Alice & The Mums Magazine Issue 9 IVF Edition

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A L I C E & T H E M U M S Issue 9 |ÂŁ6

Motherhood & Anxiety An anxious mummy tells us how she copes with the two

Social Media Parenting Exploring the pros and cons

HomeBirthing The ins and outs of planning and having a home birth

October 2020

Wardrobe Organisation Tips for keeping your little ones clothes neat and tidy

The IVF Edition Heartbreaking but Resilient

Pregnancy in a Global Pandemic

How one mummy coped during lockdown



05 08 10 12 14 16


17 25

The Anxious Mum Mental Health Matters Pat on the Back! Anti-Social Media Preemie Parenting Happily Co-Sleeping

30 20 21 25 28 29 30

Pregnant During Corona Virus Organising Kids Clothing Home-Birthing Exercise After C Section Potty Training IVF Stories

Editor's Welcome Another gorgeous collection of stories, and this time we have a section dedicated solely to the parents who had to wait a little longer, pay large sums of money and experience heartbreak after ALICE & THE MUMS | 4

heartbreak before they could meet their little ones. Read about their struggles, and eventual happy endings! Plus our regular features are back and some other lovely pieces. Enjoy <3


If you are anything like me you will worry a lot. You will worry over menial things. I have always dealt with anxiety. However, since I have become a mum my anxiety has reached a new level. I worry about everything and anything. I remember when we got home from the hospital with my son. I felt so many emotions. I was relieved, excited and scared. It was at night my anxiety would make an appearance. I was so worried when he went to sleep. I was struggling to sleep beside him as I was scared and extremely anxious. I would close my eyes and immediately open them when I felt I would fall asleep. I was constantly checking up on him ensuring that he was breathing. I was listening more intently. Ensuring that he was safe and ALICE & THE MUMS | 5

most importantly alive. So, of course, I was an extremely tired and emotional mum. For me, I would only sleep if someone was with my son. Mainly my husband or my parents. The first week was extremely hard for me. I continued to be anxious and I continued to doubt myself. It was around the fifth day that I was very emotional. I was in tears mainly because I was struggling to breastfeed him. I couldn’t control my tears. My husband really did not know what to do. I just cried and when my boy saw me in tears he was crying. I couldn’t stop crying. I was so scared that I couldn’t cope with motherhood. I was so scared that whatever I did was wrong for my son. My husband had to phone my mum in the hope to calm me down and offer me reassurance. Whilst I was on the phone to


"I was so scared that I couldn’t cope with motherhood. I was so scared that whatever I did was wrong for my son."

my mum, she managed to calm me down. She then advised me that what I was experiencing was Baby Blues. She reassured me that what I was experiencing was normal and I should be as anxious. Baby blues affects 80% of mums after they have given birth. It can last up to 10 to 14 days. It did come out of the blue for me. I thought I wouldn’t get baby blues. However, I was wrong. In hindsight, I should have been more prepared. Baby blues does happen out of the blue when you least expect it. Well, it did for me. My mentality during the baby blues period was so low. I felt that I had no control. I felt drained. I was constantly anxious and exhausted. I don’t think I have ever felt so low. It did pass after a few days and I returned to my usual, but, still anxious self. I still felt anxious during the first year of motherhood. This was a different type of anxiety altogether. One aspect of motherhood that made my anxiety suffer was when I go out alone without my son or go into work. Sure, it’s great going out but, if

you are anything like me, you will worry nonstop! I miss my son like I am missing a limb. I felt under a lot of pressure and guilt that I shouldn’t be out without him. Yet, I also felt pressure that I should go out with friends. This was before COVID-19 struck. I had to message whoever was looking after him to check my son was ok. As I would worry that he would have a nasty fall or become ill. I would also worry that he would play up for them. As my son has the ability to wrap his grandparents round his little finger. I wasn’t sure that they would be able to cope with his tantrums. I still feel the sudden dred of anxiety when I leave him when I go into work. It’s heart-breaking. I have been working for over a year and my anxieties comes and go. Sometimes I am so busy that these anxieties don’t build up but other days they do. So, I find a quiet place and close my eyes and count taking deep breaths to calm me down. Luckily, for me this does work and my anxieties are relieved.



MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS BY STEVIE-JO FAY My name is Stevie-Jo Fay I’m 29 years old and now a mother to one beautiful little girl. Like many, I’ve had a bit of a tough life which has led me to develop multiple mental health issues. My hope in sharing my journey is to reduce the stigma around mental ill health and encourage others to speak out and talk about their mental health. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it makes you the person you are today. As a child I went through many Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) which resulted from a broken family home, this led me to have certain issues that I have to face in my adult life. These are: abandonment issues, not feeling good enough,


co-dependency, an emotional eater, always worrying about what people think about me, anxiety, among others. From Primary, to Secondary school I just got on with life, I was very unhappy but I didn’t have the understanding or awareness that I do today as a woman as to why I had struggled with certain feelings. I thought no one would understand me. From the age of around 16 I used alcohol to find a way out of my depression to just supress my feelings and it was an unhealthy way that I coped with things. From 18 onwards it spiralled out of control, I was out every weekend sometimes starting on a Thursday. I would drink myself line

oblivious, where the drink took full control of my body - I never knew what I was doing or saying as this was just a way of dealing with my problems as I didn’t know how to be open and honest with the way I felt. I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone as everyone has their own issues. I was in complete self-destruct mode with alcohol and binge eating to make myself feel better, which actually only ever sugar coated the problem and led me to just bury it and not deal with it. In 2013 I had a bad car accident. I was a new driver and the accident wasn’t my fault. It was my first accident and it was the most terrible experience, as the other person was very intimidating, angry and aggressive which I was not expecting. This event caused a trigger of my anxiety, to this day I still struggle with a lot of anxiety around driving. As the years went on, I would have bad bouts of depression and anxiety - some weeks I was what seemed ok and functioning but other weeks I would be very low in myself - not want to do simple tasks, or even get out of bed some days, pursuing the same unhealthy eating habits. I struggled to understand why I was this way. However, these ACE’s that happened in my life never affected my ability to want to do better and be better. It gave me all the more reason to achieve what I wanted to achieve in life and build my career. But mental health can have the opposite effect on people if they don’t have the right support, so awareness around this needs to be

increased so that everyone knows it’s okay not to be okay and who to go to in a crisis.Over the last 4 years I’ve had many appointments with my GP, CBT training, trialled medication and counselling sessions – which did help. Since having my daughter in 2018, my anxiety was triggered again due to a traumatic labour and birth. The good and bad weeks turned into days and sometimes even hourly - the best way I can explain it is I feel amazing on top of the world, confident, happy and then the next minute I plunge deep into self-hatred, become very down and then become very negative. In 2019 after continued advice and support from the doctors. I attended an appointment and I was finally diagnosed with an Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) which means I have difficulties with relationships, impulsive behaviours, feelings of emptiness and anger and not being able to regulate my emotions. I fight a constant battle in my head every day, whilst being a mother and juggling day to day life. This is who I am and I want to help dissolve the stigma around mental health and encourage people to be open and honest. No one should ever judge a book by its cover, we are more than our mental illness.


Give Yourself A Pat On The Back! By Alice King It's about time I gave myself some credit. A pat on the back. A round of applause. Yet every time I go to do that, I'm held back by the weight of something or someone else. It feels like when we want to be proud and happy for ourselves, there's largely two camps of people: those that feel inspired or feel happy with you, and those that think your every achievement is a dig at their insecurities or a boast. Now I know this is a bold statement, but I'm bored, fed up and disheartened by the women-wanting-women-tofail-because-it-makes-them-feel-better BS that comes with social media. When in reality, a win for one woman should be a win for us all. This is a touchy subject for me at the moment as my return to work is very much present, stressful and draining. We've had 6 months of lockdown this year where I was working from home, teaching my students while juggling a toddler on one hip and running a business on the other. It was difficult at first, but I managed. I found a routine that worked for me, my students, and most importantly, my family.



