"And each time I wore an orange scarf around my neck"
"Because babies like orange"
Twelve years ago I met the love of my life, the man who saved me not only from myself but from the vicious grasp of 'another'. After a year of living together, Justin came home from work one day and sidled up beside me while I was washing the dishes.
"Marry me?" he said, pushing an engagement ring onto my finger before I'd even caught my breath enough to answer.
It wasn't a romantic proposal, there was no dinner, no Eiffel tower, no bending on one knee. But it was perfect.
Two months later on a wintry day in December Justin and I married in a small ceremony before a handful of friends and family. We spent the grand total of a thousand pounds on our wedding day opting for cheap and cheerful in our haste to become life partners. There was no elaborate wedding or lavish honeymoon. Even back then I knew that the love we had for one another would suffice and fancy table decorations or ribbons on the backs of chairs didn't matter.
And that, so they say, was that.
Justin took on the role of a father to a then three and four-year-old Holly and Lewis. He treated them as though they were his children and said right from the very beginning that it didn't matter he'd never had a child of his own, but for me there was a longing inside to create a life, one that belonged to us both and as time passed my desire to have his baby became even stronger. I'd fallen pregnant so easily with Lewis and gave birth to Holly just one year later, almost Irish twins but not quite.
Both pregnancies, I remember the horror on people's faces when I told them. I desperately wanted to know what it felt like to be pregnant in the right circumstances, announce it and be met with smiles and congratulations instead of "Oh shit, what are you going to do?".
Justin and I agreed that we would start trying for a baby, with me boasting that I only had to think about sex and I'd get pregnant. I honestly believed that it would take a month, maybe two.
If only that were true.
Four years and three miscarriages later and I was still as barren as the day we married. In the meantime, my best friend had managed to birth two healthy children. I dutifully smiled and cooed over their chubby pink hands, laughing and agreeing that the smell of a baby's head is just the Best. Smell. Ever. All the while I was dying inside and have never felt more jealousy tangled up with guilt in my life.
So I approached getting pregnant in the only (obsessive) way that I could. Operation: Get Pregnant was underway and I spent my days and nights researching, reading, googling every single thing that might possibly be wrong with me. Online forums became my place of solace, an outlet for my emotions, somewhere to vent, to compare notes and have others in the same predicament to 'symptom spot' with:
Hi everyone, so today I watched The Notebook for what must be the tenth time. I'm not sure why but I have never felt SO EMOTIONAL. Also, my boobs are unbelievably veiny, like a road map, they have seriously never been this sore before. My period isn't due for another week but I've been feeling sick and craving pineapple juice, is it too early to tell? Does it sound like I'm pregnant?
And so it went on, desperately clutching at straws, imagining things, convincing myself it was our time every single month.
I quickly graduated from TTC (trying to conceive) to LTTC (long term trying to conceive)
I became VERY acquainted with my cervix. Hard like the tip of my nose but lying low?
Hmm, the prodding and poking continued. Squatting, one leg up on the loo. Nope that won't work, lie down on the bed knees up, legs floppy, just like in a smear test (!). God, I can't believe I'm doing this but I *need* to feel my cervix.
Soft like my lips, high up and open?
And thus was our M.O. It was time (again).
GET THE JOB DONE.
Over the years that ensued I spent the equivalent of a couple of Mulberry handbags on pregnancy tests. I have peed on more sticks in my life than I care to remember. I have held them each and every way, under the fluorescent light, in natural daylight, pressed against a lamp, prised them open to get a better look. Literally taking the soggy wee stained strip between my fingers, squinting at it trying to see a second line. Sometimes seeing one that isn't really there, uploading it to the forum asking someone to 'tweak it' as if by doing so a line would magically appear.
And I would feel so, so sad. Angry. Hopeless. Completely desperate.
Just utter devastation.
Don't forget useless.
I avoided any situation where we might get outed. The dreaded "isn't it time you two had a baby". We hadn't told anyone we were trying, let alone admit we were infertile. I just couldn't bear the thought of people feeling sorry for me. Worst of all I didn't want my children to think they weren't enough . And I felt so selfish for wanting another baby so badly, and tremendous guilt when I thought about all the women struggling to have just one when I already had two of my own.
