Our infertility journey really started prior to me meeting my partner Dan. Back in 2016, I was experiencing a lot of pain at that certain time each month and after numerous visits to the GP, I was finally referred to gynaecology at my local hospital. However, I was accidently referred to the egg-sharing centre of the fertility clinic to see if I could egg-share prior to me even knowing what the issue was. I was already there so thought I may as well answer their questions and have my bloods taken in case this was something I had to do in the future. This was my first look at the fertility clinic in which the waiting area was also full of pregnant women and happy couples. Apparently, it’s a common theme for hospitals to put both the fertility clinic and maternity right next to each other and in some cases, share a waiting room.
After this initial hiccup, I was referred to the right place and after some investigations, tests, and uncomfortable procedures, it was found that I suffered from Hydrosalpinx which is when your fallopian tubes are full of and surround by liquid. The decision was made for me to have one if not both of my fallopian tubes removed due to how damaged they were. In one breath I was told by my consultant that if I wanted children in the future, I was to have fertility treatment and in the next breath, asked to hop up onto the bed for an internal scan.
At this point of my life, I was only 25 years old, single, and not even thinking about kids. However, receiving this news really hit me in the fact that it was something I didn’t want right now but I didn’t want to option to me taken away from me. I told the consultant that I needed the toilet and all I did was cry in that bathroom. I then had to force my tears to stop and head back to the consultant to proceed with my internal scan. I drove, trying not to think about what had just happened, trying not to cry. I pulled up at my mum’s house and just cried on her. Why me?
After multiple cancellations, my operation went ahead on the 2nd July 2018. Both of my fallopian tubes were removed via keyhole surgery. I remember the day being very emotional. It was scary, nerve-wracking, and upsetting. However, it made my future clearer and pain-free. I shared a post on my Facebook the day after to raise awareness of infertility, to share what I was going through and for people to think before making certain comments to people about family planning. I suppose this is where my passion started to share my story and to spread awareness.
I recovered well and was advised to take 4-6 weeks off work to recover. My Manager was extremely supportive and, as a single woman living by herself, I had a great support network around me to check in multiple times throughout the day to help me with what I thought were simple day-to-day tasks. I managed to be off work for 2 weeks before I was going stir crazy and arranged a phased return. My stitches were still in, but I was healing nicely, and these would dissolve by themselves. I remember attending meetings and having to stand up as sitting down for lengthy periods of time became uncomfortable.
Roll on later that year, I started talking to a man who we will call Joe for the purposes of this blog. Joe and I went on a few dates and I remember mentioning my infertility. To this day, I remember Joe’s words; “I want kids and you aren’t a sure thing”. I remember being sat there in shock. Surely no one is a sure thing as infertility is unknown to so many until troubles are experienced. Anyway, safe to say, we stopped talking to each other.
In November 2018, I met Dan and based on my previous experience, I really started to panic on how I would talk to him about my infertility. I didn’t want to tell him too soon, but I also didn’t want to not say anything, and it be an issue later down the line. I remember speaking to my friends for support this time. However, it was a tough one as no-one else I knew had experience in this. However, after a few dates, I asked Dan if he wanted more children in the future (as he already had two from a previous relationship) and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that he did. I then, with a lot of courage and a glass of wine (or some alcoholic beverage similar), told Dan that if I was to have children in the future, it would need to be via IVF. And without hesitation, Dan reassured me that this was ok and something that he would be open to in the future. The conversation couldn’t have gone better and from this moment, I knew he was the one for me. And we parked it there.
A lot of people find out they have fertility struggles when already together. Whereas I still to this day haven’t met anyone that found out on their own and then later went on to meet their partner and must go through these uncomfortable and awkward conversations.
Fast forward to the Summer of 2020, we started to discuss extending our family and what that would look like. During our early stages of dating, we also discussed that we would both like to explore adoption one day. So, the conversations we were now having, we as to which path, we would take. After some hard-hitting conversations, we decided to explore adoption first. However, this shortly was stopped for two reasons. One, we weren’t getting good vibes from the agency and two, we found out that we were entitled to one funded round of IVF on the NHS. We took this as a sign and agreed to “have a go” at IVF and see what happens.
We were referred by our GP for IVF to our clinic in December 2020. Our first appointment was scheduled for February 2021 with the clinic. Within this time, I needed to shift some lockdown weight to ensure that my BMI was under 30 and thankfully I did it.
Following our consultation, we were sent for numerous tests and later attended our follow up consultation on the 21st June 2021. All my scans had come back ok and with my egg ovarian reserve showing as good. Dan’s results came back in which the only area of slight concern was his mobility showing as slightly low. We were advised that we may require ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection). However, this wouldn’t be decided until the day of. We were given success rates of 40-45% and was told to wait for our nurse’s appointment in which she would take us through our short protocol.
We attended out nurse’s appointment on the 20th July 2021 to sign a lot of paperwork and to learn about the medication I would be on, how to mix the medication and how to administer it. We also had bloods taken and I was weighed… My BMI was 29.7 and we were ready to start on my next period.
Day 1 of IVF was the 7th August 2021. I called the clinic and scheduled my first scan. Over the next couple of weeks, I attended lots of scans. All of which, Dan couldn’t come with me due to covid restrictions. I therefore attended all of these by myself. However, Dan took ownership of a very important task and that was to inject me daily at the same time with my medication. This became such a ritual, and I can still say that I miss the routine of it!
On the 18th August 2021, the decision was made to abandon our cycle due to me not responding well to the drugs and not producing as many follicles as they would like. I remember the words “you can do better”. I was told that the clinic wouldn’t count this as our funded cycle and that we could try again on my next period. I remember feeling like a failure and that my body had failed me. I felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt broken.
