Surrogacy part 14…

After the miscarriage we decided as a team to continue trying again straight away. I knew I would find it emotionally hard whenever I tried again so thought putting off tries would only make it harder. So we tried again and this time I had a very different mental attitude towards it, obviously I still wanted it to work and did everything the same as last time but the biggest difference was that I switched off from thinking about it every day and instead almost pretended there wasn’t a possibility that I was pregnant in order to protect myself.

Then, about a week later I started getting exactly the same pregnancy symptoms as last time that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. That’s when the anxiety kicked in quite badly and I kept having flashbacks of the miscarriage, I couldn’t bare the idea of using the toilet for fear of history repeating itself and I felt scared. Me being me, I pushed these thoughts aside as much as possible and decided that if I were pregnant, I would just try and focus on me time instead of the pregnancy until 8 weeks when the risk of miscarriage significantly drops.

When I took the first pregnancy test I had specifically waited until day 9/10 to give myself the best chance of getting an accurate result and I remember being incredibly anxious as I felt sure it would be positive and I knew this would scare me and lead to weeks of horrendous anxiety for fear of another miscarriage whilst also being aware that stress can contribute to a miscarriage so it felt like a vicious circle.

I was that anxious that I couldn’t look at the test myself but it was negative and so I spent the next 24 hours in a heightened state of anxiety wondering if the dates were wrong because of the miscarriage affecting my cycle or not being pregnant but I couldn’t see this being the case because of the unmistakable symptoms.

This went on for 4 days until I finally started my period very unexpectedly as I normally can tell but, on this occasion, it took me by surprise. More so because of my symptoms which certainly were not PMS symptoms which added to the confusion.

In a way I was relieved because I had been so anxious and just wanted to know one way or another. However, I was also anxious because I knew it meant going through this again at least one more time and realistically a few times and it felt so painful. I contemplated taking a little break or just working on coping strategies as I couldn’t see the trauma disappearing.

I went into this journey 100% dedicated to helping create a family and once I put my mind to something I stick to it regardless of the consequences.

The days leading up to finding out I wasn’t pregnant were incredibly difficult and very emotional. I wanted to protect Ali & Andrew from this but did end up telling them I was finding it hard and as always, they checked in on me regularly to make sure I was ok but if it were not for my partner, I don’t know how I would have got through those days.

She helped me come up with coping strategies and what helped me through was giving myself a full timed schedule to keep my mind occupied as well as her love and support. I was incredibly productive that weekend I have to say!

….I am sat here not even sure how to say this, so I am just going to say it….

I spent a few days in pieces, feeling incredibly guilty that I was even contemplating this, the thought of upsetting or hurting anyone does not sit well with me at all nor does putting myself first.

I lost sleep, I cried lots, I worried, I felt scared…I wanted someone to tell me what the right decision was.

I reached out to friends in case they thought I was making a mistake, but I was surprised that everyone’s response was along the lines of… for once I need to put myself first.

So…one of the hardest and heart-breaking decisions I have had to make and the most painful conversation I have ever had was ending my surrogacy journey.

How I managed to hold it together during the conversation I will never know. I had prepared myself as much as possible and spoken with SUK and I made sure I did what I could to protect myself and I made sure I wasn’t on my own.

It is safe to say that after the conversation ended, I sobbed like a baby.

However, as hard as it was and still is, (I feel as though I am grieving for many reasons) I know it was the right decision for me at this time.

I am not turning my back on surrogacy and still want to be involved in the surrogacy world especially as a counsellor and it is something that I may come back to at a later date but right now I need to focus on me and my family as well as recovering properly from the miscarriage physically and emotionally.

Although this journey has ended, I have lots of amazing memories and have made some great friends.

Surrogacy part 12…

So, the past few weeks have certainly felt like a rollercoaster ride.

After our 1st go at trying to conceive, I spent the following 10 days thinking about nothing else and analysing how I was feeling to the point where I drove myself bonkers! I kept reading about early symptoms and when was the earliest I could take a pregnancy test. I got that fidgety that I started testing ridiculously early even though I knew I could be pregnant, but it wouldn’t show up yet.

Then on day 10 I did another test and on seeing one line I threw it away but something in my head made me get it back out a bit later and there it was…a second line.

I remember standing there in shock, shaking with shiny eyes and I’ll never forget Ali & Andrews reaction to the news.

We were all on a high and I felt a huge sense of relief particularly as being pregnant explained how I had been feeling over the past few days.

