I had no reason to think I might never have another child.
My story started fifteen years ago when I was pregnant with my now 14-year-old daughter. I wasn’t nervous during my first pregnancy. If anything, I was oblivious to the fact that anything could possibly go wrong. But it all went smoothly- my daughter arrived perfectly on her due date with an uncomplicated, natural birth. My pregnancy was textbook.
My relationship with my daughter’s father, however, was anything but textbook. After my daughter’s birth, we decided to take a break. It ended up lasting years. But after some time, we reconnected and got married in the Philippines when our daughter was seven years old.
My daughter and I and relocated to England so that my British husband could continue his career as a doctor. We were starting over, and amid all of this change and growth, my husband and I chose to start trying to add to our family.
At 37 years and 38 years old, we weren’t as young as we had been when we had our first child. But somehow, this decision just felt right. At the time, I never would have thought the rest of my story would turn out the way it did.
Within the first month of living in England, I became pregnant. But then, at my 12-week scan on Christmas Eve, there was no heartbeat and just like that, on Boxing Day, I was having a D&C. Maybe a part of me thought that would be the end of it all. But then, just three weeks later, I was pregnant. Again, no heartbeat.
I pushed the GP’s to send me for more tests. I wanted answers.
“You need to have three miscarriages before additional testing is allowed,” said one of the GPs. I was informed by a male GP, “You aren’t a priority because you already have a child.”
I started exploring every other option I could: naturopathy, Chinese medicine, acupuncture. In addition to meeting with a private gynecologist, I also met with Professor Siobhan Quenby from The University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire. During this time, I experienced my 3rd miscarriage.
I paid for private testing and was tested for Natural Killer cells in my uterus. This confirmed my NK cells were elevated. I was finally “allowed” to undergo recurrent miscarriage testing after my 3rd miscarriage.
After my uterine biopsy for Professor Quenby, I became pregnant and was put on steroids. My numbers looked good for my fourth pregnancy. I felt pregnant. It was different this time- I knew it.
Then came New Year’s Eve. My day was going typically, nothing felt off. I attended my appointment at St.Mary’s Hospital in Manchester for a routine scan.
The following week I was admitted to the hospital to have a medically induced miscarriage. I spent the entire day alone in a hospital, waiting to pass the baby so they could perform additional genetic testing. They found nothing abnormal. Throughout it all, my husband and I desperately attempted to hide the pain of these losses from our daughter.
After my fourth miscarriage, I was extremely frustrated with the NHS. I just wanted to go back to Vancouver, so I could visit my doctor from home. My daughter and I took the long trip back. Once there, I went to an arranged appointment with Dr. Beth Taylor at Olive Fertility. She recommended IVF.
After traveling back to England, my husband suggested that we all go back to Vancouver to live so that I could do IVF. I started our protocol in England as we prepared everything to move back.
In January of 2015, my daughter and I finally had everything ready. We left Manchester to move back to Vancouver. We arrived at my parent’s home with all our belongings in a sea shipping container. My husband was scheduled to arrive on a prepaid flight at the end of the month to start IVF with me.
He didn’t show up.
He never called. He made no attempts to contact us. He vanished from our lives in the middle of everything- just like that. He has not spoken to our daughter since.
I decided to move forward with treatment- after all, I was in the middle of the IVF cycle, and I couldn’t stop the cycle after starting medication.
The universe seemed to have other plans. Instead of developing eggs, I developed one huge ovarian cyst.
The next three years were occupied with intense emotional turmoil. An International divorce, financial issues, IVF, fertility treatment, caring for my pre-teen daughter, and struggling with maintaining any last hope for another child.
I was broken-hearted. I was isolated. I felt like I was up against a wall. My choice for more children was being ripped away.
But I was equally determined.
Cycle after cycle of issues surfaced. I no longer had the choice to try and freeze my eggs. Canceled treatments, more cysts, and escalating problems permeated my life. But amid it all, I kept pushing forward. I would not give up.
Everything was against me. My prospects for success were barely 2%. At the point I was at, any other doctor would have stopped treating me long ago- but, miraculously, Dr. Taylor stuck by me and continued my treatment. For that, I will be forever grateful.
I worked with Dr. Emilie Salomons & Dr. Lorne Brown at Acubalance, Dr. Spence Pentland, Dr. Harris Fisher at Yinstill Reproductive in Vancouver, and Dr. Sarah Sjovold from The Integrated Health Clinic in Fort Langley. They all supported me on my journey. Without them- I don’t know how my life would look today.
Fourteen failed fertility cycles later, I was going on seven years with the discovery of damaged fallopian tubes, low AMH, early pending menopause, two more chemical pregnancies from IVF, an abnormal uterine biopsy, and countless more invasive tests and surgeries.
And then, suddenly, I was at my fifteenth cycle: my very last embryo, which was the slowest to get to day six and had been frozen & refrozen several times.
We did “The Everything and The Kitchen Sink Protocol” for my final transfer. ERA and Uterine Scratch. Intralipids, Heparin, Aspirin, PIO and Progesterone suppositories.
At this point with my POAS addiction, I should have had shares in pregnancy tests.
But then- I was pregnant again, and there was a HEARTBEAT.
We followed Professor Quenby’s “Steroid Protocol” after my positive pregnancy test. I was overjoyed- but scared, too. After everything, after all the challenges and pain and heartbreak- I didn’t know what to expect.
Then came the bleeding. Bleeding and more bleeding, all the way up until 12 weeks. I was convinced I was losing the baby.
I had hyperemesis gravidarum from 6 weeks until delivery. I was hospitalized at BC Women’s Hospital and immediately signed off work. The medication was not helping, and I spent every day with severe morning sickness and GERD.
I was back to trying everything in the book- Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Vitamin IV’s. Nothing helped. I could barely function. I had severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. My ankles and feet started to swell. That’s when extremely high blood pressure started to manifest, and I was advised to go back to BC Women’s Hospital.
At this point, I was thirty-two weeks pregnant. My blood tests were getting increasingly worse and I was not coping with the Hyperemesis Gravidarium. The doctors managed to get me through a couple more days until almost 33 weeks. My health was declining rapidly.
A decision was made to have a C Section as the baby and I were both at significant risk.
I was advised in the C Section report that my right fallopian tube had adhered to my uterus and my left tube was stuck to an artery and couldn’t be removed as had I requested. Currently, I struggle with the extraordinarily difficult decision of a hysterectomy as my medical issues continued. Even as my treatment and pregnancy have ended, I still experience debilitating problems.
I later learned through the C Section report that there had been a knot in my umbilical cord which could have proven devastating fatal, had I gone full term.
My perfect rainbow baby Oliver Rhys was born at 4.5lbs and spent the next month in NICU at BC Children’s Hospital. The nurses were extraordinary. He was carefully and lovingly taken care of as he experienced this new world much earlier than expected- but was wanted and loved more than he could ever know.
A handful of friends and family were lost in my journey. Some were close, others distant. Some chose not to support my decision to expand my family as a single parent. Others were not happy that I waited until my third trimester to announce my pregnancy after six miscarriages.
It’s interesting how everyone seems to have a contrary opinion on your own choices of fertility, yet none of them ever had to face a fraction of the weight of the struggles I had to go through.
Oliver has severe reflux, but he’s alive and well and a joy to the world he thrives in. He’s a social, active, feisty little man who adores his big sister. He fought hard to come into this world. He is the strongest one-year-old I know. He is the brightest shining light at the end of our tunnel of broken family, divorce, loss, pain and struggle… but he is worth it.
He is my hope. He is my heartbeat.