“The lockdown delay to our fertility treatment was initially hard to take, and has been compounded at times when you hear friends and family moan about being stuck at home with their children, when that’s all we desperately want,” says Jenna.
In the three years since initially trying for a baby naturally, Jenna and Shaun have encountered a bumpy road so far in their fertility journey.
“I think the difficult moments have come when others don’t seem to understand what we are going through, and have said things like ‘you are lucky you don’t have kids during this time’ or have encouraged us to keep trying naturally as ‘miracles can happen’ when they don’t know the full reasons as to why we are having to go through fertility treatment in the first place. I have found distancing myself from some of those people has really helped.”
“It can also hurt when people that are close to you have fallen pregnant naturally during this time. I am genuinely so happy for them, but it makes me feel tearful and angry at times as we had no choice in having our treatment put on hold whilst other couples have continued to conceive, be it planned or not.”
Freeze all embryos
Jenna originally started her IVF treatment in November 2019, and was due to have her first embryo transfer in the lead up to Christmas. However, having developed the rare Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), this was postponed and her embryos were frozen to allow her body time to recover.
The couple regrouped whilst Jenna regained her health, and they were excited for the treatment to recommence at the end of March 2020. Then, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, this was cancelled with just three days to go until their starting their frozen embryo treatment, leaving them in limbo.
The couple, from Hertfordshire, have coped by supporting each other, and using the time during lockdown to focus on health – both physical and mental.
Coping with lockdown
“We are both key workers, so we are fortunate to still be working during this time giving us a routine which I think it so important. Away from work, we have been using our garden to exercise together, doing things such as circuit training. We enjoy getting outside in nature together, so have gone for walks and cycles to talk things through. We have found through past experiences that verbalising problems or concerns can really help us to cope with, and work through things together”.
“We try to practice gratitude every day, and are thankful for what we do have, and the things we can do, rather than dwelling on the opposite. This has been a powerful coping strategy for us, particularly when added to a morning routine of mindfulness; including Yoga, meditation and affirmations”. Along with this, Jenna and Shaun have had a lot of fun getting creative, and inventive during their free time during lockdown. This has included themed days and nights at home, such as recreating their favourite bars and restaurants, a spa day, a music festival, and a campsite.
“After years of thinking I wouldn’t try meditation, I now find it a helpful tool. I use the huge amount of free material available on YouTube for guided Yoga, meditation and fertility affirmations”.
Jenna thought carefully about speaking out at this time when the National Health Service is under pressure, and other areas of treatment for illnesses have also been put on hold. Jenna and Shaun feel it is important that people are aware that the World Health Organisation defines infertility as a disease and a disability. Being unable to conceive naturally can put an additional strain on mental health, an issue which Jenna already deals with.
“Going through fertility treatment can feel a lonely place, and being able to speak to others going through the same experience can help. I thought that if speaking out helps just one person out there who is struggling, then it would be a good thing to do.”
The couple were about to start the next stage of their treatment, frozen embryo transfer in March, a few days before lockdown was announced. Then all the IVF clinics were instructed to cease all treatments.
For Jenna this was devastating: “Just days before I was due to start the medication, I was told the transfer had to be cancelled. I was desperate for it to go ahead, I said I was prepared to take the risk and self-shield, but the decision was taken out of our hands.”
“I think Shaun and I have coped well considering the situation, but you do feel time just slipping away from you.”
Bourn Hall one of the first to reopen
Since Bourn Hall was given the green light to re-open by the government regulatory body (the HFEA), the couple have been told that they can resume treatment, as those who are ready for frozen embryo transfers or who treatment was literally ‘put on ice’ have been prioritised.
“When Bourn Hall called to say that I could start my treatment cycle again, there were tears of joy to the nurse on the end of the phone that had delivered the much awaited, welcomed and very good news. I feel very positive and excited that we are able to continue.
“We feel that what we have been doing during lockdown has put us in a great physical and mental place to move into the next phase of our treatment.”