30th April 2021
"My AMH level was below 0.1 so I hardly had any eggs. We were shocked"
We naively thought it wouldn’t take us long to become pregnant but two years quickly passed without any success. Our next step was to go to the doctors and some tests were carried out, one of these tests showed there was a problem with my husband’s sperm count due to having a varicocele and they referred us for IVF. After seeing a specialist they couldn’t guarantee that this could be corrected and if unsuccessful it would in fact delay going through IVF on the NHS by up to a year. We, therefore, decided to go private and found a clinic called Bourn Hall.
We went through our first round of IVF using ICSI with my eggs and my husband’s sperm and we ended up with two embryos, one was transferred and the other was frozen. Unfortunately, the embryo failed to grow and this round was unsuccessful. After picking ourselves up we decided to try again using the same method as before but sadly, none of our eggs fertilised. Luckily we had the frozen embryo from the previous round but this turned out to be unsuccessful as well. It was after this second round that they discovered I had a problem too. My AMH level was below 0.1 and they suggested that the quality of my eggs could be compromised. We were shocked at this as we didn’t expect there to be a problem with me as well as my husband. But because of this, we were advised by the clinic that we now could be entitled to NHS funding. Eventually, this was agreed and we were eligible for three rounds of IVF on the NHS which we were so thankful for. Although I did manage to produce some eggs on each round, all three of those rounds had the same outcome and were unsuccessful too. We were starting to wonder at this point if this would ever happen for us and wondered if I was ever going to become pregnant. It’s tough going through so many rounds and not becoming pregnant, having to pick up yourselves again after each round and keep trying to be positive for the next go.
The clinic then advised we would probably need donor eggs to help us to achieve a pregnancy. We had to go away and decide what would be best after being given this devastating news. Would it ever work with a donor? So after five unsuccessful rounds, we then decided to find a clinic that specialised in donor eggs. We went to an open evening at Herts & Essex Fertility Centre in Cheshunt. We were so impressed with what we saw, the clinic was small but felt extremely personal, the staff were amazing and we immediately knew we needed to try our luck there.
We were no longer entitled to any further funding on the NHS so we had to fund the next round ourselves. The process of donor eggs was explained in great detail and they would match us with a lady who would be similar in characteristics to me.
We also had to attend counselling to make sure we understood and were comfortable with the implications of using donor eggs. We found it very reassuring to talk it through with someone who wasn’t connected to us. At first, it was difficult to get our heads around the fact that they wouldn’t be my eggs and that genetically they wouldn’t be related to me. What would our baby look like? Would she or he take on any of my characteristics or be like me in any way? All I knew was this would be the only way I could ever carry a child myself, to know what it would be like to be pregnant. I kind of went through a grieving process of not being able to use my eggs, in an ideal world you’d obviously like to be able to use your own. We actually got to the point of thinking that if IVF didn’t work for us we would look into adoption. For us it didn’t matter where our child came from, family was the important thing to us.
So we underwent round number six at Herts & Essex Centre. We had to wait to be matched with a donor, we actually were given three to choose from and it felt strange picking the best-suited donor for us. We wanted to match my hair colour, eye colour, height and build as much as possible. It was actually quite refreshing to not have to go through all the procedures of stimming and taking all the medication. I didn’t react well to egg collection in the past so again quite nice to not have to go through that too! It did feel very strange though to not be part of the monitoring scans to see how many follicles and what size they are but the clinic did contact me after each appointment to give me an update. We were kept up to date right the way through which was really important to us. Egg collection came and went and we were lucky enough to transfer an embryo on day two. The two-week wait was the worst… analysing everything, every twinge, every symptom… but after all these years of trying we finally found out, we were pregnant!! We couldn’t believe we could be so lucky but sadly it was short-lived as we suffered a miscarriage, we were totally heartbroken and devastated and had to try and pick ourselves up after this but we now knew I could get pregnant so said we couldn’t give up yet.
