• Holly Hitchen

My IVF Journey

Our fertility journey started in 2007 when we started trying to conceive. For some reason I thought I would fall pregnant naturally because my mum and sister had had no problems with fertility. After a year of nothing happening I was referred to see a gynaecologist. After scans I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian syndrome – the consultant told me I didn’t have it badly as I was not ‘short, fat and hairy’ - I couldn’t believe what he had just said! I was put on two different medications -one to help manage insulin resistance and one to help me ovulate monthly and told to follow a low GI diet.

After months of nothing happening I started to feel quite low. All my friends were falling pregnant and people started asking when we were going to have kids. I managed to say to people “we’re trying but it’s not happening” but inside I felt quite resentful.

After 9 months of the medication not working, I was advised to stop it and start considering IVF. I was also diagnosed with endometriosis during this time which is a painful debilitating condition -my periods were so heavy I’d have to take strong painkillers or a sick day from work just to function. When I asked if either of these conditions could cause infertility, I wasn’t given an answer – I had noticed that my medical records stated ‘unexplained infertility’ which made me feel very frustrated.

I really struggled with everything that IVF involved. The medication made me feel quite unwell and I hated having to inject myself. During some of the procedures, I often found myself disconnecting from what was happening around me as that was the only way I could cope. After one failed attempt at IVF we were advised to pause our fertility journey as my autoimmune thyroid disease had become resistant to medication. I was scheduled for an urgent thyroidectomy as this was the only solution. The thyroidectomy was a long operation and it took me a while to recover – I could not sing for weeks (part of my job!) due to swelling of my vocal cords.

Six months after my thyroidectomy we were given the go ahead to have another attempt at IVF. This attempt also failed and I begun to feel hopeless. Why were we not successful? I also found the reactions from family and friends really difficult to handle -one friend even sent us a sympathy card! We decided to have counselling to support our third and final attempt. There were other options to consider if this attempt failed such as adoption, but I was not ready to think about that yet.

We were lucky enough to fall pregnant after the third and final attempt of IVF. I felt both terrified and excited! It had taken four years, two operations and three IVF attempts to get this far.

Throughout the pregnancy I had problems with bleeding and was diagnosed with grade 4 placenta previa. I spent a traumatic few months in and out of hospital with severe bleeding. It was then decided that I needed to stay permanently in hospital until my daughter was born. On the ward I was surrounded by people who were going into labour and consequently did not sleep for weeks! I was also really anxious about the possibility I might not end up having my baby. My daughter came early and was delivered at 32 weeks weighing just 3lb 3oz. I was quite unwell following her birth as I had a CSF spinal leak which made it difficult to stand up without a severe headache. I was also anaemic but was not given a blood transfusion as they deemed it too risky considering my health problems. When I was discharged home I had panic attacks because I was not with my baby (she was on the NICU) and I felt very unwell. I was also traumatised as I had been asked whether I wanted to save myself or the baby – a decision that I now know I should not have been asked to make.

When my daughter finally came home she was very little and struggled to feed. She was diagnosed with reflux and dairy allergy. I joined postnatal groups and met some lovely people who are still my friends today. However, I never told anyone how anxious I felt about going out or how it affected me when their babies reached milestones that my daughter was way off achieving yet.

When my daughter was about 15mths old we starting thinking about trying to conceive again as we didn’t know how long it would take and whether I would need treatment. After two months I fell pregnant with my son. This pregnancy was completely different and uncomplicated, although I still felt scared that something bad would happen. At 41 weeks I ended up having another emergency c section as my son was distressed and needed to come out. I was terrified that I would struggle with spinal headaches again but this did not happen. I also became really anxious when I returned home and struggled to cope with two kids. I had never had a new born at home before and so everything seemed new.

My children are now 9 and 11. I feel grateful that we were able to have children despite everything we went through. I hope that this blog might help others who are struggling to conceive know that you are not alone. Having been there I know how utterly powerless and alone you can feel.

Holly Hitchen

Holly lives in Woking, Surrey with her husband Martin and two children who are 10 and 8. Holly is a music therapist and works with children with acquired brain injury and children within adoption services. Holly also runs her own business called Little Bear’s Music classes. Little Bear’s Music classes provides live interactive music classes for children age 0-5.

In her spare time Holly enjoys listening to music, reading books, being outdoors and spending time with friends.

Holly also became an Amazon Bestselling Author is 2020, when she contributed a chapter about her personal journey to 'Love Thy Body Project: Real Life Stories: Volume One', a book that went on to top numerous charts in both eBook and paperback.

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