“I met Hannah 6 years ago and I knew I would love her almost immediately. She has a kindness and openness I’d never seen in a person. As we were in our 30s we were both really honest early on about what we were looking for. Both tired of chaotic relationships and the dating scene we both wanted to settle down with someone who shared each other’s values. I was a little nervous to bring up my desire for a family too soon but I decided if that was something she didn’t want the sooner I knew, the better.
Luckily for me Hannah also wanted that… just not straight away! After 2 years we bought a house together in Ware in Hertfordshire and set about renovating it to our style. My biological clock was quietly ticking away in the background and when I hit 40 in 2016 it started to sound off the alarms!
We visited the Herts & Essex fertility Centre near us for an open evening and our journey with this amazing facility began. We had lots to discuss and plan. Could we afford this? Would we really be good parents? We needed to save a lot of money so we hoped to begin our journey the following year in 2017.
In February 2017 I suffered a serious knee injury playing football for my beloved Hertford Town Ladies. My ACL was snapped and a 2 year battle to rehabilitation was about to start. I spent 10 long months in a hinged knee brace to stabilize my vulnerable knee and waited for the reconstruction operation. I started to worry about how this would impact my dream of becoming a mother. This was eating into valuable time and all I could see was my 41st birthday looming the following year.
In October that year Hannah’s father passed away. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s and Dementia for many years but his passing was still a shock to us all. We decided to put our plans on hold yet another precious year.
My knee operation took place in November 2017. The procedure was a success and I started rehab. This time, my main goal was not to get back to football but to get my knee strong enough to carry the weight of a baby!
In 2018 my knee was feeling stronger and we were finally able to start our treatment at Herts & Essex. Initial AMH tests (the hormone that signifies how good your eggs are) showed my egg reserves were low. Despite my age I was still taken aback. I always assumed something in my obsessive maternal desires meant I’d be overflowing with eggs! This was upsetting but I was not about to let this hold us back.
Hannah’s AMH results were AMAZING. She had so many eggs she could probably start her own little egg farm! The decision was made we would try reciprocal IVF, which meant using Hannah’s eggs and my womb. Hannah didn’t want to carry so it actually worked out perfectly for us in that respect. Our consultant discussed choosing a sperm donor with us and suggested whilst looking at our tiny heights we ‘Choose someone tall, let’s give it a chance!’ which really made us laugh.
One of the lab technicians called us on February 14th 2018 with 3 potential donors. She gave me a brief outline of their physical characteristics and left us to discuss. That night when Hannah returned from work we cracked open the wine and I presented our potential men in the style of ‘Our Graham’ on Blind Date. Our decision was unanimous so the next day I called them with our decision and the sperm was ordered.
It’s hard to recall all the events of our first round and hard to remember that naïve couple who arrived at every appointment full of hope and excitement. We couldn’t understand why the other people in the waiting room looked so grumpy. Sadly we would soon find out for ourselves.
Everything worked perfectly the first time, I learnt how to inject Hannah to stimulate her womb into producing an impressive amount of eggs. Sixteen eggs were fertilized that first time and seven made it to blastocyst. On June 13th one beautiful blastocyst was transferred to me. We were shocked to hear the other blastos didn’t have the right structures to be frozen. We were definitely not prepared but focussed on the one inside me which had already started hatching.
The longest 2 weeks of our lives ensued as we waited to hear if we were pregnant. I was in good spirits when we went in for our test Monday morning. The initial test at the clinic was so faint they had to send it to London for further tests. Another long day of waiting and we were called late in the afternoon to say yes, we were pregnant but the HCG levels were low and we’d need to test further in 2 days to ensure they were increasing. These further tests showed while the HCG was rising, it was doing so slowly. All I heard was ‘Yes, you are pregnant.’
We invited my parents and Hannah’s mum over the following Saturday for a secret celebration. We weren’t going to tell everyone too soon but our parents had been a huge support for us and were excited to share our joy with them. The nagging back pain was worsening as the afternoon went on until I decided to go upstairs and see if a visit to the toilet would ease things. It was in this moment we started to lose our baby. It was brutal and shocking. I called for Hannah and we both looked at each other in horror as I’d started to bleed heavily. We called our moms who, although they’d never experienced miscarriage before, from the looks on their faces I knew it was over. We called the clinic who tried to calm us saying women often bleed in pregnancy but I knew our baby was already gone.
Our parents stayed with us a few hours more and then had to leave. I felt dreadful they’d had to witness such sadness on a day meant to be full of joy. I was also grateful for the strength they gave us in those first few hours.
The next few weeks passed in a blur, but Hannah was my absolute rock despite suffering herself. I found more strength from a very dear friend who I knew had dealt with this already. It was a club I never imagined myself joining and yet here we were. I remember feeling lost, like I didn’t know my own identity anymore. I was scared I would never feel like me again.
Over the next few months we spent a lot of time healing. I had some reiki which helped me to let go of the baby I was holding onto and in time we were both smiling again and finding the strength to move on in our lives.
The following February we were ready to try again. Hannah’s eggs were harvested again and this time 10 were fertilized, 6 got to blastocyst and 3 were frozen! This time we were hopeful but terrified. Were we strong enough now to cope with the disappointment of it not working? Or another miscarriage? It had taken us months to put ourselves back together, could we cope with this again?
After the 2 week wait I was utterly convinced this round had worked again. Why wouldn’t it? I knew I could get pregnant, I just needed to be able to hang onto it. We decided to do a home test this time as our test date landed on a bank holiday and we’d have to wait until Tuesday to test. So Hannah picked up a pregnancy test and on the Sunday morning I awoke at 5 am and decided I couldn’t wait anymore. I did the test and waited, and waited. The window stayed agonizingly clear. This could not be happening. The test must be broken! I drove around our town waiting for the supermarket to open and bought 2 more tests. They said the same thing. Our second round was a failure. I held onto the glimmer of hope that again the HCG level was so low it wouldn’t read on the home test. The negative test was confirmed on the Tuesday with the blood test and our hearts were broken again.
It wasn’t the same agony as the miscarriage, it was a different kind of agony that was starting to say ‘Your dream is hopeless, you will never have a baby.’ And this started to turn into ‘You don’t deserve this, who did you think you were? You’re not woman enough to carry a baby, you’re too old, you waited too long!’.
Pushing these intrusive thoughts aside, 3 months later we defrosted one of our ‘frosties’ and tried again. Funds were running very low now and this could be our last attempt. We still tried to make our visits to the clinic fun but our hearts were getting heavier with every visit. Please let this be the one.
On May 17th, 2018, 2 days after my 43rd birthday our little frosty was transferred to me. We spent that weekend at Champneys celebrating my birthday and relaxing. At the end of the 2 week wait we were greeted with a ‘strong positive’ test result! This time our HCG level was 512! I knew this time our baby wanted to stay.
15 weeks on, my belly is growing at an astounding rate and I love it. I’m already in my maternity jeans and wondering if I’m carrying the world’s biggest baby. My Pinterest board is bursting with nursery inspiration and I’m the happiest I think I’ve ever been.We are now looking forward to February 2020 – our due date is actually a year to the date Hannah had her eggs harvested.
I always assumed once I’d decided I was ready for a baby, the process would be a simple matter of visiting the clinic and getting pregnant. I had no idea how agonizing this journey would be. But you know what, it’s worth it. We’ve a long way to go but I sit here now and stare at the beautiful 12 week scan pic propped on my desk and I’m so glad we went through this. This baby is so loved already, I just want the next 6 months to hurry up so we can hold him or her in our arms and say ‘We’re your Mommies.”
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