When you are struggling with infertility life can often feel like an obstacle race where everyone else has found the shortcut to the finishing line. Gemma reflects on ‘hitting rock bottom’.
Five years ago, convinced that she had finally fallen pregnant after more than a year of trying, Gemma excitedly took a pregnancy test – only to have her hopes dashed by a negative result.
“My husband Paul returned home from work and saw how devastated I was, and he said ‘we have got to do something about this’,” says Gemma.
The couple were living in the US at the time and went to a fertility clinic for initial tests which revealed that Paul had poor sperm morphology (shape and size).
“I became obsessed. I conducted lots of research, started taking various different types of vitamins, I had ovulation sticks and two mobile phone apps, the lot,” says Gemma.
An obstacle in the road
Shortly afterwards the couple moved back to the UK and went to see their GP armed with their test results from the US. They were told that they would have to have new tests done – which confirmed that Paul’s sperm morphology was still poor and that they would most likely need fertility treatment.
Then they hit another obstacle in the road. Gemma had an abnormal smear test result which delayed them being referred for fertility treatment.
“It was just before Christmas and a number of my friends were expecting babies, in fact one was expecting her second, and I just went really downhill,” says Gemma. “It was my worst Christmas ever and it is only now, looking back, that I realise that I had hit absolute rock-bottom emotionally.”
The following year Gemma and Paul were told that they could be referred for NHS-funded IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic Norwich but unfortunately their first IVF round was unsuccessful.
“I was so upset, I just wanted to see my best friend,” says Gemma. “She came round and hugged me tightly. She was a few months pregnant by this stage and was trying to stop her pregnancy bump touching me, she felt so guilty, it was heartbreaking.”
The couple were entitled to two NHS-funded cycles and for the second course of treatment they had ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) which involved the best quality sperm taken from Paul being directly injected into Gemma’s eggs in the lab.
Finding out that, following their second round of treatment, she was finally pregnant was initially a strange feeling for Gemma, after having waited so long to get to that point. “I wished I could feel like jumping for joy but I was too anxious and scared,” she admits. “I was disappointed in my reaction but I didn’t want to trust it too much.
Sharing her fertility journey
“When we found out that we were expecting twins, I felt like we had won the lottery.
“After our 12 week scan I posted a long message on Facebook about my pregnancy and our fertility journey to that point, and I was amazed at the response.
“I had people I knew messaging me telling me about their own fertility struggles, which I had no idea about and I am so glad I plucked up the courage to tell our story.”
On the 18th April 2019 Gemma gave birth to twins, Ottilie and Felix.
“I still to this day cannot believe that I am a mum,” says Gemma. “I sometimes think that I am going to wake up and that It didn’t happen. Even though the twins are here I still feel really emotional when I think back to how sad I felt when we couldn’t conceive. I am not sure you ever feel ‘emotionally cured’ of infertility.
“I was so upset when friends were getting pregnant, I was happy for them but sad for me. I felt like my body was failing me but, looking back, I wish that I had trusted my fertility journey more.”
For many, lockdown has been a major obstacle in their fertility journey. Bourn Hall’s Fertility Fair on April 10 aims to put you firmly back on track and help you navigate your way towards the finishing line of pregnancy and a family. If you have been struggling to conceive for over a year, are waiting for a diagnosis – or you have already been told that you need fertility treatment – then this event is for you: Fertility Fair.