My Story- by Leonie

My husband and I are lucky enough to have a 4 year old son. He was naturally conceived after 6 months, (which at the time felt like forever!)

We decided to start trying for baby number 2 when our son was 1.5 years old. We both have 2 years between our siblings and we felt that would be a good age gap for a sibling.  At this point I was 32 and my husband, 36.

After the first year nothing had happened. I gave up my nursing job as I felt the stress was a contribution to our fertility issues and we started the process of tests through the GP.  By the second year of trying, we had started the IVF process. I was so excited to get started and despite all the injections, scans and hormones I believed it would bring me closer to bringing home our baby.

Unfortunately our first cycle failed and I was absolutely heartbroken. I was lucky enough to have two frozen embryos and the doctors were confidence with our chances. Our first frozen cycle initially gave a positive result but there was limited joy, it felt doomed from the beginning as I experienced spotting and pain. I was seen several times in the Early Pregnancy Unit and my HCG levels were rising for the first few weeks but then I had more bleeding. It was such an anxious time. I missed my sister's hen do as I needed to be near the hospital for blood tests and then I was her bridesmaid the following week. It was a beautiful day but I knew in my heart I was miscarrying. A few days later the scan and bloods confirmed an early miscarriage.  My period returned to normal and I was able to use my final embryo. Unfortunately, this embryo resulted in a chemical pregnancy. The doctor felt we had just been unlucky but suggested some further testing for recurrent miscarriage. The tests came back normal. 

The years of trying to conceive, IVF and losses have taken a toll of my mental health and over 3 years on, it can be difficult to see a happy ending. Secondary infertility is a strange and lonely place to be. I don't feel I fully belong in the "infertility club" as I am already a mother and cannot possibly comprehend the devastation of being unable to conceive a child, like many couples. There has been so much guilt, from me for even wanting another child and feeling my body was letting us down and for my son being an only child and it being my fault.

All around me, our friends were getting pregnant, having babies and completing their families and I struggle to watch siblings play and interact without feeling heartache. Even pre-school drop offs and toddler groups are an issue. I feel so much sadness that it has detracted from my enjoyment as a mother for my son and that so many of my relationships have been affected, as well as time, career and finances. I am enormously grateful to be a mum but it does not stop my maternal desire for a bigger family. The yearning is deep within my soul. I don't always remember who I was as a person before infertility and loss, and I often wonder how our life should have been. I don't want infertility to define me but it has definitely defined the direction of my life.

We got all geared up for another fresh cycle of IVF when Coronavirus hit and it got cancelled. I struggled with all the waiting and not knowing when the fertility clinics would re-open and desperately wrote to the HFEA, my MP and my clinic for more clarification.  During this time in lock-down, I found my infertility family on Instagram; strong, inspiring women, including Lucy at the Rainbow Running Club. I have found it so helpful to connect with women who understand me. I also have started regular meditation and Lucy's lovely midweek mindfulness classes, self care and book club have been a real treat and benefit. I also found the solitude and increased time at home with my husband and son an added bonus despite the stress of the pandemic and we have both learned to slow down and be grateful to be in the moment. 

We were incredibly pleased when the clinics started to re-open again and our clinic were able to fit us in that cycle. Another couple of months of scans, injections, egg collection and waiting. Unfortunately because of the pandemic, my husband was not able to attend the clinic so it made the process feel even more one-sided. I am lucky he was able to support me in other ways. This time we had one embryo transferred and another one frozen.  Another two week wait and another positive pregnancy test but unfortunately this one was not to be either, only lasting a few days.  July should have been the month my baby was due from my second embryo transfer and another 9 months on and I've still made no progress. The disappointment is real but I can't even cry anymore.

We are now in the process of making a plan to use our final embryo.

Throughout my journey, hope has kept me going. We have so much to be grateful for and I hope that whatever happens, we will be happy and fulfilled.

I am keen to use my experiences and my mental health nursing background to help women with infertility and loss as a way of giving back to this amazing community.

If you want to follow my story, my Instagram is _ttc_a_sibling_for_t

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