I always knew getting pregnant wouldn’t be easy.
As a teenager, I naively thought it wasn’t a big deal. Even though I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) at 17, I felt I had my whole life ahead of me and children were way off in the distant future.
But when I met my now-husband, Peter, in my early 30s, things became tricky.
I was honest with him about my PCOS, and what that meant for us having kids from the start and he took it in his stride, telling me he just wanted to be with me and that’s all that mattered.
We tied the knot in November 2008 and started trying almost as soon as the ink dried on our marriage certificate. We didn’t want to miss our chance – now 35, I was already considered a geriatric mum, as far as my fertility was concerned, and my chances of conceiving were low.
After a year of trying with no luck, I visited my GP to get help and have tests done.
Initially, I was told I was overweight at 16 stone, and would need to slim down to have any hope of being eligible for IVF. Determined not to scupper myself, I joined Weight Watchers and lost five stone over the next 18 months.
I was also told I wasn’t ovulating properly, and that medication to stimulate ovulation should sort me out. But of course, it didn’t.
By this time, my body clock was ticking even louder. Three years had passed since we first started looking into fertility treatment and we were still on the NHS waiting list, so we decided to go private.
It was frustrating, I felt impatient and fed up.
Many of my friends fell pregnant during this time, and while I was delighted for them, I was also so sad. Their happy news was just another reminder that I wasn’t even close to having a baby.
Peter and I however were only brought closer by the experience – we were in this together. We kept our hopes alive by sharing our dreams, discussing baby names and talking about what kind of mummy and daddy we thought we’d be.
In January 2013, we paid for my first cycle of IVF in south Wales, which cost several thousand pounds.
I barely had a chance to get my hopes up; the embryos were implanted on a Saturday and by the following Tuesday, I’d started to bleed.
It was absolutely devastating. Even though the clinic told me not to give up hope and that it could be an implantation bleed, I could feel that the baby had gone.
They said to wait 10 days, then do a pregnancy test. I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn’t pregnant, but Peter and I still did that test together, just in case.
I wasn’t surprised by the result on the stick, but I still found myself sobbing over the loss of hope. I wasn’t able to talk about it without crying for weeks afterwards.
Peter stayed strong, supporting me as best he could, but he was obviously heartbroken too.
The thought of picking ourselves up and doing it again was like standing at the foot of a tall mountain – but we never considered stopping. There was also an odd comfort in knowing that a lot of couples don’t succeed the first time around.
Over the next 18 months I had three more IVF cycles at the same centre and two on the NHS. All ended early, in failure or miscarriage.
On a couple of occasions we got as far as a positive pregnancy test, but by the following week, when we tested again, it was negative.
IVF takes its toll on the body with hormones, injections and repeated invasive procedures. But for me, the worst part was the loss of hope each time. It was horrific and absolutely devastating.
The only way I could cope was to numb myself to the experience. It got to the point where I couldn’t even get excited when the blue line appeared on a pregnancy test.
After six years of trying, we decided to take a different approach and travelled to Prague, where I went to a fertility centre for three cycles. I’d been on a fertility forum and other women were recommending it as IVF drugs are much cheaper there and the doctors are very good.
There were differences in the protocol they used, too – such as a change in drugs and timings. Peter and I felt even the smallest change might help.
I wondered if this time we’d get lucky – but one attempt failed and I suffered two more early miscarriages.
We considered giving up, but we wanted to try absolutely everything. Neither Peter nor I wanted to look back in years to come and wish we’d done more to have a baby.
There was a glimmer of hope in 2015.
A specialist from another miscarriage clinic discovered that my immune system made a high number of T-cells, which meant my body was attacking the embryos.
I was given drugs to suppress my immune system, which cost £400 per injection.
I took badly to the dose; my joints swelled and I developed a rash, but we persevered and travelled back to Prague for more IVF, because it was the cheapest option.
On my 10th go, aged 43, something felt different.
The blue line on the pregnancy test was darker, it looked more defined. I did another one the next day and it was still there.
Blood tests also picked up pregnancy hormones. The nurse who had been looking after me for much of our journey was excited – and told me that we might finally get to listen to a heartbeat.
The first scan took place at six weeks. We all held our breath and then it came…thud thud, thud thud. Our baby’s heartbeat.
I cried, Peter did too. Our nurse even sobbed.
I’d expected them to scan and find nothing, but then we were shown this tiny blob on the screen and told ‘that’s your baby’. It was at that point we truly dared to believe.
However, I was still geriatric and high risk, so my doctors took no chances and scanned me every week, as we listened for that precious heartbeat.
As my bump grew, I still didn’t believe we were actually going to end up with a baby in our arms.
And then our daughter, Tirion, was born on 22 November, 2016.
It was a long slog, I had a failed induction and waited four days before having a C-section. I’d been so scared that something might go wrong, but she was absolutely perfect.
They held her up so I could see her over the sheet and my first words were ‘there’s no bits’, because I was convinced we were having a boy. We’d deliberately not found out the sex because we wanted that surprise.
Finally here she was… our little girl.
Peter and I were overjoyed with Tirion, but we wanted to give her a shot at having a sibling.
So, despite everything we went through, we tried again. Some people thought we were crazy, but we knew about my T-cells so felt it was possible to counteract it.
Again, I took drugs to suppress my immune system. Our first round of IVF failed, but on the second attempt I fell pregnant.
I knew my body could do it, but it was still hard to believe we could be so lucky a second time.
Our son Cadel arrived on 18 February 2019, to complete our family.
Twelve rounds of IVF over five years sounds incredible when you look back on it, but we were just trying to get through each day.
I have no idea how much money we spent – we stopped counting long ago, but I know it would be in the tens of thousands.
But it doesn’t matter. Our two miracle babies were worth every penny.
As told to Jade Beecroft.
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