***DISCLAIMER – This is a very LONG post***
When you write a blog, you open yourself up to the world – the unknown. I’be debated for over three months about whether to post this as I kinda felt like, ok my wounds are totally open, no plaster, no bandage – totally exposed… I hope the content of this post will be informative and not the topic of gossip sessions… Just thinking out loud but I’ll leave that statement there as those who know me know I speak my mind 😊
Sometime in 2014, my mum suggested hubby and I look into IVF- she saw how much the waiting was taking its toll on me. I was shocked that an African mother would make such a suggestion and was actually hurt. I felt that she had given up hope on me and thought it couldn’t happen any other way. I told my older sister and she comforted and reassured me that my mums suggestion was done in nothing but love. She asked that question “what’s so bad about IVF?” I couldn’t even answer- I had no answer. Truth is, I didn’t even know why I was so offended. I guess, I was still hoping that that month would be the month as I had been since the miscarriage.
A week later, after a prayer meeting at church, the Pastor asked to speak with hubby and I. He told us that IVF kept coming to his mind each time he prayed for us… interesting. Once we left the meeting, I told hubby what my mum had said and for him, it was a sign that it was something we should explore. We decided to fast and pray for a month before making any decisions. For us, having two people suggest the same thing does not necessarily mean you jump straight in before finding out what God says and also doing your own research. That month was hard because you go through a wave of emotions and thoughts. Do we leave it to God? If we go ahead, are we taking things into our own hands? Are we rushing? I think the answers to those questions are in my previous post ‘Natural or unnatural baby?’
Once the month had passed, we were confident that it should be an avenue for us to explore. We visited a private clinic for the consultation and to find out how much it could potentially cost. We were fed up with our GP who didn’t really see the need to refer us seeing as all the blood tests, semen tests, exploratory tests etc showed that we were both in good health and other than my PCOS, there was no reason I couldn’t conceive. He was particularly sure of himself especially as I had conceived the previous year. I can’t explain how frustrating it is to continually hear “you’ve been pregnant before and we cannot see any medical reason why it won’t happen again” or “you’re both still so young, what’s the rush?”
I still had that little voice in my head telling me that going down the IVF route meant I was accepting defeat- I had failed as a woman. I felt people would look at me differently- perhaps not a “real” mother. I don’t even know where those thoughts came from but looking back, it’s a big shame that I was prepared to hold back on something I so desperately wanted because of how I felt others would see me. Naughty Kemi!
So, we returned to the clinic for a second meeting with the consultant who talked us through the process and the risks involved. I’m so grateful to God because she recommended we apply for NHS funding and even offered to write to our GP to recommend he refer us for the treatment. We were shocked because it was surely in her best interest to have us pay but she really pushed for the NHS and true to her word, she wrote a letter to our GP and sent us a copy. The day we booked our GP appointment to follow up on the letter, he was not there – Thank God! We saw someone else who, reluctantly said he would draft the referral letter and gave us a list of all the blood tests we would need to do. The receptionist at the GP surgery was absolutely amazing and took a big liking to us. She went beyond her duties to ensure the doctor had dictated the referral letter the next day. She gave us every blood test form we needed and told us to keep putting pressure on everyone until we got a yes.
When we logged on to the NHS booking appointment website, we realised that we were obviously one of thousands who were seeking fertility help because, the first available appointment was almost two months away at a hospital over 20 miles away! We didn’t care and booked the appointment anyway. A tip the consultant also gave us at the clinic was to ask for a copy of all our blood and semen test results so that we would not have to rely on the GP sending them out. This came at a cost of £5 per test result – ridiculous but we still paid. I’m so glad we did because when we arrived almost 2 months later at the hospital, the GP had not sent the results and they were about to send us home- which would have put us back at the bottom of the waiting list. Speaking to the NHS fertility consultant, we were met with the same questions as to why were we in such a rush when we were young… From our results everything looked normal and our case was “unexplained infertility.” Sorry, but that just didn’t make sense to me and I just wanted to get a move on. He reluctantly said he would put us forward for NHS funding – Thank you Jesus.
