I put on my happy face for work

When Michelle from Lowestoft was 25 she felt like her life was on track. She had launched her own business – setting up a beauty salon, Beauty Bliss, in the town – and had embarked on a new relationship with Andrew, and then she hit the buffers.

Almost everything you hear when you are desperate for a baby of your own is that other people are having babies and when it doesn’t happen for you it is heartbreaking, she remembers.

“In the beginning Andrew worked away a lot and my beauty business was new so I was working more than 50 hours a week to get it off the ground. The salon was my baby,” says Michelle. But when she was 29 the couple got married and started to plan a family.

“It felt like the natural thing, getting married and then having children. It was the next step,” says Michelle. She admits that it didn’t really occur to her and Andrew that it would be a challenge.

“We are both fit and healthy, do plenty of exercise, are not overweight and we don’t smoke so we just assumed that we would both be fertile and wouldn’t have any problems,” says Michelle.

Putting on my happy face

“At first, when I hadn’t got pregnant, we had thought ‘oh well, it will happen one day,’ and didn’t worry about it too much. But as time went on and friends started settling down and having children I started to feel much more aware and sensitive about it. I suddenly felt as though everyone around me was getting pregnant and I wasn’t.”

When Michelle came off the contraceptive pill to try and get pregnant she started having really irregular periods which was not something which she had experienced before. The couple tried to conceive for a year without success and then Michelle went to see her GP.

Michelle was told to carry on trying to get pregnant naturally for another year. She still didn’t conceive and during that time more and more people she knew were getting pregnant.

“Being a beauty therapist I wanted to be positive for my clients so I would put on my ‘happy face’ for work but then sometimes a client would ask me if I was planning on having children and I would say ‘oh yes, one day’ and try and brush it off. It added to the pressure I felt.

“We tried everything we could to try and take control of the situation. Andrew was a marathon runner and even cut down on his exercise because we had read that too much exercise can put stress on the body. I took various supplements and underwent reflexology sessions.”

Unexplained infertility

The couple went back to the GP after another year of trying and were referred for tests at the James Paget Hospital. They were told that they had ‘unexplained infertility’ and were eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment.

Michelle and Andrew chose to go to Bourn Hall’s Wymondham clinic, which was just an hour away by car for them, and began their treatment just a few weeks after their first appointment.

Michelle found the hormone injection treatment prior to the IVF quite empowering.

“Injecting the hormones twice a day gave me a sense of taking control. I felt like I was doing something towards having a baby,” she says.

“I produced 7 eggs and we ended up with 4 embryos for the 5-day ‘blastocyst’ stage in the lab. At the end of that process two had survived, one of which Bourn Hall froze and the other was transferred to my womb.”

The couple went home and after 14 days took a pregnancy test.

“I couldn’t help but worry that the treatment hadn’t worked,” admits Michelle.

Never seen a positive pregnancy before

“I will never forget Andrew’s face after the test. He held it up and said ‘well we have got two red lines’ but he didn’t look convinced. I said ‘oh my god it has worked!!’

“We had never seen a positive pregnancy test before so we literally did a test every day for the next week just to be sure!”

Despite the confirmation that she was pregnant Michelle still couldn’t quite believe it.

“I remember us driving to Bourn Hall for the early scan and neither of us spoke all the way there, we were so nervous,” she recalls. “I was just praying we would see a little heartbeat and when we did it was just such a magical feeling, I could finally believe the IVF had worked.”

After a good pregnancy Michelle gave birth to son Arthur on May 11, 2019.

Precious feeling

“I had dreamed about the moment of my baby arriving for so long I cannot describe how I felt when Arthur was born, it was an instant feeling of love to hold him in my arms, just the most magical and precious feeling,” says Michelle. “Even now we look at him in awe and remind ourselves or how lucky we are to have him.”

Michelle, now aged 34, advises other people struggling with their own fertility or going through IVF treatment to try and stay positive if they can and look for ways to relieve the anxiety and stress.

“I definitely found that holistic therapies helped me, I had acupuncture and reflexology and it gave me a feeling of control back when I felt that I had lost it,” she says.