Katie Jarrett, 37, has known there was an issue with her fertility since she was a teenager. But it wasn’t until she started to really investigate that she knew having children was going to cause a lot of heartache.
For support she turned to social media and came across a Facebook page that would change her life. She has joined forces with Natalie Williams to help promote a petition to get better mental health support for anyone going through fertility. Here she tells her story…
“When I was 17, I still hadn’t started my periods. I hadn’t told anyone at school and just went along with the ‘period talk’ to try and fit in. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, so I wasn’t prepared or able to answer any other questions – so I just lied.
My mum booked me into the doctors to have a chat and check-up. They carried out an ultrasound but didn’t offer anything else in a way of investigation. They gave me the pill and said if that works to give me a bleed then that’s good and no need to come back. The one thing she did say to me was that if I wanted children then don’t leave it too long before trying, but who wants to hear that aged 17?
I took the pill and it worked. In my mind as long as I took the pill and it helped me bleed then everything was ok. It also made me feel ‘normal’ as each month I’d get a bleed. Although I felt normal, it didn’t stop the doctor’s words playing out in my mind each day.
Fast forward ten years
I plucked up the courage to make an appointment with my doctors, I needed some answers and I finally feel ready to hear the truth. I was referred for further tests.
I explain the above and they refer me to my local hospital for further tests. But I came away with few answers. There wasn’t any funding to help to discover why I’d never had a natural period. According to the doctors there was no name for my condition and little hope that I could ever get pregnant.
It hit me hard. All my friends were having children, as well as my sister. Now, I didn’t know if I could. I felt tossed to the side. I was at rock bottom and I really withdrew from life for a bit. I drank a bit. I felt completely lost.
When I was 29, I met my future husband. The man of my dreams. He had a 13-year-old son and my thought was ‘at least he was able to father children’. After a couple of months of dating, and a couple of drinks, I plucked up the courage to tell him that I probably couldn’t have children. I just didn’t know either way. I felt he needed to know from the beginning as I didn’t want to string him along and lie to him as if he desperately wanted them, I needed to be honest from the beginning. He listened and took it in and said he was fine with it. He didn’t run away. I had also finally found the courage to come off the pill. Something that had scared me for years. My fears came true and my periods completely stopped. Nothing.
We got married a couple of years later in 2014
It was after the wedding and having unprotected sex for two years that my husband broke down in tears. It showed me how much he really wanted to have a baby, we both knew that we had to try with everything we had to make it happen.
I went back to my doctors and they again referred me back to the hospital. I was started on Clomid to induce a bleed, but it didn’t work.
The consultant said that as I wasn’t bleeding on the tablets, there was little more they could do. All that was next was IVF and as my partner already had a son there was no NHS funding for this, so they were discharging me from the hospital. That was a very hard blow to take – we were alone, just like that.
We left it a few months, I was talking to my mum in tears and she told me to book an appointment with a private consultant and see what they say. Thankfully, a family member offered to pay for treatment. I did a lot of research and those local to me and found Tarek El-Toukhy, of Guys and St Thomas Hospital, operated a satellite clinic at my local spire hospital. I managed to get an appointment for the following – I was so excited.
Mr Eltoukhy performed many tests and after getting the results explained the problem was my pituitary gland not releasing hormones each month. He didn’t confirm why this was the case, but I didn’t care. At last, I had a reason for my lack of periods. He said depending on my blood results, IVF was my only option.
My blood results came back, and it was shown I had low egg reserve and that we should proceed with IVF as soon as possible to give me the best chance.
We started IVF the following week
No one tells you what to expect with IVF. I struggled on the medication. I was 34 and had never had any hormones go through me and now I was injecting them daily and in high doses. I wanted to cry, to scream, I had no patience, I had no energy. I was bruised and bloated, hardly any clothes fitted me and my concentration levels were zero. Work was hard, I’d told them, but they didn’t really understand what I was going through or how much it was affecting me.
We got seven eggs, five fertilised and made it to day five. But not one of them worked and we were left devastated. You never forget the test dates or what would have been due dates. They stay with you forever.
Mr El-Toukhy was brilliant and kept my spirits up. He was keen to try a fresh cycle and wanted to go straight into it. I wasn’t keen as I knew that meant more injections and more sedation, but I agreed. I couldn’t not, it’s all I wanted and saying no was just too hard to think about. I got two eggs and they both fertilised. The clinic said they wanted to do a two-day transfer as they wanted to get them back where they belonged inside me as soon as possible.
I don’t know if it was the extra vitamins, the reiki, the reflexology or what but I got by positive pregnancy test with a singleton on that try. I took the test two days early and was in shock, I danced, I cried, I smiled all day. I cuddled my belly and never let it go. That night when my husband got home, I showed him the test. He was in shock, he couldn’t take it in. That was the start of his anxiety.
He didn’t believe our dream was coming true. It was hard to watch. To this day my husband still has anxiety. He is on medication now but from the day I told him I was pregnant he struggled. I truly believe that the whole infertility process had a massive effect in him, as it does on many men. It took some of the enjoyment of the pregnancy away. We both became on edge.
Our son William was born by emergency c-section at 36 weeks
I owe it all to Mr El-Toukhy who didn’t give up on me and somehow knew it would be possible. But I feel the NHS let me down. The system abandoned me and my husband and caused the start of our depressions that we both still battle today.
Fertility is a silent suffering in that you tend to keep the process close to you to protect yourselves.
I’ve paid for a specialist to investigate my pituitary gland and I’m now being treated. I am on HRT and tablets to realign my hormone levels.
I met Natalie through an IVF Facebook site. She shared her petition asking for signatures and I immediately signed it. A while later Natalie was asking for women to help her share this petition to get the 10,000 signatures needed within six months. I gladly put my hands up as did a few other women. Natalie set up a chat group and we constantly share the petition with our contacts and local news feeds and update each other of our progress in the group chat. Natalie took the courage to start this and after my own experience it was the least I could do. Those who have been through infertility understand each other and you always help each other out.”
To sign the petition click here