Monday, May 20, 2024

My Story - Behind Rain 2 Rainbow

I’m Sam, about to turn 40 and the face behind Rain 2 Rainbow.

For me getting to this stage in my life has seen its battles, both professionally and personally. But for the past 6 years, it has seen me face a journey I never expected to go on, so now I write about my journey & others in the hope it provides some comfort, support, and education to others.

As an ambitious head strong woman, like many others I found myself wanting to make something of myself and have a career I could be proud of. Equally, I always knew I would someday like to have a family of my own with the person I loved & wanted to spend my life with.

But mother nature had other plans for me!

I’d spent my youth avoiding and aiming to not get pregnant as that is what we are taught in schools and everywhere, that teenage pregnancy is avoidable and so it never occurred to me that I might not be able to get pregnant when it mattered and the time came for wanting to start a family.

I’d been married at an early age after a 10 year relationship from meeting the guy in college, our marriage didn’t last the year and I left, after getting a divorce and going to live my life that I felt I had missed out on.

Very quickly I met my now hubby, and there was an instant attraction and love I’d never felt before. We moved in together after 4 months, got engaged after 2 years and married within 4yrs.

Then came the questions…..so when’s the baby coming?, isn’t it about time we heard some pitter patter of tiny feet?, when are you having kids? It was relentless and honestly made me repel the “tradition” of getting married and having children. It was like thats all i had become and who people saw me for.

So I focused on my career for a few more years, working hard and moving my way up in the company I loved.

By the age of around 33 we decided we wanted to give having a family a try that the time felt right for us, there is no right time right? So we decided to go for it.

Fast forward 18 months and still nothing, still no pregnancy. So i went along to my GP for a chat and understand what our options were. He referred me for some testing and requested we do the same for my husband. 3 months later, testing complete for us both we were referred to a specialist consultant around fertility at a local hospital to review the test results. All was deemed to be normal for both of us and so we were like so many other couples, labelled as “unexplained Infertility” a badge no one wants to own! During this appointment we discussed our options, adoption, IVF etc.

Advised of the shocking statistic that will live with me forever that there is only a 20% chance for anyone to ever get pregnant naturally- I thought well there are a lot of very lucky 20% people walking around, some who don’t even want children, got pregnant by mistake or after a one night stand. It all seemed so unfair.

He advised that our best option was to consider IVF as that chance then doubled to around 40%, still not good odds i thought with my analytical brain on.

But as I was now 34 fast approaching my 35th birthday which made me old in the eyes of biology and fertility. So we had precisely around 15 minutes to decide if we wanted to go for IVF and give it a shot or not. In our region you only are eligible for one round funded on the NHS providing you are 35 and under, with a BMI of under 30, a non-smoker and no children from a previous relationship for either of you.

So we decided to go for it, what did we have to lose right? We were optimistic about what was in store.

Our funding was approved within the following 2 weeks of that appointment, and we began our first round of IVF treatment. Little did we know we would be facing another 4 rounds to come, with many ups and downs, bumps and straight bits of road.

Our first round whilst it was successful and resulted in a positive pregnancy test, we devastatingly lost that baby and miscarried at around 10 weeks. This was a really traumatic blow of events that dragged on for 10 weeks and left me very poorly on the verge of collapsing at work that I was not prepared for.

We endured multiple surgeries, further tests, more treatment, and the following 2 rounds after the 1st, finally left me facing the fact that my body had given up. My ovaries no longer functioned the way they once had and stopped responding to the medication.

The devastating news of not being able to conceive using my own eggs was dealt with, and I couldn’t deal with that. It left me with so much regret, heartache and despair that my genetics wouldn’t be carried on. So many thoughts at the time all which were really difficult to swallow, i had to take some time out from it all as i needed time to heal both physically and mentally. The physical damage the 3 rounds of previous IVF treatment had left me facing the fact that i had gained over 4 stone in weight, mixed with trying to get my head around our remaining options now to have a family was either to consider adoption, an option we had both ruled out long before this point as it was just not for us, i admire anyone who does adopt, but we just felt it wasn’t for us. Or the only other option was to consider an egg donor.

We took a 6 months break so I could mentally get myself back on track, do lots of research and work on a weight loss journey to rid myself of the IVF med weight gain I was facing every day in the mirror as a reminder of the failures we had endured.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole egg donor situation after a couple of months so I turned to some of the social media groups I had joined since starting IVF to ask or speak to anyone who had been through a similar dilemma. I also began researching, as the most alarming part for me was if we did want to go down the donor route, the wait list in the UK was between 6-12months. Another set of panic waved over, time wasn’t on our side and I was getting older. Something you always become conscious of once you start the IVF road i think as it’s in your face constantly about the impact age has on fertility.

So many who had been through what I was going through, told me you won’t care when you are carrying the baby and they are yours from the moment you get that second line on a test it all goes out the window, your fears, your anxiety and they are yours no matter what.

