IVF babble co-founder Sara Marshall-Page tells her IVF story

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It was a long time coming. Four long years. Two rounds of IUI, one round of IVF and, finally, ICSI. I’m now the very happy mother of beautiful twin girls, but there were times when I truly felt it wouldn’t happen.

I was so desperate for a baby, and at the same time so embarrassed to be having IVF. Nobody I knew had ever gone through it… or so I thought.

IVF is fail-safe, right?

I was quite optimistic at first. I hadn’t read any facts or figures about success rates, and foolishly thought IVF was a fail-safe option. I soon learnt the hard truth. IVF is not a cure for infertility.

I went to my doctor and said I couldn’t get pregnant. The fertility department in my local hospital established that I had polycystic ovaries. I was actually pleased to discover that there was a reason I was not getting pregnant. Now they could fix the problem… right?

I started off having two rounds of IUI. No luck. Suddenly, mild optimism turned to huge fright. I realised that fertility treatment didn’t actually guarantee pregnancy.

The agony of waiting

So I waited for my IVF start date. Being the NHS, it was not an instant process. Time passed so slowly. Every day that went by was another childless day.

Then the letter arrived for my IVF treatment to begin and I felt ecstatic. It was quickly crushed. Out of nowhere, my husband and I were hit by the devastating news that my mother-in-law was dying of terminal cancer.

Hummus overdose

After much agonising, we decided not to stop IVF. We felt we wanted to give her a grandchild before she died. I became obsessed with ways of enhancing our chances. We stopped drinking, we went caffeine free, I ate ridiculous amounts of hummus and don’t even get me started on my husband’s sperm.

I stopped him from using his bike, I watched the way he used his laptop (never on his lap), and then one day he caught me measuring the temperature of his bath water… awkward moment.

I was naturally still working during my treatment, which at times proved tricky. I work as a TV floor manager and remember having to inject my fertility drugs in the toilet at the Brixton Academy during a recording of the NME awards. I was at my lowest, but I hid it well.

Bad news

In the end my husband had to freeze his sperm as it was looking like his mother might die on the same day that I needed it. I still don’t know how my husband managed to handle such extreme pressure from the two most important people in his life.

Needless to say, the IVF didn’t work. I remember my sister making me breakfast on the morning the clinic called to say that not one single embryo had fertilised. Ironically, she made scrambled eggs. The phone call was brief. My voice was monotone. I barely responded. “OK, thank you” I said as I hung up.

I hid under a rock

I shut myself off from friends and family. Everyone around me was getting pregnant and I felt like a failure. I felt isolated and desperately unhappy. My best friend called to tell me she was pregnant. “Great!” I tried hard to say. I hung up, then took her number out of my phone. I couldn’t deal with the heartache and it got worse as the number of pregnant friends mounted.

Eventually I was given a date for ICSI, shortly after my mother-in-law could hold on to life no longer. We decided to ditch all the self-controlled behaviour. Sod the decaf and the monotonous routine. Let’s fly to New York and enjoy ourselves. What would be would be. Pretty reckless behaviour considering.

My life was in danger

On my return I completed a round of ICSI. But, a couple of days after the implantation of two embryos, I developed OHSS in its most severe sense. I spent a couple of weeks in hospital with major bloating, swollen ovaries, difficulty breathing, moving, and sleeping. It was horrific, and I have since found out, life threatening. Nowadays, women who suffer from PCOS and are at risk of OHSS are not allowed to get to this dangerous stage. Embryos are frozen until safe to put back in.

Being in hospital with this side effect was one of the worse things I have experienced. I am not one for reading small print, and I certainly did not pay attention when the doctors talked briefly about the dangers of severe bloating. There was hardly anything on the internet and absolutely no support from anyone.

They drilled into me

In the end, I was ‘tapped’ – they drill a hole in to you and release the fluid. The pain was indescribable. But it was all forgotten a few days later when I was given the news that I was pregnant. You can imagine the joy. The question then was, had both embryos survived?

During a scan to check to see if my ovaries were returning to normal, the doctor announced, “Oh yes, they look wonderful”.

“Great,” I replied. “Do you want to see them?” she asked. “See what?” I replied. “Your children.”

Not one but two!

I had no idea she was going to tell me anything other than the update on my ovaries. I had convinced myself only one embryo had survived, so this took me by complete surprise. Best moment of my life.

My twin daughters, Lola and Darcy, continue to make this entire journey worthwhile, with all its ups and downs. I pinch myself every day. They are perfect (of course) and they are mine.

IVF babble was born out of hindsight. It offers people the knowledge and the support that I lacked and so desperately needed. I hope it will help other women and men as they embark on their own personal IVF journeys.

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