Saturday 15th July 2017. We were off to collect our babies!
With a peculiar mixture of nerves and excitement, we arrived back at CARE London hospital for our long-awaited embryo transfer. There was less to prepare for this procedure and I was delighted that I didn’t have to travel down on the train with no make-up on! We were required to be at the hospital with plenty of time to be ready for the transfer at 12pm. I needed to have a half full bladder; this helps the scan picture to be as clear as possible so that the embryo/s can be placed precisely into the endometrial lining.
At the beginning of our journey at the Zita West Clinic, when we were filling out mountains of paperwork, we were asked to decide how many embryos we would like transferred (if we got that far). This was new to us because, with our NHS round, we didn’t have a choice – we were only allowed to have one embryo put back. I remember the nurse asking us and I wasn’t prepared for the question.
I hadn’t even considered it before as I had been so focused on just getting ONE embryo. My initial reaction was just to put one back but Craig looked at me and said that he thought we ought to put more back to give us the best chance possible – he didn’t even hesitate. Three was the maximum we could have put back. I’m not quite sure why it had been daunting to me to have more than one put back. I think I just needed reassurance from Craig. We had done everything together this far and so I wanted it to be a decision we made together.
As soon as I saw his face, I knew that two was the right choice for us. This, of course, all depended upon us getting two high quality embryos.
Apprehensively, we waited in a cubicle for the embryologist to come and see us. Despite knowing that we had good embryos, after our phone call the day before, we were still nervous. She soon came in, carrying a clipboard and wearing a warm smile. She told us that we still had 5 high quality embryos that had all made it to the blastocyst stage. She discussed them in detail with us and explained that she had picked out the top two and that these would be transferred back; the other three would be frozen for future use.
Elation filled my whole body! It was another positive step.
Shortly after this, one of the lovely doctors from the Zita West Clinic, Andrina Louisy, came to collect us. She would be performing the transfer as Dr George was on holiday. I wasn’t worried at all.
I trusted her.
She had performed a few of my follicle scans previously and I had really liked her. She was kind, quiet in nature, and clearly very good at her job.
We went into a room with a bed for me to lay on. Quietly, I settled myself and prepared some music ready to listen to as I wanted to try and relax as much as possible.
I had made a playlist and had called it ‘rainbows’ (it’s still on my phone as I can’t bring myself to delete it). The first two pieces on there were the only ones I got to listen to as my transfer didn’t take that long.
The first was a recording of my sister singing ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perri which we had for our first dance at our wedding. I found this especially moving for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it gave me enormous comfort hearing my sister’s voice – it felt like someone from my family was almost there with me, holding my hand in addition to Craig. Despite being in my 30’s and married, many a time during our journey, I felt like a small child again who needs the protection, comfort and love of their parents. When you’re a child, if something upsetting happens, there is usually an adult there to take you in their arms and tell you it will be alright. This is exactly how I felt on so many occasions despite now being an adult myself and having Craig’s phenomenal support. I needed to lose myself in the arms of my loved ones and feel safe with the reassurance that I would be ok.
Secondly, the words mean so much and, at the time of our wedding I associated them with our relationship, however, in that moment, the words meant so much more…
‘I will be brave.
I will not let anything take away what’s standing in front of me.
Every hour has come to this.
One step closer.
I have died every day waiting for you.
Darling, don’t be afraid I have loved you for a thousand years.
I’ll love you for a thousand more…’
Thirdly, I was pumped so full of hormones, crying was a daily occurrence! During the whole precedure, I couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t painful. I was just crying that we had got this far and was so emotional about where we were headed – into the unknown and possibly the greatest chapter of our lives.
Following this, I listened to ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ by Bach.
Again, it had wedding links for me, as I walked down the aisle to it, but also, music has always been a huge part of my life, Bach being one of my favourite composers, and so I found the music soothing and a great support in promoting relaxation.
Our daughter loves classical music and I’m sure it’s from the amount I listened to when pregnant and once she was born. Part of me, however, likes to imagine our little embryos being comforted by the music on their journey during the transfer too!
There were a few other things I did to help my mindset. I had found a quote a few months before and it really stuck with me so I had it as the screensaver on my phone for the entire duration of our second round of IVF and there after for my entire pregnancy. If I ever had a wobble and felt frightened, I would look at it and it helped to calm my thoughts.
Before transfer could go ahead, the embryologist came in and showed us pictures of both the embryos that would be transferred. This was an incredibly special moment as we hadn’t seen pictures during our first round.
To many, they just look like grainy moons on a piece of paper.
To us, they were EVERYTHING.
We cherish these pictures and had them on display for a long time. I often look at them now and wonder which one is our bright, bubbly and funny daughter. It doesn’t matter really as we have so much love for them both but having a picture of the start of our daughter’s journey (as well as her twin) is extremely precious to us.
The other thing that was new to us was that we were actually going to watch the embryos on screen go up a tube and disappear into my lining. I have a video of this moment which still blows my mind. Science is incredible and, when I watch it, I just can’t quite believe that one of the little specks is our daughter.
It was incredible.
They did LOTS of checks to make sure they had the right embryos and that we were who we said we were and then…two minuscule dots appeared on the screen – highly magnified.
We were captivated.
I don’t think I even blinked. I just wanted to look at them forever. They were about to embark upon a journey so crutially important.
From here on in, it was them and my body that had to do the hard work.
No more safety net of scientists, doctors and labs.