I was feeling nauseous, exhausted, had that pulling feeling in my stomach amongst other symptoms and then a few days ago the nausea disappeared which I just put down to the fact that symptoms can come and go. On top of that my back pain eased, I stopped needing the toilet every 2 minutes and something felt different but again I shrugged it off.

Then a few days later I noticed a little bit of old blood and felt concerned but everything I read suggested it was normal and could be implantation bleeding or to do with hormones. Later that day I spotted a small amount of fresh blood and the panic set in. A few hours later I started cramping and had back pain and that’s when more blood came. At this point I knew I was having a miscarriage.

As I sit here writing this, I am holding back the tears…there is no other word to describe it other than shit. It’s a really shit thing for anyone to go through no matter how many weeks pregnant someone is, and I only imagine it is even shittier later in pregnancy.

The hardest part of it all was telling Ali & Andrew…it broke my heart to have to tell them as it was their future baby. Of course, they were sad but equally they have been absolutely amazing, so incredibly supportive and kind. They reassured me that it’s fairly common and that it wasn’t my fault. I knew this but I imagine a lot of women in this position blame themselves…did I do something wrong? What could I have done differently?

I never imagined that I would have a miscarriage and it has been hard.

There is not enough support available nor enough information out there. The NHS website suggests that some women may not even know they’ve had a miscarriage and that some may have some bleeding and period like pain but it’s only when you go onto the Miscarriage Association website that you find out that it can be very painful and that you can even have contractions.

I had no idea, I thought you bled a bit and that it may be uncomfortable but that it would be short lived. I never expected to be in so much pain, at one point I was doubled over unable to move whilst tears ran down my face. The pain and bleeding haven’t stopped yet, but it can last for a couple of weeks.

I was shocked that there isn’t really any recognition of miscarriages in terms of support particularly in the workplace. I imagine most women feel compelled to go to work possibly whilst they are still having a miscarriage because there aren’t any real guidelines. Do you call in sick? Do you make something up? Most people won’t have told their employer they’re pregnant and may not want them to know.

Again, it was only when I read on the Miscarriage Association website that you can have time off work for as long as you need and that you can be signed off with pregnancy-related sickness. It should be recorded separately and may not be used against the employee, for disciplinary or redundancy purposes or as part of an appraisal and there is no time limit on sickness absence after a miscarriage.

I thought that I would feel fine after a couple of days but soon realised this isn’t the case and so I have given myself some time to recover physically and emotionally.

I have never experienced so much love and support from people…every time someone sends their love or says how sorry they are I have to stop myself from crying.

I like to think of myself as a strong independent woman, yet I didn’t have the strength to stop Ali & Andrew rallying around after me…cooking, cleaning, pampering me etc and it was lovely to be looked after.

I feel lucky to have people around me who are checking up on me, offering to help and being there for me. I’m not sure I could have gone through it on my own. I’m incredibly grateful for their love and support.

I’m hoping that I will soon feel like myself again but I’m also mindful to be kind to myself.

Words cannot describe how someone must feel when they go through this, and it is upsetting to think that there is pressure to brush it off…the good old stiff upper lip.

I considered hiding it from people and coming up with another reason for why I am not my usual sparkly self and I thought, no, I don’t feel the need to lie, women go through this all the time yet it’s something that isn’t spoke about a lot and some people may not understand but actually in my experience everyone has been lovely.

I hope that anyone else who has been through this has been able to reach out to others for support, felt able to talk about it and been kind to themselves.

It’s at times like this that we need a bit of love and TLC.

Surrogacy part 10…

Since I last wrote about my surrogacy journey, I tracked my ovulation as best I could during my last cycle which mainly consisted of peeing on sticks daily and sometimes twice. I decided the best way to do this would be to keep the sticks so that I could line them up against each other to truly follow how dark the line got in order to figure out when I was at my peak.

It’s no good throwing them away everyday as you’d have nothing to compare it with and you’d be guessing if you thought it was darker than yesterday or not. It was interesting particularly as you could sometimes see a difference even in the same day which does go to show that the less diluted your urine the better.

What I also found interesting was the contrast between the cheap and cheerful sticks and the Clear Blue ovulation sticks. When I ordered them, I didn’t realise they do 2 different ones – ones that track just the LH levels and ones that track LH levels and estrogen. I had the ones that tracked both LH levels and estrogen and started using these alongside the cheap and cheerful ones 5 days before I was due to ovulate.

To begin with I just had a circle which meant I wasn’t fertile and then I got a flashing smiley face which meant that I was fertile and at this point the leaflet told you this was the time to start having sex (if only!!) but to keep testing until you reached a smiley face which was when you are ovulating.

