Amy (UK): One egg left?
‘My God that FSH is high’
I honestly believe that it was with those six words, in that moment, that changed me. I had gone from a 24-year-old with no worries, planning a career break to go travelling, to a woman that desperately wanted a baby. It was unfortunate that the Consultant that I saw didn’t read my notes and see that I was a doctor before saying those six words, because I’m sure he would’ve phrased it differently. Of course, he asked me pretty sharpish when he saw my reaction but the damage was already done.
I was a 24-year-old woman who went to clinic looking for an explanation as to why I had lots of very vague symptoms – dryness, mood swings, generally just feeling ‘off’. I had been reassured by my GP and the on-call Gynaecologist that it was most likely because of my third implant and the toll of the hormones on my body in my attempt NOT to get pregnant for the last eight years.
I left in complete shock and devastation. I was in menopause?! How could this happen? I had an autoimmune disease, that had been badly controlled for some time, and in the chaos of my body attacking itself, unleashing raging inflammation on my joints and skin. It had also decided to take a sucker punch to my eggs it seemed, forcing my body into premature menopause. This was madness to me! I had only been diagnosed at 21; how could this happen so quickly?!
We left clinic that day in a bit of a haze. We needed to act quickly he said, we wouldn’t have much time (also a bit of an annoyance as we had been waiting on the appointment for almost six months and I’d still been up to the eyeballs on contraception). My husband needed testing and I had to get a further test to see exactly what my egg reserve was like.
Thankfully Dean’s test was tiptop but my egg reserve was beyond poor; I crossed the boundary from subfertility to infertility – another blow. Talk about feeling useless. Why was I walking around in this body that couldn’t even do the most basic thing that it was supposed to? Babies weren’t even really on our radar. I had life plans, career plans, places to see, things to do, but not anymore. Operation baby was on.
With me being labeled as infertile the consultant pushed for IVF. IVF with donor egg. I’m sorry, what now?? We weren’t even going to try and use my egg(s)?! He explained that I would need at least four cycles of egg retrieval to get enough eggs for one IVF cycle to give me the same chance as anyone else, and as we couldn’t afford that, then we would just skip right to the egg donation. He said it like he had just solved the greatest riddle but my head was spinning.
I can honestly say that I’m used to being good at things. I pride myself on being a good doctor; I’m good at talking to people; I was good at school and sports; and generally, if I’m not so good at something, I will try my hardest until I am. My body was labeled ‘not good’, not good for producing eggs, making babies, carrying my own baby and this was devastating. There wasn’t even a conversation, and I suppose part of me thought, ‘well, we will just try at making a baby until I become ‘good’ at it,’ but it doesn’t work that way on the NHS; you have to hedge your bets on the outcome that is most likely to be successful, and in this case, it wasn’t me.
It was a huge amount for both of us to process as a couple. We left the appointment that day telling the Consultant that he could go ahead with the IVF application as it would take months to go through, but that we wanted some time to at least try ourselves. He said no problem, but that my numbers were really bad, and I kid you not, ‘to not put all your eggs in one basket’.
We allowed ourselves two weeks to feel really sad: I spent a lot of time crying, had some time off work and I comfort ate. I came off contraception the same day of our first appointment in October. Weirdly, my period came back 28 days to the day after coming off the pill so I was able to keep a track of things. November should’ve been our first month to try but Dean’s test was right in the middle of the ovulation and we weren’t allowed to try within so many days of that. My period arrived at 28 days again. What was going on? This wasn’t supposed to happen. December was our first month, and I can honestly say that Dean and I were sick of the sight of each other by the end of the ovulation window. No one can say that we didn’t give it the best shot, but it was Christmas and we tried to relax, enjoy each other’s company, alcohol and mountains of bad food. We were gearing up for a tough 2017, and mentally I wanted to be ready for the treatments we were going to endure.
Christmas Eve I cooked, served, and was quite honestly repulsed by the whole plate. What on earth was going on? My period wasn’t due for another three days but I decided to go do a test anyway; I didn’t tell Dean. My heart sank when just the one line popped up but who was I kidding? It was our first time trying. I didn’t say anything when I came back downstairs and continued to watch a film. We went upstairs to bed and I’m really not sure what made me take the test back out of the bin, but when I did I saw a second line, faint but there. That faint little line was Florence, our miracle baby, born August 2017.
I don’t know what the future holds. I’m eight months post-partum now; with feeding, my cycle is a bit all over the place and I think, is this the start of menopause? Was she my one and only good egg that my body spat out in desperation? If it is menopause then how grateful am I of our outcome and that we found out when we did. Bravo little ovary, you were written off but look what happened! Could it ever happen again?
If you would like to follow Amy on Instagram, you can find her @dr.amywatson