2016 has been a very strange year. We started the year positively, looking forward to starting our new lives together. We had decided to see a private gynaecologist for advice about my heavy and painful periods, possibly with a view to an ablation or even hysterectomy. Around the same time I ended up in A&E with severe abdominal pains that were thought to be gallstones (very common in patients who have had weight loss surgery), so I was also referred to another consultant for this!
The consultation with the private gynaecologist didn’t really go as we expected! My GP had written to her explaining my hellish periods and the fact we’d been trying to conceive for 11 years and recently had 2 failed IVF cycles. She also explained we had decided to move on from fertility treatments. It appeared to us very quickly that the last sentence had not really registered with the consultant! She went through options for reducing my painful periods that included oral contraception or the coil, neither of which I wanted to try. I asked her about having a laparoscopy, a procedure the NHS refused to do in our years of trying; I wanted to know if there was an underlying cause for my pain, as I had many of the symptoms of endometriosis. The gynaecologist agreed that it would be useful for me to have one. She went on to add that she would do a dye test of my tubes and a cuterage and biopsy of the womb lining at the same time. She went on to explain if she did this and prescribed me clexane, prednislone and progesterone to take after the procedure and for us to “try naturally” I could get pregnant, in fact she seemed pretty convinced I would fall! I felt angry and confused. I didn’t want to try anymore. I didn’t want to take any more drugs or go through the disappointment of BFN tests all over again. We’d been working through grief and were moving on! We left the appointment agitated and felt steam rolled. We didn’t really know what to do or think. But at least I had my laparoscopy booked in for a few weeks time.
Going into the gynaecology appointment I was very conflicted. On one hand I wanted Nic’s pain and suffering to stop. Every month was a painful and extreme reminder that we would never have children. I hated seeing her in such physical and emotional pain. On the other hand I knew that to truly make that pain go away she would have to undergo a procedure or medication that would completely end all hope of a family. I had been really struggling to come to terms with the fact we may remain childless. It seemed like every advert on TV featured a perfect family, every woman I saw was pregnant or had a child with them. I had to change my route from the tube station to my office to avoid a school that I would often pass as the children were being dropped off. Over the months I had started to come to terms with things. I threw myself into creative endeavours and started to think about making a documentary. The gynaecology appointment completely took me by surprise. I was expecting us to go in and be given some options for Nic that we would then have to think about but I didn’t expect for one minute that we would be told that if she took some meds and we tried naturally that we would get pregnant. She was so sure that it would work that it felt like she hadn’t read our case history or was listening to what we had said. I was convinced it would never work but at the same time we had to try. We had always said that if we were going to be childless then it would be ok as long as we knew we had done everything we possibly could within our means. In a strange way I was resentful that we were being opened up to all the anxiety and pain again but we had to take the chance. I think if we didn’t then we would have regretted it and had to live with that horrible “what if” question over us for ever.
At the same time, the scan for gallstones showed I didn’t have any! I would have to have blood tests and a gastroscopy. By process of elimination the doctor and I agreed I probably had a gastric ulcer and to start medication to treat this. The gastroscopy was booked in for about a month after the laparoscopy!
We did pick up of the prescriptions for post laparoscopy trying naturally, though we were both skeptical and I really wasn’t keen to try them. The procedure went well with barely any pain. No endometriosis was found. During the dye test, it appeared both tubes were blocked, something that had never showed in previous HSG dye tests! The consultant explained this could’ve been the tubes spasming as they appeared healthy otherwise. The biopsy was clear and everything was healthy. This was reassuring in a way but also made me a bit sad, as there still was no reason for our infertility. Everything was healthy so why didn’t it bloody work!
I was still unsure about the drug treatment post-op. Especially as I had a probably ulcer and both drugs could cause bleeding of said ulcer! I was taking a separate medication (I rattled!) for the ulcer too, so decided to try it out along with our “natural trying” for a few weeks!
