Helen's Story

I had always wanted a big family. I’ve always had a strong ‘maternal’ instinct and when we got married, children were always on the agenda. Yet for some reason, I always wondered if I would have difficulty getting pregnant. A few months before we decided to actively start trying for a baby, I remember watching a documentary on couples undergoing IVF treatment and getting more upset as I heard each story. At that stage, I had no reason to believe that might someday be us, and yet it resonated with me somehow.

The first time I did a positive pregnancy test, I was elated. Twenty four hours later I started to bleed and was in considerable pain. We weren’t at home at the time and the doctor who saw us diagnosed a miscarriage. I was told to ‘just let it happen’. It was hard to deal with but life goes on and I resigned myself to the fact that this just wasn’t meant to be. I saw my own GP about a week later who did a pregnancy test which was positive. She said that the hormones were probably still in my system but predicted that it probably was a miscarriage. She did, however, ask me if I still ‘felt’ pregnant (which I did) and so booked me in for a scan the following week. That weekend, I had severe lower back pain which got progressively worse and so I went to A&E as something was obviously not right. A scan showed that the uterus was empty but the hCG levels in my blood were high. I went in for a repeat blood test 48 hours later. I then got a phone call from the hospital to tell me to come in immediately as the levels weren’t dropping and they needed to perform a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. A few hours later I woke up from the anaesthetic to the news that I had undergone abdominal surgery during which my right fallopian tube had been removed. I was told I was ‘fortunate’ that it was caught in time as the tube was about to rupture. Those days were physically painful but emotionally I was in shock. I had lost the baby I so longed for...and my future fertility was in question (although I was reassured that both ovaries were fine, as was my remaining tube). Loving friends and family carried us through and we began to feel optimistic about the future.

Five months later, I did another positive pregnancy test. We were overjoyed but cautious. I was told that it was highly unlikely to be another ectopic pregnancy. However, I did spend some time organising my files at work with the thought that if I ended up in hospital again, someone would be able to carry on with my responsibilities. Isn’t it strange how our minds work?! Six weeks into the pregnancy I had some spotting and went straight into hospital. Again, nothing showed up on the scan, but that wasn’t unusual at such an early stage. As I continued to bleed, we ‘hoped’ this would be a miscarriage. There aren’t many women who ‘hope’ they are having a miscarriage. However, several blood tests later, our worst fears were realised. Yet again, I got a phone call from my consultant telling us to come in immediately as I would need emergency surgery. I remember the gut-wrenching sobs as I realised I was about to lose my other tube, along with any hope of conceiving naturally. This time I had keyhole surgery. The only consolation was that we were told we would be ‘ideal’ candidates for IVF. Wonderful?!! Interestingly enough, I wasn’t as concerned this time about the loss of a baby. I was far too concerned about what this would mean for our future....where having children now seemed like a far off dream.

Nowadays, I think about those two little ones as lives that were never allowed to reach their potential. They will always be a part of me.

And so our journey began along the road of assisted conception. When I am tempted to fall into a pool of self-pity, I remind myself that we had two quick, sharp shocks which thrust us onto this inevitable pathway. Other couples have to cope with month after month of hopes dashed with the absence of that second blue line on the home pregnancy test. I think it’s true to say that we’ve come to terms with the fact that this is how it is going to be and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. However, we are SO thankful for the amazing opportunity that IVF gives to couples like us to have a family. During our first cycle, all the embryos produced were frozen due to over-stimulation. Our first attempt to have two put back failed. I think it’s true to say that that was probably my darkest moment. Thinking, “if this hasn’t worked, then what will?” But a few months later, another frozen transfer and then....nine months later, our beautiful daughter!

What has been hardest? Wondering if we would ever become a family of three, fighting feelings of jealousy and resentment when others seem to conceive so easily, guilt that my body has let us down and at time feeling consumed by the desire to have a child. What has helped us through the ups and downs of all of this? My faith in God, a strong marriage, prayer, wonderful friends and family and a determination to be as positive as I can until proved otherwise. I seem to have acquired a sixth sense for those who are experiencing fertility difficulties...it’s encouraging to feel that none of these experiences have been wasted.  We recently suffered a very early miscarriage, but one day hope to provide a brother or sister for our little one.

There is plenty of light and hope to follow the darkness of an ectopic pregnancy.