Allie’s Story: What I wish I’d known about using a known egg donor

Allie’s Story: What I wish I’d known about using a known egg donor

What I wish I’d known about using a known egg donor

Looking back, the darkest part of our whole infertility ‘journey’* was not when I received my diagnosis of premature ovarian failure. Nor was it when I only grew a single egg during our first IVF cycle, which subsequently failed. Nor was it when the following two cycles also failed.

Don’t get me wrong — each of these events left me completely devastated. Each time, I crawled into bed and cried for days. We just hadn’t reached peak devastation. That was still to come.

And it did come, ultimately in the form of our fertility clinic informing us that we would not be allowed to use the anonymous egg bank due to our foreign citizenship. That’s when any hope I was clinging onto was ripped away. Grappling with the decision to move to donor eggs was hard enough on its own, but it was infinitely harder when there weren’t even any donor eggs to speak of. That was peak devastation.

My husband and I had already had many conversations about trying to find a friend or family member to donate eggs, but there were so many unknowns. How would we even begin to ask someone for their eggs? Would anyone we know fit the donor criteria in the first place? And if we did find someone who was willing and able to donate their genes, would they also be willing to drop everything and fly to the Europe**, where we had recently moved and where we were lucky that our health insurance largely covered the incredibly costly procedure?

Finally, even if — by some miracle — we found someone who was willing to do all this for us, I still had some lingering concerns about using a known donor in general. Namely, would it complicate things in the future? Would we feel like we were ‘sharing’ our kid with a third person? If the (hypothetical) baby ended up being the spitting image of this (hypothetical) friend, would it be a constant sad reminder of my broken eggs and lack of genetic connection with my child?

Confronting my fears

As with most hard things in life, the best way out is through. In this case, that meant sitting myself down and having a long, hard look at where these concerns were really coming from in the first place. Once I was brave enough to do this self-reflection, I quickly discovered the source of the concerns: Fear and insecurity.

I wasn’t afraid that using a known donor would affect my feelings for the child: I knew I would love any baby that was ours just the same. Rather, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be seen as the ‘full’ mother by our mutual friends and, maybe eventually, by the child too. If I then followed this thought to its ‘logical’ conclusion — and if I was brutally honest with myself — a small part of me was afraid that the baby won’t love me as much as they otherwise would.

This fear isn’t restricted to known donors, of course. I’ve seen many women that are using anonymous donors express this fear in one form or another. However, it’s clearly much harder to ignore when the donor has a name and a face, and may even pop by the house for a visit.

Only when I was able to articulate the deep-rooted fear underlying my concerns could I recognized how ridiculous it sounded. Of COURSE the baby would still love me the same amount. Of COURSE I would be their one-and-only mother. It just meant that there would be no huge secret around where the other half of their genetics came from. And I realized this could actually be a benefit for the adult our baby would eventually grow into.

What I wish I’d known

Those of you who read my blog or follow me on Instagram know how our story unfolded next: An old friend from high school, Marie, volunteered to donate her eggs and flew out over her summer teaching break for the DEIVF cycle. Our fresh embryo transfer failed, as did our frozen transfer after that, but we eventually got lucky on our third (‘poor quality’!) transfer. I had an amazing pregnancy, giving birth to our perfect daughter at 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant. And after some scary (unrelated) health complications — because real life isn’t a Hallmark movie — she is now a very healthy and happy toddler.

Sitting here and watching her sleep on the baby monitor, I wish I’d known that my fears were unfounded. Using a known donor didn’t complicate anything — we are a family like any other family. Our egg donor is still a good friend who I text randomly about high school gossip, and our respective families are just as thrilled as we are that everything worked out.

I wish I’d known that using a known donor doesn’t feel at all like ‘sharing’ my daughter. More than that, I wish I’d known that I’d enjoy having another person with whom to share my adoration. I’m not threatened by my daughter’s connection to our egg donor, and I actually love that she has an extra special ‘Auntie’ in her life*** who thinks she’s as special as I do. At the end of the day, it’s one more person in the world who wants the best for my child, and what parent wouldn’t want that?