After literally a couple of days of the meds, Tom and I talked and decided my health was more important than trying for an unlikely baby. We kept trying through my fertile period but I stopped the meds.
I was really worried about Nic’s health and especially the effects the drugs for the fertility treatment could be bad for her suspected ulcer. I was doing my best to look after her post operation and making sure she had everything she needed, which usually meant keeping a steady supply of peanut M&M’s to hand. It seemed like it was the only thing Nic could eat and I was hoping that the gastroscopy would find and sort out whatever it was causing her pain. I was completely behind Nic’s decision to not take the fertility medication as I felt that her health was more important than a minuscule chance that we might get pregnant and I figured that if we were supposed to try for three months then we could get the gastric problem out of the way first and still try after that.
The gastroscopy was booked for Friday 18 March. My period had been due on the 9th March, but I was expecting it to turn up late because of the procedure. I had no thoughts of a positive pregnancy test. As convinced as the consultant was it would work, I wasn’t holding out any hope.
It got to the 15th of March and Aunt Flo still hadn’t turned up. I wasn’t feeling too well and Tom wasn’t at work either. We realised I was late and thought I should probably do a test, just for the sake of it, as I was due to have an anaesthetic in a couple of days. We bought a cheap one from boots.
I went upstairs to do the test. No expectations, no emotion. Tom stayed downstairs and played with our rabbits. I did the test and left it on the side for a bit while I faffed about.
I looked at the test.
I looked at it hard.
2 strong pink lines.
Not one, 2.
Tears formed in my eyes and I started to shake. A million thoughts and feelings rushed through me. I took the test downstairs, sobbing as I went. Tom asked what the matter was and I showed him the test.
Both of us in total shock. We hugged as the bunnies ran around wondering what an earth was going on? We didn’t have another test, we’d only bought a single one!
I was sitting on the sofa cuddling our rabbit Biggles and trying to think of something nice Nic and I could to that evening. I knew Nic thought the test would be negative and so did I but even so seeing a negative test is never nice and I knew that Nic would probably need cheering up. The next think I knew I heard Nic crying and saw her coming towards me in floods of tears. I genuinely had no idea what was wrong, it didn’t even cross my mind that they might be tears of joy. I leapt up from the sofa and ran to comfort her. Biggles was startled and jumped down on to the floor, frightened by my sudden movement. Nic held out the pregnancy test and I just could not believe it. I just stared at it and my brain stopped.
What the fuck?
We decided to test again to make sure. I knew I had to go and buy more tests but I just walked around the house in a daze for about twenty minutes before I figured out I needed to put shoes on and go to the shops. I went out and got two ClearBlue digital tests. After getting back and Nic doing the test, it was confirmed.
WE ARE PREGNANT!!!
WE ARE PREGNANT!!!
WE ARE PREGNANT!!!
I started the clexane and progesterone immediately. I took the prednislone for a few days but on researching it further, and with the probable ulcer now having to wait indefinitely, I decided as much as we wanted a baby, the risk of internal bleeding was too high.
Our GP was thrilled for us and completed our booking in requesting an early scan, as we’d previously miscarried at 10 weeks and had 2 failed IVFs. We told just a few people our news and we were anxious every day that Peanut (The peanut M&Ms were still high on the menu) might not stick.
The NHS refused to scan early, as we didn’t meet the criteria for our area, so we booked a private scan for 7 weeks and 3 days. At this stage we should be able to hear a heartbeat. I’d had brown spotting nearly everyday, which midwife told us not to worry about but I was convinced there would be no heartbeat at the scan, just like last time. The waiting was excruciating. The other symptoms were good. I had nausea almost every day, very sore boobs, mood swings, but I also knew from our IVF experience that the progesterone can cause similar symptoms, so I still wasn’t convinced everything was OK.