Now I'm back on site full time, things are moulding to a new normality. Ted's settled back into nursery so wonderfully and has progressed leaps and bounds in the last month. It's obvious he really thrives around other children. The guilt for leaving him is ever-present, but watching him nail his speech and other milestones is so rewarding and I appreciate the time I do have with him even more. Work is mad. Teaching 16+ year olds in a global pandemic is one of the most difficult things I've done. Everyone's emotions are high, but staff are

pulling together like never before. There's a real sense of community. The magazine is thriving. Now that everything is back to how it used to be- non-profit and super accessible, I'm so happy with the direction it's going in. I've heard it all over the last few months regarding the magazine. People don't realise when they're tearing it down, they're tearing me down. I now don't have time for anyone's input on it unless it inspirational, constructive and empowering, because that's exactly the vibe I'm going for in all elements of my life right now! So back to the point I'm trying to make...

"Day-by-day I'm claiming bits of the old me and reconstructing them into the new and improved version" Simply being a mum is hard work and incredibly difficult. Simply being a teacher is hard work and incredibly difficult. Being a teacher in a global pandemic is even harder. Simply editing a magazine is hard work and incredibly difficult. This is no sly on those that may only juggle one of these at any one time. It's just a celebration of how proud I am that I manage all of these thingsand manage them better than I ever thought I could. Everyone has different situations, and why should I not be proud of what I'm capable of? I'm giving myself the credit where it's due after spending the year worrying that I'm not enough. Not enough of a mum, but not enough of a teacher, and not enough of a Magazine Editor. When in reality, this is who I am and I'm enough for them all. I handle things a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but I handle them. My time management, organisation and prioritisation are excellent, and that's how I get everything done. And guess what? I won't stop celebrating that things are going well for me. I'm at a point I longed to be at for so long, and I won't stop being happy for ME! As mothers, we long for the old us, the bit of us back that we lost when our children were born. Day-by-day I'm claiming bits of the old me and reconstructing them into the new and improved version- and I love it! ALICE & THE MUMS | 11

Anti- Social Media? By Rebecca Oxtoby

Love it or loathe it, social media is increasingly

in the current world, where you can receive a hefty

becoming an all-encompassing part of our lives. It

fine for socialising.

seems that we are surrounded by billion-dollar

On the surface, it would definitely appear that

YouTube babies and hashtag Instamums, so

social media is uniting new Mums. There are

separating ‘real-life’ from the online pretence can

thousands upon thousands of groups connecting

often be harder than you’d think.

Mums, though many only provide a superficial ‘follow

We are the first generation to bring up children

for follow’ and perhaps a few extra hearts on your

immersed in an online world. We Google answers to

recent posts, which quickly disappear if not returned.

life’s biggest questions, swipe before we can talk and

That said, influencers including @MammaBelle18

crave a numerical rating in the form of ‘likes’ for every

(with her relatively impressive following of 35k) have

picture of our #familydayout.

developed a networking campaign which sees

If the balance isn’t struck with maintaining real-

thousands of Mums interacting on a weekly basis.

world presence, we are ultimately at risk of missing

Meet a Mummy Sunday (MAMS for the cool kids) has

out on the beautiful nuances of child development:

now expanded to Meet a Parent Sunday following its

the way they now copy a dance move or imitate your

huge success. I’ve frequently participated in these

speech. The way they seek eye contact for

weekly posts (commenting an introduction to

reassurance, or make their dolly ‘drink’ some juice. I’d

yourself and receiving followers and ‘friendships’ in

be lying if I said the battle with the black mirror

return). The interactions appear more genuine, and

wasn’t constant, but I’m making a conscious effort to

have definitely brought ladies together from across

be present for Isabelle first and the rest of the world

the country; a particularly valuable feat during a 3am

second (and if you aren’t, watch Netflix’s

feed when your non-virtual friends are fast asleep.

documentary The Social Dilemma, it’s terrifying). That being said, I am interested in exploring

