I often read and hear about people’s fertility ‘journeys’ – as cheesy as it sounds no word sums up what we’re all going through better. The ups and downs, the mental, the physical and the emotional. The phrase ‘it’s all about the journey not the destination’ has at times seemed laughable to me but now as I sit here writing this I do truly believe it to be true.
After starting trying for a baby exactly two years ago (I was 29) I never in a million years thought I’d have any problems. I’d been on the pill for 10 years, but I had regular-ish periods and was healthy (I try and steer clear of wheat and dairy) and don’t really drink that much. 6 months on and no joy. I had some sort of sixth sense that something wasn’t right as all my friends seemed to be getting pregnant left, right and centre. A private gynae did all the standard tests (bloods and mid cycle scan) and all was normal. Every time I rang his secretary she asked ‘…are you ringing with good news?’ I could hear her wry smile – looking back on it I can’t believe I didn’t slam the phone down on her!
Fast forward 6 months, acupuncture weekly, getting a puppy (best decision we’ve ever made!) handing in my notice at work and becoming freelance to give myself more ‘me time’ and still nothing – my obsession with pregnancy tests was getting worse. Rather than waiting for my period to come I’d take a test just so I could be prepared. Awful and exhausting, not to mention expensive.
In one acupuncture session, my acupuncturist who was usually upbeat and always made me feel better mentioned rather glumly that she thought I should have a thyroid blood test. I still to this day don’t know where it came from but she suggested I go to my GP. He duly gave me the test and although my thyroid itself was OK, I had sky high thyroid antibodies – a sign that my body was fighting something. Odd as I felt totally normal. My acupuncturist (note – not my GP) told me that high antibodies point to high natural killer cells – these cells view any embryo trying to implant as an invader and attack it before a positive pregnancy test can be seen. She suggested I go and see a specialist who’s based out of London and Epsom.
He did some more in depth tests and bobs your uncle, one of my cell counts, my TNF Alpha was very high. He gave me Humira (an arthritis drug) to lower this cell count which it duly did. I then did four months of super ovulation (two/three follicles are better than one!) and steroids whilst trying naturally. None of this worked. This was without doubt my lowest point – people flew from all over the world to see this guy and a reasonably simple case couldn’t be cracked.
My husband and I were pretty low – it is of course not a God given right to be blessed with children but we confronted what could be. We may never have children of our own and we discussed surrogacy and adoption – both were hard to stomach but we also came to the conclusion that if we never had kids we’d be absolutely fine. Not only would we survive (the gorgeous Jessica Hepburn persuaded me of this – you must read her book, The Pursuit Of Motherhood) but I truly believe that we would have thrived in our own ways. We’d be able to concentrate on our careers, be a bit selfish and become that fun couple again. Perhaps we’d move abroad, get more gorgeous puppies or set up a creative business. This I believe was my turning point – I could actually see a life beyond fertility/infertility and was happy with it.
Nothing can quite prepare you for ARGC
I did think however that I should give IVF a go, it needed to be tried before I could put it all to bed. We both agreed eventually on the hardcore approach of the ARGC, a clinic in London which apparently has the highest success rates. I wanted to throw myself into it – nothing could quite prepare me for what women go through at the ARGC in terms of the intensity and the emotional side of it all but I was determined. My poor husband to this day turns physically green when we press the door buzzer to the clinic but we’ve put our trust in them and sometimes you just have to take that leap of faith.
The ARGC are hardcore in that they leave nothing to chance and each treatment programme is tailored to the individual. They monitor you for a month to see how your body works naturally – they’d already told me my natural killer cells were out of whack so I’d need more immune treatment and IVF wouldn’t start until the new year. If you’ve fallen asleep already, this is where my story takes a turn!
On day 14 they scanned me and sure enough there was a follicle – a good sized one at that. I didn’t get too excited as I’d heard all of this before. We were away that weekend and I did a Clearblue ovulation test and there was a smiley face staring back at me. Again, not exciting! This was our last chance saloon as you can’t get pregnant on the immune drugs (they could harm a baby) so we thought we may as well go for it.
My 25th pregnancy test
2 weeks later and the immune drugs were supposed to arrive the next day. My thought process was I needed to do one final test as I’d never forgive myself if I took the medication and I was pregnant. I had one 1st Response in my drawer and went off to the bathroom to do it – immediately I saw the line. In fact the pregnant line came up before the control line. My 25th pregnancy test had come good and I sat on the loo in disbelief – our gorgeous dog had wandered in to the bathroom and we had a little moment together when I just stared at her and she back at me knowing somehow that this was life changing.
I’d played this moment out a million times in my head – how I’d tell my husband, who I’d tell first etc. It all went out the window – I just ran into the room my husband was in and blurted it out – we hugged, we shrieked and then typical him he googled the accuracy in scientific terms of 1st Response!
On the Monday we went straight to the ARGC and they asked if we’d like their support throughout the first 12weeks – I of course said yes as even though they hadn’t technically got me here I needed constant reassurance. The first few weeks have been intense to say the least blood tests once or twice a day and weekly scans. I’m on medication to ‘keep it in there’ and am feeling nauseous, hormonal and most definitely not myself.
I haven’t ever been ‘relaxed’ about my fertility or lack of it
At 8 weeks I’m sitting on my sofa knowing that although I’m not at all out of the woods I now know what it’s like to get that infamous BFP and more importantly to see the heartbeat on the scan – no words can describe this.
If this all works out I know I’m going to be that story that friends tell friends ‘…you know she got pregnant the month before she started IVF – if you just relax it will happen’ – absolutely NOT true! I haven’t ever been ‘relaxed’ about my fertility or lack of it – the only thing that changed was the genuine feeling that we’d be OK if it didn’t work out.
If this can happen to me and it can happen to Caprice it most definitely can happen to you too! Miracles do happen – we all just need to truly believe!
Over to you
How do you feel reading Henrietta’s story? Can you relate to how she was feeling? Have you had any turning points in your journey? Let us know below or come and join in the conversation within the Embrace Fertility online community. If you would like to share your story then email me to discuss.