Thanks so much for speaking with me today – can you share 5 things about yourself?
My name is Lucy. I’m a dog mama to my beautiful boys Jimmy and Pablo and a wife to Lester, we have been married to my hubby for 3 years in October. I love the gym! I love thrift shopping. I’m currently 19 weeks pregnant with our miracle baby.
What has your trying to conceive journey looked like for you?
My husband and I knew very early on that we both wanted to be parents one day. My “plan” was to be engaged at 23, married at 25 and have a baby at 27. If you can’t tell already, I’m a bit of a control freak. My plan was panning out exactly as I had imagined, Lester asked me to marry him when I was 23 and had booked our wedding for October 2017, I would be 25. Our dream of being mum and dad was getting closer and we decided I would go off the pill in July 2017. The first few months of nothing happening weren’t too disappointing- after being on contraception for 10+ years, I knew it could take time for my period to regulate. But each month got harder and harder. Multiple negative pregnancy test’s month after month eats away at you. Our friends and family were falling pregnant quite quickly and we were ecstatic for them but so heartbroken for us. My mental health was decreasing quite rapidly, my heart was completely broken and I was questioning my purpose. I felt as if I has let my husband down. I actually said to him one day “If I can’t have children, it’s okay for you to leave. I will understand” At that point we decided we needed help and would discuss our options with a fertility specialist.
The next week we booked into see our GP and were referred to a fertility specialist. After many blood tests, ultrasounds and procedures I was diagnosed with pill-induced PCOS and my husband was diagnosed with male fertility issues due to a childhood injury.
Pill-induced PCOS develops due to the birth control pill which suppress ovulation. For most women, these effects do not last long and they resume ovulating after the effect of the pill is over. But some women, like me, ovulation did not occur after I had stopped taking the pill. In short, my period had returned on a normal 28 to 30 day cycle but I was not ovulating and we were unsure if I would ovulate naturally again. Our specialist then went on to tell us that for us to fall pregnant, it will be a miracle and ICSI would be the only option for us going forwarded.
We fell in to a category where normal IVF would not be efficient enough to produce any viable embryos. Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection also know is ICSI is performed as an additional part of IVF treatment where a single sperm is injected into each egg to assist fertilisation.
Fast forwarded to May 2019 – Our first round of stimulation and IVF. We were both excited and couldn’t wait to start. Medication/injections and instructions had been provided two huge boxes worth. After I unboxed it all and arranged it on my kitchen counter, I took a moment of pause. The sheer amount of medications, needles and syringes took my breath away. Was I really about to pump all of this into my body over the course of just a few weeks?
Period start date is day 1 of your IVF cycle. The stimulation phase starts from day 2. Blood tests and ultrasounds were completed every other day to keep an eye on my ovaries and how the follicles were developing. These did increase towards the end of the stimulation phase to time the ‘trigger injection’ perfectly. The trigger injection gets the eggs ready for ovulation and needs to be administered at an exact time. My egg retrieval surgery was then booked within 36 hrs before I would ovulate.
They egg retrieval day is quite nerve-wracking. While under a general anaesthetic a needle is guided into each ovary removing fluid from the follicles that look like they’ve grown enough to have an egg inside. We were told they were able to harvest 19 eggs and 12 were healthy enough to be fertilised. On the 5th day following surgery and day of transfer we were told that only ONE embryo had survived and was healthy enough for transfer. Both Lester and I had mixed emotions. We were devastated but happy our one embryo had survived. Our biggest fear, was knowing that if this embryo did not take we would have to do another stimulated cycle which I really did not want to do. On the 18th of May we had our embryo inserted, crossed our fingers and toes and hopped for the best. After the transfer stage, we entered the dreaded two weeks wait to find out if we had our baby..
During the 2 week wait is the time your mind plays tricks on you, it tells you all sorts of not so nice things. You’re forever trying to stop yourself from thinking bad thoughts, I’m not pregnant, I can’t get pregnant, this is not working. Thankfully I found meditation to keep me aligned and focused, and for quite a while meditation worked for me. I didn’t have a blood HCG (pregnancy) test scheduled until day 14 and unfortunately we were not pregnant.