I then stumbled across some articles and research that had been performed by some clinics in Spain, who are leading the way in my view on a lot of their research and success around IVF, egg donation and frozen transfers. The laws around egg donation are also quite different in Europe compared to the UK. Ultimately it was this research which was the turning point for me and made me feel comfortable with the egg donor process and prospect. It advised that 3 lines of DNA are carried by the baby. That of the male sperm factor, your egg donors and yours as you provide the baby with its blood line whilst carrying and growing them for 9 months.

The next challenging hurdle was the waiting list….6-12 months in the UK on average for a donor to be located and found. So we began to look into options of possible treatment in Europe. Amazingly at the time our UK clinic were working with a sister clinic in a region of Spain, and so whilst there was a great prospect of being able to have our treatment quicker by going to Spain as there was zero waiting time to locate donors, we had the added benefit that our clinic would be on hand to help assist us through the initial stages of consultations and treatment plans as well as well as the early treatment scans to share with the clinic in Spain.

In the end however whilst all of this made us feel more comfortable with the process, it didn’t take away the fact of what would be the impact of the stress of travelling overseas to have our treatment do to the overall outcome and result. After all it wasn’t just like being able to jump in a car and travel 40-50 mins up the road. If we had been in a position to make a bit of a “holiday” of it and spend more time there it could have been possible, but it would likely have resulted in multiple trips back and forth, additional costs tagged onto the treatment if we extended our stay and so on, in the end the cons list outweighed the pros list.

In the meantime of considering our options I was undergoing further tests following my first cycle and something that kept cropping up in scans, causing confusion over if what was being seen was an ectopic pregnancy. After our first cycles miscarriage it was still there and visible on the scans, and so it was recommended i follow this up to determine what it was.

I booked to see a local specialist at our private hospital, which as luck would turn out, was also one of the consultants at our IVF clinic, he performed a few examinations and a set of scans, he was pretty confident it was some endometrial tissue growing connected to my bowel and would explain a lot of the challenges we often had with scans, and so recommended i go in for a Hysteroscopy to establish if it required removing in case it was causing issues with implantation after transfer.

I was nervous going into this procedure as i just didn’t know what they would find and if we would face more issues coming out the other side that would stop us from conceiving, especially since now six months on i had been able to get my head around and face the reality that egg donation was our only option.

I woke from the procedure to be advised in recovery that everything was fine and they didn’t need to remove anything, I just burst into tears. Tears for instant relief.

At my follow up with my consultant, he explained that everything looked good and there was no reason and nothing to cause any concern that implantation would be a problem for me, the challenge was my declining egg quality and he indicated to not rule out getting a phone call soon from the clinic as there had been a recent influx of donors. By this point we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we may as well get on living our lives as it would be some time before we heard of any possible donor matches from our clinic.

So I was surprised when around 2 weeks later he was correct and the clinic got in touch to say they had some donor matches for us to review should we wish to.

This I have to say was a very alien process, like picking someone’s profile for a blind date!

The information available to you for choosing is very limited, with very good reason of course, given the UK laws and to protect not just you as the recipient but also those who donate too.

We chose our donor, and the process began, but sadly then had to be abandoned as our donor changed her mind. We were back to the drawing board. But not for long. We narrowed down our choice to 2 possible donors and then took a little while to really think it through, spoke with the clinic on multiple occasions as we didnt want to face having the heartache of it being abandoned again, and then made our decision.

Our donor’s round of treatment was successful and they were able to collect 31 eggs!!! WOW! This gave us the fighting chance we had been hoping for, all my cycles of treatment resulted in collecting 3 eggs and a maximum of 5 eggs, so 31! I knew we just had to end up with some really good embryos from that which would be suitable to freeze.

And I was right, we went on to have regular updates from the embryology team who advised in the end we had 8 top quality grade, 5 & 6 day blastocyst embryos all suitable for freezing.

We were elated!!

By now it was November 2019, and I had successfully lost 4 stone in weight on my weight loss journey with the slimming world. I was feeling the best I had felt in years.

We decided therefore safe in the knowledge that our little embryos were safely tucked up in the freezer to take some time out for ourselves and enjoy Christmas and New Year, since we had spent so many over the previous 5 years delaying or putting things off in case of “what if”, never planning anything. I therefore decided to surprise Hubby with a one last blow out big holiday for his Christmas present that we could enjoy in the New Year, with the view that we would start our treatment to prepare me for transferring one of our dear embryos back on our return.

So off we went to Las Vegas and then to New York in Jan 2020, returning in February 2020. Just as we were travelling, news of the Covid 19 virus was beginning to hit around the world.

But we returned and started our treatment mid February 2020. From there the virus really ramped up as we now all know, and the day i was due to go in for my blood tests to ensure all levels were where they should be and to allow me to complete the final stages of meds and get my transfer date booked in, i attended the appointment with the horrid feeling in my stomach i was going to be told we would have to abandon the cycle due to Covid.

