Our IVF journey

I’d heard that IVF was really tough but no one prepares you for just how gruelling it is – both physically and emotionally.

I started Buserelin injections to down-regulate my own hormones on 1st February. I had to do these everyday at the same time; I chose 7.30am.

I started my period 9 days later and then had to wait for the first scan to check I was ready to start the hormone injections. They look to see that your womb has fully shed it’s lining so you are ready to start thickening it in preparation for pregnancy.

This was on 18th February – two day’s before Darren’s 40th birthday. At this point we were both feeling very positive; I was still exercising, eating clean and having acupuncture with a fertility specialist so we felt we were doing all we could towards achieving our goal, which is a good feeling.

I started the hormone injections – these were done everyday in the evening so I was now injecting twice a day. We went out to Loch Fyne for a meal with our parent’s for Darren’s birthday on the 20th February and I had to go and shoot up in the toilets whilst there – I was starting to feel like a junkie by this point. A few days later I had to do it in the car on the way home from working in Cardiff in a lay-by at the side of the road!

The next scan was 26th February to check the developing follicle sizes and how thick the womb lining was. Everything was progressing nicely so I carried on with the injections but by now I was starting to feel really tired. Even though the developing follicles are microscopic, growing multiples of them is really draining.

On 1st March, my next scan, the follicles weren’t quite big enough so I had another few days of injections to get them ready. Unfortunately I was rear-ended on my way home from the hospital so after getting all psyched up to book my egg collection date and then finding out I wasn’t ready you can imagine that a car crash was the last thing I needed!

Other than an acupuncture appointment to sort my neck out, from the bit of whiplash I was feeling after the crash, I pretty much spent the entire weekend on the sofa as I was so fatigued.

Monday 4th March – back to the hospital for another scan and I was ready to go! I picked up the next injection which would trigger the eggs to mature. I did this in the evening ready for egg collection on Wednesday.

Egg collection is done under sedation which I was really nervous about – I hate being put to sleep but it only took 10 minutes and I came round really quickly. I woke up to the good news that they had taken 15 eggs! When you compare that to a normal cycle where you naturally produce one egg a month you can understand why the later phase of follicle development is so tiring!

Of the 15 eggs, 11 were mature and the following day we found out that 8 had fertilised normally which was great news.

Five days later I was back in hospital for embryo transfer although we were disappointed to find out that only 2 had survived the weekend. The hospital has a single embryo transfer policy i.e. they try as much as possible to avoid multiple pregnancies. However due to the fact there were only two viable embryos and because of my age they decided to return both embryos as this would give a better chance of a single pregnancy.

For the next 11 days we played the waiting game – this is one of the worst parts of IVF; you just don’t know and all you can do is hope.

Our hope paid off as on Friday 22nd March we returned to the hospital for a positive pregnancy test! They do it for you so there is less likelihood of you mis-reading the result. We couldn’t believe it, the last four years had been so tough but now it seemed as if all the sacrifice had been worth it.

When the nurse came back in the room and said ‘Congratulations!’ neither of us said anything for a while and then I broke the silence with ‘really? I can’t believe it’. Darren didn’t say anything – I think we were both in shock.

We had to make an appointment for an early scan so we kept our emotions under control as we had to leave via the waiting room and I was conscious of the fact that there were other people there who were at different stages in their fertility journey and may never get to hear the word congratulations. As soon as we got outside we both broke down – it was such a relief, like a great weight had been lifted.

I spent the next three and a half weeks trying to chill out; I knew that we couldn’t really celebrate until the first scan and I think we still didn’t really believe it. At this stage I think the few people we told were more excited than we were. I felt awkward discussing it; I didn’t want to be negative but couldn’t really believe that this was it.

Wednesday 17th April couldn’t come round quickly enough. However when the scan started the nurse was very quiet and seemed to be taking a while to show us the screen. I was already nervous but now I started to worry. Eventually she showed us the screen and explained that we could see the sac but there was nothing else visible. By now we should have been able to see a tiny foetus with a heartbeat.

I don’t think either of us can really describe what this felt like but the nurse told us it didn’t look good but try not to worry too much and to go back in a weeks time for another scan to be absolutely sure.

