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My IVF journey - from start to finish! - Kerriann Marie Speller

 

Where do I start? 

I have put a lot of thought into sharing this part of my life. I am a safe place for other families going through IVF; I give advice (when asked) and I like to think I give hope. My door is always open and has been for friends, and friends of friends that have been in need of a shoulder to cry on, advice and tips. A huge reason for not sharing this part of my journey so far is the memories; it brings everything back to life, everything I went through. The mind is clever, nowdays I struggle to remember the names of drugs I took, yet I knew them all so well, but my mind knows of the stress and has forgotten parts of that difficult time in my life. 

 

I want to start by saying that at no point have I ever felt sorry for us or myself, my heart has constantly been, and is there for others still trying every day to have a child. I have no desire for sympathy, just to share our journey and show others you are not alone. My IVF journey is short compared to SOME of my friends, yet complicated compared to others, but one round is traumatic for anyone emotionally and physically let alone years and countless rounds. My heart breaks for those who have had up to 10 rounds of IVF and have then fallen pregnant naturally, and some who are now looking at adoption as another route - they are warriors, I adore them and support them constantly and long for them to get the happiness they seek.

 

Onto our journey.......

I’m going to tred lightly on why we needed IVF as I feel that’s personal, so to summarise we tried to conceive for 2 years; I'd wanted to be a mummy forever, I always looked after everyone else’s children and my younger siblings and even took work providing nanny services to other families.

 

After months and months of no luck getting pregnant, things started to get to ‘that stage’ - you know the stage where you become obsessed; testing monthly, checking your ovulation on apps and sticks, crying when you see birth announcements, going to baby showers, seeing families on special holidays and praying not to see your period. You get to the point where you are imagining your period not coming, and it coming when you least expect it, or tricking you by coming late! At this point I finally felt it was time to tell my mum how things were.....

 

She very quickly told me to get tests privately (she believes if something needs sorting get on with it, she was diagnosed with cancer when I was 18 and we paid for private consultants as it was the only way she got answers in the end). So that's exactly what I did and I remember the day clearly; I had a call from the embryologist to say your only option is IVF. We were heart broken (by the way I’m going to do this all from my perspective not James' I think it’s only fair to keep him out of it as it’s not his choice to discuss). I still said let’s keep giving it a go, but my mum said ‘for god sake get on with it’ (meaning the IVF treatment). I was petrified of medial procedures and prayed daily I would fall before my start date so that I would be saved, but it wasn’t to be. We knew we needed ICSI and went to our consultation at Bourn Hall Colchester (but first we needed a lot of tests done) - a long lists of bloods, urine and a new smear test, and all of this takes a lot of organising and costs a lot of money. This is where things are going to get technical; anyone that is reading this that has any knowledge of IVF will get it, and others may think what the hell!!! 

 

The paperwork and information was outrageous, signing things I couldn’t ever have imagined; from medical forms to insurances - singing your life away to things you wouldn’t dream of happening. The last thing they wanted was for me to have a scan, so I did. I told James not to come in as I was fine, but then they told me I had PCOS and I hit the floor. I had NO CLUE and I would never fall pregnant as I do not release eggs, so it's fair to say I left the appointment feeling pretty numb. 

 

Once home we decided to go for it (finding out I had PCOS meant we did't have a lot of other options) so we booked our nurses appointment a few weeks later and were told about the costs involved (in total £10,000 once we got to the end). During this appointment we were shown how to inject, given a schedule of what drugs to take with details on what they did and why. I was then told to call on the first day of my period and was informed I would be doing a ‘short’ cycle due to my PCOS, which meant I had to be very careful, if not there was a chance of over stimulations and a risk of getting OHSS which is VERY dangerous and can end with the mother in intensive care. P.S. (OHSS is Ovary Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome) more on that later. So we left with our drugs and a sharps box and waited for my period to make the call.