I wish I’d known that using a known donor would make my husband and I feel less alone during what is an incredibly isolating experience. Even when we didn’t know if it would work, having someone fly across an ocean to donate their genetics gave my husband and I renewed energy. Our private battle became a team effort, and after feeling alone in our struggles for so long, that support was invaluable.

Most importantly, I wish I’d known that using a known donor doesn’t make me feel like less of a mother. Yes there are times when I notice a hint of our donor’s features in my daughter’s sweet face, and yes, it has occasionally made me sad for the genetic connection we’re missing. However, most of the time, it just makes me feel ridiculously proud and grateful that I get to call her my daughter. More than anything, I hope that when she gets older and starts realizing that she doesn’t look like mommy, that she finds the answers she needs with her Aunt Marie. And I hope these answers make her realize how mommy and daddy moved heaven and earth just to have her.

xx Allie (aka @thebunlessoven)

* I hate the word ‘journey’ here because it conjures an image of a leisurely hike through a meadow, with an occasional stream crossing or maybe some light bouldering. If you’d have asked me after our 5th failed transfer, I’d have instead described our ‘journey’ more like that documentary where the guy has a horrific canyoneering accident, gets pinned behind a boulder for five days, and ends up sawing his own arm off. I think you get the picture.

** We are from the US but live in the Netherlands and did our DEIVF cycle in Belgium, because — according to my husband — I like to make everything ‘as complicated as possible’.

*** We talk openly with our daughter about her conception story. However, since there’s no honorific to indicate ‘woman who donated her genes to make the embryo that went in mommy’s tummy’, we stick with the next closest title: ‘Aunt’.

Announcing a new partnership

Announcing a new partnership

Paths to Parenthub & DefiningMum are collaborating with Apricity and Altrui

When I first launched my virtual donor conception support platform Paths to Parenthub I said that I wanted emotional support to be recognised as an essential part of the donor conception journey, not just an optional extra. I particularly wanted fertility clinics to recognise this and for donor conception not to be seen solely as a ‘practical’ process, but one that is often complex and requires deep emotional consideration, not just for us as patients now but to prepare us to best support our future children too.

That’s why I’m delighted to announce Paths to Parenthub’s first clinic partnership with Apricity and Altrui, to offer another layer of emotional support to their patients on this journey in addition to the practical support they are providing in helping then to grow their family. Apricity and Altrui are sister companies. Apricity is the fertility treatment arm of Altrui, and Altrui – with a pregnancy rate of 79% (the highest in the UK) – is the egg donation arm of Apricity. With this partnership, throughout 2021 they will be giving all of their egg donor recipients the opportunity to access Paths to Parenthub with a free 3 month membership.

After collaborating with Apricity and Altrui on a series of informative webinars in 2020 I’m delighted to be working with them again. I love their ethos and genuine aim to provide a smooth, warm and supportive journey for their patients. I’m going to be joined for an Instalive on my DefiningMum instagram account this Thursday 11th March at 7pm by Altrui’s Lead, Jane Holman, where we’ll chat about the importance of emotional support as well as a little bit more about how they work.

For so long now I’ve wanted to provide a space filled with information, support and connection opportunities for all different stages of the journey. Less than 6 months since launching, I feel proud that Paths to Parenthub has also been recognised and valued at a clinic level, so that patients will have the opportunity to feel more supported, informed and connected whilst embarking on their path to parenthood.

You can read more about our partnership and what Altrui offer through the following links:

If anyone ever has any questions about the information and support that is available through DefiningMum and Paths to Parenthub please just let me know!
Becky x
Hayley’s Story

Hayley’s Story

By telling my story I hope to lead the way and help raise awareness of Premature Menopause/POI. As a younger woman who has been dealt this card, I also want to try and help other ladies with my positive outlook on life. I have never let it define me or take away my spirit for a good life. I have it tough yes, but I am not going to let it ruin me. We have one shot at this so let’s live it as happily as we can.

Here’s the background to my story….