But what if we scratch beneath the surface? Do women actually connect following these posts? Do

whether social media is providing a new and exciting

they meet up? Have a coffee? Share companionship

way for Mamas to connect and support one another

over discussions about their increasingly irritating

at what can often feel like a lonely time, particularly

husband or their hatred towards Bing? I asked my


social media following (all 2257 of them…so while I’m here, follow @bookmumstheword for sarcasm and Nutella-based parenting posts). The simple answer was ‘no’, but a global pandemic is likely to have skewed those results so I wouldn’t take them at face value. Still, an online community is definitely better than no community at all, so well done @Mammabelle18. Beyond the obvious, social media has also become a fundamental marketing tool for Mumtrapreneurs and small businesses. I, for one, would never have seen the success I have with the book if it wasn’t for Instagram networking and, let’s be honest, what’s more glorious than Mums supporting Mums to feel empowered, and to feel like something other than a leaking milk machine with a deflated airbag belly and a greasy Mum-bun. Extraordinary things happen when women empower women, and social media has to be thanked for that. I do have to put forward my dislike for the ease of access to social media and online forums when it comes to queries and concerns. Within seconds, we can post a question to the world, and as the responses come rolling in, there is no filter to separate the metaphorical wheat from the chaff. The outcome is often a bewildered mother, left with 101 different suggestions to decipher, because, guess what, all of our experiences are enormously different. Let’s not forget that whilst motherhood is undeniably the hardest job in the world (unpaid, long-hours and the boss shits on the floor) you ARE qualified for this role. YOU made this person, and your instincts are more valuable than the opinion of Chloe from Dudley. If you are genuinely concerned or stuck, our country has a phenomenal (and free) post-partum health service. I guess I’m living a love-hate relationship with social media. It’s a swirling vortex of never-ending uploads and feeds, which can easily absorb your mind into a dead-scrolling pit of nothingness but ultimately, I guess I’d be a hypocrite if I said I hated it: it’s taken my book’s publicity to the next level, I’ve met some phenomenal women, and with a bit of tweaking and seeking for locality, I’ve been introduced to some amazing Mum groups who do actually meet face to face (thank you to

"Let’s not forget that whilst motherhood is undeniably the hardest job in the world (unpaid, long-hours and the boss shits on the floor) you ARE qualified for this role."

@ClareThrivingFamilies and @Mamasociety). These strike the balance between virtuality and reality,allowing me to combine that much needed social support with being a present and engaged Mama (and there is often cake involved, too).



I, like all first-time mums, was desperate to be organised and fully prepped for having my baby girl. I went about it with military precision; books, podcasts, journals, you name it, I was on it. However, when I was admitted to hospital with what looked like the early signs of labour at 33 weeks – I was totally thrown. I stayed in hospital for a few days, was discharged at 5pm on Wednesday the 5th December 2018… and my daughter was born at 9.14pm via emergency csection on the same night. I won’t go into too many details on my birth, this isn’t about my birth story, but there I was at 33+4 weeks and suddenly a mum – it turns out that no amount of planning; or books will prepare you for becoming a mum to a preemie. I had dreamed of birth and the experience we would have for years, we tried for 3 years before successfully getting and staying pregnant. The skin to skin, the quiet time, the connection. My


reality was that I didn’t meet Skye until she was around 3 hours old in the NICU, where I was allowed to hold her outside her incubator for about 30 seconds for a photograph before she had to be put back – I wouldn’t get my next cuddle for 4 days. In hindsight, we were incredibly lucky as Skye wasn’t unwell despite being so early – she was just very small at 4lbs 5oz when she was born! She also struggled with her jaundice levels so would often be under a lamp when we visited and we wouldn’t be able to touch her – those days were so hard when all I wanted was to scoop her up and run away with her! The most visible sign of her preemie-ness was the fact that she was tube fed for the first 7 weeks of her life. We would have to feed her my expressed milk through the tube every 3 hours on the button – so no on-demand feeding for us. Before we left the hospital we had to be taught how to take her

PH levels in her stomach and tape up the tube so she couldn’t pull it out and she also had to prove we could feed her with a bottle just in case she did and nobody could get to us to get a new tube in quick enough. I desperately wanted to breastfeed, but with Skye’s weight being the biggest concern, and with nurses weighing out the exact amount of millilitres she needed to gain weight, I shied away from trying because I was afraid she wouldn’t get enough as she was so small and would get tired so easily.

"...I wouldn’t get my next cuddle for 4 days..."

"...milestone books are no longer relevant, the wonder weeks app can’t accurately predict leaps for preemies..."

