With the rising amount of couples that need to turn to IVF treatments and the feeling of taboo that still surrounds it in many social circumstances, our Fitness & Wellbeing writer, Lottie Kebble, has taken the brave step of sharing her personal story here.
Where do I begin, you see the thing is with IVF it doesn’t just start when the needle enters your tummy and you begin injecting those hormones into your body to try and grow follicles that will eventually one day become a baby, or at least you hope and pray one of them will. I think IVF starts when you first realise that getting pregnant, something that for so long you have avoided just doesn’t happen when you start to try, and try and try, and try and cry- a lot. I used to think IVF stood for I’Ve Failed, because that’s how I felt. I’d failed at being a woman, as one of the most basic things a woman does is produce children, to be fertile, to mother and nurture, it’s written in our DNA, we were designed to make life, and I failed, if I couldn’t do that well I wasn’t a woman, just a stupid little girl.
I knew there would be problems, it’s personal so I don’t want to go too deep but I knew it might be difficult but I had no idea just how difficult, difficult was. We tried clomid, it failed, we tried it again, it failed, I cried a lot and got angry a lot. I pushed my husband away because I was ashamed and I got frustrated with my body. I took a break, we took a break, there were other things that needed to be sorted first and then we tried follicle stimulation, a kind of pre IVF. This involved injecting a needle directly into my stomach, I had to mix the solution which felt a little bit like a fun science lesson, prime the needle, pinch the skin and then brave it and inject.
I remember the first time, I just held the needle and thought do it, just do it. It sunk in like a knife through soft butter and then stopped when there was no more to go in. I held it with both hands and then had to press the plunger so swooping to one hand made it wiggle inside and that hurt. Then pressing the plunger forced it deeper into my skin and the fluid burnt and stung as it went inside. The relief of pulling the needle out was just bliss, but soon I got used to it. It wasn’t pleasant, sometimes it bled a little, sometimes it would bruise, sometimes it stung and sometimes it didn’t hurt at all.
Hubby couldn’t do it, he couldn’t hurt me, but I was good at hurting myself, I deserved it for being such a failure. We both became rather blasé about all the needles and drugs and some days I would put dinner on whilst Hublet got the needle ready, it just became our norm. My follicles grew and grew and grew. They grew too much. We had to go back every couple of days and I got probed to see what they were up too. They were supposed to be having civilised afternoon tea, but my follicles were having a full blown rave.
The first time there were too many and not big enough, the second time too big and too many. It hurt, I felt pregnant and that hurt but in a different way, it hurt in my head. I was told I was at risk of ovarian torsion and that was scary and I felt big and swollen and uncomfortable and it was all for nothing, so instead of crying I got angry and my husband was sad and didn’t know what to do with me. Then we talked and we decided to take the final step, full IVF and that’s, well that’s where most people think the journey begins. As you can see it just doesn’t, it really doesn’t.
IVF began in the same way as before, the same needles, the same stimulation, everything was growing well, we were optimistic but scared. Lots more of the drug this time which made me massively hormonal I felt like an alien in my own skin, I was feeling, doing and saying things I didn’t mean. I even had to take a pill in which one of the side effects was psychosis. I was just a very angry, scared little girl lost in her body and lost in the world, I found it hard to smile and do my job, so hard that when I got home I broke, every time I could be just me I would break.
I was scared so I lashed out at my best friend, my lover, my life, my husband. I was furious, furious that he didn’t have to go through this, all he had to do was get on like normal, his life wasn’t compromised, he wasn’t in pain, he didn’t have to carry around a belly full of swollen follicles, his ovaries didn’t swell up to triple the size. He hadn’t failed, he was capable, I was the the mess the barren Sharon. He was so kind, which made it worse. He said I was a princess and I had to be brave, my kingdom needed me. I told him I wanted to abdicate- I’d let my subjects down. He told me it wasn’t an option, straighten my crown and hold my chin high. So I tried.
