In the middle…

Last year when I got pregnant naturally and accidentally, I felt a sense of almost guilt about being such a cliché. Woman stops trying to get pregnant, gets pregnant, here’s the Hollywood ending (that I always secretly hated and resented when I heard it in others’ stories.)

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Talking and telling…

Now that I’m at the point where, despite what I thought was clever dressing to conceal my bump, I am very obviously, it appears, pregnant, I am confronted by yet another issue. How much do I say about our baby’s origins?

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What happens next…

It’s hard to know what this blog – which has been all about trying to get pregnant – should be about now I’m actually pregnant. And I suppose that sentence alone is something that speaks volumes. I didn’t start this as a blog about trying to get pregnant. When I started it, it was a blog about freezing my eggs. And when, later, I came back to it, I thought it was going to be a blog about being a solo mother. But life has other plans. And so I suppose now it’s a blog about being pregnant with a donor egg after trying to get pregnant for so long.

And part of that means coming to terms with the idea that we’re going to have a baby. We’re going to become parents and everything is going to change. And I know that that was obviously the goal all along. But at some point that goal became getting pregnant and staying pregnant. And if that had happened early on, I feel like the getting pregnant and the reality of actually having a baby would have been so closely linked in chronology that I wouldn’t have the feeling that I have now, which is – weirdly – that I’m not ready for this.

When we were away, B said to me “our next summer holiday is going to be completely different” and I just hadn’t really thought about it. Just like I hadn’t thought about the fact that we were going to need to get a car that would be practical with a baby seat. And it started to dawn on me that we probably wouldn’t be going to the concerts we’d bought tickets for next year. And I know that – to a certain extent – not thinking about all that had been a self-protection mechanism to shield me from disappointment if/when it didn’t work out again. But even taking that into consideration, the disjunct feels odd.

I think it feels particularly discomforting because this is something that I’ve wanted for so long and now that it’s actually happening, rather than being totally bloody thrilled, as I should be, all I’m thinking about is the stuff that being pregnant and having a small child is going to stop me doing: I can’t ski this winter, I’ve had to get rid of my pride-and-joy sports car, I’m going to have to share B with someone who he’s probably going to love more than me, it’s going to be a long time before I can just lie by a pool and read a book on holiday… etc etc

And, when I think about it, I know that on the scales of life and happiness, this sort of negative weighting is kind of inevitable. Because these are my known knowns. I know what I’m going to lose, what I don’t know, and what I hope will balance that (to some extent at least) is what I’m going to gain. I can’t possibly know that – and to be honest, even if I could, I’m not sure I’d really dare to dream about it after all this time, it would feel like tempting fate.

And so I’m here, juggling fear, excitement, anticipation and all the rest of it. So in some ways, pretty much like most of the last eight years really…

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Tempting fate…

You know I’m not superstitious. But perhaps inevitably I can’t help being with this. Given everything that’s gone before, I don’t know how I couldn’t be. How I could ever be someone who would assume it would all be fine. Despite all the scans that told me otherwise.

Because we’d had that six week scan, and then our clinic offered us an early scan at eight weeks, and then because we wanted to do the Harmony test (a blood test that looks for three different chromosomal abnormalities and can be done from ten weeks onwards. It’s sometimes offered on the NHS but if it is, it’s usually at a later stage) we booked a private package that combined a 10-week scan, the Harmony test and a 12-week scan. And all of them were fine. In all of them, the measurements were what they should be. The things they were meant to be able to see, they could see. Everything looked normal.

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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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