A few days later, we received a call from the hospital to say that the NHS were no longer granting IVF funding to that hospital… Really? The lady on the phone, who I believe was sent from God, said she was going to do all she could to try and get the funding approved seeing as were were from a different borough which the NHS still did provide funding for. Two weeks later, everything was approved and funding secured! Praise God.
January 2015, we returned to the private clinic for our nurse consultation and collection of medication. This was both exciting and scary for me because I hate needles but was so hopeful that this was actually it. I was told that due to my PCOS, I would need to down regulate for 21 days by going on the pill. Once I had a bleed, I was to call to let them know and then begin with 125 IU Gonal F injections each night in my stomach. Each night I injected myself, I prayed that it would all be worth it. The pain, the stinging, the swelling… there was no way I wanted to go through all of that for nothing.
On day 5 of my injections, I went in for a scan to see whether my follicles had grown as the leading follicle needed to be at 18cm before egg collection. Day 5 saw me with over 10 follicles in each ovary but all between 3-5cm. I was devastated because, according to the schedule they had given me, I was only supposed to be stimulating for about 10 or so days. They asked me to increase the Gonal F dosage to 150IU to see whether there would be any improvements in the growth. Two days later we returned, and although the follicles had grown, they were still nowhere near the 18cm. I felt awful, tired and bruised. I had over 30 follicles in each ovary- the average woman has anything between 4-8…
Over the next few days, we were back and forth to the clinic hoping for that leading 18cm follicle. On day 12, the nurse informed us that they would be stopping treatment and this would now be a failed cycle. To say we were devastated would be an understatement. We drove out the car park and stopped at end of the road and just cried together. I felt that my whole world had ended. Did I really inject myself for the last 12 days for absolutely nothing? We stopped by at church to give our Pastor the update and he prayed and reassured us that this was not the end. He also told me that I should not blame myself- I found that pretty hard seeing as it was my body that was not cooperating.
Hubby took me to Nandos to try and take my mind off things and I received a phone call from the clinic. The nurse had spoken to the consultant and “for some strange reason, she wants you to continue over the weekend with a higher dosage.” I could not believe that God had turned everything around so quickly. The consultant was definitely on our side. By the time Monday came, my follicles had grown and I was booked in for egg collection on the Wednesday – whoohoo.
When I think back to egg collection, my thoughts are not whoohoo, I am traumatised. I don’t think anyone can fully prepare you for what happens. Although you are given anaesthetics, you are still semi-awake and I felt every. single. prod they made. They kept telling me how well I was doing and celebrating each time they entered a follicle and found an egg but, for me, it was all too much. All I could do was pray that this all would give me my miracle baby. Once I had fully woken up, the consultant came to speak to us and told us they collected 21 eggs. I was ecstatic – this meant we had a greater chance of having a baby. They told me to drink plenty of fluid as I am highly likely to develop OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome). I had heard this before but did not even think to do research or ask questions, I didn’t think it was a big deal seeing as they didn’t really make a big deal out of it.
What is Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome?
When ovaries are stimulated to produce eggs, the response can be excessive and your ovaries become very enlarged with a build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity. OHSS is categorised into three levels – Mild, moderate and Severe and the levels can change depending on whether you seek medical attention or not. I found this very helpful table on www.ivf.com which gives you in depth information on symptoms and what to do.
|SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS||WHY IT HAPPENS||WHAT TO DO|
You may experience:
– Abdominal bloating and feeling of fullness
– Slight weight gain
|This may be due to:
– Ovaries are larger than normal, tender and fragile
– High level�of estrogen (E2) and progesterone in the bloodstream may upset your digestive system and fluid balance causing bloating.
