It all started at University when I started getting very bad stomach pains that were so painful I was crying walking to the doctors. This happened a couple of times, with them saying I had a water infection and sending me on my way. I was pretty sure that wasn’t what this was. It was far worse than any pain I had experienced before.
One evening I got the pains again and I threw up. It was so bad I went to hospital where I was kept in for a few days and had lots of tests and lots of painkillers. They gave me a scan and found that I had a couple of cysts on my ovaries and that one of them had burst and I had bled into it, and that was probably what was causing the pain. They said I would need an operation.
The operation was supposed to take about 20 mins and should have been very straightforward. It actually took about 6 hours and I think it was a pretty scary time for my family as they didn’t really know what was happening.
I ended up having a laparotomy which is a big incision, right across the bottom of my belly, rather than the couple of tiny holes I was supposed to have. When they had looked inside me they had found that I had a borderline ovarian tumour and they had to remove one of my ovaries, my tube and a small part of my other ovary.
A borderline tumour isn’t actually on the borderline of being something as it sounds, but is actually a type of cancer. It was very scary waking up to find all this out, but luckily once it was removed it was gone and I didn’t have to have any treatment. Also they thought my one ovary should still function properly and there was no reason I wouldn’t be able to have children.
I had to have checkups and a scan every 3 months at first (and I still have one a year now) and I discussed having children with my consultant at one of my earlier appointments. No wait, that sounds wrong, I didn’t want children with my consultant, although he was lovely, he was a bit old for me (about to retire!)…. I discussed with my consultant my chances of getting pregnant.
He said that although there was no reason for me to struggle to get pregnant at that time, that as I got older and headed towards my thirties (I was 23 at the time) that I could potentially have troubles. We therefore decided to start trying for a baby straight away (no, not quiiiite straight away you dirty so and so).
I remember going to all my subsequent appointments three, or later on six months later, and the lovely lovely nurse who always remembered my name would be so nice to me and I could tell that she was really genuinely sorry for me that I still wasn’t pregnant. Ooh, it’s quite hard going back to these feelings.
After about a year of trying with no luck we went to the doctor and I was referred to a fertility specialist who I later grew to love. Yes, love. I would have his babies. Just kidding. He’s had his hand inside my belly and up my hooha, and not in a good way. That would be weird.
I had some tests and they couldn’t find anything wrong so he wanted to do another laparoscopy to have a look inside. I was absolutely terrified even though it was a simple operation because of what had happened last time and I made him promise that he wouldn’t take my remaining ovary. I was so scared I would wake up not being able to have children.
Well the operation went fine but he had found that because my previous surgeon had such big hands (seriously they were massive!) my bowel and my ovary had got stuck together (bleurgh), so I had to have ANOTHER operation to separate them. This time I was even more sh*t scared because I was now also worried something bad would happen to my bowel. And then I wouldn’t be able to have children or go to the loo.
The operation went fine and I think we decided to then try naturally for another six months. Another six months of crushing disappointment and sadness every month when I discovered I still wasn’t pregnant. By this point I was really just waiting to actually start trying something else as I’d accepted I wasn’t going to get pregnant naturally, but you still can’t help having that little bit of silly hope.
After that six months or so had passed, we met with my fertility consultant and decided to try IVF. The place we chose was actually run by my amazing consultant which I was very happy about. What I wasn’t happy about was being told I had to inject myself in my belly every day. I’ve been funny about my belly ever since my operations and so I reaalllly didn’t want to stab myself with a needle there. Luckily it could also be done in my leg. That obviously wasn’t fun either, it usually stung, sometimes I got big bruises, the drugs gave me awful awful headaches and made me feel so tired, and I was super hormonal (obviously – I was being pumped full of hormones!). Egg collection involves being put to sleep, which you think I would be used to, but actually I get more and more scared every time, even though I’m pretty sure I’ve always woken up.
The emotional side of IVF is really tough too, doing all this to your body and not knowing if it is going to work. Waiting to see how many follicles your body has grown, then how many will fertilise, then waiting from day to day to see how many have survived overnight, and if you’ll actually have one left to implant on the final day. It’s SO hard. But we knew it would be worth it.
I got pregnant. We were so so happy. We didn’t tell anyone for a day or two even though I wanted to scream it from the rooftops. Telling my mum and sister was so emotional. I had dreamed about this day for so long. I had got a t-shirt that said “Expecting….. Love” on it and I wore that, but my mum didn’t notice until I pointed it out and oh my god I was so happy to tell them. We were all crying and hugging, it was wonderful. I’m crying now thinking about it. The next day I was seeing my Dad so I was going to tell him. And then I started bleeding. I had to tell him because other people knew now but I had to say, “I’m pregnant… but I think I’m losing it”. I just wanted to give him my happy news. Everyone was lovely and supportive and hopeful for me of course, but I was pretty sure it was all going wrong.
It was. I had my beta levels tested and then again a few days later. It was one of those horrendous, ‘just wait and see’ times. My body was telling me I was losing my baby, but my beta levels were still rising so I couldn’t help clinging on to that little bit of hope which I think made it a lot worse. We were absolutely devastated and couldn’t stop crying. But I was still hopeful even though I knew really.
Then I started getting some pains and because they were where I would feel pain in an ectopic pregnancy (where it grows in the tube and is very dangerous), they brought me in for a scan. The sonogropher thought she could see something on the scan so they decided to admit me. I knew that if it was an ectopic pregnancy that I would definitely lose my only tube and would therefore never be able to have children naturally.
I had a lovely young doctor but who was obviously very new and a bit clueless. I was really upset already about what was happening and what might happen (plus the fact we were supposed to be going on holiday a few days later, which I felt I really needed and would now probably miss it), and he put the cannula in my arm with the grace of an elephant and made me squirt blood all over everywhere (me, him, chair, floor), I then got a bit woozy and nearly passed out (even though blood doesn’t bother me), which turned out to be a good thing as I was given a bed instead of being made to wait in the waiting room for a few hours!
When I asked my lovely silly doctor a couple of questions about the operation, he told me it was ok (that losing my remaining tube would mean I couldn’t ever get pregnant naturally) because I probably wouldn’t have ever been able to anyway…. I know that’s probably true, but I still had that hope until now, and it certainly didn’t help to hear him say it as I was so upset about that small chance being taken away from me.
Thankfully I wasn’t having an ectopic pregnancy, which I am so grateful about. And after the operation my beta levels finally started to decrease, so at least we could start accepting that we had lost our much longed for baby. As much as you can accept that. I’m also grateful that it happened very early on in the pregnancy. And I got to go on my holiday.
After all that I wasn’t ready to go through IVF again and I had no idea when I would be. Then suddenly one month a few months later, I realised I was very ready to try again and I wanted to start immediately (which you can’t do – it’s all about timings). We started as soon as we could and I think this time it was even harder. I seemed to feel worse, we knew what could happen even if the IVF itself worked, and this time we had to pay for it (in England you can have one round of IVF on the NHS – which I’m very grateful for).
It was totally worth it though of course, I got pregnant and 9 months later this little wonderful bundle was born….
I would go through all of our difficult journey again to have my daughter. All I’ve ever really wanted is to be a mum and it was all totally worth it in the end.
To all the people who are desperately trying for a baby right now, you are in my thoughts. I know how hard it is to watch all the people around you getting pregnant so effortlessly (or worse, accidentally), but your time will come one way or another and I promise you it will all be worth it in the end. What you are going through right now is just the journey you have to go on to get your little one. Stay strong.