We then went on to round seven… we had to find a new donor as we didn’t have any frozen embryos from the last round. So it was back to the drawing board to find another lady. Unfortunately, this round didn’t result in a transfer as none of our eggs fertilised. I started to also question if there was something further wrong with my husband’s sperm, unfortunately with IVF, you don’t always have the answers when things don’t go right. So we immediately put plans in place for round number eight. This round was cancelled right before egg collection as our donor didn’t respond to the drugs as she should have so there weren’t going to be enough eggs to collect. Again we decided to move on to round number nine pretty quickly. We always felt that the only way we could deal with the constant heartbreak was to have the next plans in place as this gave us something to focus on and look forward to.
We were told there was a lady who wanted to donate as an altruistic donor. We found this pretty amazing and thought she must be an incredible lady to want to help couples like us even though she didn’t need IVF treatment herself. To be honest, by this time I just wanted a donor that would work… how she looked, and which characteristics she had almost didn’t matter as much anymore. So we went through the whole process again from the beginning. A few weeks passed, we had more medication, more scans and ended up with five embryos so for the very first time we managed to get to the blastocyst stage. By day five two hadn’t made it so we ended up with three embryos – one top quality and two which weren’t quite blastocysts so they decided to transfer the top quality one and carry on with the other two, providing they were okay to freeze them on day six. We went through the stressful two-week wait again, second-guessing every symptom and having the same thoughts as before. We went to the clinic for our pregnancy test and were over the moon to discover we were pregnant again!!!! Sadly we suffered yet another devastating miscarriage and again all our hopes and dreams were gone, we weren’t sure if we could come back from this as we were totally heartbroken. All we had left were the last two embryos in the freezer and couldn’t leave them so decided we had to try one last go using both frozen embryos. This was going to be our last and final shot at it working…
So we started round number ten… on 29th November 2017, both embryos were defrosted successfully and transferred back. It was then the long wait until the official test day. I really didn’t think it had worked this time, I certainly didn’t feel pregnant in any way, unlike some of the other rounds. I didn’t think we could be lucky to get a positive test for the third time… but we couldn’t believe it when it came back positive again!! We were crying with joy and even the staff at the clinic were crying with us! Although we were totally over the moon we were very cautious. We’d decided not to tell anyone about this round so we knew we’d have to keep it a secret. We then had the horrible wait for the viability scan which was on 2nd January 2018. This was when we’d found out about our previous miscarriages so I was nearly hyperventilating while we were waiting for our consultant, David to find a heartbeat… But then, all of a sudden, he turned the screen around and said there’s your baby’s heartbeat! This was the furthest we’d ever gotten before. We literally sobbed our eyes out… and I think even David and Sarah had tears too! We knew we had a long way to go and still wanted to keep it a secret so we actually waited until we had our 12-week scan until we told our family and friends. I think everyone was totally shocked as they probably thought it would never happen, and actually, a few probably thought we were mad to keep trying as we did.
The pregnancy was quite stressful as I was very anxious all the time, even when I was further down the line, I would be looking out for the baby moving and kicking as I was so worried it could all be taken away from us. But after an anxious pregnancy, our beautiful baby girl Kiki Willow arrived into the world two weeks early on 2nd August 2018 weighing just 5lb 8oz but totally perfect in every way!! She’ll be three in August and we couldn’t be happier now we’re a family with Kiki! Thank you to Herts & Essex Fertility Centre for never giving up on us. We are eternally grateful for all the hard work the clinic put into helping us and one day we will tell Kiki our story of how she came into the world.
So, that’s our story… I hope it has given you an insight into what we as patients go through. One day we will tell Kiki that there was a lovely lady who helped to make our dreams come true by helping us finally become the family we had always wished for. I think if you want something enough you will try your best to get it. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone to use a donor if there’s no hope of using their own eggs or sperm to achieve the family they dream of.