However, I stopped testing after 3 days of having a flashing smiley face because the cheap and cheerful sticks showed the 2nd line was fading and when examining myself and based on symptoms, I also felt by this point I had ovulated.

The window for ovulation can be as little as 12 hours which can obviously happen at any time so could happen whilst you are sleeping and seen as sperm can survive for up to 5 days before you ovulate, I wasn’t concerned that the Clear Blue sticks didn’t show a smiley face when I think they should have. However, this month I am moving onto the other Clear Blue sticks that only measure LH levels.

For those of you that don’t want to know the ins and outs feel free to stop reading…

So, another way of trying to work out if you are fertile is by examining your cervical mucus, this can be done by either seeing what it looks like if you get any in your knickers, but it is more accurate if you can try and reach your cervix with your fingers and then see what it looks like. If you check it at different times throughout your cycle you will notice that it changes. On day 1-4 after your period ends it can be dry or tacky, day 4-6 it is sticky, day 7-9 it becomes creamy, and yogurt like in consistency and day 10-14 it becomes stretchy and resembles raw egg whites. It is between days 10-14 when it becomes stretchy that you are fertile. The position of your cervix can also help indicate if you are ovulating as it is higher at this time.

By combining ovulation tests, tracking your cycle, noticing any symptoms you have as well as noticing the position of your cervix and what your cervical mucus looks like is probably the best way of knowing when you are fertile or ovulating.

As I rarely get the chance to go to the toilet in peace (as my daughters tend to follow me even if they are happily playing at the time!) they obviously have seen me doing ovulation tests and so they are aware of what I am doing and why. I was surprised when Florrie asked if she could help and so she took an interest in watching the test as it flashed and liked being in charge of telling me if it was showing a circle, flashing smiley face or just a smiley face. When she saw the flashing smiley face, she gave me a very grown-up look and said, ‘does that mean it’s time to make a baby?’ – this completely took me by surprise and made me giggle.

Everything is beginning to feel real now because we have our surrogacy agreement session booked and Ali & Andrew came up for the weekend and met my mum and best friend. When they met Maddie, it was lovely as she has 2 little girls who are a similar age to my girls who get on really well and Maddie said to me that she was honoured to be involved in my journey and for her girls to experience surrogacy as well. I’m pleased (& relieved) that Maddie approves of Ali & Andrew (not that I expected her not to). So now we are on the countdown to signing the agreement and starting to try and conceive!

Surrogacy part 9…

For some reason it feels like it was ages ago since we were in London when we went to stay with Ali & Andrew. Our friendship seems to be going from strength to strength and it feels as though we have known each other for years!

We have since spent another fantastic weekend together near Stamford which was a picture postcard town! We stayed in an Air BnB together and to say it was only the 3rd time of meeting all 3 girls were really comfortable together. I realised that I don’t have my guard up at all around them and feel I can just be me which is such a lovely feeling. There’s no trying to impress or be on my best behaviour…what they see is what they get.

I love the fact that we can chat about anything and everything and not just surrogacy (even though obviously that is a big part of our relationship!). I’d say we know quite a lot about each other and as I have said before, in these situations you talk about things you would never discuss with new friends or acquaintances.

As Ali, Andrew & myself know that we will be forming a team even though we have to wait until the end of the 3-month GTK period to make it official we have been discussing the nitty gritty of stuff. As this is their first journey doing it the traditional way, they had a lot more questions and unknowns and I found it hilarious when they said they didn’t know where everything was and needed a bit of a biology lesson!!

I’ve always said from the start of my surrogacy journey that I want to write about it with brutal honesty because although it is becoming more prominent, so many people still have no idea about surrogacy.

So, we have discussed the agreement and unsurprisingly there was nothing that we didn’t agree on. I would always respect the IP’s wishes, but they have said very openly that throughout this journey they trust me and would never expect or ask me to do anything related to the pregnancy such as what to eat or when I can take a pregnancy test etc.

Ali & Andrew are trying to get their heads around menstrual cycles and ovulation and how it all works, and we’ve pencilled in the days around when I should be ovulating for when we want to start trying. I had to explain that unfortunately our bodies don’t always work like clockwork so there is an element of needing to be flexible. I am normally fairly regular with my cycles but since starting to take Pregnacare conception vitamins it has affected my first cycle but I remember it doing the same when I was trying for Florrie & Bea so I am hoping they will regulate themselves after this month.