14 years old and told I had gone through the menopause… yep that’s right 14 years old.
I will never forget that day, sitting on the bed in a hospital room waiting for the Consultant to come into me and my Mum saying those words. My Mum balling her eyes out and me comforting her asking her to not cry as it’s ok. Thing is, it wasn’t ok, but then I had no clue what the Consultant was even talking about.

At the age of 12 I started my periods like a normal teenager. Then after a year they just stopped. I was struggling to concentrate at school and the nights were hell. Waking up dripping with sweat and just feeling weird. That’s literally how I described it to my Mum one day. I don’t feel like me Mum, I feel weird. So off we went to the Doctor’s. I explained what was going on and I was referred for a blood test and an ultrasound. Then two weeks later a Consultant Gynaecologist confirmed I had gone through my Menopause and that I needed to start taking HRT tablets.

I was told I had a womb but a small one and that they could only find one ovary. That was the first and the last time I was going to see my Consultant. I am now 39 years old. I literally have never been contacted since. Not given any follow up appointments, no help, no guidance to understand what had happened to me nothing. Put on HRT (Prempak C) and left to just get on with it.

Even when Prempak C was discontinued a few years back I wasn’t even informed by my Doctor. The pharmacist told me when I went to pick up my meds. Meds, may I add that I have to pay for… which I find astonishing. I need to take these daily and I had none left so luckily after a long phone call I managed to get in with a GP the next day. Who then told me there was no exact alternative and she was putting me on another brand. But that was horrendous. All my levels went crazy and my symptoms returned, and my bleeds were so painful. I then was changed onto Femoston which I took for years. But I have since learnt after a consultation with Dr Louise Newson that many symptoms I had presented at my Doctor’s with, were in fact menopausal symptoms. My GP never linked the two and instead prescribed me anti-depressants for insomnia. He should have sent me for blood tests, which would have revealed my estrogen levels were too low and my HRT in fact needed adjusting. I have also realised since taking control of this and speaking out that I should have been having DEXA scans. I have never been for one in my life. I have since pushed this with my GP and I now have one booked for Jan 2021.

As a child I needed to learn what it all meant, and back then there was hardly anything on the internet to read and even to this day limited material to a teenager experiencing this happening to them. This needs addressing as I felt lost for years as I just didn’t understand it all. Medical professionals looked at me like I was some sort of freak. If I was given a pound for the amount of times a doctor or nurse has said to “me you poor girl” when I answer the dreaded question… “what medication do you take”. I would have had loads of work done on myself. Which leads me on to how I have felt growing up… hating what I saw looking back at me in the mirror. The one job a woman is given to do, and I couldn’t even do that properly. I felt like a failure. A failure as a woman.

I can’t say I grew up depressed, I just learnt how to cope. I grew up not liking my appearance. I suppose I felt insecure about myself. I struggled with relationships with guys as I knew I had it looming over me that one day I was going to have to tell them. Even when I did tell them or my friends, neither understood. I even lost a friend over it as she said I was lying and that it was a sick thing to make up! Charming ay… The response I got from the close few I did tell was always the same… It will happen one day mate, loads of women are told they can’t have kids and they do.

Nobody understood what I was saying. Because no one was or is educated enough, No one knows what it means. Even to this day people still do not understand. So, in my words I say it how it is…. To produce a baby, you need an egg and a sperm, and I don’t have eggs, end of.

Since I have spoken out, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted and in a way I feel free of it. I hope that by speaking about my experience out loud I can try and get this recognised more. To help educate all, that this can happen at such a young age as many are still so unaware of this. I have even been called a liar on some so called “menopause support groups” on Facebook, as people do not believe that this can happen. I want to help Mother’s if their daughters are showing any signs to get them to the doctor’s as soon as possible. I also want women to push at the doctors for them to listen to you. As doctors still sound like they are in denial that it can happen to younger women. As well as to get people to speak out and not hide it all inside, because you feel everyone will be gossiping about you.

Unfortunately, it happens to all of us females one day. There is no set age limit on it, which I am living proof of.

The present day….