The challenges of preemie parenting don’t leave when you get sent home – its something that stays with you. A child is classified as premature until they are 2 years old, there they say (unless they are a micro-preemie and born before 30 weeks) they should ‘catch up’ with their peers. In comparison, especially around milestones is something I really struggled with watching Skye grow up. I knew she would be behind her friends and the rest of our NCT group, but it didn’t make it any easier seeing them roll, crawl and walk way before her. There are so many aspects of parenting which you don’t feel you can partake in – milestone books are no longer relevant, the wonder weeks app – the bible for all parents can’t accurately predict leaps for preemies, it’s difficult sometimes not to feel left out of it all, for the first year of Skye’s life – loneliness was the majority of what I felt. As I type this in mid-September, its NICU awareness month, and I am still so thankful for everything that the NICU at Addenbrooks hospital did from us, but the sound of the machines and being apart from my baby so

much, that it still haunts me, some days I still worry our connection will forever be tainted by that. I say with 95% confidence that Skye will be an only child because I am scared of the same thing happening again, I’m not sure I trust my body enough and I feel we got so lucky with Skye, I don’t want to tempt fate. At the end of the day, now to look at Skye, other than being on the short side (she’s 21 months and still in 12-18 months clothes) you would never know she was nearly 7 weeks early – she’s been a slow talker and I’m trying not to let it get to me, I know, like with everything else she will catch up soon enough. But what being a preemie has done is made her so resilient and determined, she fought so much and she is a strong-willed child even now (the terrible twos might be the end of me!) and I love that about her. So if you are the mum to a preemie, or know someone who is – give them a big high five because the extra worry, lonelieness that comes with it is a battle – and they deserve to be celebrated.




I’d never really given much thought

kinds of wrong to lay her anywhere

to co-sleeping. I hadn’t heard of

but with me. (Looking up the fourth

many people doing it, I’d purchased

trimester will shed some light into

a snuzpod and cot for the nursery,

why this feels so instinctive for

so I just assumed that is where my

both mum and baby). With her tiny

baby would be sleeping.

warm body pressed up against

However, bed sharing kind of

mine I felt at ease and I was able to

came naturally to us – it felt right.

fall asleep better. I could feel / hear

I’d carried this little babe inside of

her breathing and I was

me for nine months and it felt all

immediately notified if she moved.

It wasn’t all sweetness and light of course, nothing ever is! There were frequent dead arms, sick in the hair, explosive poos and milk puddles to contend with but still, putting her away from me felt too much. I would sometimes lay her in the snuzpod but I was so nervous about it that I would have my head on the side of the sleepyhead so I could hear her. The avalanche of conflicting information that’s out there can really set off your paranoia but co-sleeping was not part of that anxiety for me, the opposite was more so! As time moved on things became a little more challenging. I have quite a high bed so once she started rolling we needed to think of alternatives. I tried to put her in the cot in her nursery but neither of us enjoyed the experience, so we bought bed guards and continued on. Although it wasn’t long before that option was also unsafe. I made the decision to move us both into the nursery together, but hadn’t quite figured out how. I tried her in the cot and me on the floor but she was having none of it. For longer than I care to admit we both slept on the floor, me on the cot mattress and her on a tripled up duvet and some pillows, but we couldn’t go on like that forever so we finally decided to ditch “tradition” and follow our instincts – one trip to Dreams and a single mattress later, all was well in the world. I really wish I’d had the confidence to buy that mattress long before we did because it was an absolute game changer! If I could go back in time I would never have bought a cot and we would have introduced the ALICE & THE MUMS | 17


mattress early on. This is definitely what I will be doing next time (if we are lucky enough to have more children). Co-sleeping has been a bit of a rollercoaster but I think the main reason for the downs is judgement and perception. Not feeling confident in your own instincts and what feels natual to you because society tells you you’re “making a rod for your own back.â€? Of course there have been times where I longed for my own bed, to be able to sleep in whatever position I want or to move without fear of waking the baby but let me tell you, waking up to her sleepy, happy little face for 21 months will never be something I regret. Having her open her eyes, seeing me and instantly beaming. Being woken up by a kiss on the nose. Rolling over in the night to a cuddle and a “love you so much mumâ€? - it’s clichĂŠ but they’re only little for so long and I’m forever grateful for those memories. Now at 21 months I am transitioning out of the room and it feels like the right time for us. To be honest I think my snoring was waking her up, haha! I’ll miss those late night snuggles but I will hold them in my heart forever. Never feel ashamed about sharing your bed, no matter how old your kids are. Trust me when I say that more people are doing it than they let on! Enjoy the cuddles and feel free to slide into my DMs if you need some solidarity chats đ&#x;˜Š


