Against the odds: my IVF journey
13th July 2018
When me and my husband first started to think about having a family, I was doing my Masters. I had it all planned out. I would come off the pill in the summer, and then by the time I graduated I would have a child – in-between my Masters and re-entering full-time work. But when the time came, I wasn’t sure I was ready, so we decided to wait for a couple more years.
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was in a steady and stable job and definitely ready to start a family. We tried for 6 months, and then decided to go for some initial tests. When the tests results came back they stated my husband had ‘zero sperm count.’ I felt so hopeless, and wished it had happened to me not him.
This diagnosis was later revised to a ‘very low’ sperm count. This was the start of our IVF journey. It was emotionally tough, and I felt like I was constantly fighting against the system. We had to get committee approval for our IVF procedure on the NHS, given the low chances of success. Even the nurse who was speaking on our behalf said it was never going to be approved. I had to say “I need you to be on my side, not the system.” Never one to give up, I continued to fight, and push for the treatment. It was a lonely process. I was determined, and pushed for the treatment to be provided as soon as possible, but even so it took one whole year from the diagnosis to our first IVF treatment.
For the treatment, my husband and I both had to have procedures. So we were both hospitalised, and under full anaesthetic. We had to get a friend to come and pick us up. This IVF attempt failed, and I felt a huge sense of mourning and no real hope.
I then decided to have my next round of IVF treatment in my home country. For the first time I felt hopeful, my Doctor said to me ‘we have very high success rates, I’m pretty sure you’re going to have kids.’ My Doctor then drove the entire process and made decisions for us (like the number of embryos we should transfer). This provided a lot of comfort. Sadly, the first attempt failed too, but there was a plan for when I was going to have the next round of treatment. This was so important for me, as someone who is very action orientated.
The next round was successful. I remember finding out by email when I was in meeting, and I was literally grinning. But at 3 weeks, I felt something change. I went for a scan, and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. It was totally devastating.
The good news was that I knew I could conceive, and I was determined to hold onto that. Two months later we had our next round. This was successful, and I am now very lucky to have two twin girls.
My advice to women on the same journey
This journey is undoubtedly a very emotional one. It puts a lot of pressure on both you, your partner and your relationship. Conceiving naturally is romantic and natural, whereas fertility treatments take a lot of preparation and are engineered. You have hormones in your system that make you feel all over the place. At one point, after the egg collection, I remember thinking do we even want to have children together. And you both feel guilt – in our situation, he felt guilty that it was his fertility problem, I felt guilty he felt like that, I felt guilty about the miscarriage like it was somehow my fault. The physicality of fertility means there is often one person in the relationship who feels the weight of the responsibility – and that is not spoken about enough. The conflicting emotions are endless.
So my main piece of advice is to nurture your relationship. Don’t underestimate the pressure placed on your partner. Find a way to talk about, take the time to find joy together – whether that’s going for romantic weekend away or just spending time the two of you. My second tip is to find people who have been on the same journey as you – having that support is so key. A lot of people have reached out to me, and I’m so happy I can help them. It’s also important to have a support system around you when you are having your treatment, it’s physically and emotionally draining, I was so grateful to the friend who came and picked us up after that first round of IVF.
For me, it was really important to have action plan – to know what I would do next. Find out what works for you. Also make sure you trust your Doctor completely, I know I was very lucky with the treatment I received in my home country, but it really is worth finding a Doctor that you can build a good relationship with.
A reason for hope
By sharing my story I really hope it provides you with hope. I am so proud of the work Adia is doing to shine a light on women’s experiences and provide them with the support they need. It gives me hope that women on this same journey will have better experiences.