So life currently is busy, busy, busy, as well as working a 40 hour week, trying to get my story out there… me and my Husband are currently going through the Adoption process. We always knew it was the route we wanted to take. We had discussed in length the idea of going through IVF and he accepted my decision that it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I had already grieved for years and knowing from the age of 14, I was never going to be able to have my own biological child I had accepted. I was never going to have a baby of my own biologically so egg donation for me just wasn’t the way I would see myself become a Mum. In my eyes to be a parent it is to provide endless love, support and just adore your child. Nurture over nature so they say. I know how much love I have to give, and for me to be able to give that to a child whose own parents cannot do this, will fulfil my dreams of becoming a Mother. I also now see that maybe things do happen for a reason, as that reason is to find my Child through adoption and give them a much better life, then their birth parents were able to give them.
The adoption timeline is actually a lot shorter than it used to be. So if you are considering this please don’t let that put you off. Once you have got through the Pre-stage and into Stage 1 it can feel a bit slow waiting on training days and workbooks to be issued, but you just have to keep the faith that it’s just part of it all and it will all be worth it in the end.

We are currently in Stage 2 and are due to meet our new Social Worker in January, so we will then be working towards a panel date to become approved adopters.

Soooo, wish us luck!

I want to say a huge thank you to Hayley for so bravely sharing her story with us. Having experienced an early menopause diagnosis myself at the age of 28, I just can’t imagine how difficult this news must have been to process at such a young age, with such little support. I couldn’t agree with Hayley any more that awareness needs to be raised – that menopause isn’t just something that impacts women later on in life, it can happen at a much younger age and, with the stigma that often comes alongside this, it can have an even greater impact on day to day life and mental health for the individual. As Hayley’s story suggests, it’s not just in society where awareness needs to be raised, but particularly within the medical professional community itself. 
I personally was misdiagnosed at first and treated with such a lack of empathy from my GP, who didn’t even seem to know that it was a ‘thing’.  Even to this day I still get comments like “you’re far too young for HRT” from medical professionals who haven’t understood and read their notes. That’s why I’m delighted to be able to share stories like this on my platform, to show why it’s so important for us to talk about these subjects. It’s also why the work that charities like The Daisy Network are doing is so important in breaking down the stigma, sharing these voices and ensuring that no-one else has to go through this diagnosis alone. 
I’d love to hear your thoughts, please do share your experiences and comments for Hayley below.
Becky x
Emma’s Story – Endings & Beginnings

Emma’s Story – Endings & Beginnings

January.

It has always been a funny time for me. I usually get itchy feet of current situations and yearn for change and growth. I never view it as the beginning of a sparkly, fresh New Year, full of hope and promise. Instead, I see it an ending. A time for reflection, preparation and visions; ready to make changes by March (my birthday month), which is when my New Year begins.

January was the month that my husband and I decided to hatch plans to move from London; my home town, to his. With the cost of houses far cheaper in the East Midlands, we saw it as a way to secure our family. He would be able to support us when I finally became pregnant (we had been trying for roughly 3 years at this point and had only just started the referral process and initial blood tests. Why did I wait 3 years? I honestly thought that we weren’t trying hard enough, and denial), something which would have been nigh on impossible in our rented house in East London.

In preparation, I changed jobs (again — that’s a whole other post), to save money for our big move. I thought that by moving to a small rural town, being closer to nature and that by ‘slowing down’ somewhat, I would have more chances of conceiving. Surely, the late nights and constant standing, in my previous career as a hairstylist, had a lot to do with why that wasn’t happening! So, off we went, with a spring in our step to gloriously, lush, pastures new. I secured a job in our local school, which gifted me with vast experience of being with children (I didn’t have the best role model growing up, which is another reason why it took me so long to seek medical help — fear of being the same), shorter hours and long holidays — great for our soon to be extended family!

We settled into our new home, taking wonderfully long walks with our angel dog, making plans and really getting the ball rolling with our treatment. I put on weight, stopped exercising as much (I was a keen runner and cyclist in London, but I decided to considerably cut down), changed my diet, read books, and channelled my energies even more, to this ever encompassing project of mine. I might add, that I felt it tricky making friendships. There were some inherited wives of my husband’s school friends, who were very lovely and super supportive. However, I found that I pushed them away through shame, embarrassment, and possibly a slight lack of connection, due to the very fact that I was childless, and they were not. I had no confidence.