We decided to start again in June 2019, this time I utilised acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Our doctor also made a few changes to our medication. This time around we were lucky enough to got six beautiful 5 day embryos. My doctor did a quick measurement of my cervix and gently maneuvererd the best embryo in place. Now it was up to the embryo to do their thing and bury into my uterine lining. Meanwhile, we were anxiously waiting another important phone call. The next day they would let us know how many of the remaining 5 embryos were good enough to freeze for future cycles. This was hugely important, not only for the sake of finances, but for the emotional security of having a backup plan if this round didn’t work and not having to undergo any further stimulated cycles. We got the call. We had all FIVE embryos looked great and would be frozen for future cycles. After the two weeks was up I had a blood test and again we were not pregnant. This ended up being a repeated pattern in our lives. Things were starting to get really hard for me at this stage but still I kept up my treatment.
Our 4th Transfer we found out we were pregnant. Our excitement was short lived being warned my HCG levels were quite low reading only 25. Our specialist had scheduled a blood test in seven days’ time which would confirm if we were indeed pregnant or not. That week was the hardest to date. It was like walking on eggshells, knowing you were pregnant, but asking yourself “how long for?”. A few days later I noticed some brown spotting. Implantation bleeding maybe, followed very quickly by miscarriage. I was so early, only 5 weeks and 2 days pregnant when our baby passed. Too precious to join us earth side. My mental health suffered the most after our miscarriage. People were quick to encourage me “well at least you can get pregnant”. Deep down I knew they meant well however, from personal experience, please do not ever say that to a grieving woman who has just miscarried her precious baby she has longed for.
I became introverted, distant and all my walls were crashing down around me. I was exhausted, foggy and my heart was incredibly sad all the time. I remember the incident that trigged the real me that I needed help. I was at Woolworth’s and a little girl had lost her mum. My first thought was, I could take her any no one would even know. What kind of mother loses her child in woollies? In hindsight, most mums will have a lost child scare in their time. I remember my mum loosing me as clear as day. At that point, I knew I needed help. Depression was slowing creeping back into my life and I did not want to succumb like I had in my teenage years. Very soon after this I started seeing a phycologist and started to become very open about my experience with friends and family. I found this very helpful.
After a much needed break focusing on us as a couple, we continued with our treatment. Our 5th cycle in November 2019 was cancelled due to low levels and January 2020 our 6th cycle again resulted in a negative result.
Our 7th cycle was booked in for March 2020. We were down to our second last frozen embryo. This time around I fully committed myself. I walked my dogs every day for at least half an hour, clean eating and was plate based until blood test date, weekly acupuncture visits, meditation and Chinese herbs. After almost 3 years on the fertility train and now supported by the right people I went in for yet another transfer and after two of the longest weeks of my life I found out I was finally pregnant with our miracle babe, I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I found out, I jumped in my car went to Priceline and bought every pregnancy test brand available. All the tests came back positive and I remember sitting on my bathroom floor crying. I was relieved, excited and could not wait to tell my husband. Lester was ecstatic, I couldn’t wait to tell him he was finally going to be a dad. Best day of our lives so far.
Our nurse went ahead and let us schedule an ultrasound. They allow you to schedule them as early as 6 weeks with IVF, one of the very few perks. I knew from my research though, that at 6 weeks lots of people don’t see the heartbeat just yet. At 7 weeks, almost everyone sees the heartbeat if there is one. I decided to wait the extra week so I wouldn’t drive myself crazy wondering if we had just gone in too soon.
After what seemed like months, but was in fact only a couple of weeks, the day of the ultrasound was finally here. I took the day off of work, because I knew no matter how this went, I wouldn’t have the focus and concentration to get ANY work done. We made the hr drive to our afternoon ultrasound with my stomach in knots. I was day dreaming about the possibility of there being a heartbeat and the sheer joy that would bring.
