Guest Blogs, IVF, Life of a Mum

Infertility following miscarriage, a guest blog

Thanks to lovely Lausanne for sharing her experiences of fertility issues in this blog……

Where do I start? How about right back in 2000.

I had been seeing my now husband for 6 months when we found out I was pregnant. I was 29 and he was 30. We were both in shock but neither of us were getting any younger so we knew it was what we wanted and were looking forward to the arrival of our baby in late spring 2001.

However it was not to be. I started spotting at around 8 weeks and after 2 very long and painful days I miscarried in a hospital toilet in Chislehurst in Kent. We were devastated. I had been having treatment for severe endometriosis when I fell pregnant so the fact I had actually had a positive test seemed like a miracle to me at the time.

I recall in the days following the miscarriage waking each morning only to remember that I was no longer pregnant and being overwhelmed by the crippling disappointment to no longer feel like I was doing the important job of growing a tiny human, because it didn’t matter to me that I was only 8 weeks along my every waking moment was about providing that tiny being with the best possible chance of survival.

I had no idea how common early miscarriage was until it happened to me, and you very rarely find out the reason for why they happen, and much as the medical profession see it as just one of those things it is impossible to not question yourself and was it something you did or didn’t do that caused it.

Fast forward to 2004. We were now married and living in Market Harborough. I had undergone 2 further surgeries for endometriosis.

It was almost like the procedure of having the adhesions removed followed by a treatment of zolodex medication to stop my periods put my body into the best position to get pregnant. So I fell pregnant again in July of that year.

This time round everyone assured me that it would work out for us, they could feel it in their waters or they had a good feeling about it this time. I did too, especially as I had started being sick daily at around the 7 week mark. I was advised that this was a sign of a strong pregnancy so I felt very positive. Until the first week of October literally days before my 12 week scan I started to spot again. I was terrified, why was it happening to me again, this baby was very much wanted and everyone had told me it was going to work this time……

I had to wait 2 days for my scan and I had stopped spotting and was still being sick so I had convinced myself that perhaps it was going to be ok. We had the foresight to take my mother in law with us for the scan because when I heard the question “did we get your dates muddled up” after what seemed like an eternity I knew it was over & I just shut down. I don’t remember a great deal, other than feeling so let down by my body and like I just wanted the world to stop.

My mother in law was wonderful and asked many questions which we couldn’t ask because we were consumed by grief.

Now as many women who have suffered multiple miscarriages know, you have to have suffered 3 miscarriages before they will investigate.To me this is barbaric. How on earth in this day and age is it ok to say it is ok to suffer this devastating, life changing event 3 times before it can be looked in to?

I knew I couldn’t go through the same thing again so we paid for private tests to find out if there was a cause behind the losses.

I can still remember getting a call from the consultant at the time to say they had found an issue involving a mutated gene in my test results which meant I suffered from a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden. In layman’s terms it meant that the blood supply was not getting to the baby in the uterus and I was miscarrying as a result.

In order to prevent this from happening I would need to start taking a low dose of aspirin daily and in the event of any future pregnancies I would need to have daily injections to ensure my blood remained thin to stand any chance of carrying a baby to term. However this never happened because I never again conceived naturally after that miscarriage and after more surgery to deal with the ongoing debilitating disease that is endometriosis at the age of 35 we embarked on the long and arduous journey of IVF.

We soon realised with the extreme number of tests you have to endure with IVF that with a blocked left Fallopian tube and extensive endometriosis scarring and only ovarian tissue on my right hand side it would have been an impossibility to fall pregnant without intervention.

We went into our first long protocol cycle full of hope, I did everything to prepare my body, including giving up red meat, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, you name it I wanted to make sure I was doing everything to give my body the best possible chance to be able to get pregnant.

At first it all felt like a bit of a novelty doing daily injections & having multiple scans to track my progress. You feel like you are doing the most important job in the world and as such I fell in to the trap that was the belief this is how I would get that very much longed for baby.

You are being bombarded with many statistics at every step of the way so I remember the immense feeling of disappointment at my first egg collection where I only managed to achieve a retrieval of 4 eggs. I was assured that they were good quality eggs but after 3 days only 2 of the embryos were continuing to divide so it was time to undergo the painful procedure that is embryo transfer and both embryos were put back. Then it was time for the two week wait.

I stayed at home, I remained either in bed or on the sofa, hardly daring to move in case I dislodged the embryos inside of me.

It made absolutely no difference to the result which was crippling cramping pains on day 10 of the wait followed by a very heavy period. The slap in the face of it all is that you still have to do a pregnancy test after 2 weeks just to confirm that you aren’t pregnant.

