As we sit and watch our son James kick about in his Moses basket at 13 weeks, we still have to pinch ourselves that he is ours, we never thought we would get here. We feel so lucky, so blessed and truly grateful.
You see, we are one of the many couples effected by infertility. Married nearly nine years, it has been a long journey of time off work, monotonous trips to Belfast, scans, blood tests, invasive procedures, needles, medication, happy tears and sad tears.
We started our fertility journey in the summer of 2011, we have gone through eight cycles of ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)(three fresh cycles and five frozen cycles) Including three egg collections, three sperm retrievals and sadly four miscarriages, one of which I had to be admitted into hospital.
This was our eighth cycle of treatment, we got our positive result but we were hesitant to get to excited as we were so used to being hit with disappointment. At 6 1/2 weeks pregnant we attended the clinic for a scan hoping to see a heartbeat and check all was okay. This was not to be the case and the doctor was unable to see a heartbeat, only an empty sac. We were hit with yet another failure we left the clinic heartbroken, we were reliving this horrible nightmare all over again, we asked ourselves how on earth we could have to suffer a fifth miscarriage! We spent a week crying and comforting each other and what made it worse was it wasn’t only another disappointment for us it really saddened and upset our families. We attended the clinic the following week for a repeat scan and to our shock and amazement the doctor revealed a tiny flickering heartbeat which was unable to be seen in the previous scan. We left amazed and shocked, we could not believe it, we were pregnant. I will never forget the feeling of phoning and telling our loved ones, it was magical. The pregnancy went smoothly until 28 weeks when I started to haemorrhage at home, we honestly thought it was all over and that I was miscarrying, again. We rushed to hospital to find out I had Major Placenta Previa and I would be at high risk of bleeding for the rest of my pregnancy. We spent the rest of the pregnancy worrying but grateful at the same time that I had a little baby inside, it was so comforting and amazing to feel it move, a feeling I never thought I would experience. I was admitted to hospital for a few nights on a number of occasions. At 33 weeks I was admitted to stay for the rest of the pregnancy and at 36 weeks 4 days our little miracle baby was born by Cesarean section.
For so many reasons we wanted to share our story, to give a little hope and comfort to those couples on the fertility roller coaster and who feel at times like giving up, who feel physically, mentally and financially exhausted. We were there, this was our eighth cycle of treatment and it was to be our last.
We also share our story to put a spotlight on IVF and to highlight the impact it has on peoples lives and how the government are turning a blind eye. It is so frustrating that IVF provision in Northern Ireland is far below that of the rest of the UK. Here in Northern Ireland only one cycle is offered to Patients, meaning only one episode of ovarian stimulation and the transfer of one fresh and one frozen embryo. Sadly for us, my body had a poor reaction to stimulating drugs which meant we had no embryos left over to have our free NHS frozen embryo transfer, meaning we had to fund all seven cycles ourselves. That one and only cycle in my opinion is basically a ‘trial’ round. The doctors did not know how my body was going to react to these drugs, it is just trial and error.
My plea is for the government to increase the NHS rounds of IVF to three full cycles of treatment in line with the NICE guidelines (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence)
We want to share our story to give some help and advice to other couples. The most important advise we could give is to communicate with each other, we always talked about what we were going through, there were so many tears, we comforted each other and we tried not to shut one another out. We had a lot of support from family, friends and neighbours. We also seeked counselling, if you feel you are struggling to cope we would encourage you to look into counselling, which you can avail of free with your treatment. There are support groups out there, I went along to the Northern Ireland Fertility Network support group and found it very useful and of great comfort, to be in a safe place surrounded by people going through a similar experience. I met some truly inspiring people.
We wanted to share our story to help advise people to be sensitive to others around you. Before you ask that dreaded question which I hated being asked ‘no children yet?’ My heart would just break. You have no idea how so many couples long for the pitter patter of tiny feet, and how upsetting it can be to be out and about surrounded my bumps, babies and buggies. Just stop and think.
We were lucky and holding our wee James could just burst with happiness at times. We do not take one day for granted and count our blessings we have our bundle of joy who is a true miracle. We always knew we would continue our fight to have a child and if IVF was not working out we were open to fostering or adoption. The journey has been so worth it though, and I would do it all again knowing the end result would be these little cheeks! To those couples going through IVF remember you’re not alone and that each day that passes you’re another day closer to having your own little one.
To our family friends and neighbours, thanks so much for all your support over the past number of years and to GCRM, thanks for making our dreams come true.