 

Sadly my period came, and that meant one thing; I had to make the call to the clinic - they said to start stimulation to grow eggs and so that night I had to inject gonal-f; a red and white pen into my stomach.

 

That night my stomach was in knots and I was pacing the kitchen petrified so James did the injenction for me. He was fantastic but hated it too. Within three days I was back at the clinic for a scan (internal) where they measure the sizes of your follicles (once they reach a certain size it means you are ready for egg collection surgery). I was also given a second injection which was not nice; you had to mix powder and liquid with a huge needle, which then needed to be added to the injection in the morning.

 

I started to get very tired, sore, bruised, and had a heavy feeling from the eggs growing. My hormones were all over the place too, I was crying a lot and feeling overwhelmed. After a few more appointments I had the scan which showed that I was dangerously over stimulated and that I needed to drink water massively, plus I required a different trigger shot or I would end up very unwell. As I sat there a doctor walked past who had spoken to my nurse who then said to me ‘please drink water and rest, be very careful’ - I thought this can’t be good, as I had already been drinking 3 litres a day plus a high protein, low carb diet as I'd read it had benefits to egg quality as well as providing a range of vitamins.

 

36 hours later after getting a break from injections I had to do my trigger shot at 1am, I would say this is probably the most scary one as it is a big deal and has to be sooooo precise. It wasn’t a nice needle; it had to mature my eggs but also calm down my hormones unlike the one I was supposed to have. The next day I paced the house waiting for a call for the time of my surgery the following day. Finally the call came and my surgery was confirmed for 10.30am. 

 

James treated me to special pjs and we went out to get all 'non fragrance' washing powder and I washed all of our clothes in them, like they had asked me to. This is to prevent any damage to the eggs; they ask that you arrive in no perfume, make up, deodorant or moisturiser. I was terrified; very very terrified and didn’t sleep a wink, I was even sick that evening I was so badly anxious. The drive to the clinic the next morning felt like the longest ever! We finally got there and I waited to be collected. I cried all the whole time, but the nurse was so lovely, she held my hand, got me gowned up and the anaesthetist put my cannula in whilst I waited for the woman before me to go into a room.

 

Please do not read on if you are about to have a egg collection, or are worried most people have no recollection of theirs....

 

The nurse came back and said she needed to give me gas and air. It hurt a lot, and I thought 'oh my god' - they laid me in the theatre and started to give me drugs, the next thing I knew I said ‘have you started’ they laughed as they had, and within minutes I was in pain. I think I was crushing my anaesthetists hand, he must of added more to my drip, but it was horrendous, I literally didn’t move my body an inch as I wanted to protect my precious eggs as much as I could. Then the drugs finally kicked in and it was all over. I remember sitting up and saying 'thank you' to everyone when I should have been laying down! I was clearly not quite with it as I thought I could stand up. I was taken in a wheelchair to go and see James and we waited for the doctor to tell us how many eggs we had - the wait is as scary as hell!

 

32!!!!!!!!!! I had 32 eggs! That is an excessive amount and the news quickly spread to nurses. At this point you would normally have your transfer in 2-5 days and would then hope for pregnancy. I was told that I was too unwell and that they would have to cancel my transfer. I was heartbroken (but so high on drugs) so I went home and rested before James had to tell me everything again later that night.



This news meant I needed new drugs to help my body and required bed rest as I had OHSS. The next day we waited for the most stressful call of all. The call was from the embryologists to let us know if any eggs had fertilised....the call came and we were told 27 eggs had fertilised. Once again I was in tears, calling my family feeling so lucky we even had one! As this isn’t even a given, we felt so lucky. You then get called every day until day 5 so every day is crucial, hoping the eggs survive. To get your embies to a blastocyst the greater chance of pregnancy. By day 5, I had 13 eggs and I was SO lucky - but they had to be frozen, and my life dropped back to normal for a few months. 