When it comes to working out when you ovulate it’s a bit of a guessing game to be honest. I’ve always tracked my cycles which tells you when you should be ovulating, and I tend to feel when I am too, so I’ve not paid more attention to it than that. However, last month I decided to take an ovulation test when my tracker said I should be ovulating, and it looked as if I had already peaked so this month I am testing from a week after my period to try and work out exactly when I do ovulate. This isn’t as easy as it sounds as the sticks provide two lines and basically when the second line is at the darkest this is when you should be ovulating. I have also got the clear blue ovulation tests but there have been mixed reviews about their accuracy so we will have to see. Fortunately, with conceiving it is more important to try in the few days before ovulation than the day you ovulate when trying yourself as you do have a limited window.

We know that the first month we try will be a bit of trial and error for both myself and Ali, but we’re pretty laid back about it (I say that now!!). I know I’ll be a little nervous as I want to get it right and obviously, I want to become pregnant for them, but I am also getting excited now!

There’s absolutely no pressure from Ali & Andrew when it comes to conceiving, the pressure is more from myself particularly as I fell pregnant 1st time with both my girls, but I know this is different as everything was being monitored by the clinic when I conceived my girls. So, we shall see!!

One thing that took me by surprise was that Florrie asked me how babies are made. She already knew that her and Bea were made with the help of a clinic, but I couldn’t say the same this time as it’s not the truth and I believe it is important to be honest with your children so that they know they can talk to you about anything and trust you.

I did have to think about what I was going to say but after talking about it with Paige I realised that it’s only adults that feel uncomfortable having these discussions. We happily teach our children from a young age about body parts but when it comes to genitalia, we can avoid the subject or give pet names for these parts which doesn’t set children up well for the future, particularly when they do reach an age where they understand about sex. So, in the end I told her that Mummy has eggs inside her and Ali has sperm (which are a bit like seeds) and when they mix together, they make a baby. For now, there were no more questions but if they do come up then I will answer them as best I can.

Florrie & Bea both know that I will be trying to make a baby for Ali & Andrew and that once Mummy has made the baby that it will be going to live with them, and they are fine with that (as long as they get cuddles with the baby!). Ali & Andrew have said how important it is to them for me to be a part of their baby’s life and that I will be an honorary Auntie to baby and Honor and that is very touching.

In the short time we have known each other I feel I have gained 2 incredible friends; an adorable ‘niece’ and my girls have gained 2 fab ‘Uncles’ and 1 ‘cousin’ (so far!!).  

Surrogacy…part 2

It feels ages ago since I met the boys for the first time and that so much has happened since.

If you haven’t gathered from my last post, I have officially offered to be a surrogate for G & O, and we are in the process of embarking on our surrogacy journey together!! I am incredibly excited but as I sit here writing this it also feels a little surreal!

After we met, I wondered what the boys made of me and how they felt about everything particularly as O is more reserved (but lovely). It made me smile when they said that on their car journey home O spoke of me going over to Manchester to go baby shopping with them and how he wants to make sure the guest room is ready in case I want to visit.

In our initial conversations we spoke about our thoughts on surrogacy and how we all felt about the process. Admittedly it felt a little awkward because as I’ve said before these are pretty personal conversations to be having and it is a big thing.

For all we knew, we could have been on completely different pages when it came to surrogacy and that would have no doubt ended our journey before it began. I’ve felt from the beginning that I am very open minded and laid back about the process in terms of how it works and don’t have any real deal breakers. Obviously, I would only offer to be a surrogate for people I feel are decent and who I believe will respect me in this journey.

G & O had previously had their own discussions about surrogacy before they met me and had contemplated creating an embryo and then finding a surrogate but that has its own pros and cons. Then they met me and during our conversations I said that I don’t mind whether I did host or straight surrogacy and so we decided to go with straight surrogacy (meaning the baby will be created using my egg).

As I have said before, I wanted to be able to donate my eggs when I went through fertility treatment so the idea of creating a baby that is genetically linked to me doesn’t phase me.

Of course, there will be an element of curiosity about what the baby looks like, and I am sure I would feel some sort of a bond having carried a baby for 9 months but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We talked about how the boys see the relationship with the surrogate (me) and they were very open and honest and said that they always hoped that there would be a relationship there from day 1 which would continue long after the baby is born. They said that they would want me to be an honouree auntie which I was very touched by and of course I would love it if that were to happen.

I went into this with open eyes and never expected to form a close relationship with the IP’s and of course part of me is a little cautious in case it doesn’t turn out like that. Equally, this is an intense and deeply personal journey whereby you are going to spend a lot of time together and get to know each other incredibly well so I can’t imagine why you would want to forgo that friendship after the baby has been born.