– Avoid sexual intercourse
– Do not have a vaginal (pelvic) exam other than by one of our physicians
– Reduce activities, no heavy lifting, straining or exercise
– Drink clear fluids, flat coke, ginger ale, cranberry juice, Gatorade or Ensure
You may also experience:
– Weight gain of greater than 2 lbs. per day (excessive weight gain)
– Increased abdominal measurement causing clothes to feel tight
– Vomiting & diarrhea
– Urine is darker and amount is less
– Skin/hair may feel dry
|This may be due to:
– High levels of hormones in the bloodstream upset the digestive system
– Fluid imbalance causes dehydration because body fluids collect in the abdomen and other tissues
– This fluid collection causes severe bloating
|As noted above plus:
– Call our nurses
– You may need to be seen by a physician who will do an ultrasound
– Record your weight twice daily
– Record the number of times you urinate each day
– Contact our office if you note a five pound weight gain over the previous 24 hours, note a drop in the frequency of urination (~50%), or increasing pelvic pain
You may also experience:
– Fullness/bloating up above the belly button
– Shortness of breath
– Urination has reduced or stopped and become darker
– Calf pains and chest pains
– Marked abdominal bloating or distention
– Lower abdominal pain
|This may be due to:
– Extremely large ovaries
– Fluid collects in lungs and/or abdominal cavity, as well as in tissues
– The risk of abnormal blood clotting increases
|As noted above plus:
– Notify the physician on call
– You may need to be assessed at the hospital or our clinic
– Excess fluid may need to be removed from your abdominal cavity
As you may have guessed, I did develop OHSS on day 2 after egg collection. It was horrendous! I mean, I’ve been in pain before but this was on another level. I tried so hard with drinking the 3 litres of water they recommended but kept throwing up. In the end, hubby had to call 999 because there was nothing he could do to help ease the pain. I was given morphine, gas and air in the ambulance but that only worked for maybe… 15 minutes or so. When we arrived at the hospital, they identified that I had moderate OHSS and kept the morphine coming. After over 8 hours in the hallway due to lack of beds, we made the decision to return home and attempt to self manage the pain. I don’t know how I got through the night but all I remember is sleeping on the living room floor with a bucket beside me. Over the next two days, the symptoms began to ease and I felt a little better.
Whilst all of this was going on, the clinic would call daily to see how I was doing and to give me an update on how our embryos were doing. On day five, we returned to the clinic for the transfer and were told that out of all the fertilised eggs, only one had made it to day five. At first, I was little disappointed but hubby quickly reminded me that it only takes one and I should not have the “only one” attitude. The transfer was quick and easy and I left the clinic hopeful, feeling pregnant until a pregnancy test told me otherwise.
The two week wait is the longest two weeks of your life. The days just don’t seem to move fast enough! I was still off work for a week so, it gave me the opportunity to relax and do virtually nothing. I think it may have been day 6 or 7 but I started spotting. I had mixed emotions- this could be implantation bleeding or it could be my period. I called the clinic to let them know and they said to not worry and still wait until the given date to take the pregnancy test.The next few days were tough because I kept getting flashbacks of my miscarriage and it was hard to stay positive when there is absolutely nothing that you can do. There are many things in life that we can interfere with but trying for a baby certain isn’t is not one of them.
The morning of the test finally came and hubby and I prayed that whatever the result, we are still grateful. How I longed to see those two lines… I really tried. I kept thinking any minute the second line would appear- nope, never did. I cried- I really cried. I looked back over the past month and struggled to see a positive in it all. I looked at my swollen stomach and wanted to punch it. It was swollen with air- just air, not the baby I so desperately wanted. I looked at the small scares on my hands and arm from where canulars had been inserted into my tiny veins. I just couldn’t understand why my journey had to be so hard…
The following week, we visited the consultant for the follow up and information on our next steps. There were no reasons for the failure if the cycle other than “the embryo just didn’t implant.” Well duh, I had already told myself that! Sorry, I’m reliving my anger. Ok, so she explained the next steps and said we would have to wait a minimum of 3 months before trying again. Where I was emotionally, there was no way I wanted to put myself through that ordeal again. I just couldn’t see past the stress and pain.
One thing I am so grateful for is the country we live in and access to the NHS. Had we had paid ourselves, that would have been almost £7,000 gone. With the NHS, they were funding up to three cycles and we were still able to have the treatment at the clinic of our choice.
So, this post doesn’t quite have a happy ending but the experience definitely taught me that I really have to wholeheartedly trust in God. I don’t think I had the 100% trust whilst going through the process if I’m honest- I still was thinking “what if?” I guess reflection is a great thing because if you are true to yourself, you’ll know exactly what to change for the next time. Proverbs 3:5-6
This has been a very long post so I’ll wait until the next one to give an update on cycle #2 and more information on IVF.