We decided to take some time away and enjoy ourselves prior to our next cycle and with that, we planned a weekend away in Harrogate. However, mother nature decided to cause havoc 6 days early. It was a Saturday, the 28th August 2021 and I remember calling the clinic to advise that we were going away until Monday which was a Bank Holiday. They advised that I could have their latest appointment on that Monday. Therefore, we still went away, enjoyed exploring, eating good food and relaxing in each other’s company.
On the Monday the 31st August 2021, we rushed back to ensure that we made our appointment, and the crazy rollercoaster ride began again. This time with a higher dose of medication. With more medication, there was hope for more follicles. The more follicles, hopefully the more eggs. I was also put on some antibiotics to ensure that I did not over-stimulate.
We pulled the trigger (final injection) on the 11th September 2021 and was scheduled in for egg collection on the 13th September where I had 18 eggs collected. Out of these 18 eggs, 13 were mature, 9 fertilised and we were scheduled for our transfer on Friday 17th September. I felt uncomfortable and tired but happy with the numbers. I remember feeling so lucky.
We went ahead with transfer on the 17th September, and we had our best embryo transferred and was therefore considered “pregnant until proven otherwise” (PUPO). We were then advised to “act” pregnant during the “two week wait” (TWW) and to then take a pregnancy test on the 26th September.
On the 20th September, we received a call to advise that our of our remaining 8 embryos, none of them had made it to the freezer and that all we had was the embryo that had been transferred. I felt so much pressure on making this work. But it was all out of my hands.
Prior to reaching our test date, I already knew it was over. I had really struggled in the TWW and went from being positive and believing I was pregnant to crying unbearably. Unfortunately, we had signs that it had not worked and on test date, we received a negative test result.
I decided to sign myself off work for a week which later ended up being 3 weeks and really struggled. I was in a dark hole and blamed myself. Blamed my body. I didn’t recognise who I was anymore and felt lost. I withdrew from Dan, his kids and my friends and family. I just needed time.
Gradually I got better, I talked to people, spoke to a counsellor through work and worked on myself. I returned to work and spoke to my Manager on what tasks I felt comfortable with and what I didn’t and went from there.
Going through infertility is so hard and it really does test your relationship. I couldn’t have got through it without Dan and our support network. This experience really pushed us but it also made us stronger and helped us to figure out our next steps… Adoption.
Infertility Awareness & Support Community – Cadent Gas Ltd
When Dan and I first started to explore fertility treatment, I wanted to understand what leave I was entitled to and how Cadent would support me. Therefore, I reached out to our HR Department and asked what policies I needed to look at. I was referred to the Family Planning Policy which didn’t include anything for if you were going through fertility treatment and only seemed to cover from when you were pregnant. Again, I reached out to HR and this time was then sent the Sickness Policy. And again, this didn’t cover the topic of infertility either.
Luckily, we have a great community within the company called Women in Cadent (WIC) and I reached out to the lead and explained the situation and asked for advice on who I could speak to, to explore having support put into place. Not just for me, but for anyone going through something similar.
My first meeting was with our HR Department. I had prepared a PowerPoint pack with lots of information; the impact of infertility, figures, statistics, an overview of an IVF cycle, time off work, information on how an employer should deal with an employee undergoing IVF as per external resources such as XpertHR which included such matters as potential discrimination issues. And then my proposal.
My proposal consisted of 4 key asks-
- Line Manager Guidance
- HR/ Case Management/ Occupational Health Awareness & Support/ Education- reference points for line managers/ employees
- Training, Education & Access to resources
- Policy Improvements
The reaction I gained from HR was well received and we have gained commitment for a policy to be implemented which focused on those going through fertility treatment. However, there was a delay with getting this up and running due to transitional requirements in the business and therefore, we agreed to re-visit this once transformation had taken place.
In the meantime, I launched the Infertility Awareness & Support Community in June 2021 in which we have accomplished quite a lot in that time:
Launched the Infertility Awareness & Support SharePoint site
- Information packs
- Trying to conceive
- What to say (and not to say) to someone living with infertility
- How to tell an infertile friend or relative that you’re pregnant
- Coping with other people’s pregnancy announcements
- Fertility lingo
- IVF Statistics
- The impact of infertility
- IVE- What happens in a typical treatment
- Male infertility awareness
- PCOS Awareness
- Endometriosis Awareness
- Having a baby if you are LGBTQ+
- Having a baby after cancer
- Questions to ask at your first IVF consultation
- Should I tell my manager
- Pregnancy after IVF
- Negative pregnancy after IVF
- News Articles (monthly)
- Real life #MyStory submitted by employees who have gone through infertility
- National Infertility Week
- Support Groups
- Signposted to weekly support groups with Innovation Fertility
- Employee Assistance Programme
- Signposted to internal support
- Mental Health First Aiders
- Signposted to Mental Health First Aiders within the business
- Lunch and Learn events etc
- Useful resources
- Lots of webpages for peoples information such as CCG League Table, Hertility Health, Innovation Fertility, Tommy’s etc.
- Instagram Accounts
- Youtube Accounts
Launched the Infertility Awareness & Support Yammer Group
Weekly posts and updates for the community
Monthly news articles to showcase peoples real-life experiences with infertility
Monthly (coincides with #MyStory) of National Infertility Week, Updates to company etc
Attended a radio interview to share what we are doing in our workplace to spread awareness of Infertility and how to better support employees.
Lead lunch & learn sessions to spread awareness of the topic of infertility in the workplace
Created Infertility sub-group logo for Company
As you can see, a lot has happened since June 2021, and it doesn’t stop there! I am in talks with Fertility Matters at Work to hopefully have Cadent as one of the first accredited Fertility Friendly companies. And also, I am hoping that 2022 is the year that we will implement a fertility focused policy.