Fareham newborn photographer share the Journey of Getting Pregnant and Becoming a New Mummy and Daddy…..As many of you already know, I couldn’t have children and had three attempts at IVF over 20 years ago. The aim of this blog post is to share a little of my story with you, and with the input from other mummies, I hope it will provide the help and support for others of you who might be going through similar experiences.
I’m sure the technology around the IVF process has improved over the years and the success rate is a lot higher nowadays. To challenge my feeling that the IVF success rate had moved on, I did a little internet research for this blog post, and it would appear that the rate before the year 2000 was around 20%, and today seems to be around 70%. It’s no wonder that I didn’t really stand a chance. I guess the desire to have a baby overtook the percentage success rate. I’m not sure I was ever told that there was a low success rate, or perhaps I just chose to ignore it.
I asked some mummies who had had IVF recently whether they had considered the success rate before they started? Of whether their desire to have a baby meant the success rate really didn’t matter, just like me all those years ago.
Little Bessie came to my lovely newborn photography studio at Cams Hall. She was such a special little girl as her parents had experienced quite a journey to become a mummy and daddy. I took Georgia’s maternity photographs, and as soon as I met her and Jack, I connected with them straight away. I knew just how important their newborn photographs would be for them. I asked Georgia the same question on the success rate and whether she had considered it as part of their decision to go ahead with IVF.
“When deciding to proceed with treatment, I was very aware of the success rate and the fact it doesn’t often happen first time, but honestly in my heart I thought we would be lucky and that we would be successful first time. When we received a positive pregnancy test after our first round, I said to my husband wow we are so lucky. Little did I know that actually that would be our first of three miscarriages. What I learnt along the way is that the more treatment we had, the more the desire grew to become parents.”
Another little IVF success story who came to the studio was Tobias. His mummy, Jo and daddy, Chris, shared the start of their journey to becoming a mummy and daddy.
“We got married in 2016 and about a year after that we started actively trying for a baby. Chris already had a daughter from a previous relationship, so there were no real concerns or reasons to consider that we may hit a bump in the road. However, after a couple of years of trying, we decided to approach our doctor to seek some advice on how we might best proceed. Both being military serving personnel, we felt we might be lucky in that if we required IVF for any reason, the MOD were known to help towards funding the process in certain circumstances. After some time and taking some initial tests, we were unfortunately advised that because Chris already had a daughter, we would not be considered for IVF funding, but we were referred to Complete Fertility in Southampton for some further tests and specialist advice. The results of this at least saw us qualify to receive CLOMID treatment on behalf of the MOD. We spent a further six months trying to conceive naturally, but unfortunately the CLOMID didn’t help. By now the COVID pandemic had started and it was during this period that we found ourselves in a position to start IVF treatment as we had been saving what we could since realising that this was probably the route we would have to take to have a baby. We were so fortunate and lucky that it took only one course of treatment to become successfully pregnant and our miracle baby was born in April 2021.“
I also asked Jo what her thoughts were on the success rate. “During our consultation period, we were made aware by Complete Fertility that our success rate (for my age) would be around 40%. Before this point, we hadn’t really had any conversations about the success rate as such, just that we were aware of some friends who had been through the process a couple of times before falling pregnant. We were of the train of thought that if we were unsuccessful at first, it would all be down to how many further attempts we would be able to afford, if any, to be successful. So, the desire to have a baby for us was perhaps more important than the success rate itself and we were at least in the financial position to try at least once. It’s hard to say if we were unsuccessful would the success rate put us off? Probably not – but being practical about finances, that would have been a deciding factor to not continue.”
When a couple visits my studio with their newborn baby and have not had a smooth journey to become parents, whether through miscarriage, infertility or IVF, they always get a special gift from me. I truly appreciate the emotional rollercoaster they have been on. I really do get the pain they have been through.