Another reason why forging new relationships with people was hard for me. On reflection, I was in the height of the self loathing that comes with infertility and had very little confidence, if any at all! I was anxious, sad, jealous and angry. Depressed too. I remember saying to my husband that I would consider taking tablets if it was not for trying to conceive. I was gripped by all of the emotions that comes with this journey and now I was feeling even more isolated due to our ‘idyllic’ new life. School was bitter sweet, I both cherished and loathed it. As you can imagine, the cohort of staff was 99% female. Most of whom had a family, were pregnant (ouch) or were not thinking that far ahead yet. I began to feel increasingly sad. Being around children, was pretty torturous at times. But all would be fine, as my day would come!

Fast forward, to the extensive tests and an investigative operation, healing, and treatment waiting- lists. We finally got a diagnosis of ‘unexplained fertility’. Excellent! That’s positive, no? I had hope (I say I, as my husband, didn’t really ‘get it’. Our infertility was ‘my’ infertility).

Our first clinic advised us to begin our IVF journey by having some rounds of IUI, due to nothing being seemingly ‘wrong’ on the surface. Finally! A starting point! We were appreciative of the ‘extra’ opportunity. Finally! After all the waiting, all the devastating and heartbreaking monthly menstruation, we really could be well on our way, to extending our family by Christmas! A thought that I began nurturing and visualising, ever since we became infertility patients. My hope grew. As the control was out of my highly incapable hands, it might actually work! However, I did have reservations. I was growing increasingly impatient and desperate, our journey had been painstakingly long already (four years), my age was rapidly rising (38) and the success rates were not incredible. Nevertheless, there was hope. And, who were we to look the (amazing NHS) gift-horse in the mouth? After one unsuccessful round and one cancelled treatment — due to unripe follicles, I fell pregnant.

January. A time for reflection, preparation and pregnancy!

This is the moment where my journey became OUR journey. My husband was super detached from the whole process until the BFP (big fat positive). My obsessive and ever absorbing mission, to carry a child in my womb, was wearing. I had changed. Drastically. I was a stranger, not only to myself, but to him. I was a shadow of who I once was. We had also just found out that my husband’s dynamic mum, had been given the heart breaking diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. We put the past pains and strains behind us, as it would all be worth it! We were quick to share our news with my husband’s parents. We felt it would lift their spirits, especially, his mum. Cue to our imaginations running wild. My mantra was no longer, we could be pregnant by Christmas. Instead, we were revelling in the fact that we would have a baby by Christmas and it would be magical again. We would make traditions. No more pain and grief, and wanting to hide away. No more harnessing feelings of the insidiously aching, childless void.

Throughout the initial 6 weeks, I took pregnancy tests almost daily. You know, just to check. Honestly, I wish I had shares in pregnancy test manufacturers. The amount of tests we have purchased over the years could probably have paid for a small flat in London! And pregnancy was no exception! I was elated. I felt like a ‘woman’ at last! My body was no longer my foe. I took myself and my baby off for long dog walks, privately bonding. I experienced a plethora of comforting pregnancy symptoms. My body was changing, my tastebuds too! We were enjoying every single second. Unfortunately, four days before our 6 week scan, I began to bleed. I knew something was not quite right, to be honest. That instinctive feeling, the same one that told me I was pregnant, just days after treatment. I had taken a test the previous week, one which stated I was only two weeks pregnant. My anxiety soared. I frantically booked reflexology and a facial to try and relax myself. Through my experience of working with children with behavioural difficulties, I have learned that anxiety can be transferred through the womb (something that I am particularly interested in, due to my own childhood experiences and relationship with my mother).

However, it was futile. It took another 6 weeks of hospital visits and blood tests until we could take a breath. It seems as though I had an ectopic pregnancy. One that cannot be proved either way but, due to the lack of an embryonic sac and hormone levels rising, before plateauing, this was the most reasonable explanation. I won’t go into my experiences of this moment too much here, as I it requires far too
many words. But, know that I felt inexplainable, immeasurable pain and despair, juxtaposed with, somehow, positivity.