That whole procedure takes around 3 months, a quarter of a year, a whole season. You are advised to take at least a month between cycles to give your body a chance to recover, so cycle 2 is scheduled. Again I am required to undertake a long protocol as I was unsuccessful in securing any embryos for freezing with an increased dosage in my medication in the vain hope I will produce more eggs this time around.

However I fail to down regulate and remain on the drugs for 8 weeks injecting a total of 56 injections. I feel rough, am tearful, moody & my legs feel very sore to touch from the daily injections.

We are advised to stop and take a 3 month break. This seems like a lifetime and to say we were upset is an understatement.

But we continue because the statistics show for a woman of my age 95% of woman will get pregnant within 3 cycles.

So this is it cycle number 3, this will be the one that gives us our baby.

Except it isn’t.

Even with the increased meds, the successful down regulation, the successful collection of 13 eggs this time round, I still never made it to the end of the 2 week wait before I started spotting.

At this point I have had enough. I want to throw the towel in, I cannot do this anymore. I am both mentally, physically and emotionally drained. We stop.

We go on holiday, we adopt another cat, we avoid family gatherings with children, we retreat into our safe haven to lick our wounds and prepare for life as a childless couple. We make plans but there is always that gaping hole. The endometriosis kicks in again, causing so much pain some days I can barely get out of bed, I am physically sick and the pain is so intense some days that it causes me to faint. I have woken up twice on the bathroom floor in a pool of blood.

It wasn’t unusual to find me in a hot bath at 3 in the morning to try and get some pain relief whilst waiting for cocodemol to kick in.

Finally after having major surgery to remove a 5cm cyst from my right ovarian tissue I was advised that I needed to decide if I wanted to undergo any further fertility treatment because if not I would need to have a full hysterectomy. An extremely sobering moment in our lives.

We had always thought we would come back to fertility treatment again one day but now we were being told it was now or never.

So in 2014 we made the decision brave or foolish who knows to try again for one last time.

I psyched myself up for the treatment, we were on the highest dose of medication with multiple daily injections this time round only to fail at the down regulation stage again. We had to stop and break for a month which was heartbreaking but we had promised ourselves one final full cycle of treatment so we went again in the beginning of 2015.

I never believed it would be successful especially as I was as sick as a dog with a stomach bug the day before embryo transfer.

The procedure was extremely painful and I remember thinking well that is it. Our IVF journey is over and going home in silence.

I didn’t rest, I didn’t lay up, I carried on as normal and waited for the stomach cramps to come but 10 days went by with nothing, then 11, then 12, I started to think just perhaps this may be our time at last and on day 15 when I had to do my pregnancy test I will never ever forget that feeling of seeing the two pink lines.

We were ecstatic, terrified, elated, panicked, overjoyed & scared all at the same time.

I felt truly blessed to be pregnant, it wasn’t an easy pregnancy, I was sick twice a day up to 18 weeks, I had gestational diabetes and Lilia was stuck in the transverse position right up to 36 weeks where I was admitted to hospital as a precaution because of the risk of a spontaneous labour which would have killed both her and myself.

She was eventually born at 38 weeks after 15 years of trying for a baby at the age of 44.

She is more than worth the wait, I am incredibly lucky to be her mum and I know I am blessed.

My heart goes out to those who have and will endure this process, it is tough, it is painful, it is a huge gamble, it is expensive, it makes you cynical, it is a license to print money, it is unknown but without it there would be no Lilia and for that I will always be eternally grateful.

Lausanne is Market Harborough based- and like me has a huge love of kids fashion- so much so she has a preloved kids fashion business

Peachy and Birdie Shop

P&B insta

Life of a Mum

Shielding (from your emotions)

If you’ve read my previous blog on shielding you’d know that I’ve been doing so since March 23rd- this is due to being on medications for Rheumatoid Arthritis that cause me to be immunosuppressed.

 

Shielding and social distancing aren’t the same 

There are two levels of higher risk—the “clinically vulnerable” which includes, among others, all over 70s, and the “clinically extremely vulnerable” who are people with certain conditions who have been contacted by the NHS. I’m classed as clinically extremely vulnerable: and as such I’ve received two letters from the government advising what I can and can’t do- this is very restrictive. This includes things such as

·        Cannot go outside of the house

·        Must work from home if at all

·        Unable to go to the shops

·        Unable to see family unless I live with them

·        Must try to socially distance from those I live with (i.e. Use different bathrooms and bedrooms)

 

As of July 6th the advice has changed which means I can see groups of up to 6 people outside (hurrah for seeing the grandparents in the garden.) But those a few miles away in Leicester, cannot have these restrictions dropped due to a new lockdown. So in theory I can see people, but in practise can’t see a lot of my friends as they live in the lockdown zone.

From August 1st (unless this changes- likely as I live near Leicester and work in Leicester) advice means I’m no longer advised to shield, and can return to work, but should still socially distance and avoid socialisation whilst COVID 19 is still around. I’m not really liking the sound of the ‘new normal’ – for life as a immunocompromised person is going to be quite restrictive and isolating- TBH I want to rewind a year!