When you decide to have a baby, you might think it will happen quickly, but for some it’s a long road ahead – not only getting pregnant, but also giving birth to a healthy baby. For me, it was a real shock as I became infertile at 17 after having an inflamed appendix that attached to my fallopian tubes and the damage was done, although I didn’t get to know that until many years later. Some parents have shared with me that even when they do get pregnant, they don’t enjoy their pregnancy, as they are so anxious that something might go wrong.
I asked mummies whether they enjoyed their pregnancy when they had a tough time getting pregnant. Did it feel like they were treading on eggshells for nine months?
Georgia shared with me, “Due to our previous history of three miscarriages, both me and my husband massively struggled with being positive in the early stages of the pregnancy, we had multiple scares and spent a lot of time in hospital. We counted down every day of the first 12 weeks as we knew the chances of a loss decreased massively and we could start to believe it was our time. I think it finally started to feel real around 18 weeks when I first felt the baby move, this was such a magical moment which I will always treasure.”
Being over 20 years ago now, I can’t remember all of the fine details of the process we went through. The first IVF attempt was in London. I can remember the frequent trips up to London to monitor when my eggs were ready to taken to create an embryo. I can remember self-administering the injections. The physical side of the surgery was hard, but not as bad as the anxious time waiting to get pregnant; knowing that embryos had been implanted. It was then a waiting game. I was devastated when I got my period, and I knew immediately that it hadn’t worked. I can’t remember the exact timescales for having the next treatment, but I knew I was keen to try again. For me, I bounced back quickly, got over the loss and was ready try again.
For Jo and Chris, their attempt at IVF was successful first time round and didn’t quite believe it until they had the initial scan.
“After finding out we had been successful the first time round, I was fairly anxious underneath the obvious excitement I was showing. I did take pregnancy tests every few days for around seven weeks, just to make sure that I was still pregnant and it wasn’t a fluke!! At seven weeks, I went for an initial scan at Complete Fertility, where it was fully confirmed to my relief that things were moving along nicely and our baby had a clear, strong heartbeat. From this point, we were discharged from Complete Fertility to the NHS, and running up to my 12-week scan, I was still a little anxious. After this point, I did find myself relaxing more into the pregnancy, but because of the pandemic, unfortunately I wasn’t able to take the whole pregnancy experience in, due to all the restrictions being placed on our lives and I couldn’t share as much as I wanted to with friends and family. Obviously, we were thrilled at our news and tried to share as much as we could and just felt so lucky considering how much sadness COVID was spreading around the world.”
I asked some mummies, what kept you going through the process of IVF? How did you feel at a failed attempt? And would they have done it again if it hadn’t worked?
I totally get how Georgia felt. It was the same for me with every failed attempt. I would focus on the next treatment cycle. “For me, what kept me going was that I made a promise to my husband that it would work one day. I knew this was a huge promise to make, but I was willing to try all options to get the outcome we desired. After each failed attempt you grieve for the loss, I found that me and my husband dealt with this differently and this put pressure on us as a couple. Personally, the way I dealt with it was to throw myself into another round. I would spend hours reading success stores, I found this kept the hope that one day we would bring a baby home. We decided to purchase a multi-cycle package which included multiple rounds of treatment so it took the financial worry away of each individual cycle and we could just focus on getting our mind and body in the best place possible. Due to having this package I also found it easier to keep going as I pre-agreed to multiple attempts of achieving our dream.”
For Jo, “Luckily enough, we were able to freeze a further two embryos as well as the one I had implanted, just in case of a failed cycle. As mentioned, being practical about the financial side of IVF, we would have tried using these embryos (slightly cheaper process) but if this was unsuccessful, we would probably have discussed our options. Obviously, the desire would be there, but this is hard to say in our circumstance.”
Back then, my partner and I had two further attempts after that. We changed location to a more local clinic in Bath as it felt like we were just a number in London, with a lot of overseas visitors having treatment. I had one full attempt and the third was with frozen embryos. Again, it didn’t work. A failed attempt can feel like a bereavement when it happens. I didn’t have counselling at the time on dealing with the emotional pain, but I feel if I had, I might not have the emotional pain I still have today. I say this because I feel it is so important to seek the help you need to get your through this difficult time.