My initial reaction was, of course, utter self hatred and shocking shame, and absolute fear; feelings that have been like long standing friends since this journey began. Strangely, it was not too dissimilar to how I felt during each menstrual cycle. It was a time where I felt so alone. My husband and I were pretty rocky. The pressure of trying so hard for a family, the grief of his mother’s illness and the ectopic really took its toll. My husband and I had some time out from each other, a few days after the initial detection of the pregnancy loss, due to heightened emotions. I was the only person in my group of friends who had been through something like this. I felt as though I shouldn’t be burdening anyone really, as it could have been worse.

Thankfully, I saw the positives too. I saw how it could have been so very much worse and that I was lucky. I was lucky that I had a super supportive boss. I was lucky that my friends reached out. I was lucky that my body was actually managing this misplaced embryo all by itself. I was lucky that I could see that. It was a truly pivotal point during this whole process of creation. I felt empowered. A month, or so afterwards, we changed clinics. A new clinic meant new hope. Our consultant told us that we were eligible for ICSI as we had been trying for over 5 years. We only needed to have some blood tests and could start the following month.

Yet, I knew that I needed to refocus my attention. It had been wrapped up in my womb for too many years. My life had been on hold. We had moved our whole life. We needed to rebuild us. I needed so desperately to rebuild me. I was utterly and totally exhausted. So, four months later, after grappling with the guilt of spending some of my savings on me, rather than future maternity leave or baby related ‘stuff’. I flew to the textured, whispering mountains of Barcelona; to rekindle my long standing love affair with yoga and to become a yoga and meditation teacher. To say that the month was transformative, is an understatement. I felt re centred. I felt like me, for the first time in years. For the first time in 6 years I put me first. Not, my desire to have a baby.

On returning, I was beginning to feel clear about my future. I was beginning to envisage my career again, my life. What made my heart sing? What did I need to flourish? Was it time for my husband and I to go our separate ways? I was months away from turning 40, was it time to
abandon the idea of having my own child? With age related success rate depleting at an alarming rate, was it finally time to put this to bed?

January. A time for, reflection, preparation and soon to be turning 40!

As I embarked my 40th year of life on this magnificent Earth, I had new hope and optimism. Life began at 40 right? Time to really set some personal goals in concrete. Time to get my fitness back on track, after years of cultivating a nurturing and nourishing environment for our baby. Time to have fun again. Time to drink coffee again. Time to travel and experience the depth and the breadth of life, together, with my husband and our dog. Time to put it all behind us. Not yet.

It was late January, when my siblings and I had a call from my estranged mother, telling us that she had cancer. This was an interesting time for us all. Lots of feelings to unpick, again, silently. Whilst providing emotional support for my mother. We (my sister and brother) pulled together and provided my mother with the best support and care that we could give. It was at this time that my heart began to yearn again, for my own child. Somehow, I felt triggered by my mother’s attachment to her children, even after the many years of not being in our lives. The unprecedented bond between (my) mother, and (her) children, roused my intrenched biological urge to have my own, again. It had been a just under a year since we last met with the clinic. I was advised to ‘just give them a call’ to begin.

As IVF journeys are notoriously penned as being a roller coaster, ours was no exception. After 7 exhaustive years of trying, 4 years of actually having medical help, an ectopic, not to mention 8 months off, more agonising waiting ensued. Why? Covid.

I first contacted our clinic shortly after the first lockdown, just before my 40th birthday. To be told that, regrettably, no more patients were being accepted. Again, although we felt pretty disheartened, we knew that so many people and couples were having their treatment cancelled. Something which I knew to be monumental, but I was unaware at quite how much. I, along with my siblings, continued to care for my mother, as much as was emotionally and physically possible, due to the rich dynamics of a dysfunctional family and the new restrictions that covid introduced to us all.