I got even more serious. I took obsession to a whole new level, and this is totally TMI for most, but those of you reading this that have taken steps towards understanding your fertility will get this: feeling cervical mucus daily, as in, rubbing it in-between your fingers and REALLY feeling it.
Thick and creamy like lotion, or thin and slippery like egg white? CM checking can get confuddled especially if <and this really is TMI> you've had sex on a crazy whim that you *might* be fertile right now, or shock horror, because you actually wanted to...
Checking BBT - basal body temperature - vaginally, not orally, under the tongue wouldn't be 'committed' enough. Oh no, I bought a medical grade thermometer which I kept beside my bed for temping. Waking up and moving only one arm very slowly to gently grasp the thermometer (so as not to make my body temperature fluctuate by even 1/100th of a degree) temping is a VERY precise practice. Insert the thermometer vaginally to get the most accurate reading possible which I would then record in the notebook next to my bed.
The moment you see that line on the graph rise...
GET. THE. JOB. DONE.
The faintest of lines coupled with an uneasy feeling and pins and needles in my tummy. I managed to get to eight weeks with that one. Then; spotting, cramping, a collapse.
My baby was fine, perfectly formed they told me. Just in the wrong place.
"I'm sorry, life is so unfair"
I lost my fourth baby, my left fallopian tube. And all hope entirely.
Seven years of LTTC, four babies, two Mulberry handbags, sort of.
As if by some miracle we were accepted for IVF treatment on the NHS. Remarkable really, considering I already had children, but Justin did not and well, I am not nicknamed 'Lucky' for no reason.
One chance. One round was all we got.
So I attacked it with as much determination and vigor as I could muster. This meant a complete diet overhaul for us both, absolutely no alcohol, a supply of special powders and vitamins that would give Holland & Barett a run for their money.
I even bought a wheatgrass juicer. "Justin, you have to trust me It's like DRINKING LIQUID SUNSHINE and unbelievably good for you".
I did a few *things* in the lead up to receiving treatment which basically included all of the above with an extra dose of psycho. I had to ensure my womb was as hospitable as humanly possible having been advised by a Chinese medical practitioner that the only way to guarantee "good energy" in the womb was to orgasm. Every. Single Day. Even that gets boring, let me tell you.
After what was a relatively short period of time we began our IVF with ICSI cycle-the ICSI part is important, it means that they inject the sperm straight into the egg and it is thought that this gives the greatest chance. Which was good, since we only had one opportunity to get it right.
A nasal spray and daily injections for me, interspersed with two trips to a dimly lit room with a sliding window, cup in hand for Justin. Not wanting to leave the room too quickly nor stay in there too long. Such is the conundrum of the IVF clinic sperm deposit area. Magazines if you need them, even a TV with a selection of DVDs.
I had rituals that I would follow for each appointment: same gold necklace to twiddle while I waited for scans. Same breakfast before I left. Must drive the exact same route with absolutely no diversions. Same orange scarf.
"Because babies like orange"
And finally, after sniffing and injecting, orgasming, not orgasming (him, not me) it was the moment of truth: how many eggs?
23 retrieved, 21 mature, 16 fertilised with ICSI, 8 blastocysts, 3 AA standard. This was good.
Just like that, I was PUPO: pregnant until proven otherwise. And my God I have never felt more emotional in my life. I 'tested out' the last of the hormones - the ones that will give you those elusive blue lines that you've been longing to see - until there were no blue lines. And then you wait, 5 days or so, or not if you're like me, keep testing multiple times. So many pregnancy tests. What's another handbag between friends?
Seven years of LTTC, four babies, two Mulberry handbags, sort of.
1-2 weeks pregnant.
The rest was textbook, we got our baby, the best egg, and the best sperm. The strongest blastocyst, the one that stuck.
Our one chance.
Three years later and our little Rose is everything we ever hoped for and a living breathing reminder that there is always, always hope.
"Rose, what's your favourite colour?"
"Orange mama, I like orange"
Beautiful, I get this in so many ways, we were told we could never have children. 4 years of trying and it was never going to be even though Ash had Super Sperm and 4 girls previous. Miracles do happen though and I have 3 living and 3 stars in the Sky.