Just them and me; I was determined to do everything I could, within my capabilities, to keep them safe.
Craig sat next to me, holding my hand in a protective manner whilst I listened to my music and relaxed as much as I could. The procedure is much like a smear test and isn’t painful – just uncomfortable. We watched them disappear and looked at each other, tears in our eyes. We didn’t say anything. We didn’t need to. They were our children and we loved them already.
A few minutes later, Andrina rested her hand on my shoulder and gently said ‘all done Lucy.’
I got myself dressed and she had a chat with me about taking things easy but that it was not advised to just lie in bed and rest. She said to keep moving to promote good blood flow to the uterus and that I could go back to work. Heavy lifting and strenuous activities are not advised and no very hot baths. I was also told that housework, like hoovering, wasn’t a good idea… which I was delighted about… Craig not so much! In actual fact, I got away without hoovering for my entire pregnancy as I said to Craig that I wanted to be absolutely sure!
We left the hospital and headed for the train.
It was such a surreal feeling knowing that, earlier in the day, we had travelled to London the two of us and were returning with two of our babies safely in their new home. We just had to will them to implant and for everything to be alright.
The 10 day wait began…
I found this wait slightly less gruelling than the first round. That’s not to say that it was easy because it most certainly wasn’t however the fact that I was back at work helped to take my mind off things, making the days go a bit quicker. I made sure I was eating nutritious food and drinking lots of water. I also found myself being extremely cautious. No sudden movements or jumping around. I just tried to take things as carefully as I could. In addition to this, I was still having my progesterone ‘bottom’ injections and clexane blood thinning injections, along with steroids, low dose aspirin and vitamins. I was to continue with all drugs until I was 12 weeks pregnant – if we got that far. I was also to continue with monthly intralipid infusions until 9 weeks pregnant – which was later extended to 20 weeks.
On Thursday 20th July – 5 days post transfer – I was convinced it was all over. I came home from work and suddenly had very uncomfortable ‘period’ pains.
My hands began to shake and my heart felt like it was going to explode out of my chest.
I was desperately afraid.
Slowly, I went upstairs to see if I had started to bleed.
There was nothing but I knew that didn’t mean things were ok. I had heard about implantation cramps before but had convinced myself so many times over the years that I was getting them, only for my period to arrive and it to be all over. How on earth would you feel something, that has to be magnified for the naked eye to see, implanting itself into your lining? I tried to stay calm, went to bed and, by the morning, the pains had gone and there was no sign of my period but there was still more waiting to do.
Test day was Wednesday 26th July 2017.
This was our 3rd wedding anniversary.
We don’t ever do a lot on our wedding anniversary however I really didn’t want a negative test to ruin the day completely. Sally Lissaman (my accupuncturist) had also suggested that we book in for a blood test at the doctors as it’s useful to have specific HCG and progesterone levels.
With this in mind, I booked an appointment for Monday 24th July. On the Sunday, we popped over to see Rachel (my dear friend who I have talked a lot about) as I knew she would be great at keeping us feeling postitive. I asked her what she would do.
She said that she wouldn’t want to go to the doctors having no idea what the results would be so she would do a home pregnancy test before she went. The thought filled me with dread but I was inclined to agree with her. We then headed off to my sister-in-laws house as Craig was helping her with something in her garden. I felt totally exhausted. I sat on the grass in the garden as I didn’t feel well enough to stay standing up. Was it because my body was working overdrive to maintain a pregnancy or was I just reading into it too much? Should we test tomorrow? By the evening, I still hadn’t really decided what to do though.
Monday 24th July 2017.
The next morning and the first day of the holidays for Craig and I. We had finished work on the Friday. We had made NO summer plans. We had absolutely no idea what sort of a summer it was going to be and, to us, it all depended on the outcome of the IVF.
I woke up and impulsively decided to go and test. Craig stayed in bed. I took out the all-too familiar blue packet, tore it open and took the test. As I did so, I decided I was going to put the test on the side, without looking, and go and make a cup of tea.
I didn’t have time.
Before I had even moved the stick to put it on the side in the bathroom, two very dark pink lines smiled up at me from my quivering hand.
I blinked again.
Somehow, my legs walked me into the bedroom.
I couldn’t speak. I just passed it to Craig.
He looked up at me and smiled. ‘You better ring Sally,’ he said. ‘I won’t believe it until she tells us for sure.’
It was a positive test. I was pregnant.
It was early days. We were all too aware of how fragile everything was and that we had miscarried before however, for some reason, it felt different. I think partly because the drugs I was taking made me feel safe – like they were supporting my pregnancy which my body had not been able to do with precious pregnancies.
We were in total disbelief that we had got over another hurdle in the long, terrifying journey that IVF is. We knew there was a long way to go and we weren’t even quite prepared for what more was to come.
Over the next two days, I had my bloods done, and my HCG levels were doubling. My progesterone levels were getting bigger too. Both excellent signs.
On official test day, Wednesday 26th July 2017, our wedding anniversary, we put the worry and the anxiety to the back of our minds and we just rejoiced in the happy news. I was 4 weeks and 2 days pregnant (it took me quite a while to stop taking daily pregnancy tests each morning to check that I still was). Craig took me out shopping for the day and we ambled around the shopping centre in a blissful bubble with the biggest grins on our faces. Strangers wouldn’t know why, but we did.
The two of us – together – ready to continue the fight for our family.