Increasingly, I felt anger growing in my heart. I was angry that my mum had three (amazing) children, who, despite everything, were doting on her. In her time of need. Even though she had created wounds as deep as the Earth’s crust. This experience exasperated my need to have a child with my husband. I knew that I would be a good mother (finally, I began to see this after many, many years of work) and I was cross that she wasn’t and was totally unaware of her blessings! I actually think this is when I first began to feel as though it just wasn’t fair. And also, the first time I admitted to myself that I was dancing a tango with infertility.

Treatment started. I felt OK, generally. My husband and I pretty much self isolated. I utilised my yoga teachings and mediated daily, using visualisations. I religiously gave myself acupressure, with guidance via zoom, from my long standing acupuncturist (another area in which I wish I had shares), I still had my job and was able to work from home. The sun was shining, we were all settling into the new normal. We were all beginning to come out the other side. My last scan before egg collection was very promising. I had 24 follicles — the idea that we really could be pregnant by Christmas skipped around in our heads and our hearts. We got the call that four of the 19 eggs had reached blastocyst stage the day before transfer. From the collection, there were 11 that were mature, which, after day one went down to 9. On the day of transfer, we had two B graded blastocysts. In theatre, the embryologist put a picture of them (our babies) on the screen. I was a hormonal, sobbing wreck, and even my husband was emotional. He proudly took a photo of them.

Sadly, we had a BFN (big fat negative). It really took the stuffing out of us. I think, after the prolonged, emotional rollercoaster of IVF, of us supporting our mothers, Covid and not seeing friends, it all just mounted up. It almost felt as though we had had an another pregnancy loss again. After all, those cells were blastocysts. Our DNA. Our babies. However, we were stronger than ever. Something which we are very grateful for. The day after the pregnancy test, my mum got the all clear, thankfully. I was completely drained from it all and was unable to give anyone any type of support, not least my mother, who I was still pretty angry at. A week later, schools started back after the summer and I returned to work, which was challenging, for many reasons. I knew that treatment would start at some point in the near future and I was super anxious about getting Covid and its impact on treatment.

To add insult to injury, someone I worked with, was heavily pregnant and weeks away from her maternity leave (great timing). It was at this time that I spoke to a fertility counsellor. The following weeks were pretty painful. I couldn’t stop gazing at her gorgeous bump, wanting to hug it, at the same time feeling totally heartbroken. No one at work knew about my infertility, apart from my bosses. I have always felt so ashamed about it all, always blaming myself (until now). Due to my high response to the stimulation drugs, we were advised to wait a few months for my hormones to settle down, before going again. We had one blastocyst left. We couldn’t leave it in the freezer. What if that one worked? Our last chance? I always said that if I was not pregnant by the end of my 40th year, then we would should to call it a day. We started treatment again. I took time off from work. Everything was good to go. I felt great on the HRT tablets! And I was lucky enough to have acupuncture (something which I prioritised spending most of my hard earned money on). This time around, I continued to do gentle exercise, which was so needed for my mental health. We knew that IVF was not a miracle cure, but having the control taken from you makes you somewhat optimistic. Of course the chances of it working on the first round is pretty slim, but, you still have hope, because, you know, it could work. But after the devastation I had felt after the first round, I knew that I needed to take my mind off of the process, and to not invest so much of my energy on it.

We were one scan away from transfer, when our treatment got cancelled. The scan revealed a polyp in the lining of my womb. That was on December 3rd, 2020. We weren’t going to be pregnant by Christmas. Again, that familiar feeling of despair, panic, sheer frustration and grief settled back into my bones and to the pit of my stomach. We have been told that surgery will be needed if it does not shed after my next bleed. More waiting… More uncertainty. More time floating by… And, to make matters worse, due to the length of waiting lists as a result of Covid, we have no idea how long our referral could take (here’s hoping that current restrictions won’t extend our wait even further. Or worse still, rob us of our chance of having our own baby). The silver lining? Because of Covid, we were able to have the Christmas that WE wanted. Just the three of us. In our home, making new traditions.

January. A time for reflection, redirection and endings? And hope.

The theme continues. This year is no exception. On reflection, I am so grateful for this journey. Although I lost myself, I have found me again, albeit, a different version than before. I am more resilient. I feel more ‘womanly’ than I ever have before. I no longer have the shackles of shame and self hate. I have much more respect for myself and my body now — even though I am a few stone heavier! I finally feel happy in my own skin. I feel empowered, and you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing.