Having decided that we were going down the straight surrogacy route I then asked them if they wanted to use a clinic for this or the more natural method. Again, there are pros and cons to both options. I had IUI at a fertility clinic which is basically artificial insemination but you are pumped with hormones, regularly scanned and have blood tests to give you the best chance of success so in a way I feel some of the responsibility is taken out of your hands this way but having said that I know millions of women get pregnant without the help of a clinic and obviously you don’t have to pay thousands of pounds in the process.

So, we have decided to try it the more natural way. Obviously, I know what that entails but now that it is all real my head is spinning with what we will need and how it will work. We did have a giggle about the nitty gritty of it all!

I just hope that it works and that it doesn’t take months of trying, but I know that it might. So, when we start trying the boys will drive over from Manchester a couple of times a month around the time of ovulation for us to attempt ‘the deed’ as I call it. Now just to be straight this will not involve any level of intimacy, it will be G doing his thing and then me doing my thing. I imagine the first time we will both be nervous as it is unconventional but all we can do is our best.

When G & O went to a SurrogacyUK gathering, despite not walking away with a potential surrogate they did meet someone who they got on really well with and who they chatted to a lot about surrogacy. So, once they found me and we decided to go on this journey together the boys had a lot of unanswered questions (as did I) and so they turned to her for help and advice. I suddenly got a message from G with her contact details and although I wanted to chat to someone else who was embarking on their first surrogacy journey, I was also nervous about getting in touch, after all I didn’t know anything about her nor what the boys had told her about me.

However, she was incredibly helpful, supportive, and lovely and she put me at ease straight away. Since then, we’ve been chatting a lot and I feel incredibly lucky to have met someone who is starting their journey at a similar time to me but more than that, how incredibly well we get on and as we’ve said to one another, how meeting each other has been one of the best things to have come out of our journeys so far! She is amazing!

This journey means a lot to both boys and so I intend to do everything I can to give myself the best chance of becoming pregnant.

I have started taking pre-conception supplements, stopped drinking alcohol (not that I drank that much), moved onto decaf tea and coffee and have been trying to eat more healthily.

The countdown is on until our first attempt….2 months to go!!

Journey of self-discovery…..Part 2

Since writing my previous post about my journey of self discovery more memories have cropped up that my brain had obviously filed away to protect me.

Since starting my new life I often wear a bit of make up just to make me feel good about myself, this is something I rarely wore before. I remembered how after having my 2nd daughter I wanted to treat myself so I could feel a bit more like me. So I booked a makeover with No7 (always been a No7 girl!) and decided that I would treat myself (which was incredibly rare for me – partly as I hardly had access to any money and partly as I was strongly discouraged to buy myself anything).

After enjoying my makeover and feeling good about myself, I took my new makeup home, hoping that my new look would be met with positivity. How wrong and naive was I? I went from cloud 9 to feeling like something you’ve just walked in, in the space of a few seconds of walking through the door. The comments made by my ex where very hurtful, safe to say she didn’t approve of my new look. After that, I didn’t use the makeup again until I left.

I also decided to go and have my hair cut having only been to the hairdressers 2 or 3 times in 10 years! My ex used to cut my hair, not because she was a hairdresser but because that’s the way it was. I thoroughly enjoyed going to the hairdressers, I felt pampered and enjoyed flicking through a few magazines with my drink and a piece of cake and went home again feeling like a new woman…..I bet you know what’s coming…..yep….déjà vu!! My new haircut did not go down well – I’d only had a trim, slight style and a few subtle highlights put in but hey….I was put down before I’d even taken my coat off.

I was in need of some new clothes after giving birth but couldn’t afford any so rather than being given some money (bearing in mind she was working full time on a fairly good salary) or being ‘allowed’ to choose some clothes myself, she went out unbeknown to me and bought me some clothes. Now you might be thinking that was nice of her. However, absolutely everything she bought was massively too big for me and what she bought was nothing like I would normally wear nor suggested I would want to wear. Despite everything being far too big and not liking anything, I was expected to wear them and be eternally grateful. Which of course I was, in order to keep the peace.

People have asked what finally made me leave and why I didn’t leave sooner. I remember my midwife and GP on numerous occasions insisting that I got back in the car with my daughter and just drove to my Mums and not to return. Whatever stopped me stopped me, I can’t change the past. I feel ashamed and saddened I didn’t leave sooner but at least I did. I first told her I intended to leave 4 months before I eventually did but I was firmly told I wasn’t allowed to leave and threatened with a multitude of horrible things that would happen if I did. I then tried again another 2 times before finally leaving. It was only because I was so ill and having daily panic attacks, walking on egg shells and feeling sick every time she came home or came near me that I knew I had to leave or I would have no doubt ended up in hospital.