The scan was on a sunday afternoon and we arrived over an hour early at the village it was in! The wait was nerve-wracking and never-ending! The receptionist was friendly and put us at ease. I told her how long we’d been trying and that we were very anxious. Then it was time for the scan! I’d drunk plenty so was busting for a wee! The sonographer was lovely and asked a few questions and I felt at ease with him. I climbed onto the table and waited for the squirt of cold gel. Then I waited for the bad news. A hazy image appeared and then a loud, rhythmic, strong sound. It was peanuts heartbeat and it was strong.
We saw our little baby come into focus. The sonographer took us through where everything was and that it all looked normal, he then congratulated us. Tom looked in shock and tears rolled down my cheeks. Peanut measured about 5 days smaller than our EDD but we were assured this was fine. We sat in the reception again and waited for our photos, just smiling! We’d never got as far as a heartbeat. It was incredible. I had to keep looking at our scan pictures to believe it was real!
Before going into our first scan I was really, really nervous. All I could think of was the pain we went through after our miscarriage in 2010 and that I never wanted to feel like that again, especially now after everything we went through to get this positive test. I was very quiet as we went into the clinic as I was trying hard to keep calm. I don’t really remember much about the lead up to the scan I just sat there with my eyes glued to the screen. After watching so many scans over the past I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. I knew it would be a small patch of black with a little grey blob inside. I was so on edge and anxious and then all of a sudden my world stopped. There was the black oval of the amniotic sack, inside was a little Peanut and right there flickering on the screen was the beating heart. The sonographer turned up the volume and the sound of my child’s heart reached my ears for the first time and it was the most amazing moment of my life. I looked at Nic and we were both just in shock and awe.
From there we took each day at a time. We knew the first 12 weeks are a risky time for any pregnancy. Our community midwife was really reassuring and lovely at our booking in. Our first NHS scan had been booked for just over 12 weeks, but we couldn’t wait that long! After loosing our first at 10 weeks we decided to have another scan around this time for our own peace of mind.
We returned to the same clinic, not really knowing what to expect. The receptionist remembered us and we had a nice chat with her. A couple came out of the scan room, the lady fairly heavily pregnant but not looking filled with joy! Nothing appeared to be wrong, but they just didn’t seem that bothered! I thought how much peanut was wanted and was hoping they were still with me and healthy!
We had a different sonographer this time, she also took us through a few questions and then it was table time again! I felt nervous but also excited. Peanut appeared in full view quickly! This time it was clearly a foetus and a very lively one at that! Seeing our little baby kick and wriggle was a moment I will never forget and once again that heartbeat was loud, regular and strong. I had a few tears and lots of smiles. We were amazed at the difference in 2 weeks! Peanut had also caught up a bit with the EDD and was now only 3 days behind. We felt much more positive and hopeful. Things were going well. Peanut is strong!
I was feeling nervous before the ten week scan but not as nervous as I had been at the last one. I just wanted to hear that sound again. That fast little rhythmic beat that meant everything was ok. The sonographer found Peanut very quickly and immediately I couldn’t believe it. There were little arms and legs wriggling around! I was just hoping to hear the heartbeat and it hadn’t occurred to me that we would see movement so clearly. I was blown away again. I just sat staring at the screen and those little arms and legs. It was a huge relief for us to get this far along. Things started to feel a little bit more real but even so I felt I needed to stay realistic. There was still a long way to go and getting happy and enjoying it felt like tempting fate. It was horrible that any time I felt joy about something that we had wanted so long I immediately felt that I couldn’t let myself feel that way because if I did it would hurt so much more if things went wrong. All this time I was not letting Nic do anything strenuous. I wanted her to rest as much as possible and I was willing to do anything that was needed so that she could just keep Peanut snug and safe.
Changes were really happening in my body now. I couldn’t get my jeans on and I had to buy a new bra. Last time I was pregnant this didn’t happen. I felt this was a good sign. My body was changing and peanut was growing. We both felt positive, but still cautious. We are so in love with this little one already. Tom would put his hand on my tummy and send positive vibes and I’d talk with peanut all the time. Around week 11 all the spotting stopped and the nausea started to diminish too. Everyday there was a few anxious thoughts, and on every toilet stop (which are still increasing!) I would check for bleeding. I’m not sure i’ll stop checking for the next 6 months!
