“This Mother’s Day is my first as a mum and, whilst I am happy for myself, I will also be thinking about all the women who might be feeling sad and finding the day particularly difficult,” says Katy from Wickford in Essex.
Although Katy, aged 31, is now mum to eight-month-old Charlie following successful IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, she still vividly remembers the heartache of being unable to get pregnant.
Struggling with Mother’s Day
“It can feel very lonely when it seems as though you are the only one who can’t conceive,” she says.
“I used to find Mother’s Day a real struggle and would get really down. You can’t escape it, it is all over social media, in the shops, on TV and that makes it really difficult when all you want is to be a mum.”
Katy and husband Leigh were told two and a half years ago that they would need IVF after trying to conceive naturally for two years.
Tried hard to stay positive
“The news we would need IVF hit us pretty badly; it was very hard to stay positive. It seemed as though everyone we knew was getting pregnant and one of the hardest things was the constant stream of baby announcements on social media. I even had people telling me how ‘whoops’ they had fallen pregnant ‘by accident’ and how easy it had been. I felt really happy for people but at the same time I felt this insane jealousy.
“I am a terrible Googler and I was always looking on forums to see how other people in the same situation were feeling, and just to be reassured that feeling a mixture of happiness and jealousy when friends got pregnant was perfectly normal. It made me feel less alone because not being able to get pregnant can be very isolating. You can end up feeling like you are the only one in that situation and it is easy to get stuck in a downward spiral.”
Tests revealed PCOS
Katy went to see her GP when they had been trying for over a year and was sent to Southend Hospital for further investigations, which revealed that she had polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) which can result in irregular ovulation.
“I had actually been to my doctor ten years previously, when I was 16, with all of the classic symptoms of PCOS including irregular periods, facial hair and struggling to lose weight,” says Katy.
“But they had put me on the pill to regulate my periods and that had been the end of it at the time. No mention was made at the time of my future fertility.”
Katy and Leigh were initially told to carry on trying to get pregnant naturally for a while longer but after another year of no success they underwent further tests and were told they would need IVF.
Postcode lottery hits after move
Katy and Leigh were not entitled to NHS-funded IVF treatment as the CCG which covers Wickford doesn’t fund IVF. “Ironically ,we had moved house just a few months before from Rayleigh where we would have been entitled to two rounds of NHS-funded IVF,” says Katy. “It seemed so unfair.”
The couple wrote to their local MP, Mark Francois, and also Matt Hancock, who was Health Secretary at the time, to lobby for equal NHS funding of IVF in Essex. “We did hear back from both of them but basically both of their letters were along the same lines of ‘sorry, that’s the way it is,’” she says.
Bourn Hall is a commissioned provider of NHS-funded IVF treatment in Essex for patients who live in areas where IVF is funded by the relevant CCG – as well as also offering treatment to self-funded patients like Katy and Leigh.
“We went to an open evening at Bourn Hall Wickford and came away feeling really positive about the place,” says Katy. “The staff were really friendly and the presentation was so clear about the statistics regarding success rates and live birth rates; their data was very transparent. And we came away feeling like we would really be looked after.”
Disaster then struck when Katy broke her foot, which delayed their first appointment at Bourn Hall – and then the country went into lockdown and fertility clinics were told to close temporarily. Finally, when her foot had healed and clinics had reopened, they were able to begin treatment.
The couple’s IVF treatment at Bourn Hall worked first time
“When I went for my egg collection at Bourn Hall and they told me that I had got seven eggs I didn’t know if that was good or not, especially when I overheard another patient saying she had 14 and I thought ‘oh, I have only got seven,’” says Katy. “But obviously Bourn Hall did a fantastic job and after the fertilization we ended up with two really strong embryos, one of which was transferred to me and the other one was frozen.
“It felt really surreal when we left Bourn Hall after the embryo transfer, knowing there was an embryo in me and that it would have to ‘do its own little thing’. We sat in the car park thinking ‘this could be it!’ and that is when we started to feel more positive.
“It still makes me cry just thinking about the pregnancy test. When I saw it was positive, I called Leigh into the bathroom and showed him the test and we just cried and hugged. I will never forget that moment.”
Careful not to be ‘triggering’ for friends
The couple wanted to share their good news with friends and family but were acutely aware of how ‘triggering’ pregnancy announcements can be – having been on the receiving end of so many themselves.
“I used to get really upset by the Facebook announcements,” says Katy. “So we posted ‘we want to share this news with you. It is an IVF baby and we would like to take this opportunity to offer a shoulder or advice to anybody else on a fertility journey. We want to use this opportunity to celebrate but also to help anyone else going through the same thing.’ I had two friends who I hadn’t spoken to in a long time reach out to me after that post.”
First Mother’s Day bittersweet
The couple’s son Charlie was born in July 2021.
“When he arrived it was like a dream come true,” says Katy. “It was just the most magical feeling.”
Now she is finally a mum Katy is looking forward to spending her first Mother’s Day with Charlie but says that the day will still be tinged with sadness for other women who might be finding the day triggering like she did – including people close to her. “I am so excited for myself and over the moon with my baby, but I will also be checking in with other people who might be feeling sad. It is a really difficult day when being a mum is the one thing you want in the world.”