The path to motherhood can look very different for many women across the world. It is estimated that one in eight couples struggle with infertility.
Katy lives in Devon, England with her husband Tom, dog Stan & their rainbow baby Parker. The path to becoming parents had taken them nearly six years with a lot of heartache along the way. After five and a half years of trying to conceive, four cycles of IVF & three losses they finally welcomed their baby boy in May 2021. Katy shares their journey of becoming parents after IVF.
I have always shared our story in the hope it can help others and raise awareness. We started trying to conceive in 2015. Unfortunately, after two losses within a year and two more difficult years of trying to conceive naturally without success, we decided to seek help from our GP. We both had the initial fertility tests and everything came back within normal range. We were then referred to our local fertility clinic. We had a few more tests there and Tom had a semen analysis which also came back normal. Our fertility doctor diagnosed us with Unexplained Infertility - approximately one in five couples are diagnosed with it.
A diagnosis of Unexplained Infertility is really frustrating. We wanted a reason why getting pregnant naturally wasn’t happening for us, but at the same time we were grateful there wasn’t anything serious.
Our fertility consultant referred us for IVF straight away and we started our IVF journey at the end of 2018. I started my cycle with down regulation and the medication ‘Norethisterone’, which really did not suit me at all – I experienced all the symptoms of menopause which was a little challenging. We both had a “go with the flow” attitude at the beginning of our IVF journey - I remember it being exciting at first. My parents had me through IVF many years ago and it worked first time for them so we assumed it would work first time for us too.
I started medication to make my follicles bigger in my ovaries in the hope I had lots of eggs to retrieve. I was awake for my egg retrieval - I had some pain relief but knew what was going on. I lay there on the bed and the embryologist kept counting each egg they managed to retrieve – it was so exciting. Tom had also given his sperm sample that morning too.
The embryologist told us he retrieved 17 eggs which we were happy about, but I hadn’t researched what was going to happen next – we were very naive and really didn’t have a clue. Out of our 17 eggs, eight were fertilised via ICSI, which is when they inject sperm straight into the egg. Five of these eggs fertilised and developed. The remaining eggs were fertilised the conventional way and three eggs fertilised, with one not maturing at all. I remember feeling awful at the time as it felt like we had lost lots of eggs after everything we went through, but now I know more about IVF we were very lucky to get the number of eggs we did.
They monitored our eggs daily and watched them divide. By day five we had five top quality blastocysts with the possibility of two more catching up. We were very happy as this meant we would have a few chances at IVF. It also meant we could have a fresh transfer on day five. On 21st January 2019, we transferred one 5AA ICSI embryo and the other four embryos were frozen.
Transfer went smoothly and I had the usual ‘scared to wee’ in case the embryo fell out and worrying about going over speed bumps! The next day we got the call that one of the two remaining embryos was able to be frozen which was amazing as this meant we had five frosties (frozen embryos) for future transfers.
Unfortunately, five days after transfer I started bleeding. I knew this wasn’t good news, but the clinic still told me to take the test on official test day. It was a negative, which was devastating. I felt like I had put myself through so much mentally and psychically only for it to just end five days later, what was the point? It felt like a waste of time and we were both so upset. We felt like it would never happen for us.
We started our first frozen embryo cycle in April 2019 with a few medication tweaks. Transfer went as planned on 29th May 2019 with an ICSI embryo. This time I didn’t bleed but I did have a BFN (big fat negative) on official test day. It was all over again. It was just so exhausting – all the emotions, all the hope, only to be left with nothing afterwards.
We had our third embryo transferred in October 2019. This time we saw a flash of the embryo going in and it was such a lovely experience. We can honestly say it felt different, we had a completely different team and everything felt more relaxed. The two weeks wait, which is the time you have to wait to take a pregnancy test after transfer, was here again.
After two failed transfers we became impatient, so we tested early. To to be honest I did feel a little different, so six days after transfer we tested and it came back as positive! There were so many mixed emotions as we hadn’t seen a positive test for so long. We were very cautious as we had miscarried twice previously, so we took a test every day. It was ok for a couple of days but the tests started to get lighter which was not a good sign.
On the official test day it was still a positive so we still had hope. A few days after official test day it became a negative. We unfortunately were having a chemical pregnancy. I think at this point we were ready to give up, I couldn’t put myself through it again. My mum had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I really wanted her to be around to find out if it was successful and hoped she would be here to see her grandchild. That’s what kept me positive, I was determined to keep going.
I had another procedure to check my uterus but the results came back normal, so we started treatment for our third frozen embryo transfer in February 2020. After three weeks of injections, we were told all treatments were cancelled due to the pandemic hitting. It was a very daunting time for many in the infertility community as we didn’t know when anything would get started again. I also caught Covid during this time too, so it was a good thing it got cancelled, but also upsetting.
In May 2020 the wait was over and all fertility clinics were able to open again. By the time we transferred our next embryo it had been 11 months since our last transfer. It was a long break but it did me the world of good. I felt mentally and physically better and ready. We started the medication mid-July 2020.
We had three embryos left and we were given the option to choose which embryo we would like to transfer. We went for the embryo that took a little longer to develop – the day six embryo that I mentioned before, the one that caught up. It was a hatching embryo and we liked the sound of that.
Transfer went ahead on 2nd September and all went smoothly. I saw the embryo flash again, but unfortunately due to the Covid restrictions Tom was unable to be in the room with me which was upsetting but we understood. After last time I was determined not to take a test early, but I gave in and got a positive on day four! We couldn’t believe it. It had worked again. Could this actually be our time? Or will it end in the first trimester like all the other times.
Just before six weeks I had some spotting and fear set in again. I had a blood test and early scan and the blood test came back with the HCG level doing what it should be but still not convinced, we waited for our scan. Tom was able to be with me for the scan and there it was, the tiniest little dot on the screen, a beating heartbeat and everything where it should be. Tom squeezed my arm and I burst into tears, after five years this was the first time we had ever seen a heartbeat. It was like a dream.
Pregnancy after loss is another journey in itself, and so is pregnancy after years of infertility. We really didn’t believe it was happening, I wouldn’t allow myself to be happy or get excited in the early days. I kept pushing the goalpost saying when we get to such and such week I can relax, but the truth is I don’t think you do ever until they are here. Even then someone told me I wouldn’t relax again now I was going to be a mum.
We must have had over ten scans! We just needed that reassurance to know he/she was healthy, as that was all that mattered. Our nickname for baby was ‘Hatchy Pants’ because it was the embryo that was already hatching and the one we chose.
We had a gender reveal on Christmas Day and found out we were having a boy. My mum was able to watch on FaceTime and it was such a special moment for all our family.
My mum was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer back in 2018 and she had been there through everything with me, going through IVF herself she knew exactly what I was going through. She used to say ‘right, now let’s move on, keep smiling and try again’, which we did.
I was determined to make sure she was here to be able to see her grandchild. She fought so hard and was an absolute warrior but unfortunately when I was 28 weeks pregnant, she sadly passed away. Thankfully she was able to see all his scans, even feel him kick. She also wrote in his baby shower book which means the world to me and the thought that she knew we were all going to be ok.
We welcomed our gorgeous rainbow baby boy Parker in May 2021.
For anyone going through IVF or baby loss, my advice would be reach out to others who are going through the same or have been through it. It really does make you feel less alone. The online community helped me through my journey.