thing we did was go through the McDonalds drive through on the way home. As I took a bite I thought it probably wasn’t the best thing to put into my body. But I had plenty of time to eat healthy for the rest of the day. And hopefully the next nine months.
The Two Week Wait…
The two week wait before you take a pregnancy test is the worst. Every thought I had led to me hoping that I was pregnant. Every conversation, every little movement or queasiness – I was sure it worked. Then I would swing the other way and be sure it hadn’t. I would be crying for hours talking through life and the universe with poor Jeremy. He was stuck with an extremely emotional wife, and there really wasn’t anything he could do to help.
The day before I knew I had to test I was sick. I wasn’t sure if it was nerves or if it was another sign. But it was a constant throughout the day. It was 4am when I woke and couldn’t wait any longer. I woke Jeremy informing that I needed a wee. On the test day it had to be the first wee of the day. So he needed to be awake too so we could either celebrate or he needed to console me.
The Truth About Fertility Treatment for Women – It Can Work
Sitting on the toilet with a three pregnancy tests was terrifying. I was hoping I was going to look down and see something I had been waiting for so long. I’m not sure what made me pause, but I couldn’t look at them straight away. I placed them in the sink and gave a big breath in, then out. My heart racing at 1000 beats per minute. I could feel my mouth drying out as I turned over the first test, PREGNANT. The second test – PREGNANT, and the third – PREGNANT.
I ran into our room, jumped onto Jeremy with the three sticks. “It worked, it actually worked”. He gave me a sleepy smile and said “well done”, then fell back to sleep. I climbed into bed, placed the tests on my bed side table on a tissue. Then snuggled in, knowing in the morning I would get to share our good news with family and the clinic. We were going to be parents, and I couldn’t wait to meet them.
The truth about fertility treatment for women is that good things can come from it. Even when it feels like it never may happen, never give up hope that it might.
Read Emily’s Husband’s Story!
Emily’s husband Jeremy has also shared the fertility treatment story from his perspective – read it here.
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