Seeing our story on paper can make the journey appear easier than it actually was. Summarising on a couple of A4 pages what was a rollercoaster of two and a half years full of emotion, only allows a small insight into what we experienced.
I try to capture the emotional side within other blog posts that I write, whether it be relating to infertility in general or donor conception and parenting.
My aim of sharing is with the hope of validating the feelings of others and making them feel less alone. Our journey wasn’t as straightforward as it might sound, there were ups, many downs, worries, wobbles, fears of the unknown but ultimately we always knew what it was we wanted, and that was to build our family.
It all started for us at the end of 2013 when we decided we wanted to try and make a baby.
I was 27 and, having been on the pill for many years, never anticipated any problems getting pregnant. It was after 6 months of trying that I started to worry.
Since stopping the pill my periods were far too frequent – every 12-23 days, with everything I’d read telling me that this wasn’t enough time to make a baby, I figured I might have a luteal phase issue.
Trying to get answers wasn’t easy, I was turned away twice from the GP due to my ‘young’ age and told to just keep trying. It was on the third attempt where I managed to persuade a different GP to run some hormone blood tests, he reluctantly agreed and told me I’d receive a text with the results as he was “sure there wouldn’t be a problem”.
A few days later, as he’d predicted, I received a text message to say that my blood results were normal and no further action was needed. I breathed a sigh of relief, as he’d suggested it must be just my body settling down after the pill.
I’m still not sure why, but later that day that I started to have a niggle, having done lots of online research about hormone tests for day 3 FSH I was curious about what my results actually were. This curiosity led to me requesting a copy, collecting them on my way home from work and then realising in horror that a mistake had been made.
My results were far from normal for my age group with my FSH higher than it should be, suggesting that my body was having to work much harder to produce eggs. The more I read the more I despaired and so (after a feeble apology from my GP for misinterpreting the results) I booked an appointment with a private consultant to get the answers I needed.
It was at that appointment, just after my 28th birthday where I was told it was highly likely I was experiencing Premature Ovarian Failure and we’d need help to conceive.
My consultant requested an AMH test to give a better picture of ovarian reserve and whilst I was still in the room telephoned a consultant he knew at the local fertility clinic. We were told we didn’t have time to waste and an appointment was booked for just a few weeks later. Whilst we waited my fears were confirmed again with my AMH coming out at just 0.7; our chances were low but we were determined that with age on my side it wasn’t impossible.
We didn’t have much time to adjust to what IVF would entail, we went straight in at the deep end with a high dose of stims to try and kick start my ovaries. Egg collection seemed to come around quickly and we were delighted to retrieve 3 mature eggs, although being a first timer, I was slightly naïve to the drop off rate after fertilisation.
On day 3 we had one embryo remaining which was transferred to me. I felt hopeful for the first time in a while, yet terrified at the same time, the thought of having to do it all again, having to pay all of that money, take the time off work, whilst managing all of the emotions was too much for me to even consider.
Astonishingly two weeks later I saw my first ever two lines on a pregnancy test, I genuinely believed the hard part was over and we were finally on the path to becoming parents.
For a few weeks I was content in a bubble, planning my due date, thinking about maternity leave, how we’d tell our friends and family and starting to allow myself to believe.
It was 7 weeks in when I started to sense that something didn’t feel quite right.
We went for an early scan, hoping to see a heartbeat, but instead were met with a blank face from the sonographer, who questioned whether I was sure of my dates because only an empty sac could be seen. We were then led to a room down the corridor, I assumed it was where bad news was delivered with miscarriage support posters plastered all over the walls. It was here we were told to expect the worst whilst hoping for the best, having to return in a week for a follow up scan.
I scoured every website I could for hope to cling onto, for any stories of misdiagnosed miscarriages but in my heart I think I knew it was over.
Three long, painful weeks later, after stopping my meds for things to happen naturally, I was then admitted for medical management, which also didn’t work, and so I was left with surgery as the only option. I grieved hard, struggled at work and was torn between the immense desire to start trying again as soon as possible and the fear of going through the same thing again.
The desire to try again won over and so, after a break away to Thailand, we came back tentatively ready to try again, hopeful because we managed to get pregnant from just one embryo last time.
I’ll skip over the next few cycles without too many words because each one became a familiar story. Over four more IVF cycles (two stimulated and two natural IVF) in the space of eight months we encountered more failure, this time we didn’t even make it to a positive pregnancy test, three ended in negative results and one cycle we didn’t get to embryo transfer.
It was during this time we were told that donor eggs would give us our best chance.
The decision wasn’t easy, both my husband and I had many questions and fears, ones that I believe many of us encounter as we approach this route to parenthood.
Looking back I believe there were three turning points that allowed me to feel comfortable with using an egg donor. Firstly understanding and realising our odds – a donor would allow us a 50% chance of success compared to a measly 5% chance with my own eggs. After 5 failed cycles already, a significant amount spent financially and my mental health in pieces, this had to be a serious consideration.
Secondly, I found comfort and hope in a friend I met through a Netmums forum; as a mum to a donor egg conceived boy herself she became my confidant and showed me how amazing life as a mum using this path could still be.
This led to my third turning point – focusing on what I really wanted deep down, which was to be a mum. I allowed myself to redefine what it meant to be a mum, realising that there was so much more than genetics and family resemblances – that motherhood was built on love, nurturing and time spent together.
It was at this point where I started to feel myself becoming more hopeful again, the excitement at the possibility donor eggs could give us seemed to start overshadowing the fears; being a mum actually felt possible for the first time since my diagnosis.
Having already been on the donor egg waiting list at our local clinic for almost a year and being no closer to the top we decided to look elsewhere.
We held skype calls with a number of clinics across Europe.
For a number of reasons we decided upon a clinic in Prague and just 10 weeks after consultation we were matched with a donor and travelling out for embryo transfer.
After a magical break (a welcome relief from IVF at home) we returned with one embryo on board, leaving four more frozen at our clinic. Simply having embryos in the freezer gave me so much more hope, especially for the large family I’d always dreamed of.
Two weeks later we received the news we’d hoped for, a positive pregnancy test.
After a nervous first 12 weeks, with terrifying bleeding episodes for no apparent reason, we started to announce our pregnancy.
In July 2016 our lives changed forever when I gave birth to Mila, our now 4 year old daughter. A year later we decided to try for a sibling, taking Mila back to the place where she was created.
We were taken by surprise to find out our embryos had been frozen in pairs and so after having two put back this time we found out that we were expecting twins – our egg donor really did have super eggs!
Fast forward to today and I’m now mum to three beautiful girls – Mila, Eska and Lena – all names we chose to link back to their heritage. I look back now and wouldn’t change a thing, I couldn’t love my girls any more even if they were genetically related to me and certainly have no regrets about the path to parenthood we eventually took.
I now share our story with the aim of supporting others who are still on the journey or now parenting through sharing my reflections and learnings as a mum.
The choice to use a donor isn’t just a one-off decision to make a baby, it becomes a life-long commitment with additional challenges to navigate in parenting as the story shifts from being ours to theirs.
I hope through my blog, my social media channel and the platform I am launching soon I can provide the support that is often lacking for recipient parents – in finding others and making connections, knowing you’re not alone, listening to different perspectives and learning, as we all are, in trying to do the very best as parents for our future children.
Love, Becky x