IVF DURING A PANDEMIC: My battle with secondary Infertility.

Trigger warning : Discussion of infertility and pregnancy loss.

by 

Trigger warning : Discussion of infertility and pregnancy loss.

 

 

If you haven’t been following me on Instagram, you may have noticed that I’ve been a little absent on here . . .  here being my blog. I think the last post I wrote was in February (the 2020 induced coffee station. . .  remember that?)

I’ve definitely been missing in action.  Although I must admit, the word action feels a little bit of an embellishment of the truth, seeing as it’s not been the sort of action you might imagine. I mean, does sofa surfing , Netflixing, napping and comfort eating even count as action? The Rambo- ish kind anyway?

Don’t answer that.

All you need to know is, is that I had good reason for all of the above. Firstly, it’s still a pandemic , didn’t you know? And secondly . . .

I was pregnant.

Yes you heard right … pregnant! Eeek!!

Medina sitting on a sofa touching her pregnancy bump
Image by Amvio Photography

Almost 3 months ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy!

I know . . .For once, when I say ‘ a lot has happened’ after an unplanned blog hiatus , I really do mean it. In the literal terms.

But all that  aside, this wasn’t your usual pregnancy and here’s where it gets kind of tricky. And a tad more serious.  To be honest, I’m not even sure  tricky is the right word to describe this  pregnancy, so let’s just go with complicated instead.

OK, starting that  again . . . . this pregnancy was very complicated for me emotionally because although I only had 1 child , this was actually my 6th pregnancy.

Deep breath (didn’t I say things were about to get really serious?) In my twenties, I suffered  quite a few pregnancy losses – 4 in total. As a result, I am unable to ever conceive naturally (this still gives me a little jolt of pain  whenever I say it out loud).

The baby I just gave birth to was conceived via IVF.

I call him my miracle baby (although I know a lot of science was involved).  If you’ve been on the journey I’ve been on, you’ll understand why.

 

 

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A post shared by Medina (@grillodesigns)

 

Let me dial it back just a touch  and share a little bit more about that. I feel like it’s finally time . Or rather I finally feel ready to be vulnerable  and share such an intimate and personal part of my life.

Grief has eased its grips over me these past few years. What I’ve been through no longer feels as gut wrenchingly painful to recount. In fact it now feels more like a dull throbbing ache – the kind of  ache you might experience after having stubbed your toe on something sharp except that feeling doesn’t go away.

An ache that at times might stop you in your tracks, but no longer feels quite so stifling to live with. I wouldn’t say I’ve healed completely , but more that I recognise my healing as a process without a solid finish line.

My hope is that if you’re going through something similar (regardless of whether you get the kind of ending you want), reading about my experience with secondary infertility might help you to get to that point one day too.

MY PREGNANCY LOSSES

 

I had my first miscarriage when I was 21 (I was about 7 weeks into the pregnancy).  It was one of those traumatic experiences that will forever have a front row seat in my mind, mostly because it was my first time ever dealing with loss of any kind. Up until this point, loss was only something  I had only ever heard about second hand or watched other people go through. An experience I couldn’t  relate to, but still showed empathy nonetheless.

I remember all the details like it was yesterday. I was at work when it happened (on a 12 hour nursing shift actually that had already promised to be a shift from hell because it we were  understaffed ) . I had managed to pull myself away for a few minutes for a quick toilet break – a toilet break that truthfully should have happened a lot sooner as my bladder was fit to burst .

That’s when I saw the blood. And I froze. I’m not quite sure how long for. But it felt long… sort of like the slow motion feature on a camera phone. Or like a screen freeze… I kept tapping refresh in my mind but nothing changed.

Que the confusion.

Is this my period?

No, it cant be, I’m pregnant.

Did I get it wrong?  N0, I definitely saw two lines on the pregnancy test.

Is this real? Is this really happening?  Is this really happening to me?

Then the cold hard realisation.

