Baby Loss Awareness Week…

Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place from the 9th to the 15th of October every year.

9th October 2020 was two days after I’d been told at what should have been a 9-week scan, that the foetus only measured what you might expect for 6-weeks. And that they couldn’t see a heartbeat. But that I’d have to wait another week to confirm that it hadn’t grown before they could confirm that it was a missed miscarriage.

15th October 2020 was the day after the scan that confirmed that I’d had a missed miscarriage, and the total fucking ordeal that was spending hours alone — thanks pandemic — at a hospital waiting to speak to nurses and doctors, and the day before I took misoprostol to “deal” with the missed miscarriage.

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Here we go again…

Then there was the day, about a week into our holiday when I started to bleed. Proper red blood. This wasn’t the euphemistic “spotting”, the flash of brown or pink on loo paper that I’d had previously, resolutely decided was normal, and tried to ignore. This was bright red blood, the type you get when you cut your finger, and it was dripping into the loo.

“Well there you go, that’s that,” I thought to myself. “At least it’s better to have a proper miscarriage rather than a missed one.” I WhatsApped my friend Q… “You know when you said you bled and it was fine, what was the bleeding like?” And I tried to feel reassured when she told me about inserting progesterone pessaries into the blood thinking it was absolutely pointless. Because it turned out it wasn’t pointless as she now has a one-year-old son from that pregnancy.

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A thing but not a thing

And so, as you might reasonably have expected, and as I might have slightly given away in my last post, given how contrarily these things go, the fact that I was so convinced it wasn’t going to work meant that when, on the morning we were going away for the weekend, and I did a precautionary First Response test, it showed the faintest of faint – but still very definitely there – lines.

Or, as I put it to B when I walked back into the bedroom “Well I’m not ‘Not Pregnant’.” But I wasn’t going to get too excited. It was early. It could be a chemical pregnancy. It wasn’t a thing until it was a thing.

But then, when I did another test 48 hours later, that line was definitely darker. And 48 hours after that, the blood test confirmed that, that day at least, I was pregnant. Because that was how I thought of it. That’s how I’ve continued to think about it. On those fertility forums I despise, I’ve seen women talk about being “PUPO” – Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise, but after the miscarriage, after everything we’ve been through, I feel quite the opposite. I feel like “that day I know I was definitely pregnant but until the next blood test / scan, I can’t assume I still am.”

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Hit and hope…

We decided to hit and hope and go ahead with the cycle, albeit in a slightly different way.

B and I had discussed whether we would transfer one or two embryos. We’d looked into the risks for the babies and the mother of a twin pregnancy. We’d looked at the statistical likelihood of a singleton or twins from two transferred embryos. We’d talked about the fact that if we were lucky enough to have one child and had embryos left, I was probably too old to try for a sibling in a few years. We’d talked about the pros and cons of only children and siblings. And we’d talked about the fact that we had ten quality embryos. Ten embryos is a total gift. But, as I explained to my consultant when we’d initially discussed this, me trying not to cry at the thought of how many negative pregnancy tests I had the emotional capacity to deal with. (I know, I know, I’ll talk more in another post about the impossibility of thinking positive when you’ve been through what I’ve been through.) “I know me, I know what I’m like, if we have ten embryos, I will try until we have nothing left to try with. And I can’t do ten embryos transfers. Five, yes, ten, no.” And so we’d decided — rather against her advice — we would transfer two.

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Women, fertility and blame culture…

Before I get on to the what happened next bit, I feel like I need to talk about this stuff. And when I say “stuff” I guess I broadly mean about the fertility industry and how it treats women. Arguably, I’ve had more interaction with this industry than most. I’ve heard it referred to as the Wild West, I’ve heard people say that it exploits women, that it uses experimental practices that aren’t proven as cynical money-making ventures, but I’ve honestly never felt I had that experience. You might think that having spent the best part of £100,000 – honestly, I don’t know, I’m guessing, I stopped counting mentally after I figured I’d reached about £50k – trying to have a baby, that I’d feel bitter. But until now, I never felt bitter, I never felt exploited, I never felt like a cash cow. I’ve defended – largely – the industry. For all that I’ve complained in the past that some people working in it seem to forget that their day job is the most important thing in someone else’s life, on the whole, I’ve never felt that decisions that weren’t in my best interest were being made.

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Not my first rodeo…

I don’t really know how to talk about the next bit because, without wishing to sound overly dramatic, I don’t know what the legal implications are of writing about my clinic and what they did or didn’t do, without giving them a chance to respond to what I’m saying. And I know I’m anonymous and I know I haven’t named them but I’m still wary. So I’m going to try to use quite broad brushstrokes.

I’d felt that there had been communication issues between us and the clinic for a while. Questions going unanswered, inexplicable delays and a lack of a sense of urgency, me having to request tests that I thought they should have already organised, information not being passed on. But I’d kind of sucked it up because everything up to this point hadn’t really been about me, it had been about our donor. I didn’t feel as if I could force issues because maybe there were other things at play. Maybe the delays were down to the donor (which I was totally fine with). Maybe the lack of information was a privacy issue. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

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The numbers…

This strange feeling of detachment persisted. We knew what day the donor would be donating because B had to go to the clinic to wank into a cup (it is what it is, so let’s not dress it up as anything else) so her eggs could be fertilised. And while I wanted to know how many eggs they’d got from her, how many had been fertilised, how many had got to day 2, day 5, how many blastocysts, I didn’t have that same desperate-for-the-phone-to-ring anxiety.

Maybe it was that I still felt quite detached from it, but I think a lot of it was also because I feel more sanguine about the whole process. More aware that there’s nothing I can do that will change the outcome so whether I know at 10am that day how many embryos looked healthy, or whether I don’t find that information out until seven hours later makes no odds.

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Happening, but not happening…

But once bitten, twice shy and all that. We said yes to the agency, we signed paperwork, we paid sums of money for treatment, but I felt very detached from it all. I just didn’t really engage with it. It was all taking ages, there were tests for her, tests for me, tests for B – the tests went on and on, the weeks and months went by. The process of getting our donor to the point where she could actually donate, that we’d been told would take three months, dragged on and on — if this were a film or TV programme, this is the point at which you’d see the leaves on the trees changing colour from autumn to winter to spring to denote the passing of time.

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The hunt goes on…

Back sometime before the last Ice Age, we’d made the decision that we were going to try to conceive with donor eggs. OK, maybe it wasn’t that long ago, but it was pre-pandemic, pre-accidental-natural-unexpected pregnancy, pre-totally-predictable miscarriage, and so as a result it does feel like aeons ago. Even if it was only just over a year ago. Because since then we found (or rather the agency found us) the Mary Poppins donor who wasn’t, and the Mary Poppins replacement that didn’t fill us with joy. And then two days after I’d had it confirmed that I’d definitely miscarried, the agency got in touch with a suggestion of someone else.

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It’s been a while…

And not for any good reason. It’s been a while because, as you could probably guess from the last post, having a miscarriage in a pandemic was a pretty shitty thing to happen and even six months after the event, it wasn’t something I really wanted to dwell on or revisit. But equally, it feels — as I think I’ve said before — that all of this should be documented — for you, for me, for completeness. So here I am, ironically about nine months after the miscarriage, finally writing it down.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it was really fucking grim. I took the same pills that a friend of mine who had accidentally got pregnant was prescribed when she wanted to terminate her pregnancy. She already has two children and she described the pain of those pills as being “worse than my second labour”.

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