“So, you’ve had IVF?”

This is the question I am constantly asked after trying to explain our fertility journey. The answer is no but I find myself just agreeing, especially when met with the baffled expressions of numerous midwives and consultants.

I have read so many inspiring blog posts and stories written by strong couples, who have experienced a multitude of different journeys. I decided to write my own experiences as a sort of outpouring but also in the hope that even one person reads and takes something from this, I will have repaid the favour.

I first found out I was pregnant in February 2015 after 6 months of trying. Obviously, we were overjoyed, blissfully happy and painfully unaware of what was to come. It’s a feeling that I envy, even now, when I see glowing happiness from couples on Instagram – those that have never experienced difficulties. I felt robbed of that.

I miscarried a week later.

This was to be the beginning of 3 miscarriages that year, all very different but equally as devastating. My third resulted in an ERPC. I remember sitting in Lewisham Early Pregnancy, my regular haunt, reading the definition ‘Evacuation of Retained Products of Conception’ and feeling like such a failure. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do this? Everybody else could (it seemed). The staff at Lewisham were so kind, but the process was brutal. We had become slightly hardened, but the pain of lining up next to those swollen, lucky ladies, waiting for their 12/20 week scans was soul destroying. Sitting in the waiting room, listening to the looped video of how to put your baby’s car seat in safely. And the final straw, being given a pen to complete a survey, with the words ‘pregnant? Now call the midwife’ on it. Now I was being tortured for being a failure. My husband threatened to rip the TV off the wall – it’s no longer there – I wonder if someone did it in the end…

Anyway, fast forward to New Year’s Eve 2015. I had a consultants appointment to discuss the results of my ERPC and to begin investigations into my recurrent miscarriages. I was told that the results of tests on the ‘retained products’ hadn’t been carried out. I walked out sobbing, probably our lowest point.

After a quick google on recurrent miscarriage, I came across the Zita West clinic. They pioneer a holistic approach to fertility and for the first time, I felt as though I was taking my health into my own hands. My head was a mess and I needed something to focus on. I was become angry, bitter and twisted. We were deleting friends from social media platforms if they announced pregnancies and refused invitations to gatherings if we knew children were going. A slightly difficult approach when you’re both teachers. I had to do something.

We initially met with specialist fertility nurse and midwife, Jane Knight. After some initial blood tests, we had an appointment with the wonderful Dr Simone Rofena, who simply explained that three miscarriages was not normal. Something was wrong and we needed to fix it. I could have jumped up and hugged him right there and then. Yes. Finally. Someone was backing me. I wasn’t a failure, I just needed some help.

I was sent for level 1 and 2 testing, which I still find difficult to explain (because I was never very good at Science). This included:

Natural Killer (NK) assay and TH1/TH2 Intracellular Cytokine ratios. NK cells are one of several types of white blood cells in the immune system. They play a useful physiological role in the body but some research has suggested that raised NK levels or cytotoxicity (“killing capacity”) in the peripheral blood and raised NK infiltration in the endometrium (womb lining) may be associated with recurrent IVF failure and recurrent miscarriage. Cytokines are chemical messengers secreted by immune cells. Cytokines produced by the group of immune cells called TH2 are thought to be “baby-friendly” and support pregnancy whereas the cytokines produced by the group of immune cells called TH1 may inhibit pregnancy. For successful pregnancy it has been suggested that the TH2 (“baby-friendly”) cytokines should be dominant. If the TH1 cytokines are dominant this may impact adversely on pregnancy outcomes.

My NK cells were unusually high, so I began immunomodulation treatment, which began with an intralipid of a sterile emulsion of egg proteins, soy oil, glycerine and water. My boss nicknamed this my ‘pancake batter’ treatment. Two rounds of this, then three cycles to fall pregnant naturally.

I fell pregnant on my third circle.

I phoned the clinic and by that afternoon, I was on a cocktail of Prednisolone (steroids), Clexane and progesterone pessaries. This was combined with further Intralipid infusions at appropriate stages during early pregnancy. Injecting was particularly unpleasant, my belly was black and blue. But at 7 weeks in, it all became worth it…

There was my little flickering mushroom. An actual heartbeat. Not an empty sack or a, ‘when did you get a positive pregnancy test?’ I knew the statistics. A good start.

By nine weeks, the mushroom resembled more of a jumping kidney bean.

And at 12 weeks I was in possession of a scan photo that I had only ever dreamed of sharing with my friends and family.

….

My pregnancy wasn’t without difficulty. I bled, I had suspected DVT, I suffered from preeclampsia and ended up having an emergency c-section and a baby spending its first week of life in the neonatal ward. But the fact that I had this incredible bundle of life changing beauty, was all down to Zita West. This is not an NHS bashing – I love the NHS. I love Lewisham hospital and all the staff. But I needed to take my health and my fertility into my own hands.