Yes this is real. Yes this is happening to you. Medina, you could be having a miscarriage.

The bile rising in my throat sprung me into action.  I remember going back on to the ward in a sort of daze, telling my manager I was pregnant for the first time, rushing downstairs to A&E still in my uniform, and calling my husband in tears telling him to come now.

What followed was lots  of pain, lots of bleeding, lots of waiting around in A&E only to be told that I was miscarrying by a gynecology doctor and that there was nothing he could do.   I was sent home to pass the fetus. To pass the baby. My baby – a baby that I had already planned a future for in my head.

It was a lonely experience, even whilst crying in the arms of my husband. I wasn’t prepared for that sudden emptiness I felt once the bleeding finally stopped and everything was …. Complete?

What am I supposed to do now?

My body still thought it was pregnant , and I had to keep reminding it that it wasn’t. This part hurt the most.

Life really stood still for me in those first few days. Yet it kept turning for everyone else. That truth felt cold … cruel even , but that’s life sometimes hey.

I didn’t really talk to anyone about how I was feeling at the time because a lot of the initial comments from people were ‘you’re young, you’ll have another’. So I buried my feelings, and after a week went back to work as though nothing had happened.

My eldest son was conceived a year after this, and although I was so overjoyed to be pregnant again, it felt a lot less magical this time round (I’ll talk a little about pregnancy after loss in my part two of this  post).

The next pregnancy (two years after my eldest son was born ) was a nice surprise, but something we definitely wanted ( I had decided to come off birth control at this point). Sadly, this ended in another early miscarriage. Although I truly dislike having to preface miscarriage with the word early. Early or not, it was still a loss. Still significant.

This miscarriage was a little more complicated because my pregnancy levels didn’t immediately drop once the bleeding stopped.  I had to keep going into the hospital for blood checks. Emotionally, it was all very taxing. I remember feeling flickers of hope whenever my pregnancy blood levels spiked  in anyway. I secretly hoped that I might still be pregnant and that the professionals had got it wrong.

They hadn’t of course. There was no baby. It was a hard pill to swallow, but swallow I did. Swallow I had to.

My third miscarriage was an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilised egg implants outside of the uterus) . I remember waking up in the early hours of the morning with excruciating pain  – pain that felt similar to what I vaguely remembered of child birth. It was so painful that I actually told (screamed at) my husband to call the ambulance (which you’ll know, if you’re a health care professional is something we don’t do without very good reason .)  When the ambulance crew arrived they tested my urine and told me I was pregnant.

Sorry, what?

I had just had a period… that couldn’t be right? Could it?

My disbelief and then momentary happiness at possibly being pregnant was short lived because once I got to the hospital and they performed tests, I was hit with devastating news.

Yes I was definitely pregnant, but the pregnancy  was growing in the wrong place –  my left Fallopian tube to be exact. And the pregnancy was so far along that it was causing the tube it was in to rupture. All the pain I had been experiencing was a result of the growing pool of blood that was now spilling into my abdomen.

Again . .sorry what?!

I had learnt about ectopic pregnancies during  my nurse and midwifery training. I had witnessed and cared for other women going through them. All the while never imagining it would ever happen to me. I guess we never think something will happen to us until it does. A sign of naivety I wonder or just a symptom of our humanity.

Before I even had time to get my head around it all, I was taken into surgery and my fallopian tube with the pregnancy removed.

You can still get pregnant naturally the surgeon told me after. Your body will adapt to using just one tube over time.  His words cut through my foggy post anesthetic daze, but gave me no comfort. I had wanted this baby

After this loss, my mental health spiraled. I think up until this point I had managed to keep it together – sweep things under the carpet to stress about at another time.

But now it was finally time to address those feelings, I couldn’t face them.  I went into a really dark place of self loathing and grief during the aftermath of my survey. I questioned my purpose  and self worth as a woman. I questioned my faith in God and His plan.  I felt so alone. So lost, unsure of who to turn to. I didn’t know how to move forward.