Rose I love that you love Orange xxx
Wow Kara, your comment has brought tears to my eyes, I am so sorry for your losses my darling. Thank you so much for reading today xxx
Laura's Lovely Blog
Oh Amy what a heartfelt post. And while I didn't go to all of the extremes that you did. I did some - bloody temping, liquid flushed through my tubes, the cups of sperm that had to be driven certain places by certain times. I can empathise so much. My sister had two children in the time we were trying. I cried so much. Then when I lost weight for IVF I fell pregnant naturally. Didn't even believe I was pregnant even though I was feeling ill, took two days to take a test. Then I was pregnant with my miracle. Thank you for sharing xx
Sounds like you went through the mill with it all Laura. We have both cried all the tears, hey? So happy you managed to conceive naturally, I've heard this so many times. Thanks so much for reading xx
Babes about Town
Beautiful post Amy, love how deep (ahem) you went into your story and think it will really help so many struggling to conceive too. I can't relate on that front as all my babies have been almost instant or by surprise lol, but I have lost 2 of them and I know that feeling of staring at other pregnant women and yearning for the one you long to carry. So so sorry for your losses and so very glad you finally got your 'orange' baby. Big love x
Uju, your comments make me smile SO MUCH. Thank you for that and I truly appreciate you reading. I am so sorry for your losses. Lots of love xx
Hard to see the screen to type this as I am crying so much. Xxx
Bless you thank you for reading lovely xxx
Mindful Mummy Mission
A beautifully written post Amy - emotional without being sentimental. You have brought so many feelings of mine back to the fore that I have buried for a few years now - I have an orange folder in this desk with 'special paperwork in', that PUPO acronym sent shivers down my spine (I had blocked the phrase from my memory....). One day I will write an extrememly cathartic post (as I imagine this one was) along the same lines.... I'm not ready yet though so at the moment I'll just enjoy the quiet of my beautiful twins napping and count my blessing (and have a little cry). xxx
Hey! I only just saw this it went to my spam folder I am so sorry not to have replied sooner! Oh gosh, it is awful isn't it? You are right it was cathartic to right and I have wept over it all, it affects us greatly. I'm sorry you can relate. Thank you for reading and commenting. Much love to you xxx
I read this earlier in the car while waiting for the kids to come out of the school and had tears in my eyes the whole time. Such a beautiful and moving post and one I can relate to in many ways. It took 10 years to conceive my now almost 5 year old, at a point where I'd completely given up. Love that Rose's favourite colour is orange. x
Ten years, oh my goodness that must have been horrendous. I am so sorry you can relate but so happy you got your miracle. Wow, what an inspiring comment, thank you for reading xx
What a beautiful post. I can kind of understand what you went through. We tried for 2 1/2 years to get pregnant and I had 3 misscariages in that time and lots of tests. Nothing was wrong with me, I was just unlucky I was told. But here I am as I'm writing this cuddling my 9 month old teething baby girl. Miracles do happen. Xx
Oh Rachel, what a gorgeous comment. I am so happy that you got your miracle. Thanks so much for reading xx
I don't know how you wrote this post. Or how long it took to write. Every word perfection, The flow and structure superb. The 'story' gripping from start to finish. But ultimately a personal insight. I'm in awe at your candour publishing this. It's simply one of the best posts I've read in almost three years of blogging. The end. Lump. In. Throat x
I just told you over on facebook but want to say it here too. Your comment means so much to me, thank you. I truly admore your work so for you to say that made me gasp and burst into tears, I am very flattered. Thank you xx
You Baby Me Mummy
You are a total dream of a writer my love. This post is amazing, as if your whole life story. You give so much to the people who read your posts. I love you darling xxxxx
Oh sweetheart, thank you so much. I don't know where I would be without your support. I love you too xxxxxxx
Elizabeth (Wander Mum)
Beautiful post. It's not easy and my goodness you are so deserving of your gorgeous Rose. What a previous, previous girl and a fab family. Xx.