Unfortunately my husband was not able to come into the ultrasound due to increased measures surrounding Covid-19. We were pretty disappointed considering we had not been told this previously. I was then called back to the ultrasound room and I did my thing getting ready. I had done so many ultrasounds up to this point that I can’t even count them all anymore. It was second nature at this point. The nurse began the process and my head was plastered to that screen. She started making her way around, looking for the pregnancy. As she focused in on the gestational sack, there was clearly a yolk sack and a foetal pole! She measured the yolk sack and honed in on the foetal pole. As she did this, it became quite evident that there was a flicker of a heartbeat! Oh my god, my heart was racing so fast with excitement, anxiously waiting for her to tell me what was going on. Our little star seed was there, the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was at that point I knew we were finally going to parents.
How would you describe IVF?
I try hard to explain IVF life to those who have not experienced it, and although I try to give the best insight, it is hard to explain the process and what it has done to us as a couple. IVF/ICSI is both emotionally and physically draining. For us to become parents I had to sacrifice my whole lifestyle. I was unable to continue Crossfit, I had to prioritise my cycles over everything. Yes, I did get up each day, put on a brave face and go to work chat with colleagues and customers, when most days I was broken inside, but I won’t show it! I have had the worst days on my life – the ones where I’ve done a pregnancy test at the end of each cycle and the clinic will call with a negative result. I’ve been at work for every one of these calls, and have had to get on with it without leading on how broken hearted I am. Calling Lester with the results and hearing him break but still tell me how proud he is of me and that will get through this together.
Was I the best employee during this time – no, was I good friend, sister or daughter – no, was I a good wife – doubt it! BUT I did try my best, YES. I tried every single day to keep my life as normal as possible, saying yes to event’s , being active in my friends lives and being present in the moment. Trying to keep busy so I don’t ever find myself acting like the victim. But, this journey owns you. You are dictated by doctor’s orders. Blood test this morning, internal examination tomorrow at this time, Surgery next Friday. I have had to cancel on friends, take immediate leave from work, and miss out on things. I truly don’t think people understand how tough this journey is unless you’re in it or been through it. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Although our journey to parenthood has been hard. Lester and I do consider ourselves one of the lucky couples. We have had 7 IVF transfers to date, the last one resulting in our first viable pregnancy.
How did you feel once you finally conceived?
Over the moon, it sounds very cliché but I had a feeling our last round was going to work. I felt different, more content maybe. Telling our family and friends was magic. People knowing how long you have wanted to be parents and seeing their reactions was so great!
What advice would you give to any woman in the thick of IVF or considering it as a path to conceive?
The process of going through IVF can take its toll, as you experience hope and disappointment all whilst managing your emotions, your body, your relationship, and your finances.
It is hard to find the balance of trying to remain positive and hopeful whilst persevering with IVF, it is SO important to remain aware of your emotional state along the way. Remember you are not alone, even though you feel that you are. Find people who are going through the same thing as you, say hello and build relationships with other woman at your clinic be it in the hallway on your way to have eggs collected or in the waiting room. Reach out to me, I am more than happy to be your shoulder to cry on and just listen to you vent. I know firsthand how hard it is to speak with friends that have not been dealt the infertility card. Even though they mean well, hearing them say “It will happen one day” is not what you need to hear.
However I will say, you are allowed to be angry and upset. Make sure you cry if you want to about how fucking unfair it is. Be vulnerable and discuss your fears and hopes with your partner. You are in this together after all. Hold space for each other and make sure your partner knows he can let his walls down. Make sure you process all your emotions at the end of each cycle, before picking up the pieces and starting all over again.
I found great comfort focusing on the end result. One day we would be parents and this journey will be a distant memory. I would not have been dealt these cards if I was not strong enough. You’ve just gotta do what you gotta do when the universe gives you the scenic route to parenthood.
Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability Lucy. Thank you for building awareness around infertility and for being a real-life example of how heartbreaking yet beautiful this path is into parenthood. If you want to follow Lucy’s journey or reach out for support, follow her on Instagram @lucydenny_. Wishing you all the best!