I have since suffered another miscarriage but with the help and support from ZW, I’m 21 weeks pregnant with a little girl. I still get very twitchy when explaining my treatment to my dr. I don’t want to be judged or it assumed that I’m an inpatient rich girl. We begged, borrowed, stole and (most importantly) worked very hard to pay for our treatment. We received extremely kind gifts from our family to help pay for drugs, test and appointments. My current consultant at Lewisham and heard all about the clinic and simply said to me, ‘something worked – that’s all that matters’.

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Five Things – July Wish List

So, I am absolutely skint at the moment. However, that doesn’t stop me from window shopping and writing a monthly wish list. Should anyone want to treat me, please feel free…

1. La Redoute ‘Afaw Berber Style Rug’.

The instagram rug of dreams. Look at any Nordic styled home on insta and you’ll find this gorgeous piece of carpet heaven.

£99-£269 (currently with £35 off £100 spend | £60 off £150 | £100 off £250 with code SAVE).

2. Rocket St George ‘Antique brown mirror with shallow shelf – portrait’

I have been looking for the perfect bathroom mirror since our remodel. I am blaming the fact that I need my first ever filling on the current lack of bathroom mirror! Get on my wall.

£120

3. Jupiduu slide – white (The Modern Nursery)

Okay, massive extravagant purchase – but this is just a wish list, right? George is obsessed with slides at the moment, so this would cement my position as favourite parent (jokes).

£215.

4. Pretty Little Knots Co – Macrame wall hangingI love macrame (much to my husbands distain) and I particularly love this hanging, made by the fabulous Samantha at Manchester based Pretty Little Knots. She takes custom orders and runs classes too!

From £15.

5. Cox & Cox ‘Raw Steel Firepit’To be honest, I don’t have the best track record with firepits. When we first moved into our house, we bought one from Homebase and didn’t shut our back door. Our house stunk of smoke for weeks after that. This is aesthetically incredible and I would happily smoke out our neighbours with this beauty!

£375 (Cox & Cox are currently offering 20% off – use MOBJUNB at checkout).

So that concludes this month’s five things. August is my birthday, so you never know… *must buy lottery ticket this weekend*.

Nursery Styling

Planning and styling our nursery was/is definitely an ongoing process. We didn’t find out the sex beforehand but knew we wanted something neutral anyway.

The obvious place to start was Pinterest but searches of ‘white and grey nurseries’ only brought up images of huge American bedrooms, something which our tiny little box room would never replicate.

We knew that we only had room for two pieces of furniture, so opted for the Silver Cross Nostalgia cot-bed and wardrobe – £1050 as we could buy a Cot Top changer from John Lewis – £49 and save space.

We knew this would be a perfect set up as the baby would be sleeping in our room for the first six months potentially, so changing over the cot was fine. I purchased changing organisers from Ikea – £7.50 and they clipped onto the changer perfectly.

As for decoration, we purchased a picture shelf from Ikea and two prints from the amazing Manchester Based Rory and the Bean. We wanted a scandi feel to the nursery, to compliment the rest of our house. Then we waited until baby arrived before adding anything else…

So at 11.14pm on February 18th, after a vile induction, painful labour, sepsis, pre-eclampsia and emergency Caesarian, our beautiful son George Roy entered the world and landed straight into the NICU. A week later he was home with us and the adventure could begin.

The first thing I wanted to buy now he was here, was something personalised. Through the magic of Instagram, I found This Paper Book and their beautiful personalised pennant flags – starting from £14.

That, paired with some of the most beautiful wooden treats from the magical Styled by Naomi really started the ball rolling. It was no longer just ‘the nursery’, but it was becoming ‘George’s Room’ and I hadn’t ever imagined how important a process that would be for me. If you don’t already follow Naomi on Instagram, you definitely should. She’s hilarious and her fertility journey is inspiring and courageous.

Scandiborn and The Modern Nursery became the two major go-tos as far as furniture and large accessories over the year but Instagram introduced be to a whole world of small, independent makers (and a maxed-out credit card). Prints from Lovely Ink (as well as her beautiful Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day collections) and Little M Paper Goods. Wooden toys from Sarah & Bendrix Kids will be great for George when he’s a little older, but until then, they look fab on display. Also Scottish based Ciao Bambino and The Milk Collective have a great selection on modern and stylish toys, to compliment any nursery.

I know that accessories will change and adapt as George grows and he personality and interests develop. But up until now, this has been an opportunity to flex our interior muscles in the first real purposeful room in our house. It’s a work in progress but one I can finally get some joy out of. A little sanctuary and safe haven for our baby and a celebration of the tiny human that we have managed to keep alive for the last 13 Months.

What are the favourite parts of your baby’s nursery?