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My fertility journey

15 July 2020

Growing up with five younger brothers and sisters in London, I never considered the possibility that I might not be able to have children. I was surrounded by life. A new baby appeared in our family ranks every couple of years and, although I was, of course, aware of miscarriages (and that my mother had two herself), when I first found out I was pregnant in 2013, the prospect of losing my baby never even crossed my mind.

I was pretty young, at only 25 years old, but my partner was 35 and we had already been talking about how much we wanted to have a child together. In fact, we had already made the decision to stop actively trying to not have a baby (not using protection when we had sex, although not actually making efforts to conceive). So when I realised my toilet trips were considerably more frequent than usual, I took a test and, with a line so faint my partner didn’t believe it was there, wasn’t all that surprised to find out I was pregnant. A few digital tests and positive results later, the news started sinking in. The reality was a little terrifying, but we were delighted.

 Just a couple of weeks later, I started to bleed. I was completely in shock. When I learned I was pregnant, that was it in my mind. Miscarriages were rare, weren’t they?

As I later discovered, no, they’re actually incredibly common with around 1 in 4 pregnancies ending that way. As the day went on and the bleeding got heavier, I lost hope of it being one of those flukes that turns out to be fine. I was heartbroken and, despite only being in the very early stages of the first trimester, felt acute grief at the loss of my child who might have been. I imagined every time I went to the loo that I was flushing him or her down the toilet. It was incredibly, emotionally painful and not the introduction to motherhood I had expected.

After that, it felt as though my entire being was yearning for a baby. Seeing people walk by with prams left me breaking down in tears. I had nightmares about being pregnant only to discover there was nothing there. So my partner and I decided to actually try. Just a couple of months later I fell pregnant again. And miscarried again. Over the next few years, I experienced 5 first trimester miscarriages.

It was then that I started losing hope. I started to consider the fact that I may not be able to have children at all. I attended many, many doctor’s appointments; I went for scans which came up with nothing more than ‘possibly mild PCOS’; I was assigned a consultant to keep an eye on things should I get pregnant again. But nothing changed the fact that every pregnancy I had, I lost. Something was very clearly not right, so I resolved to try the natural therapy route of Chinese herbalism.

I had started to research herbalists who specialised in pregnancy loss and hormonal imbalance after my second miscarriage, but it was so expensive that my findings went on the back-burner. In 2016, I visited a clinic in West London and was seen by Acupuncturist and Chinese medicine expert Dr Song Ke at the Brackenbury Clinic. As a leading consultant with over 30 year’s experience, it cost me around £300 a visit for a half-hour appointment and a month’s worth of herbs to take – much more than you might spend on treatments with other herbalists, but a price I felt was worth paying.

The first month I took the herbs I felt incredible. My energy levels were sky-high, like nothing I’d ever experienced. I wanted to run everywhere I went and have sex all the time, which is unusual for me! I went back for a second course a month later and, in complete contrast, I felt dreadful. I felt sick constantly, I was exhausted and depressed. I spent most of that month and then again, the month after when taking a third and final course of herbs, in bed feeling ill and miserable. I was angry and assumed the herbs hadn’t worked, because surely bringing my body back into balance and being in good health wouldn’t feel this awful. But six months later, when I found out I was pregnant again for the 6th time, things felt different.

Before I even took a test, I was ravenous. I would eat 3 helpings of every meal with snacks in-between. My breasts were unbelievably sore and before long, nausea set in. I knew I was pregnant and it all seemed ‘stronger’ this time around. Even the lines on my pregnancy tests came back far more vivid than before. Despite all that, each day that passed felt like an eternity, just waiting for that inevitable, stomach-dropping show of red. But days, then weeks, then months passed and it never came.

We went for an early scan at just 9 weeks – the first one we’d ever made it to – and there was that heartbeat my partner and I had longed to hear. There, on the screen, was our baby already jumping around with clearly visible arms, legs and head. Healthy and thriving.

The next nine months were a near-constant worry. It was very hard to relax into the experience and really believe that this time, our baby was here to stay. Every tiny twinge of pain felt like a disaster on the horizon and every time I went to the toilet I’d have a surge of panic. But once we cleared the first and then the second trimester I really began to enjoy pregnancy yoga, maternity clothes and just the adventure of pregnancy and being a pregnant woman. I could allow myself to begin to fully live into the future, choosing a name, buying baby clothes and connecting with this tiny person, finally kicking and wriggling inside my ever-growing belly.

On the 2nd March 2017, after an 18-hour labour, my life was changed forever as I gently whispered my first words to my miracle baby, Faelan: “hello, my beautiful boy”.

Despite the grief of miscarrying, in a way I am glad to have endured that hardship.It has given me a unique understanding of what so many other women go through, so many more than I ever realised before my first miscarriage, and an ability to share my own story to help others who feel confused, lost and lacking in hope.

Even for those who find they can’t have children, in the end, I can at least try and use my glimpse into that reality to extend some understanding and empathy.

My story is mine alone and everyone will traverse their own version, but as women we can all choose to come together to share, to cry, to laugh, to love, to hope, to move on and remember, to offer a more complete, invaluable picture to the world of our fertility journeys as a whole. And remind each other that whatever happens, whatever path you choose or are presented with, you are not alone.

 

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