It’s funny how the past year has flown by in the blink of an eye. Time does that, when you look back on it. This time a year ago, I was in the middle of our first cycle of IVF; the countless injections, progesterone suppositories, (which I came to fondly know as ‘bum bullets), scans, appointments, etc. etc.… and I can tell you, the hours back then crawled by like years. So much was at stake. Emotions were high. Not to mention hormones.
We’d been trying for 18 months, and in the scheme of things, that’s not such an incredibly long time, but throw in my age (36 years old), some dodgy test results and my ever-impatient nature, I found that time very challenging.
When we decided to start trying, I honestly thought I’d come off the pill and get pregnant the very first month. I had no idea exactly how hard it is to conceive. You spend most of your adult life trying NOT to get pregnant, and when it’s only when you want to, you realise how precise of an art it is. We both started to dread ovulation time, putting in the shifts only to get to the end of the month and be slapped in the face with another period. Infertility is especially unkind when it comes to the end of the month, the PMT, the period pains – a fitting reward for failing, yet again. We had apps to track cycles, we had monitors, we invested in about three or four Stork kits… It certainly took the fun out of our sex life.
Day-to-day life was a constant reminder. My day job as Editor of parenting website My Baba was a daily slap in the face. My social life was no better. Social media had become a serious source of shitness. I’d flick on Facebook and see another of my friends’ first baby scan announcements, hospital birth photos, pregnancy bump photos, snaps of family day trips, photos of Mother’s Day breakfasts, presents under the tree for baby’s first Christmas. An entire 365 days of having an eye through the keyhole into the lives of so many new families, while feeling completely shut out in the cold, my heart aching a little more each time, for the life I didn’t have, and at the time, thought I might not ever have.
In January 2015 we both endured botched test results when it came to our fertility, initially via the NHS. Jamie’s semen sample wasn’t analysed properly, my results for day 4 of my cycle were read as though they were day 21, (i.e. I was under the impression for quite some time that I was completely infertile, until the GP called to apologise for the error) and then the final nail in the coffin, the one that sent us down the IVF route, was an incorrect AMH result, one that indicated I had only a few eggs left. It was that last result that prompted us to remortgage and put ourselves under financial strain in attempt to achieve our dream of a family.
We researched our clinic carefully, and during our first round of tests, we were finally classed as ‘unexplained’. My AMH was in the end, a completely normal 21.6 instead of a fairly low 6.8. I’m not sure if it was a relief or not to be given the ‘unexplained’ title – how do they then know what they are dealing with, if there isn’t a specific issue?
We needn’t have worried. Our dream was realised – we got lucky with our first attempt at IVF – well, ICSI if we’re getting technical.
Fast forward to now: Sat on my sofa at home, a world away from those days. It’s half past nine in the morning, I’m on maternity leave and I have my beautiful daughter Maddie napping on a pillow right next to me. 365 days ago this moment seemed like a complete impossibility. Something I would never be able to achieve. But it happened, after one lucky (albeit remortgagingly expensive!) round of IVF.
My husband Jamie and I started vlogging about our IVF journey in August last year, starting with the very first appointment. I’ve always been a keen over sharer, and being aware of the silence that surrounds infertility and IVF, I thought I’d march right in and break it, create some noise. Being editor of My Baba, it was the obvious platform to use to begin share our journey, The Jellie Diaries.
The Jellie Diaries became an unexpected source of strength to me throughout our IVF journey. The following of women (and occasionally men) watching and commenting on each video were so incredibly supportive, and most were extremely knowledgeable about the process, having been there in our situation.
We quickly found that we’d inadvertently developed our own personal support network during the process, and it was those people that listened and watched our story unfold, welcomed us out of our shell –the one you might find yourself retreating to when you’re in the tunnel of infertility hell. It became a huge source of comfort. Our followers kept us positive, kept us sane, while we did exactly that for others in our shoes, women and their partners going through the most unbelievably difficult times, quietly following to figure out what IVF would mean for them.
We get the most amazing, inspirational and often heartbreaking messages from readers sharing their IVF / fertility journeys, and I share a story every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on our Facebook page.
This week, I’ve set up a FB group, ‘A Place to Chat About IVF’ and it is already populated with over a hundred members, posting, chatting and reassuring each other about their hopes, fears, worries.
It is an honour to facilitate a place for people to support each other, and it’s unreal to see them put aside their own heartbreaks to help each other. I didn’t expect to gather such a fantastic group of inspirational women in one place, but that’s exactly what’s happened. I hope our network grows and continues to be a useful resource for couples.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that having a family isn’t a given. It’s something that should be cherished and treasured – if you are very lucky enough to get there.
If I can help one person feel a little less lonely about infertility, give them hope and a reason to fight for their dreams then I’m happy to continue to over share. Always.
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