Sitting here now, as either the new me or the me that had been hidden away, I can not believe that I allowed myself to sleep on the floor downstairs from the day my youngest daughter was born until I left (7 months in total) and because I was breast feeding, my daughter also had to sleep on the floor with me whilst my ex slept upstairs in our bed on her own. Makes me emotional thinking about it and that I wasn’t strong enough to leave or do something about it sooner.

This is where I am going to share something that I haven’t shared with anyone other than my counsellor. I ask you to not make judgement. The reason I am sharing it is because maybe it will resonate with others, maybe people will open their eyes and realise that motherhood isn’t always picture perfect. Obviously it was my choice to go through fertility treatment and I used my savings to pay for it. So both my daughters were 100% wanted by me, however, …..because of how bad things were at the time, because I feared not being able to cope if things carried on or the idea of being on my own with 2 little ones. Not long after falling pregnant the second time, I had a few days where I questioned if I should carry on with the pregnancy or not. This quickly faded, but I was scared. It had been drilled into me that if I had another child it would destroy our marriage. Having been through my parents splitting up as a child and how it massively impacted on my life, I didn’t want to do this to my children, so at that moment in time I was willing to do anything to save it.

However, from falling pregnant with my youngest daughter things got a whole lot worse in our relationship. My ex did not come to any midwife appointment or any hospital scan, she wasn’t there when I found out I was pregnant, when I went for the 6 week scan and saw the heartbeat for the first time (instead my Mum drove 70 miles to be with me), I went to the 12 week scan on my own and then for the 20 week scan my Mum came with me. My Mum was there when I had tears of joy trickling down my face when I was told I was having a girl.

I didn’t enjoy this pregnancy as I felt I was doing everything on my own and she wasn’t excited or bothered this time around. In fact I stopped talking about the pregnancy with her, I couldn’t tell her if I wasn’t feeling well or if I was tired, I suffered with very low blood pressure and fainting spells this time around which I was told was due to stress.

I have just had a flashback from my eldest daughters first Christmas….sorry I am having a moment….I didn’t expect to get so upset….anyway here goes.

On that Christmas Eve I wasn’t feeling too good and just put it down to early pregnancy, however for the next 24 hours I couldn’t keep any food or fluids down, became weak, unable to get out of bed and felt I should get some advice. By now it was Christmas Day, I hadn’t even seen my daughter and my ex hadn’t been to see if I was OK. So I decided it was better to be safe and sorry and I rang 111. After speaking with a doctor I was advised to go to my nearest hospital so they could check me over and do some checks. I knew I wasn’t able to drive and my ex refused to take me so I had no choice but to ring her parents and beg them to take me.

Still unable to keep anything down and feeling so weak I had to somehow drag myself out of bed, put some clean clothes on and get myself downstairs and into the car. After being checked out at the hospital I was told that I was suffering with hyperemesis and that I had ketones in my urine. They wanted to admit me to monitor me but I couldn’t leave my eldest daughter especially not on Christmas day so I went back home with some medication and crawled back into bed, feeling incredibly guilty that my daughters first Christmas just wasn’t going to happen that day. At this point my ex still didn’t come to see me, check how I was or ask if the baby was OK.

The best parts of my pregnancy where feeling my little girl move and being able to see my midwife (I was lucky enough to have the same one from my first pregnancy).

When I was approaching 38 weeks pregnant my little one decided to stop letting me know she was OK so I went in to get checked. It was decided that I should be induced the next day. After being induced with my first pregnancy this isn’t the news I wanted to hear. Obviously the most important thing is that they come into the world in one piece but I craved being able to go into labour naturally and also wanted a water birth – neither of which were meant to be.

However my room was air conditioned and we were going through a heat wave I was loving it being so cold! I had the most amazing midwife and she made my experience an incredibly happy one. I spent hours bobbing on a yoga ball trying to get things going and I was enjoying myself, particularly when I had the odd puff of gas and air!! Best thing ever!!! It makes you feel high so I had to be careful not to have too much otherwise I knew I’d be out of it!

Once things got going, my midwife didn’t leave my side the entire time. When my daughter came into the world she made her presence heard and we all knew her lungs were working! Just like her Mummy she came into the world hungry!!

Pregnancy and becoming a Mum is painted as this wonderful picture perfect time and it can be, however, my youngest daughter was very needy and spent most of the first 6 months of her life clung to me. She got very upset when she was put down, when she wasn’t being swaddled and when she wasn’t with me. I ended up having to do pretty much everything with her – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but I couldn’t ever even go to the toilet without her in her sling otherwise she would scream the house down. At times I found this difficult especially as I didn’t get chance to have a break at all.