Oh Amy, I'm sat here crying that Rose's favourite colour is orange. It's Judah's too. I can't even imagine what this was like other than I'd been told I would never be able to get pregnant. I found out when I met James that was not the case, 4 pregnancies in two years and Judah and Eden as the result. I will never understand the mystery that is fertility and why it is so easy for some and so difficult for others but I am so glad you got your beautiful Rose, she is a miracle in so many ways. Precious girl, I'm imagining her little head in your bed right now and praying extra blessings on her. So much purpose for your life Rose. The world needed you and I can't wait to see all you achieve little one xxx
Single Mum Speaks
Beautiful post. I had IVF with my son too. In fact I started my blog to document my attempts to get pregnant. My circumstances were different to yours. I have never met the love of my life and wanted a baby so badly. I'm so grateful to IVF for allowing me that chance that I wouldn't otherwise have had, and I was exactly the same with the weird health supplements, Chinese medicine.. ...Anything that offered the slightest bit of hope really!
Katy (What Katy Said)
This, hands down, is the best post you've ever written. Extra big squeeze for Rose x
Oh sweetheart, I had no idea. How cruel life can be - and how wonderful too. I am SO happy that you got your longed for baby and completed your family. I'm sorry for the heartache you endured along the way.
A brave and beautiful account of a deeply personal trauma. Again. You're amazing. Xxxxxx
A beautiful wonderful honest brought a tear to my eye post but with a fantastic ending little rose. Our twins were born via icsi we were lucky first time as well we still have 7 embryos in storage every year we renew them can't bear to dispose of them. Not surprised this had a lot of views Emily's posts on IVF/icsi written 4years ago still get a lot of views.
Truly wonderful read
Such a brilliant post. We were 'lucky' in that we were only TTC for two years when I fell pregnant with Baby Lighty, but I have done many, many of the things you described and know how you must've been feeling. I am sooo glad you got your little Rose. A lesson for us all not to give up hope, thank you xxx
Laura - dear bear and beany
Oh my goodness Amy I don't know where to start. This is so personal and yet so beautifully written. I have 2 stars and 2 babies and I feel truly blessed. Rose is beautiful and you hold her tight xx
Those last two sentences, perfection. Your talent as a writer really shines through this piece it is breathtakingly sad, and inspirational. My best friend went through IVF to have her two sons after being told it was almost impossible due to her husbands condition they got their miracles. I know the pain of miscarriage too and having my body stop ovulating, that desire to want a child's like nothing else, it is so primal and we literally will do anything to make it happen. I am so thrilled you got your darling little girl and that you have your other two amazing children too. Much love.
Oh good lord this brings back some very unlovely memories of how absolutely binary things become. I went for some tests before we were married that showed me with very little chance, and I'll never forget having to tell my husband. Brandishing the letter at him, crying, "look, it says very little chance!'. He just looked at me like I had three heads and said, 'no, it says we have a very little chance'. And we did. She's at pre-school as I type. But it took so much of what you describe to get her. Bravo.
Well now I am sobbing happy tears in bed trying not to wake my 4 month old. And I will never look at an orange scarf the same way again! Beautifully written.
Oh bless you! Sorry to make you cry, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment x
This is beautiful. I cried my eyes out reading it. I felt every word you said and know exactly how you felt because I went through a similar journey myself on my way to conceiving my little miracle Molly. X
Oh Sam! Thank you so much for your comment. I am so glad you got your little miracle too xx
I had no idea you'd gone through all of this to get your little Rose Amy, sorry it was such a struggle and you miscarried so many times. However, it's such great post to share as there must be many women out there hoping for a miracle like yours.. Loved reading it. xx
I loved ready this although I'm sorry you went through so much to get your gorgeous third baby. We had about 3 years of it before we ended up doing ICSI. It was a real rollercoaster and it didn't work for us. We decided to give up for a while and I miraculously got pregnant a month afterwards. We are so lucky with our two boys, even if they are little monkeys at times :)
WOW! This made me so emotional. So glad you got your beautiful baby after going through all that. I hope your story gives hope to other families trying to conceive.
Beautiful post! It made me teary eye just because I understand the struggle all too well. Your daughter is beautiful and I more than appreciate you sharing your story. :)
Amy lovely lady, I can't believe that I had only just read this. What a beautiful and heart breaking piece of writing. It brought tears to my eyes. We had four miscarriages before our gorgeous Little Mister H was born last year. I can't imagine how you felt going through all this. But what a blessing that you now have your beautiful Rose. Rainbow babies are so immensely precious. They are a miracle. Hugs Lucy xxxx