If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you might remember that our last round of IVF gave us one little embryo good enough to freeze. A little bundle of cells that embodied so much hope and emotion, preserved cryogenically until we felt ready to try again. That precious embryo – lovingly dubbed “Frosty” – had been sitting in a freezer in London, waiting for us, since June last year. And trust ME to decide that I was finally ready to be reunited with it at the very same moment a pandemic swept across the globe, throwing everything in its wake into complete chaos. Like thousands of other patients all over the world, the embryo transfer I’d been preparing my body and mind for for months was suddenly being threatened by an obstacle I could’ve never predicted – and I’ve predicted many wild and outlandish scenarios, believe me. Just not this one.
In the days leading up to my transfer, I watched with a heavy heart as hundreds of clinics across the country pulled the plugs on people’s treatment and closed their facility, with no word on when they might reopen. Whilst the enormity of the devastation happening around the world provided perspective, my heart ached for those whose dreams of having a baby slipped even further from their grip. Many of these people were at a similar stage in their treatment to me – ready for an embryo transfer and weeks into their protocol. Many of them had been preparing and waiting for this for years. Many of them had experienced loss, trauma and heartache I couldn’t even begin to imagine. And now they all faced yet another obstacle and yet more waiting… as if their journey wasn’t already hard enough. 💔
The day before my scheduled transfer date, a nurse from my clinic phoned to explain that they would be halting all treatment until further notice. She was crying. I could hear the pain in her voice. She could hear the pain in mine. But neither of us were sure where this left me. My “in-clinic” treatment had already been completed, I had no need to visit them again and I was just one day away from the embryo transfer which took place in a private laboratory in London with a team of embryologists – was that closing too? Could the transfer still go ahead? She told me she would have to check with a doctor and let me know in the morning – an hour before we would need to leave for our appointment, if it was happening. I was assured that our embryo wouldn’t be taken out of the freezer and thawed until they knew for sure that the transfer was going ahead – but that did not stop me from worrying about about all sorts of coronavirus-induced, logistical challenges that might result in heartbreak for us.
The next 24 hours were some of the most tense of my life. But in spite of all the questions, complications and confusion, there was one thing I was absolutely certain: I wanted to bring our embryo home.
When the doctor called, I was ready to argue my case. I’d been self-isolating for the last two weeks in preparation for this, I was healthy and well, I had a mask, I wouldn’t be putting anyone at risk, I’d read up on all the information and studies about the effect of coronavirus on pregnant women and unborn babies and felt confident that I would not be endangering myself or my embryo – after all, nobody was telling fertile couples to avoid getting knocked up, in fact they were all predicting a bloody baby boom! As I said, I was ready to argue my case… But the phone call was quite different to what I’d psyched myself up for. The doctor essentially phoned to say: “good luck”. He told me not to worry about the coronavirus, that it did not disproportionately affect pregnant women and that there was no evidence of vertical transmission from mother to baby. He wished me all the best and told me to continue self-isolating for as long as possible.
I burst into tears with relief.
And then, all of a sudden, we were heading out the door, on our way to London with only about half an hour for me to worry about the usual stuff like whether the embryo would survive the thawing process….
Thankfully, it did.
In scrubs and hairnets, with 5 spectators and a man who I met just a few moments earlier fumbling around under the sheets, Simon and I held hands and watched as the ultrasound image showed a tube enter my uterus and successfully deposit our embryo into what would hopefully be its home for the next 9 months.
The days that followed were surreal. The high I felt from having been able to go ahead with the transfer didn’t disappear, but on top of that high I felt guilt for how lucky we’d been and scared about all the changes happening around the world. Schools closed, companies closed, restaurants, bars and shops closed and on the 23rd March we entered a nation-wide lockdown. I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to try and pick myself up from another failed cycle whilst all of my go-to remedies for recovery couldn’t happen. It was a drop in the ocean compared to what others were dealing with, of course, but still, it played on my mind.
Initially, my two week wait followed the exact same pattern as all my previous two week waits. In my heart I felt sure that it hadn’t worked. Once again. I spent a whole day in floods of tears. I felt broken at another dead end on this already long and painful journey.
And then the next day, miraculously, I felt absolutely fine. Dangerously optimistic. I ended up having a really enjoyable and productive day which was extremely unsettling.
When my official test day arrived (a day that I’d never got to in any of my previous cycles without my period arriving first) I didn’t actually want to find out the result. I was in new territory and it felt more promising than the ground I’d trodden before. Taking a test meant leaving my bubble of hope and stepping into reality. And I was petrified.
I woke up at 6am and – trance-like – took myself off to the bathroom and unwrapped a pregnancy test before my consciousness kicked in and talked me out of what I was about to do.
I’m going to skip some details here and fast forward to me staring at the test window, watching the control line appear, as I have done many times before. It took about 30 seconds for me to declare it another negative. One painful, familiar line. Expected of course, but my heart sank to my stomach as I started thinking about how best to share the news with Simon.
It wasn’t until I was washing my hands that I noticed a very faint, second line emerging in the test window. Something I’d never seen before. I leant right over the sink and got really close to it, like really close, face practically pressed against the test window kind of close. I watched as that second line got darker and darker, until not even my cynical mind could deny it any longer. I was shaking and out of breath when I returned to the bedroom, test clutched behind my back.
Simon was still asleep.
He opened one eye.
“I think I might be pregnant”
He opened the other eye. “Based on what?”
“Based on THIS TEST!”
Simon stared at the test for longer than even me before saying “well….. that’s pretty conclusive.”
We were in shock. More shocked than you’d have expected two people who made an embryo in a laboratory and asked a doctor to transfer it directly into the womb two weeks ago might be. I guess we never really and truly believed it would work…but it looked like it might have done…
And 8 long and nauseous weeks later, in the most surreal and magical moment of my life, I saw a perfect little human wriggling away on a screen. With a brain and a heart and arms and legs and all the things you’d expect a tiny baby to have. A baby. My baby. Words I can’t believe I’m even typing.
After 4 years of trying to make it happen, 4 medicated cycles, 2 pretty invasive procedures, countless appointments, blood tests, needles, pills, pessaries and bucket loads of tears, after 2 rounds of IVF, 1 failed transfer, 1 fresh transfer and, finally, 1 frozen transfer… Simon and I are over the moon to be able to share the news that our miracle baby is due December 2020.
And we feel like the luckiest people in the whole world.
Keep growing Frosty ❄️ there’s so much love waiting for you on the other side!
An important note to the reader:
For years I wondered if we would ever be lucky enough to share news like this. It’s no secret that it hasn’t been an easy ride for us to get here, it’s been long and bumpy and full of dead ends and unexpected hurdles, relentless effort and constant, constant thoughts of: When? If? How? and Why? It has been painful. Some of you reading this won’t be familiar with the specifics of this kind of pain – and hopefully you never will be – but for many others reading this, you know it all too well… and I know that my news won’t be easy for you, no matter how happy you are for me.
So if you’re someone whose path to parenthood is proving a long and treacherous one – my heart goes out to you. Take care of yourself, find your own bespoke group of supporters to rally around you – come rain or shine – and never, ever forget the strength and courage it takes to do exactly what you’re doing. You are incredible. My next birthday wish / four leaf clover / rainbow / penny / eyelash / shooting star is dedicated to all your dreams coming true. 🤞🏼🍍🍀🌈💫💕