We went back when they’d grown to the right size and were told we were ready for the trigger shot. This was a bigger needle that would trigger the next stage and had to be timed. I’d spent hours of sleepless nights reading about it on google. NEVER Google, it’s a killer. I read stories of how massive the needle was, how painful the injection was, how people struggled to garner the strength to put it in themselves. I was so nervous that Hublet might not be back in time from work that I asked my Dad to help me. Nothing went to plan, Hubs was back in time, and just as I was ready to inject my Dad rung the doorbell making me jump so I accidentally stabbed myself in the stomach and got the needle bent inside me. I pulled it out and straightened it praying it wouldn’t snap and ignoring the pain. I was convinced we had messed up and it wouldn’t work.
We had to wait three days to find out if this was the case. They were three very long days.
Amazingly we had lucked out and all was well so it was drive down to Bristol to have what felt like golf balls removed from my distended tummy time. It’s like entering a laboratory; in the waiting room we peered through the window to the lab and saw the amazingness of science and nature merging together as lab coats worked on their test tubes. I could have stood there all day, staring in awe at this magic, but instead it was into a hospital gown and a wait to be sedated to have these bad boys removed.
My husband held my hand and I got a bit nervous but was quickly wheeled away, sedation applied, and I was out for the count. When I came round we learnt they’d removed 18 follicles through a process of puncturing my ovaries with a large drawing needle 18 times and painstakingly selecting the sexiest looking follicles. I felt very sore and even more bloated, which I hadn’t thought possible, but apparently fluid can leak from the puncture making you blow up.
Next was fertilisation and we had to find out how many of the 18 follicles would be fertilised… I think it was a day later we learnt that 16 had passed the test. My husband made the comment about having super sperm who just needed the chance to get to the egg, and we laughed and laughed. Sheer relief was coursing through my veins that things seemed to finally be going our way. Eventually 7 of the ‘cyotoblasts’ as they’re now called, were deemed of the suitable quality and we had to drive down a week later to have just one of them put inside of me.
We were actually at a pre evening stay over for our friends wedding so had to creep away early in the morning. We went for a walk together in the fields first as neither of us could sleep, it was one of those perfect mornings, dew covered grass, the time where you truly believe magic could happen, I can’t tell you how much I wanted some magic to happen for me. Back at Oxford on a screen we watched a little miracle being put inside of me, gripping tightly to each other’s hands just wondering what would happen next. I was paranoid that if I stood up too quickly it would fall out. And that, that is where I think I was lucky because when I said this to the nurse she laughed. But it is what she said next that made all the difference to me…
‘Once it’s in, it’s up to it, there’s very little you can do, it’s down to nature, live your life as normally as possible, obviously don’t go out and run an Iron Woman, but keep doing what you’re doing and keep moving. To go against your nature will just stress you out and that’s not good for a possible pregnancy.’
So do you know what I did. I went back to the wedding we had crept away from early in the morning, I delivered my reading in front of the guests to the bride and groom and watched my very dear friends glow with love and happiness. Then I danced on that dance floor wondering if a little baby was dancing with me. I’m not going to lie it wasn’t easy, I did have a sob, but I pulled myself together and thought of the nurse and lived my life.
That two week wait to find out if the miracle had stuck was utter hell, but I didn’t put my feet up and rest, I know that will make some of you gasp in horror, and I know that will enrage some people and disgust others, but I carried on with my job as a fitness instructor, I even focused on finishing my inhouse cycling assessment for the gorgeous Soho Farmhouse. Did I feel guilty, yes, I guess I did, but I also knew I had to be true to myself and to stress and be miserable I believe would have created a toxic environment for buglet. My reasoning is simple: my body was used to the exercise, it was like brushing my teeth.
So how to end, well in the slightly adapted words of Jane Eyre: Reader, I grew a baby… And it’s still growing, and my husband and I… Well happy doesn’t even cut it.Xxx