Here at Fertility Help Hub, we’re all sharing real-life fertility stories. Today we hear from the inspiring IVF Warrior, Nicole Robinson based in the UK.
I’m Nicole. Most people call me Nic.
You’re probably very much like me – mostly “normal”, whatever that means. But trying to conceive and struggling (for whatever reason) is difficult, sometimes lonely and very much a lengthy process! It consists of appointments, tests, heartache, more tests, needles, hormones, heartache. And maybe if you’re one of the lucky ones, you get a baby at the end of it all.
I myself am not there yet. My infertility journey has been two and a half years long, so far. It was due to all come to an end after my frozen embryo transfer, but the universe decided it was not my time and threw CORONAVIRUS into the mix. My FET (frozen embryo transfer) was cancelled. That was it – over. Just like that – heartache again.
Let’s rewind all the way back. I met my husband when we were both at school. We were childhood sweethearts as it were. We always talked about our future (you know the usual) the kind of house we’d like, the places we would travel to, and both of us knew we wanted a family. The ‘funny’ thing about it was that Mark (my husband) always used to say to me, what if we struggle to conceive? I always shrugged it off, “We’ll be fine! Both sides of our families are big, and nobody had any issue there. Don’t worry about it!” Man was I wrong.
LESSON 1 – Infertility does not discriminate.
It doesn’t care who you are, your age, your health, how much money you have, your race, IT DOESN’T CARE! Which sucks, real bad.
We got married in 2017. It was amazing. We were ready to start trying for a family. I came off the pill and nothing, literally nothing, happened. Our good friend Aunt Flow did not arrive for six months, which meant I did not ovulate in that time either. Once Aunt flow did show up, my cycles were all over the place and still no signs of ovulation. I decided to seek medical advice from my GP. She assumed I had PCOS so sent me for tests and, whilst we were there, the doctor ordered a semen analysis to be done for my husband, Mark.
Long story short, I have PCOS and at the time Mark’s semen results showed low motility. So we were referred to the Gynaecology Department of our local hospital. We went through more fertility tests and I lost a load of weight to be eligible for IVF if it came to it (which it did).
Some of the fertility tests have included my husband having a second semen analysis. After three months of minor lifestyle changes and a good vitamin supplement, he was back in the normal parameters, which was great news! I on the other hand, had one test to go – the dreaded HSG (Hysterosalpingogram), where they see if your fallopian tubes are blocked. SPOILER, both of mine are blocked. That was it, I would not be able to get pregnant naturally. Heartache.
LESSON 3 – Take painkillers before the HSG test – ouch!
So, time passed (very slowly) and we received a letter stating we were eligible for one round of IVF on the NHS at Birmingham Women’s Hospital. This includes only one transfer at their fertility clinic, which I am aware we are super lucky to have.
LESSON 4 – The IVF Postcode Lottery is a b!*@h!
I was put on a short protocol of fertility drugs, which I had to inject into my tummy every day. The “short” in short protocol was very deceiving. I ended up ‘stimming’ for 22 days. I had my egg collection back in December 2019. I was lucky enough to have 18 eggs collected. 10 of which fertilised. All of our Day One embryos got frozen straight away, as I was at risk of OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). The hospital thought it would be best for me to have two cycles naturally to let my body rest, which I was grateful for once the news of not being able to have a fresh transfer had sunk in. It was not the plan to freeze all embryos until right at the very end, when I seemed to have lots of follicles suddenly. Maybe I’ll say that I’m grateful for the delay in this situation eventually? Probably not.
LESSON 5 – Things change really fast during IVF. You have to learn to roll with the punches as and when they come at you.
Having December and January off IVF was pretty nice actually – not being at the hospital every other day for scans, being able to have a few drinks over Christmas and we even managed to squeeze in a cheeky holiday too, which is always great! Before we knew it, we were back at the hospital at the start of February for our Frozen Embryo Transfer prep. I had an injection to make sure I wouldn’t ovulate on my next cycle. Then 3 weeks later I started estrogen tablets, three times per day.
Things were going great. We were one more appointment away from our embryo transfer, which is where they put the embryo back into its rightful home, in your uterus (womb). From that point you are considered pregnant until proven otherwise, by testing two weeks later (TWW – two week wait). Damn that two-week-wait is hard!
Related Article – 2WW – 7 Must Do’s to Survive Your Two Week Wait During IVF
We were due into the fertility clinic for a scan to see if the estrogen tablets had done their job of thickening my womb lining on Wednesday 18th March 2020. We would have been told at this appointment when our transfer would be, that following week. We knew it would likely be the Wednesday.
Tuesday 17th March 2020 2pm, The phone rang and my world got flipped upside down.
A nurse from Birmingham Women’s Hospital called to tell me that they would be cancelling our fertility treatment. She told me to stop taking all meds immediately and that they didn’t know when things would be starting back up again. Honestly, she sounded almost as upset as me. I felt sorry for her, giving someone one of the worst, unforeseen pieces of news they could hear.
In life we plan, we’re human, we start to think ‘well if the transfer goes well the baby will be due around this date’ and ‘it’ll be here in time for Christmas.’ Mark and I also spoke a lot about if it didn’t work, how we would feel. But there was no way of knowing a flu pandemic was right around the corner, bringing the entire world to a standstill. Only The Simpsons knew this was coming.
I was gutted! I felt like our world had been ripped apart. I was only one week, ONE WEEK, away from embryo transfer and they stopped it just like that. Mark was at work when I found out. I had to call him and tell him. It’s not the kind of news you want to tell your loved one over the phone, but I couldn’t keep it from him. I knew he wouldn’t have wanted me being the only one knowing and trying to deal with it on my own. I just cried, uncontrollably, and I’m not a cryer. I was upset for me, I was upset for Mark, for our families, for everyone else who was in my position.
We spent all that evening in bed, watching Great British Bake Off, eating crisps, hummus and cake – any comfort food we could get our hands on. We didn’t really say too much. We didn’t know what to say. Our future had been taken from us. We were back into the unknown. We still to this day don’t know how much time it’s going take to get back into the hospital again.
As most of the upset faded away, anger and frustration set in.
If you follow me on Instagram @goodlucknic, you will know I have been through some stuff in my life: knee ops, broken leg, infertility. It seems as if I just can’t catch a break – and then this. It’s back to WHY ME?! It seems like it’s always me. My handle is @goodlucknic because I hear it so often!
I understand the NHS is under a lot of pressure right now in these uncertain times, and I appreciate the NHS so much! They have done wonders for us so far. But I felt the decision was made extremely hastily. I feel that people like myself who were that close to the end should have been allowed to finish. Surely those that were so close to finishing should have just finished our cycles when we were supposed to, this would have put far less pressure on the NHS and all of the private clinics for when they do re-open, as they will have so many people needing to start again. How will they decide in what order we are going be allowed to start – surely they can’t have thousands of us all starting at once? Is it going to be done on who is more important? Who is older or younger? Who was finishing last? Who knows? I don’t even think they know.
All we can do now is wait with our fingers tightly crossed. We can still hold onto the hope that one day we will get to the end of this long road and we will all get what we truly deserve. We are so lucky in this community that we have such a supportive network of amazing people. In these testing times it can help us all to know we are not alone and that somebody else gets it. Try your best to remain positive.
Here’s to hoping our one-day babies come sooner rather than later.
Love & Light, Nic x