I let the hopelessness  and sadness take over. And it did, overwhelmingly so, filtering into every corner of my life,  leaving me without an ounce of joy and unable to function. As a mother,  a wife,  a daughter,  a sister, a friend,  and  an employee.

Pretending everything was OK became too much of an effort and as a result  I let my mask slip for all to see, including my family…. my parents.

But that was a saving grace maybe, because the dropping of the mask finely allowed them to see that things weren’t alright and give my husband and I the support we both needed. Encouraged by them , I decided to get professional  help and started therapy with medication. After a few months,  I  began to feel a little better and my faith in God restored. I still had bad days, but they weren’t as dark and desolate as before.

In 2015, almost a year later,  I found out I was pregnant again (with my one remaining tube… the doctor had been right. My body had adjusted). This time I couldn’t even muster feelings of happiness.  I was just hit with what ifs and worry from the moment I saw the positive  on the pregnancy test . I didn’t even tell my husband straight away but when I finally did he was so excited. He reassured me that things would be fine, that he had a good feeling this time. Of course I didn’t believe him, but I nodded all the same .

A few weeks went by and I started to feel really uncomfortable on one side. I had a gut feeling  something was wrong , however I didn’t go into hospital straight away until I started bleeding .  I guess I didn’t want to face reality. I knew what the next few days would look like for me in hospital and I wanted to be pregnant for just a little while longer.  Before they had even scanned me I already knew it was an ectopic pregnancy .

The pain had felt the same.

I accepted the news with a quiet numbness that I could see worried my husband . Don’t worry I kept reassuring him. I’m OK. And Surprisingly  I was. This time it wasn’t a shock. You see, I had already disassociated from this pregnancy early on. My mind had built up walls in preparation to protect me.

Another loss, another surgery . . . another tube removed (even if partially). This was how it went right?

How cynical I had become. 

Only this time , I was told after the surgery that I would most likely need IVF  if I ever wanted to have more children in the future. It was heartbreaking to say the least, but like I said, by this point I felt I had enough coping mechanisms in place to  stop me from spiraling mentally like before.

The ‘what am I supposed to do now?’ question never came .

I knew what I had to do. Move on. I  put all my energy into this blog and into my eldest who by this point was in full toddler stage.

 

 

MAKING SENSE OF MY LOSS

 

A few years went by where I thought I didn’t want anymore children. That I was happy with just one. That it wasn’t meant to be and that I had made peace with it all. In truth, I thought I had, but there were moments when I would watch my eldest son playing alone and would feel a deep sadness . I wished I could have gotten the chance to give him a brother or sister. Having come from a large family myself, I desperately  wanted him to experience the joy of a sibling and I felt bitter that that choice had been taken away from me.

But you already have a child.  Be grateful, a voice in my head would almost scold me whenever my thoughts went down this road.

The feelings that stemmed from my infertility and desire to have another child never felt valid. In fact, those feelings made me feel guilty and selfish because I knew there were women who could never have children of their own. I was already a mother. What right did I have to their pain?

I think this is what I struggled with the most. The constant battle  of trying to figure out where those feelings fit in with other womens’ stories of pregnancy loss.

It also didn’t help that I was constantly asked when I was going to have more children by well meaning colleagues and friends. Sometimes I’d  say I didn’t want more. Other times, if I was  caught off guard and a lie wouldn’t come fast enough I’d say, ‘I can’t have children’. This reply reply was usually followed by uncomfortable apologizing on their part and looks of pity as though I was some wounded puppy. I hated people feeling  sorry for me so the latter was rarely the answer I ever went for.

Pregnancy announcements from friends, colleagues and family were also difficult . I felt both happiness and sadness at their news – happiness at the prospect of new life and sad for my lack of.