We are still waiting to see what will happen next. When my hormones become grounded again, we have hope that the pesky polyp will have disappeared. If not, then it will be surgery, whenever that will be. In the meantime, my amazing husband and I are flirting with the idea of getting our lives back. Of enjoying our time together, like when we first met. Without the strains of infertility dragging us down. Focussing on what we do have, rather than what we don’t.

We are discussing the possibility of adoption. We are also getting comfortable with the idea that it may just be the three of us, and that is beginning to feel ok. Will we finish our round after Mr Polyp has been eradicated? It changes daily. What I am certain of, is, that it will be alright. I am more than my infertility. You are more than your infertility.

Through endings there is also hope.

I want to say a huge thank-you to Emma for sharing her personal journey so eloquently and openly, you can contact Emma on Instagram @daisyduchessduke or @yoga.forchange.

Olivia’s Story – Why I donated my eggs

Olivia’s Story – Why I donated my eggs

I am so lucky to be a mum, an egg donor and now an advocate for the most precious gift you can give. So here it is, my story about how I discovered egg donation and the amazing path it set me on. I had just had my first baby boy when a neighbour from down the road had popped in for a cuppa and a cuddle, we got chatting and I couldn’t help but notice the maternal warmth and longing she exuded. After a bit more chit chat, she told me that she was unable to have her own children due to a low egg count, that her and her partner had been trying for years. In that moment my heart broke for them. She told me they had now decided to look for an egg donor, something I had never heard of before. As my neighbour explained the process and how she was still able to have hope because somewhere out there a stranger was willing to give them this gift, I immediately knew that I wanted to donate my eggs.

Fast forward 3 years after I’d had my second baby boy and I felt ready to help someone/a couple finally become a parent. In the time between finding out about donation and calling Altrui, I had done a lot of research so felt ready to get the process started. The ladies at Altrui were amazing, so supportive and knowledgeable. I poured my heart and soul into my profile, hoping that any potential recipients would really get a feel for who I am as a person. I will never forget the call saying I had been matched, the wave of excitement and emotion I felt. However, one thing I didn’t expect to feel was the sudden onset of pressure and fear that I would let my couple down, who were out there somewhere pinning all their parenting hopes on me and my eggs.

I am so pleased that the treatment was completed without complication and my recipients received lots of high-quality eggs. Almost exactly a year later (on my birthday – the best present ever!) I received a message from Altrui to say my recipients had welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world and they were smitten. The happiness I feel for that family is so hard to put into words and I have no doubt that they will be the
most loving and doting parents. I regularly think about them and the many firsts and milestones they will be cherishing and find myself smiling. I also speak to my children about mummy helping another family to have a baby, how kindness is free and there can never be enough of it!

I would love to one day meet my recipients and more than anything, give the mummy a big cuddle. I have so much love for the family and feel so honoured that they picked me and I have been able to help their dreams become true. A lot of people ask me how I feel about having another child out there, I don’t feel like this is the case. I have two children, I grew them, birthed them and tuck them in every night, I am forever grateful for that, so to be able to help someone else to have that, is the greatest gift, for the recipient and for me. If anything, I feel that my emotional tie is to the mother, we have a very unique connection and she is regularly in my thoughts.

That being said, I would love to one day meet the child/children and answer any questions they may have about me and my family history. I completely respect that it will be the donor conceived child’s decision and it’s ok either way, I also hope that they will involve their parents in any decision they make.

I am now a huge advocate for egg donation and it is something I am incredibly passionate about. There are so many people out there waiting for a donor and they all deserve the chance to be parents and to feel the unconditional love that comes from it.

I want to say a huge thank you to Olivia for sharing her story, an amazing lady who quite literally brought me to tears during one of my joint webinars with @altruieggdonation and Apricity last year – I’ve linked it here if you would like to watch the recording.

To find out more about Altrui Egg Donation, as either a recipient or a donor, head to their website – https://www.altrui.co.uk/