It was about seven years in total. We had two NHS IVF cycles and three private cycles, but there were about 18 months of tests before we even got started. The first step was my husband getting his semen tested because it’s the cheapest thing to do, and that’s when we found out that his sperm count was quite low. And then when I had blood tests they found out I had low egg reserves and follicles that weren’t very… solid.
We got three eggs from our first extraction and one survived, and was put in as an embryo. It was around Christmas time and we actually had a positive pregnancy test, but I miscarried in January. And then a little while later I had a natural pregnancy, which is really common after an IVF miscarriage. But I miscarried again in April. After that we didn’t do any more cycles until the following year. It’s really hard going mentally as well as physically. It’s harrowing. Mentally preparing yourself to go back into it, getting ready to do that – it really is hard work.
The first private cycle was the most expensive because we needed lots of extra tests. Our clinic was really good and gave me a list of blood tests that I could get done on the NHS but it still cost £7,500, and that’s without the vitamins and supplements and everything else we were paying for. I had something called an endometrial scratch – it’s when they scratch the wall of your uterus to kick your hormones up a gear. But for me it was incredibly painful, so I never did it again. We also did an IVF add-on called time-lapse imaging. With all these things you don’t know if they’re going to work until you do them.
My mum and dad are divorced, which turned out to be good luck because it meant we had financial help from three sets of parents. That’s how we managed to afford it. We paid for about £13,000 and the rest was from our family. We used our savings but there was nothing else that was more important to us – it was all we wanted to spend our money on. I know that’s a very lucky position to be in.
My next two IVF rounds cost £4,500 with all the scans and procedures included. Before my fifth and final IVF round we spent months and months eating well and doing everything we could to make sure it worked. We only got one frozen embryo but it was implanted – and that’s how I had my baby.
Pregnancy was horrific because of my miscarriages. And I was bleeding heavily throughout and had to be on total bed rest for the first 10 weeks. I was on a drug called Lubion during that time to try and make the pregnancy stick, but it cost about £9 a day. I was on hormone patches and eight steroids a day for the full nine months.
And we did private blood tests that had to be sent off to California instead of the normal amnio prenatal test because it was safer for the baby. But by that point you just don’t care, you’ll find the funds somehow.
I never thought about stopping. People said we should but we never put a time-limit on it. The last time we saw our private doctor she said our chances of having a baby were virtually zero, and that we needed to start thinking about other options – like egg donors. But we both walked out of the appointment and looked at each other and said we weren’t ready to do that yet. We didn’t have to think about it in the end, because then I had my son.
It’s funny, I look back now and I don’t know how I got through it. The drugs that you are injecting yourself with constantly don’t help. And it’s all consuming: it takes over everything. From what you’re eating to what you’re doing – our doctor even stopped us doing anything other than gentle exercise. And babies are everywhere. You go in the shop and there’s a woman pushing a pram, you turn on the TV and there’s a baby. You’ve got friends and family who are having babies and getting pregnant. It consumes every part of your life.
I don’t understand how people can go back and have IVF for another child. For me that was a massive no – we could never, ever do another cycle. It’s tormenting. But if I had to go back to being 33 and had to choose whether to start the whole process? Absolutely, I’d do those years all over again. My family is complete.
Names have been changed. As told to Claudia Williams.
Read our first Money Diary: Adam
Read our second Money Diary: Leyla
Read our third Money Diary: Ruth