Sadly this was the case and again our world crumbled, the control and things being taken out of our hands once again was the devastating blow we had not been prepared for this time.

We had no idea when treatment would or could ever start again and all the time I was constantly aware and thinking that my body clock was ticking, at times it was deafening.

I had no idea if I would be waiting weeks, months or even years before I could potentially safely tuck one of our embryos inside to grow and this distressed me the most.

I’d lost all hope and felt it was the universe’s way of telling us to give up and that we were never destined to be parents.

I hid myself away from the world, it was easy to do so in the circumstances with Covid and I threw myself yet again into my work and the only thing I knew how to make me feel sane, needed and like myself.

Then May arrived and the clinic called to say they had been working to establish how they could deliver treatment to couples under the government guidelines and so had been contacting all couples whose treatment had been disrupted, postponed and cancelled to see if they would like to start up again but working under the current restrictions.

We were told that i would have to attend all appointments at the clinic alone, even the day they would transfer our precious little embryo back i would have to be alone.

This saddened us both and we both cried at the prospect, but felt like whilst it seemed crazy to be considering trying to get pregnant in the middle of a global pandemic, time really wasn’t on our side and there was no light at the end of when we might see the back of Covid and if we ever would. So we decided as mad as it may seem to some, to just go for it!

As we started treatment for the 5th time, I was surprised at how normal it felt to be doing it, like it had become something so regular in our lives I had begun to not bat an eyelid about what we were doing, and I think this really helped. To add to it, due to the pandemic I was working from home so had less stress of travelling for my job whilst trying to administer the treatment. Having to carry around medication and needles for your injections to be perfectly timed is no fun I can tell you! Especially when you are having to inject yourself on a train!

We carried out the treatment, with me injecting daily for around 2-3 weeks to prepare my body for the transfer.

On the 2nd July 2020 we went in for our little embryo to be transferred back safely onboard and to get cosy. It was then another dreaded 2 week wait we had to face to see if it had worked or not. We had faced a number of these and so you would think they would get easier, but they never do!

Trying to keep ourselves busy and distracted and putting it to the back of our minds, we got on with life as best we could. But somehow this time i felt different, at times i thought i was imagining it, as the hope had become so desperate, i was manifesting.

Finally I was able to give my hubby the best birthday present I could ever wish to give him, our test day was due around his birthday and amazingly this time two lines appeared on the test! So we tested again, and again, and again with different tests each time to be sure we weren’t seeing things! Could it be real, could this really be happening!? We were so excited but couldn’t allow ourselves to jump for joy and shout from the rooftops, as we had been here before and so we were super cautious that the same thing would happen again and the pregnancy wouldn’t last, lost forever like our first. Amazingly as the weeks ticked past I noticed more and more changes in my body, and finally at 6 weeks we were able to go and have a scan to see how things were going…….leading up to that scan appointment we felt sick, anxious, incredibly scared, and had so many emotions. But the second we sat down and our scan started, they turned the screen for us to see our baby’s heart beating….we knew it was meant to be, that was our baby, and everything leading up to this point had all been worth it.

The rest they say is history (not entirely as there is so much to our story) and on 18th March 2021 we welcomed our beautiful rainbow girl Robyn into our world. In an instant she became just that, our world. She fills our lives with so much joy and happiness and it is THE best job i have ever had. But at the same time it is also the hardest job, carrying the label of a “geriatic mother” has its challenges alone, and so whilst sharing my journey of hope and support for others facing infertility & IVF i also share my journey of motherhood at an older age, and just how hard parenting can be sometimes. My focus is on being real, open, honest and true!

 Infertility will never leave us, it doesn’t go away because we have Robyn, there are many things for us to still consider and think about for our future which I know will cause turmoil, heartache and stress. But for now it is all the reason I have made it my mission with Rain2Rainbow about sharing our story and supporting others with their journeys, in the hope it helps provide that much needed comfort, support, feeling less alone but above all hope. Hope that the impossible might just seem possible if you keep going and don’t give up.

Rain2Rainbow, is a place for couples to share their experiences, stories, challenges to help others, and my biggest passion from it is my collection of carefully and thoughtfully set of designed IVF & Fertility support bracelets alongside my other designs. I needed to be creative at a time when I needed head space, time away from things to just switch off. Every piece of jewellery I own means something to me, and so my hope is that these bracelets mean something to other couples going through a similar journey and provide just a little bit of comfort.

I am currently working on a website which will support of all of this, but for now it can be found on my social media channels.

Contact Details

Facebook Page – Rain2Rainbow

Private Group – Rain 2 Rainbow Journeys (Pre IVF Success)

Private Group – Rainbow after the Rain (post IVF success)

Instagram – Rain_2_rainbowuk

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