 

I’m a chatty, sociable person, that usually sees up to 100 people a day    

Therefore I’ve found the last 14 weeks very hard. My  only company has been the wonderfully chatty Dorothea (aged 3) and my husband ( usually busy working from home). Social media including zoom has really helped, but really doesn’t cut it. I’m desperate for a coffee and cake with friends, pizza and wine out or a play date meet up at the farm park.

 

Some people don’t care- think COVID doesn’t exist

This is so frustrating; bearing in mind I’ve almost been housebound for 16weeks. So many people simply believe COVID ‘doesn’t exist’, is a ‘big hoax- there’s so many conspiracy theories going around- which rather messes with my head! Should I really be depriving myself of normal, when lots of the world don’t even believe there’s a problem. Of course I KNOW the virus is real (obviously as I worked in a hospital in the run up to lockdown).

 

Guilt- others have it harder

I appreciate that I’m lucky- as a shielder I have good support from family and friends, I have a nice house and garden to spend time in and my health is reasonable. But whoever you are, and wherever you live shielding we be hard. It’s a complete loss of independence- you can’t just pop anywhere anymore, cant just drop something off to family, see people on their birthdays, accept any form of childcare, and have to rely on others to have contact with the outside world for you.

Guilt- should be at work

One of the hardest things initially was the massive guilt I felt for not being at work! As you may know my role is a frontline nursing position, so high risk but very much a ‘keyworker’ – the feeling of suddenly ‘letting my team down’ was immense- I went from working hands on with COVID patients on a Tuesday- but on the Thursday was shielding for at least 12 weeks. From an outsiders perspective you would not expect me to be shielding; I don’t look sick, I’m fairly young (for a senior nurse), slim and fit and ‘healthy’- I expect some people would feel I don’t need to be off at all.

Will people think I’m a cop out? A skiver? Pulling a sicky?

Should I ‘weigh up the risks’ and return to work earlier than advised.

Will the mental impact of shielding affect me way more than the physical aspects of COVID would have?

My mind is busy with so many thoughts; part of me doesn’t know if I can, or should ever return to my previous job. Does our ‘new normal’ mean that a nursing role is just not sensible for a person who is immunocompromised?

 

Emotive- lost my purpose

After working for all of my adult life (apart from maternity leave) the loss of my daily work life is immense. Going from having important role with great job satisfaction to sitting at home day in day out is very demoralising. My employer has offered me limited opportunity to do any ‘working from home’ roles, so I really feel I’ve lost my purpose.

My goodness I love Dorothea, and after trying so hard to get her of course I value my role as a mother- but for me that wasn’t all I was put on this earth for. I’m made for nursing- and not nursing when nurses are needed the most make me feel inadequate, a let down and useless. My weeks are full of ups and downs; some weeks I speak to colleague’s, read emails enthusiastically and keep up to date- but other weeks I struggle to wash and dress, feel tearful and think about my first Gin to early. To be honest my head is a mess.

 

Guilt- get annoyed with myself for not enjoying my ‘time ‘off’

Lets be fair- this isn’t the best ‘time off’ – it’s really not like maternity leave when you can visit friends and family, go to baby groups and out for lunch or afternoon tea. This is isolation- please don’t describe it as time off- it doesn’t feel like a holiday- it feels like a punishment.

Yes some days I feel blessed and really lucky that I have all this ‘bonus’ time with Dotty, but others I’m exhausted! Being a stay at home mum must be the hardest job ever- 15weeks in and I’ve barely been a different room to Dot- because let’s face it- toddlers will watch you wee and they rarely stop asking questions. I can’t even escape fo a few minutes peace to the shop or for a coffee- as that’s not allowed.

Mental health 

I think the mental health impact of shielding is huge – I can’t speak for others; but know for me, that the longer I stay at home, the more anxious I get about returning to the ‘real world’. My bubble feels safe, shopping deliveries feel safe, locking myself away feels safe. Even driving my car (with sole purpose of ‘giving it a run’) makes me anxious- fast breathing, palpitation, paranoia and second guessing myself.

I feel everything in life from now on is going to involve some sort of risk assessment! And how exhausting will that be.

What shop should we go to?

Is the park safe?

Should Dot return to preschool?

Can I take the dog to the vets?

I really need to see the dentist- but that can’t be socially distanced!

Shielding or not shielding, worried or not worried- all I know for certain is life is going to be very different for all of us from now on. Please be kind to others- don’t be condescending or demeaning about their concerns or anxieties- after all, all of us have been through a very difficult few months. 

Some useful links:

Government Shielding advice

Covid and anxiety- NHS advice

COVID anxiety- MIND advice