At the time you can’t imagine a time when it will change but fortunately once my daughter was able to sit and start exploring for herself she became a little less clingy. Bizarre really as if you met her now you wouldn’t imagine I was talking about the same child. She is incredibly feisty, cheeky, independent, has no fear but still loves cuddles!! (I have been told that she takes after me, I couldn’t see it to begin with but the more I see of my true self the more I think they may be right!!).

Heading in the right direction…..

I am starting to change habits of a lifetime for example until recently I had kept all my clothes most of which I had had for at least 10 years despite them being 3 sizes too big for me as I didn’t feel I could justify parting with them or buying new clothes. Even worse with shoes as my feet size obviously hasn’t changed but again I’ve had all my shoes for at least 10 years, despite my taste changing and the fact they remind me of the past, so I decided to treat myself to some new shoes…its only taken me 2 years!!

I’ve wanted to put some semi-permanent purple streaks through my hair for years but it wasn’t allowed…well that’s about to change!! I have decided to have a go at putting some in myself!! (Think I’m rebelling after all these years!)

I sometimes find it hard when people tell me I have been brave or say well done, as if I have just climbed a mountain or some other achievement but I am starting to realise that maybe they are right, maybe I was brave. I know there have been times were I have felt it may have been ‘easier’ in some ways to have stayed. I wouldn’t have been taken to court, had to give police statements about the abuse, be living on benefits, be on my own etc. but I would still be living in a shell, not seeing anyone, not having any friends, not being able to do anything and with no prospect of that ever changing.

I realise that I owe it to my girls but more importantly to myself to allow myself to be me and to live my life.

I am no longer that puppet on a string, I am me!

Fertility treatment

We are lucky to live in a country where we have access to fantastic fertility treatment, however, it never ceases to amaze me how many people still make assumptions about how lesbians have children. Some people assume that I must have slept with a man to fall pregnant …that was never an option for me for so many reasons! Others assume that I must have used the aged old turkey baster method either through someone I knew or a donor…again, this for me was something I didn’t consider.

After lots of research, looking at all the options, I opted for fertility treatment. I have to admit that I had moments where I felt angry that about this, I remember thinking, why should I have to go through fertility treatment to do something as natural as fall pregnant just because I’m a lesbian?

Despite doing what I thought was plenty of research, the whole journey of fertility treatment was so much more than I was expecting. It was like going on a roller coaster ride. It was emotionally, physically and financially draining even though it was 100% worth it, and I don’t regret it one bit! The fertility clinic I used (CARE) was absolutely amazing, from day 1 up until both my daughters were born. I cannot fault them.

Once I’d decided that I wanted to try to get pregnant I threw myself into it and dedicated myself to giving myself the best chance possible, especially given that IUI (in a nutshell medically enhanced artificial insemination) has lower success rates than IVF, somewhere in the region of 15% on a good cycle, and the cost involved. (And no, it isn’t funded by the NHS or wasn’t when I went through it nearly 5 years ago).

So, this meant, coming off antidepressants, no more alcohol (not that I drank much), healthy eating and exercise.

The first stage with CARE (https://www.carefertility.com) was to have a counselling session to let you know what you were letting yourself in for and everything to do with the donor in terms of their anonymity and how that works when or if any children want to find out about the donor. Another common misconception is that donors are paid to donate, can donate as much as they want and that they just turn up, do their thing and off they pop. Well, its certainly nothing like that, I was surprised how much they must go through. The donor has to have counselling, they have to be thoroughly medically screened and provide a detailed medical history including that of their family, they can only enable the birth of 10 children through donation, they aren’t paid, and they aren’t allowed any sort of relationship with any of the children. This is all regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Association (HFEA). They are however informed of every successful birth. So, for someone to donate their sperm this way takes someone who must genuinely want to help people to have babies as its not an easy thing to go through. I am incredibly grateful to the donor. All I know about him is his height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, skin colour and ethnicity. Nothing else. When a donor was found, I couldn’t reserve further donations for the future so knew it was very unlikely that both children would have the same donor, however, miraculously I got the very last donation for my youngest daughter and was successful. Meaning that my daughters are 100% biological sisters – not that it would have mattered if not, but I feel very lucky that they are.

After having counselling and a consultation the process began and although I had no reason to believe I couldn’t have children naturally I had to undergo various tests including to check that my fallopian tubes were in full working order – not the most pleasant procedure but interesting as I got to see them!!