We had decided to have our antenatal care at Princess Alexandra in Harlow. It is our closest hospital and I’d heard good things about the team there. We arrived for our 12 week scan (12+4 to be precise) with excitement more than anxiety this time. I couldn’t wait to see baby again!
We arrived a bit early and sat in the waiting room with many ladies with big bumps! Lots of them looked tired and unimpressed to be there, whereas I was buzzing and chatting away to Tom. After a little wait, we were called through. The sonographer confirmed my details and then it was table time again. She dimmed the lights and squirted the cold gel. That moment of apprehension came across me, but didn’t last long, as what appeared to be a huge baby appeared on screen! Peanut had grown! A lot! In 2 weeks the size had doubled and it was easy to make out arms, legs, feet, heart, brain! In fact, they were now measuring a day ahead of our original EDD! I had a little person in my tummy! “What a cute nose “ said the sonographer! Once again, peanut was lively and had now seemed to have learnt a new game which involved putting their feet on my womb wall and powering themselves backwards (Well, Tom was a high jumper!) I could’ve watched all day! Once again that heartbeat was strong. It does appear, though, that Peanut has inherited our stubbornness, as soon as the lady wanted to measure the Nuchal fold (a check for down syndrome) they stayed very still so she couldn’t get a measurement! Cue mummy having to wiggle hips and cough to try and get them to move.
More wiggling required, only for peanut to completely flip and go upside down! But she did get the reading, which was in a safe margin. We had more photos of our little bubba to take home and now they really did look like a little person!
I was surprised at the difference between the seven and ten week scan but I was totally shocked by the development between week ten and twelve. You could see so much and in so much detail! There was a cute little nose and arms wriggling about and some very strong legs. I couldn’t believe the amount of movement, especially when peanut was kicking off Nic and shooting backwards! With each scan there has been something that has left me speechless and to see our little baby developing well and show such strong signs of life is just amazing. Not just that, there was so much character there in that grainy black and white image. Peanut looked like He/She was having fun bouncing about and then that stubborn streak, that both Nic and I have, was very apparent when the sonographer was trying to take specific measurements. Already the behaviour of this little Peanut is making me smile and it is the best feeling in the world. It was at this scan that I realised that I had to enjoy this process. I don’t want to regret spending this time filled with anxiety and fear. If something goes wrong it will be devastating, no matter how much I try and manage my emotions. We are pregnant and it is wonderful, we should be excited and enjoying it. The prints we got from this scan have come out really clear and I love looking at them.
I had my bloods taken soon after, which is also a test for genetic problems and was so excited I didn’t even feel it! We made our 20 week scan appointment (which seems like ages!) and left buzzing with our photos. Now we could officially break the news. We could tell everyone about peanut!
Everyone has been so supportive and excited, its meant a lot to us. This year has been tough, in fact the last 12 years had been tough. It was hard to let go of hope and change our plans. It was hard to be given a ray of hope again and not know what to do. I guess the procedure and timing just turned out right and gave us the miracle we had been dreaming of. I wake up every day feeling so grateful for this chance and hope peanut is here to stay. We love them very much.
I was surprised how much I have enjoyed spreading the news of our little Peanut. The response has been amazing and there has been much shock and joy. We know we still have a way to go yet but things are looking good and everything is going smoothly. Nic and I have decided that we will continue to blog throughout the pregnancy. Sharing our experience has been very rewarding for us, even when things didn’t go as planned. We have been incredibly lucky and things have come together under exceptional circumstances. We still have unexplained infertility, we don’t really know why or how this has happened. Every couple is different and no two experiences are the same. It is so difficult to find what is right for you and that magic set of numbers that unlocks the combination lock of fertility. We stumbled across ours through a bizarre turn of events and we have now ended up on this wonderful but totally unexpected journey.
Thanks for reading,
Tom and Nic