Other peoples pregnancies often reminded me of my body’s failure to do what it was supposed to do as a woman. What society had drummed in me for years that it should do. That my womanhood was somehow synonymous with my motherhood. One could not fully be appreciated or exist without the other.

I felt like I had been lied to.

From an early age we are made to believe  that getting pregnant and staying pregnant is as easy and effortless as it looks on soaps and tv shows. That all it takes is a drunken one night stand, or a month of trying and voila you’re pregnant! Congratulations, you are now guaranteed  a healthy baby at the end of nine months!

So when it doesn’t happen like that, we blame ourselves. We dont  talk about it thinking we might be the rarity when in fact we aren’t. Miscarriages are far more common then we realise.    Among women who know they’re pregnant, it’s estimated about 1 in 8 pregnancies will end in miscarriage.

 

NEXT STEPS  . . .  IVF

After putting it off for quite some time, I finally did go for further fertility testing in 2018 (a dye was inserted to see if the remainder of my right Fallopian tube was functioning )  which with finality, confirmed my need for IVF to conceive.

Following this news, I do remember us looking into IVF and attending a few open days at local clinics  to discuss options. As we already had a child, we weren’t eligible for  a free round of IVF on the NHS and would have to self fund everything. It was all so expensive though!  We quickly realised even with our very tiny saving, my husbands full time wage and my part time nursing wage, we wouldn’t  be able to afford it  .. .  not for  a long while. So the idea fizzled out and we stopped talking about it.

In 2019, I  left my career within healthcare and went full time as a blogger. Becoming self employed actually improved our finances .  For once we were able to put away  bigger chunks each month towards the house deposit we had been saving on and off for over the years . (I’m jumping ahead of myself here , but a large portion of our house deposit money was what we used to pay for the IVF . Another reason why I hate when people make comments about the fact that I’m still renting.  You truly never know someone’s circumstances. )

2019 was also the year that I actively began to work on my health and fitness. I lost weight, ate better and generally just felt more positive and healthier than I had ever felt in my entire life . At 30 too can you believe?

I finally sat my husband down and told him I felt ready to look into IVF again . We talked for hours. He expressed his fears of seeing me go down a dark path if things didn’t  work out . I listened and I understood . Although these losses had happened to me physically I knew that seeing me go through so much pain while feeling helpless had affected him too.

We talked and talked over a course of a few weeks , and finally decided we would give it a go. But just one round, we decided  as it was all we could afford.  If it didn’t work , we felt that was what God had willed and we would accept it.

I started researching fertility clinics in my area, scrolling through reviews, reading experiences on  forums ,  and comparing  clinic success rates. In the end I  found a clinic through referral from a work colleague who had been successful with twins , and towards the end of 2019 we booked our first appointment there. From then onward, things progressed fairly quickly.

Of course we had no idea what a sh*t show 2020 would turn out to be. Else we might have hit pause…

Well actually we kind of did hit pause, but it wasn’t our choice. I’m getting ahead of myself though… I’ll be sharing what IVF felt like  in a pandemic in part 2!

Before I go though  I want to leave you with some resources for further support.

 

Thank you so much for reading my story.

 

24 comments

  1. Hi Medina. First, I want to say to welcome your new bundle of joy and miracle. Your story of your journey was heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. Thanks for sharing your story with us. It is very brave to open up about your personal struggles and particularly issues relating to pregnancies’. As that is so personal and very emotional. So happy that you were able to add to your family a healthy baby boy. I am sending you and your family well wishes and good health from across the pond.

  2. This has been such a heartbreaking yet heartwarming read. Thank you for sharing. I too have struggled with secondary infertility and IVF in a pandemic; so thank you for making this journey relatable. Best wishes for you and your loved ones ❤

  3. Thanks for sharing your story so openly Medina. I have struggled with unexplained infertility and went through rounds of ivf during a pandemic. It is a very hard route to take, but thankfully it has worked out for you after all your struggles. Infertility is something that isn’t spoken about enough. Lots of love x

  4. What a thoughtful post, thank you for sharing. I’ve felt similar ways but for a different reason – I’ve suffered a back injury with chronic pain since having my daughter and I struggle with pain management and trying to find a way to have another child without risking my health and ability to care for my child I have now (I had gone months not being able to pick her up or hold her) and feeling guilt that I should feel happy with the blessings I have been giving. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this!