Then you have to start monitoring your cycle and start taking fertility drugs (even though there was nothing wrong with my eggs!) which meant daily injections that I had to give myself at the same time every night. On top of that I had to go to the clinic 3 times a week for blood tests and ultrasound scans to check how many follicles were developing and how big they were. I found it all very interesting to see them and to watch them grow over the space of a few days. Eagerly anticipating and hoping that at least one would grow big enough for them to try insemination.

Many women have several cycles of IUI before they have a successful pregnancy so I wasn’t expecting much from the first attempt, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was excited at the thought that it could work.

Everyday in between scans I would visualise the follicle growing bigger (I know it might sound weird but hey, when you really want something, you’ll try anything!). I remember feeling so excited when I had my scan and was told that I had a follicle big enough to attempt insemination, particularly as this was my first attempt. This meant going away and waiting to give myself one final hormone injection to release the egg before going into clinic for the procedure. When the day came for the procedure, I was nervous as I’d never been through it before and I so wanted it to work but also knew that the chances were slim, but it didn’t stop me being hopeful. The staff were amazing as always and even told me that they play the sperm music!!

The procedure itself was painless and only took a few minutes. Again, I found it fascinating as they faced the screen to me so I could see what was happening. I remember the moment it happened and the technology is so detailed that I could actually see the sperm swimming (I know, I know..too much information, but it was fascinating!) and it looked like a firework going off!!

The hardest part of it all was the wait until I could take a pregnancy test (2 weeks – the longest 2 weeks of my life!). The temptation to take it earlier was surreal, but I knew that if I took it early it could provide a false result. So again, I was doing everything possible to try and help it work…taking it easy, visualising what should be happening each day and watching videos on YouTube about it. Feel free to think that’s bonkers but if nothing else it was interesting and kept me focused and I felt as though I was giving it the best shot. I remember the day I could take the pregnancy test – it just so happened that I woke up at 4am needing to go to the bathroom so at 4am I took the test. Within less than 3 minutes there it was…a positive test result after just one round of IUI, I couldn’t believe it! I was pregnant! Of course, I had been analysing every possible symptom for the 2 weeks before…I’d been tired, my boobs were sensitive, and I hadn’t had a period but couldn’t let myself believe I could be pregnant until I took a test. I then had to ring the clinic to let them know (you had to ring whatever the result, which must be hard if you’ve had a negative result) and I was then booked in for a scan a couple of weeks later at which point I’d be 6 weeks pregnant. When I had the scan, I was excited even though I was also a little anxious as you don’t want to believe it until you see it. Again, technology is amazing…so the foetus which was the size of a grain of rice could clearly be seen on the ultrasound scan as could the heartbeat! I’ll never forget that moment!

I was incredibly lucky to fall pregnant first time round. On top of that, 8 months after I gave birth to my first daughter, I fell pregnant again after just one other attempt at IUI. This time I had to wait an extra month as the first month none of my follicles grew big enough and I remember feeling disappointed. I can’t begin to imagine how women must feel who go through months or years of fertility treatment, each time hoping and praying that it works. It does take over your life, the scans, the injections, the appointments etc. The second month looked to be the same as they didn’t seem to be growing and when I went for the final scan, they measured the one that had been the biggest, but it hadn’t grown. I remember laying there with a tear running down my cheek as the nurse said she’d measure the ones on the other side just in case but neither myself nor her were expecting to see anything as 2 days previously they had been tiny but there it was, one massive follicle had appeared which 38 weeks later turned into my youngest daughter!

Of course, I had to do everything the same when going through fertility treatment the second time round because it had worked the first time and I didn’t want to jinx it by doing anything differently. So, I did the same visualisations, watched the same YouTube videos and ate the same things. This time round I was worse at wating 2 weeks and by day 11 I gave in to temptation where upon I had a positive pregnancy test! I couldn’t believe it…having said that, I had a gut feeling I was pregnant because of the symptoms I’d been having.

So, despite what you may think, I believe the positive thinking played a part in it working. Yes, the fertility clinic does everything they can to help but once they’ve done their part the rest is down to nature. The sperm still  has to swim and find the egg etc. Isn’t nature brilliant?!

I could talk a lot more about my experience of fertility treatment and pregnancy but for now I hope I have enlightened you about the process of IUI.

Finally a word of warning for anyone thinking of sourcing their own sperm donor, particularly on social media where some people are offering to donate for free….I can’t warn you enough against the dangers. They haven’t been screened for STI’s and genetic diseases, not to mention the potential risk of meeting unknown donors in person for insemination purposes. So, I urge you to think twice before considering such an option.