From Jo’s perspective, it seems there was plenty of support from the Complete Fertility clinic. “Because of the pandemic, I had limited support apart from immediate family. Complete Fertility did provide access to a private patient support group on Facebook, which I joined. I found this helpful in the fact that I was able to follow others in the same position and ask questions if I needed to. It is a highly active group and there is plenty of advice from nursing staff and fellow patients. I was advised that I would be entitled to counselling if required through Complete Fertility, however I didn’t require this service in the end. If unsuccessful, I feel I probably would have taken advantage of this.”
I wonder whether today there are more support groups available for those going through IVF. Maybe a Facebook group, I’m not sure. I’m not saying that can make it easier. When I had my last attempts at IVF at the Fertility Clinic in Bath, I met Lisa. We have kept in touch all these years. We always send Christmas cards and we’re now connected on Facebook. Lisa had more attempts than me and I believe got pregnant naturally in the end, and now has three grown up children.
I asked Lisa to share her memories of that time.
“We tried for seven years before I finally became pregnant naturally. I had several years of trying naturally, then of fertility drugs, then investigations, then tubal surgery and then five attempts at IVF, three of which were partly NHS funded and then a frozen embryo transfer cycle. Even before we started any treatments, every month I would cry when my monthly came, first of all I was able to just brush it off and start again and as the months turned into years, it got harder and harder. We left our spare room undecorated, thinking one day it would be our nursery. I think it was quite difficult telling friends and family at the time, especially when we were undergoing an IVF cycle as then I had to share the disappointment with them. I could also see their pity on their faces. It just made it harder! It was easier to make friends and share how I/we were feeling with others who we met at the fertility clinic, or who were in the same position.
At the time I also subscribed to ‘Child’, a charity support group for couples trying for a family which helped too! After the sixth failed IVF attempt, we couldn’t take the emotional pain anymore so we decided that it just wasn’t to be and so we gave up. Thinking that we would/could have a wonderful life just the two of us.
It was a relief I think! I tried not to let the emotions torture me anymore. The only thing I couldn’t entirely get rid of was the guilt I felt that I wasn’t able to give my husband a child. About six or eight months whilst we were on holiday, I remember us chatting about whether we could maybe just try one more time. I think we were quite relaxed by then and the break had really helped. We’d had an amazing three-week holiday and had travelled to five countries including Australia. We knew it would take us some time before we could afford to try again but we were determined again to give it one more go.
It was about four/five months later I suppose that we contacted the clinic in Bath with a view to booking in for a final seventh IVF cycle. About six weeks later and my cycle still hadn’t started, I thought well that’s it then, I’m now menopausal too, the six previous IVF cycles and other treatments that I had over the years have taken their toll and even if I am prepared to go through the emotional upheaval of another try my body wouldn’t allow it.
I remember at that time feeling less of a woman than my sister, sister-in-law and work colleagues who seemed to have no trouble whatever. I thought it was just never meant to be! I left it another week before I rang the clinic in tears to tell them my fears and to ask advice on if there was anything more I could do? They asked lots of questions and said I should take a pregnancy test just to rule out that possibility and made me an appointment to see the consultant the following week for a chat. Later that day I took the test not expecting it to be any different than the hundred other tests I had done over the years. I didn’t even have to wait the three minutes, it immediately came up positive – the very first time that had ever happened! I absolutely couldn’t believe it, I think I went into shock. I rang the IVF clinic and told them it was positive and they asked me to come in later that day for a scan. As I had damaged Fallopian tubes because of an appendectomy when I was 14, there was a risk it was developing in one of the tubes. The scan showed a tiny eight-week foetus with a heartbeat and all seemed in the correct place! They actually considered me one of their success stories as their head consultant Nick Sharp had done tubal surgery on me about four/five years earlier, though at that time they actually told me that if I hadn’t become pregnant with 12 months of the surgery that my chances of ever becoming pregnant naturally was less than 1%.”