If I thought the 11 days after embryo transfer dragged by the following 6 days literally crawled. Our final scan on Tuesday 23rd April (coincidentally the 8 year anniversary of our engagement) showed that there was definitely no baby.

I elected to wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally as by this point I was completely sick of the hospital and just wanted to go home and hibernate.

I took the rest of the week off work and tried to get my head around what had happened and then we went away for a camping trip to Snowdonia with some friends as Darren was supposed to be in training for his Ironman event in June which was now only just over a month away. We had a great weekend and celebrated our 7-year anniversary whilst we were there.

A normal couple of weeks followed back at work and generally getting on with life when the miscarriage hit. It was so painful; I actually had contractions as my body tried to get rid of everything. I got through it by taking super strong painkillers and stayed in bed for a few days.

I was so exhausted by the physical trauma and the emotional stress that it took a while for me to start feeling even vaguely normal again. I used a greens drink and started taking blood builders as I thought I must be really low in iron after the miscarriage. I felt tired most of the time but thought that must be normal after everything I’d been through and that I’d soon start feeling better.

Three weeks after the miscarriage I went to Scotland (with my friend Michaela) to support Darren and Colin through their Ironman. I started bleeding off and on while we were there which I thought seemed strange being so soon but it stopped again when we got back and I put it out of my mind.

A week later I was woken in the night by severe abdominal pain – this was even worse than the miscarriage. I was really, really scared – it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. I phoned Ward 23 (emergency gynaecology) and they advised painkillers, try to sleep and get in for a scan the next day.

The scan showed that my body hadn’t got rid of everything during the miscarriage although I was ‘lucky’ I hadn’t developed an infection. The only real option available to me now was surgery so I got booked in as an emergency case and a few days later was back in hospital for a full scrape and another general anaesthetic.

After the operation I recuperated physically really well but I think this was when the enormity of the situation finally hit me emotionally. I didn’t want to leave the house, couldn’t stop crying and just couldn’t see how I was ever going to enjoy things normally again. As an optimist I can usually put a positive spin on things and pull myself up but I was at rock bottom now and couldn’t see a way out of it.

Luckily I’ve got some amazing friends who rallied round and of course Darren was there for me too although he had his own grief to deal with.

I’d like to say I’ve learnt something from our horrible experience but I haven’t really other than that sometimes you just don’t get what you want and you have to deal with it and get on with life. That might sound bitter but I’m really not; Darren and I have a lovely life and more importantly have each other and if it’s possible our relationship is even stronger now than it was before.

Now we’re a couple of months on we are both feeling much more positive about the future and ready to move on to the next phase of our lives.

Part of this for us includes setting some training goals – Darren has already signed up to do the extreme Ironman again next June and I want to complete the Suicide Six in under an hour in November.

Another big part is getting our nutrition under control, as it has been a crutch for us during this period. For Darren food is something he immediately turns to during stressful periods and he isn’t happy with the fat he has put on around his waist. Whilst my shape hasn’t really changed eating clean for me is more about how I feel. I hate feeling bloated, getting a bad tummy and lacking energy in the mornings when I eat crap.

We’re setting up an accountability group on Facebook so you can follow our progress – and give us grief if we slip up!  We will post our food diaries in there and basically follow the rules that we ask our bootcampers to follow each month.


    • Sharon

      Reply Reply August 28, 2013

      I can’t believe what you two have been through this year and not once has Fran been more than smiley, kind and patient during our Pilates sessions. A true professional. You are both incredibly strong and fingers crossed that things will work out next time. Sxx

    • Deborah Jakeman

      Reply Reply August 28, 2013

      Wow, how very brave of u both to be so honest and revealing very intimate private emotions that u have both gone through. I’m sure ur boot campers will support u as much as u have supported us over the years. I wish u both all the very best for any future plans. X x X

    • Sylvia

      Reply Reply August 28, 2013

      What an amazing, emotional and inspiring blog. My heart goes out to you both. Everyone’s journey is different and I often feel terribly guilty about mine. I am not as brave as you, to bare my soul in public. I’ll message you / Fran by inbox. Lots of love xxx

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