 

I then had an appointment with my doctor who did my surgery and she was in shock at how well I looked considering how dangerous it was. Following this she said I could start my frozen cycle in 3 months; which felt like a life time to us, and emotionally it was hard! I went and collected more drugs and waited for 21 days after my period to start injections and to be put into menopause mode (not fun). This time I went in steaming ahead, I did my own injections and everything! Eventually scans showed I was in menopause mode so I had to start taking tablets to thicken my womb lining. Finally the clinic felt I was ready and scheduled in my transfer. Firstly they had to thaw my eggs, I made the decision to thaw 7, and 4 made it, so I started medication (which is taken internally) to tell my body I was pregnant.

 

My doctors and I agreed to transfer 2 eggs. That day was so nerve wracking, I went in with James and had the transfer (which felt like a very in depth smear). It was magical to watch in a tiny, dark room with the embryologist and doctor. The whole procedure is very precise and they use a scanning machine to ensure perfect placement. We left with a pregnancy test to be taken in 12 days time and pictures of our embies.

 

When I left I was scared to stand up, walk or anything incase the eggs fell out; which is so funny to think of now! I had a huge plan in place from here on, I ate pineapple core daily, wore socks for 7 days straight, had hypnotherapy, drank pomegranate juice, meditated, prayed and spent time with family. 

 

I knew every day what was happening, I visualised implantation and imbedding - I did it all. You spend every single day checking for bleeds in case it hasn’t worked. The whole process sends you into a state, it is truly a marathon on your mental health, every minute feels like a life time!

 

Day 7 I had waves of sickness but thought it was my anxiety. I chilled until James walked in, and when he opened the front door (5 days early for testing) I got up and screamed ‘I NEED TO DO A TEST’. He didn’t argue so passed a test to me, and with shaking hands I did it, and then handed it straight back to him. He went white and told me it was positive and I was in shock!! I screamed, crying, arms around his neck shaking! I then called my mum immediately, crying, in a state of disbelief. I never thought I would ever see that pregnant plus sign ever in my life. I was blown away but still petrified of miscarriage. I called the clinic on the 12th day and they booked a viability scan to see if there was a heart beat (another three weeks of hell - waiting).

 

About two weeks later I started to get very sick. Every day it was horrendous, I had a bleed (the dreaded bleed) and my world stopped. I was sick with fear; the thought of loosing what I had fought so hard for, killed me, but the clinic wasn’t worried. It can be a normal sign, but it can also mean miscarriage and waiting for that scan to see if there was life was torture. So I carried on, but in the end my sickness got so bad it had me on my knees. I ended up having S&D and couldn’t drink or eat. I basically lived by the toilet totally dehydrated, this ended up with me being admitted to hospital and staying on a drip. I've never in my life felt so unwell. I told my mum if this is just pregnancy sickness I can’t do it. We were then told I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and Gastroenteritis and I was given a drip and tablets for sickness. But I reacted to those and my vision/hearing went, so I decided to just make it through at home without them once I was better. 

 

Then my scan day came (another scary time). I didn’t sleep at all the night before and was pacing the house waiting to go at 8am. I was preparing myself for bad news, but was holding onto hope after a nurse told me my hormone levels looked promising. I went along with James like a nervous wreck. We went in and she put the ultrasound on my tummy, I saw two sacks but she said they can be empty so 'please don’t get over excited'.

 

Only one had a heart beat, I had tears rolling down my cheeks thinking of my embryo, she scanned me internally to confirm and there it was, the best thing I have ever seen, two flickering minuscule hearts, one hiding in the corner. My second miracle was there and we were just in tears of joy! It was honestly one of the best days of my life.

 

I went to my clinic scan a week later and they confirmed the news. They were so lovely and signed me off, but to continue my drugs until 12 weeks. We had another scan at 10 weeks (private) and at 12 weeks we were handed over to the twin specialist at the hospital and our journey of pregnancy (and sickness (until 29 weeks) continued.

 

We are so blessed with our journey, and feel so grateful. If I could I would have a magic wand to give everyone their dream!