IVF: A Woman’s Journey from Infertile to Mother

After a year spent trying to conceive naturally, Sunita Harley and her husband sought treatment. They were told to start IVF and given a 10% chance of conceiving. They were in that 10%. Here’s their story…

Sunita Harley lives in north London with her husband James and their two daughters – aged three and one.

My IVF journey…

“It must have been about a year before we both had a feeling something wasn’t quite right. Obviously, we were getting disappointed things weren’t going our way. Discovering we couldn’t conceive naturally was pretty tough and heartbreaking. My husband was very supportive.

Somehow we were both determined but also stayed realistic that being parents might not be an option for us. Both of us found it really hard. All in all, it was probably a five-year roller coaster before I gave birth for the first time.

In a way we had to go through three journeys during those five years to become parents. Our first journey focussed on the fertility tests. After one of our first appointments, in the car home we received a call from the hospital asking us to go straight back as something looked odd on my scan. They thought I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.

I didn’t know how to feel in that moment. I was terrified something would happen to me as I knew ectopic pregnancies were dangerous but then it also gave me a glimmer of hope that I could actually get pregnant. Later that evening the doctor called us to confirm that I wasn’t pregnant.

The fertility results then led onto our second journey: operations. I needed to have a major operation to prevent any ectopic pregnancies. So of course we went ahead with it. It felt too long for us to go on the two-year NHS waiting list. We found an innovative clinic CRGH who were linked to my old uni UCL. It was daunting but exciting as we were starting to chase our dream this way.

It was stop, start, stop, start – when we just wanted to get on with things

We went through loads more tests to get ready for the IVF. I was then told I needed another operation for the IVF to go ahead. Something cropped up in the tests and it couldn’t be ignored. So it was stop, start, stop, start – when we just wanted to get on with things. At the same time the consultant told us we couldn’t do normal IVF where you take lots of medication to boost egg supplies.

Then onto our third journey. It was ‘natural IVF’ for us which meant less meds but close monitoring. It was hard to stay hopeful as if the procedures went to plan they would only be able to get one egg. We were told overall there was a 10% chance of a natural IVF cycle working compared to say a 40%-70% chance with normal IVF. Another setback but we had to keep going. We went through our first natural IVF cycle in the summer of 2012. I found out I was pregnant on my mum’s birthday so you could imagine how that was an amazing gift for her too.

With my first round of IVF, I felt kind of embarrassed that I had to go through this. I felt bad for James as he had to go through it too. I was pretty secretive about it all. I didn’t tell many friends about our tests and the IVF plans. I only knew a few others who had gone through IVF but I wasn’t close enough to them to talk about what it was like for them. I had no idea that IVF was a common journey for lots of people.

Some close members of our families knew and they were supportive. They shared our sadness. For me, there was a feeling of loss. My favourite Uncle L explained to me that my first big operation was actually like going through a bereavement. I didn’t realise at the time what he was talking about but he was right. Due to my operations, I had lost the ability to have children naturally.

There was a 10% chance of things happening and we ended up being in that 10%

Not everyone knew what to say about us trying IVF. It wasn’t their fault but comments about the downsides of being parents didn’t help. We wanted to be parents which for us included embracing the tough and tired bits of parenting too.

On the work front, I told my bosses that I was going to have to start IVF. It was good they knew as I’d be going to lots of appointments. They were so supportive about it all and I do believe their understanding helped me to get through our IVF journey. I was really lucky I could be open.

We couldn’t quite believe it when we found out I was pregnant. There was a 10% chance of things happening and we ended up being in that 10%. It was like living in a dream. We were obviously really cautious and didn’t share the news until after the 12 week scan. I remember telling my big brother the night we were all DJ-ing at a charity event. I said there were actually four of us DJ-ing that night: my brother, my husband, me and my bump.

A cloud of worry hovered over my pregnancy and it affected us both. At times I was just so grateful that I had the chance to be pregnant and experience having a bump. A small part of me was terrified that this could be taken away from me. So the fear of miscarriage was there, despite being given medication to try and prevent it.IVF - baby hand - theearlyhour.comBefore every scan in my first trimester we would wonder what they would see. They were terrifying. So we could never stop thinking about our IVF journey during my pregnancy. Once I became pregnant, I became super open about our IVF journey. I didn’t feel the need to hide it anymore.

After having my first baby they said I needed another operation in the future. After waking up from that op in May 2014, we were told that if we wanted to try for another baby we had to act quickly. They were talking about starting IVF later that month when we had ideas about doing IVF again in a year or two. Time wasn’t on our side.

So over one weekend, we decided we would give the natural IVF route one more go. We weren’t in a position to do lots of rounds but at least we wouldn’t regret not trying once. We were very fortunate as it worked for us again.IVF - from infertile to mother - theearlyhour.comIn a way it was easier the second time as I knew what to expect from the natural IVF process. This time round lots of our loved ones knew about the IVF journey so I felt stronger from the extra support. I was probably less scared during the second pregnancy. I still treasured the ups and downs of being pregnant though as I knew it would be my last experience of being bumped up.

Last Summer, I had the baby blues with our second baby. James and I started chatting one evening about creative projects we’d both like to pursue as he’d had set up a 100% British-made clothing line called Born. I had lots of my own ideas and wanted to share them all in one place, so he encouraged me to start a blog.

Lucky Things – my blog – is all about enjoying creative and inspiring things as an individual as well as a little family. It’s about involving our children in the things we enjoy as grown ups. As parents, our world doesn’t have to focus just on kids’ entertainment. Our little ones love music, street art, exhibitions, exploring new places and being out and about just like we do. One thing I loved doing on maternity leave was taking my mates and our babes in the buggies on street art tours.

Working on the blog helped me to move out of the blues. Now I’m back at work, I have to be pretty organised so I can keep sharing lots of lucky things and get my blog posts, tweets and Instagram pictures out there each week. I’m off to the Brit Mums Live bloggers conference at the end of June and can’t wait.”

Lucky Things
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