When I went through the IVF process, I had the support of my best friend Charlie throughout, who was herself having her own children. We didn’t have Facebook at that time, and we had progressed from handwritten letters to emails. I knew she was there for me and she provided me with the support that I needed that at this particular time in my life. A good friend is so incredibly important.
Here are some of Charlie’s memories.
“Back then I remember you going through first the year of trying naturally to get pregnant, and being with you every time you got your period, the tears, hugs, and it’s OK, we’ll try again. By the time you started IVF, I had moved across the ocean to the States and we diligently wrote to each other, every single week, sometimes our letters crossing in the mail. I wonder if perhaps that was a good release for you? Writing down your feelings. Couples don’t realise how lucky they are at getting pregnant when there are others who struggle. You were my first friend to go through this and I couldn’t totally understand what it felt like, I certainly still wanted to be there for you, despite the distance.
I remember myself falling pregnant quickly after starting to try for a family and was very worried how it would affect you. But I also knew our friendship was strong enough that through your tears you would be so happy for me. And through my tears I was sad it wasn’t you pregnant. I think you don’t allow yourself to grieve because you pick yourself up and start again on the next cycle, not thinking this is the final try. It was very emotionally draining for you, and financially hard. I agree that back then the success rate was far less, so looking back almost impossible to get pregnant through IVF.
Since then, I have two cousins, who are sisters, that have gone through IVF, with some failures but also some successes. One cousin has two darling children, the other just had her first (both over 40). Even today they had disappointments, and financial hardships, but ultimately success.
I’m not sure what support groups there are available now, but I’m pretty sure the way we are much more connected, socially, through media forums like Facebook, Instagram etc, that more people share their stories and offer support. It’s nice to know you’re not the only one.
I believe that Jennifer was meant to do the things she’s done, be with the people she has been with and be able to tell her story now. She has the perfect job for her, bringing priceless and timeless pieces of joy to new parents of their newborns. It’s part of her story that Jennifer appreciates every single baby she meets, and has made her empathetic, sympathetic, kind and, let’s face it, a baby whisperer!”
I asked mummies going through IVF what their best support group was.
It was so important for me to have the support of friends and family, and especially from my IVF buddy Lisa and also my best friend Charlie and of course my family. When Georgia and Luke came to the studio for their newborn session, I can remember Georgia saying how people had been so generous to them with the birth of Bessie, in some cases people they didn’t even know. So many people had been on their journey with them from a support perspective which is amazing.
Georgia shared, “I found being very open about our journey with family and friends helped with the support we needed to get through treatment; sharing the highs and lows no matter how hard it was. We have been very lucky to have met couples along the way who are also experiencing similar journeys, we found this a massive help as we would be able to relate to each other and support one another. We are very grateful that IVF has brought friends for life.”
It’s funny how this blog post has reconnected my IVF buddy Lisa. We have exchanged Christmas cards and kept in touch on Facebook, but after 20 years we are actually going to meet up in August. Lisa is a friend for life.
I think for me, looking back now, I wish I had taken time to grieve my failed IVF treatments. At a recent newborn viewing of little Bessie, with Bessie’s mum and dad having a bumpy road to becoming pregnant, I got very emotional. I truly admired their strength and determination not to give up. It made me wonder what would have happened in my life if I hadn’t given up. I can remember the financial impact of IVF and whether that had influenced the decision to move on. I suppose I put a financial price on having my own baby and thought at the time that it could be money spent on having an adopted family. I really believe that life is for looking forward, so you can’t always dwell on what if.