    1. Thank you for sharing this with me, and opening my eyes to another perspective. I cant imagine how difficult it must be for you with chronic back pain also being added to the equation. Please dont feel guilty. . . you are present in her life even if it is not always in the way you hoped it would be. That in itself is amazing!

  5. Oh I am so delighted for your miracle baby!! Thank you for sharing your story, I relate to you so deeply, even though our stories are vastly different. These lines really resonated with me: “I think this is what I struggled with the most. The constant battle of trying to figure out where those feelings fit in with other womens’ stories of pregnancy loss.”

    I have 3 children, and in 2020 I had my first miscarriage. It was devastating in so many ways, and so difficult to go to appointments alone thanks to the pandemic. I haven’t yet been able to get pregnant with that 4th baby we so desperately want to add to our family, and I catch myself feeling guilty when I am sad about it. I already have 3 beautiful children, and have been so blessed, what right do I have to be upset?

    I’ve come to realize/accept that I can still feel immensely grateful for what I have, and sad about what I don’t. The two feelings don’t cancel each other out! My story and feelings are my own, and only my husband and I (and God) can know when our family is complete.

    All the best to you and your new bundle of joy! I hope you are enjoying all of the newborn snuggles!!

    1. Thank you so much. What I’ve come to realise is that those feelings are valid no matter the number of children you do or dont have. Sending you lots of love on your journey.

  6. I’m so sorry for your pain and relate so much to a lot of what you are saying. 100% agree that the wider reality of fertility and loss should be taught – it’s such a horrible self discovery and a club no one wants to be in, however common x

  7. Medina, Thank you for sharing your story. It must be an awful experience to go thru. I have three grown children so never had that awful experience can just imagine it must feel awful. I’m happy you have a family now it must feel so special to you and your husband. Thank God today there are other methods to help couples. I’m very happy for you. Hugs

  8. I read your story and feel you are a strong woman who adjusted to sorrow and kept up believing in life and your future. You are very blessed to have a husband who supports you. I raised 2 children, one not my own, biologically, but mine in my heart. Good luck in your life.

  9. Thanks for sharing. I too had fertility issue after my first child. I know how hard it is to talk about since you don’t want to appear ungrateful for the child you do have. You are angry at your body for betraying you but you can’t really talk about it. I am sure you have helped many women with your honest and openness.

  10. medina although I am 84yrs old I have 4 grown children and have not had any problems with any of my pregnancies my heart goes out to you for all your pain but I am thrilled for you and your husband for this newborn and wish you the best.

  11. Thanks for sharing this very personal story media, I myself have never suffered a loss like this but my daughter did in June of this year, she had a missed miscarriage, it was a surreal experience for me as a mum and a grandparent, there really is such a stigma surrounding this topic, and it’s brave you shared yours with us, I wish you all the best for the future, hugs and blessings gillian xx

  12. Thank you for sharing this Medina, your words resonated with me. I appreciate everything you put into sharing this psrt of your journey, I know its not easy. I myself find no energy or strength to share any part of my journey with anyone but my husband (who is already privvy to it through simply being involved).
    Alhamdulillah for IVF working for you both♡

  13. Medina thank you so much for sharing. Every story I read about infertility and pregnancy loss is so personal, so emotional, so unique and I just think every single person who goes through this, whether they feel able to share or not, is truly remarkable. In my worst days, I remember thinking about women who already had one or more children and experienced challenges later “how dare they, what right do they have to want more when I can’t even have one” and I’m ashamed of those thoughts now. Because we all have different wants and needs in life. I’m so happy for you x

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