There was a time when we thought we would not be able to have a second child. With Finley, everything happened so quickly: we planned to have him in autumn and he arrived the day after my birthday in October. When he turned two, we decided it would be nice for him to have a sibling. Months of trying turned into years, three in total. It sounds so short in hindsight but it felt like an eternity at the time. It felt like Finley's childhood was racing past and he was missing out on all these years that he could have had a brother or sister.
At first we tried to tell ourselves the same thing that most people in this situation probably do: it's actually normal for it to take over a year; we're just too stressed; when we stop thinking about it then it'll work. Of course we had test after test, then we were put on Clomid, I even had acupuncture but nothing worked. We didn't even bother taking pregnancy tests anymore. It's strange but I didn't feel shocked or confused. Deep down, I had always had a fear that I might not be able to have a baby for some irrational reason. I remember my sister once telling me that she used to have the same fear, so maybe it is more common that I thought.
It seemed, at the time, that everyone was getting pregnant, including my sister. We did feel truly happy for them but it was also very hard to hear. The worst part for me was seeing other children become brothers and sisters as this is what I desperately wanted for Finley but we also had to keep positive in front of him so that he didn't know what was going on. I also started panicking about my age - was I going to be too old if I ever did have another baby? And Finley's age - would the age gap be so big that they wouldn't have much in common to play together? I also felt guilty about other people who were struggling with fertility since we already had Finley so were we being selfish?
The start of our IVF journey
We didn't spend long on Clomid. We both felt that IVF was the only chance we had so we asked the consultant to finish the Clomid early. I didn't really know what IVF entailed other than what I had seen in films and on TV. I was expecting to do some injections but that was about it. Well, as anyone else who has been through the same thing will know, there is a bit more to it than a few injections. Without going into too much intimate detail, I had several types of 'scans' first and a trial cannulation (the less said about that the better - it was one of the most painful parts of the process), then onto the injections. I had two types at different times of the day: one type was premixed so just unwrap and inject; the other type involved me mixing a specific number of powders with a solution before injecting into my tummy. I have to say, I did feel like a scientist or a doctor mixing them up at first but they did start to feel a bit time-consuming after a while. I also had to have blood tests every two days and then wait for them to phone me to say how many powders I should be using.
Time for egg collection
Eventually, it came time for the 'trigger shot' - an injection to be taken at the exact right time so that the eggs are produced in time for the operation. So, 36 hours later, I was in theatre, fully conscious but sedated. They managed to retrieve 19 eggs so now we just had to wait for them to call and tell us how many fertilised and when to come in for embryo transfer.
But that's not what happened.
The embryologist called and said that out of 19 eggs none of them had fertilised. She seemed really shocked and said that she had never seen anything like this before and the eggs looked like they were empty inside. I asked her some questions and she told me that it was unlikely that we would have another child.
That was probably the lowest point in my life. We hadn't told anyone that we were having IVF as we were hoping it would work and we would get to share the news as a surprise. Instead I FaceTimed my parents and sister to tell them that it looked like this was it for us. The clinic had called to arrange a, sort of, debrief meeting with the consultant but, in another unfortunate twist, we got 'track and traced' (as this was in the midst of COVID) so had to isolate separately in the house for a week: me in the bedroom and Mark and Finley in the rest of the house and couldn't arrange the meeting until after that.
When we did eventually get there, he told us the exact opposite of what the embryologist had said on the phone and that he had a new plan for us...