I asked my sister what her thought were of that time “ My sister Jenny’s experience of IVF happened quite a few years ago and is probably more fresh in her mind than in mine. T hat’s not intentional but just that we went down different paths in our parent/child lives. I do remember all the treatments and the cycles she went through. I also remember the cost involved and I think after 3 cycles, they became realistic about costs involved and could they have other options. It must have been so hard to just say that’s enough we give up. It was a massive heart ache all round! At the time I’d mentioned to my husband about could I carry a baby for her. But realistically it was too much on an emotional issue to pursue. Instead we supported jenny as much as we could right from the tears on the stairs to the path to adoption. In reflection it must be so hard to get past all those emotions and I do think there is a danger of sticking a plaster over each disappointment to move to the next. We were fortunate to have two wonderful children normally and I never felt guilty but just wished my sister could have had that same joy.”
Due to the pandemic, it might have made things a little easier with juggling work and appointments as in Jo’s case. “Like most of the population, many military personnel including ourselves were staying home during the initial months of the pandemic, so this actually helped us. We didn’t have the usual stresses of work and it also meant that I could attend all of our appointments without issue, even though I had to unfortunately attend them alone (Chris stayed in the car!). By the time we were able to return to work, I was pregnant after the successful treatment.”
For some going through IVF, it is very difficult to cope with working, as there are no statutory rights for time off for IVF. I remember booking lots of holidays, but my manager at the time was very good and allowed me to take compassionate leave. It’s hard when you’re trying for a baby and it seems like loads of women in the office are all getting pregnant, and you wonder – why can’t it be me?
Another connection that I have to Georgia is that I worked for the same company that she does. Although it was a different company that supported my IVF. The company that Georgia now works for was very supportive to me when I wanted to study a photography degree. I asked to go down to four days, it was a yes, and then with the second year of the degree I went down to three days. Maybe if they hadn’t given me that opportunity, I might never have become a newborn photographer.
For Georgia, “I am very lucky to work for a very supportive company which actually offers an IVF policy that includes an extra five days’ off a year for treatment and due to this, it took some of the pressure off. I also found talking to my manager and colleagues about my treatment helped as I found my hormones where so up and down due to medication – it helped them understand how I was feeling.”
I asked some mummies how they coped with work and going through IVF. How did they feel about others getting pregnant and not them?
I worked for quite a large company at the time of my IVF, there always seemed to be someone getting pregnant. I can remember a very close friend of mine phoning me from the labour ward to tell me she had given birth. I was pleased for her but at the same time I was devastated.
Georgia said, “This is one of the hardest parts of infertility as you can’t stop people’s lives around you and everyone’s journey is different. I would always remind myself that it wasn’t currently my time, but my time would come I just had to keep positive. I found spending time with family and friends’ children so important and it was a constant reminder that I had to keep going and what a great mummy and daddy we would make one day.”
For Jo, this was the hardest part of going through IVF. “For the duration of the time I was trying to get pregnant, this was perhaps the hardest factor of all to deal with. It felt like all around me, my friends and colleagues were falling pregnant at the drop of a hat, without any issues and this was hard to swallow at times. It was very hard to hide my emotions and I found myself very often upset, especially at home. It was hard to not feel slight resentment at times whilst trying to show happiness for them. Considering it took us more than a couple of years to fall pregnant, this is quite a long time to deal with these feelings, but I guess it’s probably a common issue with many others in the IVF process.”
Back to my own story, my ex-husband wouldn’t let me have a cat, and after how upset I was after the third attempt, he did let me have a cat. I named her Chloe – the name I would have used if I had had a little girl. My cat wasn’t a substitute for not having a baby, but she was something I really loved and cared for.
I thought I’d share some of Bessie beautiful photographs with you all, as without a doubt, she was definitely worth the wait.
“The journey to our baby girl is a journey I will never forget, but as people always told me, the minute she was placed in my arms, all the heartbreak was taken away. I will always be grateful for IVF as it taught us many things. It taught us to be patient, it taught us to be grateful for every moment and most importantly, it taught us to never give up.” Georgia