Pregnant During Coronavirus By Joanne Townsend When I found out I was expecting a baby back in September, I was thrilled about being pregnant for the second time. My first pregnancy had run fairly smoothly so I was looking forward to experiencing it all again. However, I didn't expect to be pregnant during a global pandemic! The first couple of months of my pregnancy ran smoothly; we enjoyed the run up to Christmas. Once we had our first scan, we announced to our family and friends we were expecting and in January, we had our 5 month scan where we found out our baby was a beautiful little girl. We had heard a bit about coronavirus but I hadn't really taken much notice of it. The midwife didn't speak about it and I didn't really think about how it could affect me and our baby. I thought it was something that would blow over. Then came that first news conference where Boris said that vulnerable people would have to isolate and he mentioned pregnant women. I was just heading out to pregnancy yoga and I remember the shock that filled all the mums around me. Our planned final trip as a family of three was cancelled which was upsetting and then came the announcement that we were heading into lockdown as I headed towards my 31st week of pregnancy. Pregnancy during lockdown was a surreal experience. We were suddenly shut off from experiencing those last few weeks with family and friends. During my first pregnancy, I had spent the last few weeks preparing for the birth, sorting the nursery and having a lovely baby shower with family and friends. This time around was spent trying to find a food shopping slots, attempting to order baby bits off the internet with long delivery times and keeping our


almost three year old entertained. My parents and our in-laws had to drop off stuff for us. The worry was a struggle too; there were news articles that I had to try to avoid about how pregnant women had passed away and newborn babies had coronavirus. And then we then had the news that partners would not be allowed in until you were over 4cm and could stay only an hour after birth. This caused me a lot of worry and I really hoped things would change by the time I gave birth. Also not leaving the house aside from a walk or a quick pop to the shops as I was classed as vulnerable was so hard. Being independent and normally popping out when I liked, It felt so bizarre to be stuck in. My husband was obviously not allowed to come into my midwife appointments. We were lucky that my husband was able to come to at least two of my early midwife appointments and attend both scans. I feel so much for those who didn't have this during their pregnancy, for both the support for the mums and for dads to feel involved. While there was lots of negatives around being pregnant during lockdown, I am grateful that we got to spend so much time as a family of three before baby Alice arrived. Days spent

just going for a nice walk or playing with Lucy in the garden were very special and lovely memories to look back on. With my husband on Furlough, he could play with our daughter while I rested as we reached those final days. I also got time to prepare for baby's arrival and didn't have to worry about my other half being at work when labour began. While being pregnant during a global pandemic was worrying, I'm lucky to have given birth to a beautiful baby girl who is healthy and well. To the mums who are pregnant now, make sure you don't read too much news. Switch it off and have a break. There's so much out there to make you worry; just focus on you and your bundle of joy and enjoy being pregnant; global pandemic or not!





By Natalie Lavin

And there I was, on all fours on the downstairs bathroom floor looking at the dial on the radiator and my husbands socks, the soles wet through by my waters. My whole body shaking uncontrollably, “Oh its a boy” my husband beamed as they passed up a pink crying bundle between my legs, my baby bear, my son, Caleb. It's strange when I first found out I was pregnant with Reuben, my first born, labour didn't even cross my mind and as we sat in our first midwife appointment and reached the question “Have you thought about where you'd like to give birth?“ it actually dawned on me that I would be experiencing labour and what did I actually want? See for the younger me like the majority of

second pregnancy I had experienced labour, I

home birthing experience - the birthing

people the first visual encounters of labour

was a mother yet I felt like a first timer facing

mother was so relaxed, having a back

were scenes on soaps or films - Mildred

a list of birthing options, plans, scenarios and

massage and delivered her baby with such

squatting in a broken lift for 10 minutes and

an overload of other people's opinions.

ease. Her other children got to meet their

then holding a 10 week old baby in her arms

When our community midwife brought up

whilst still managing to have not taken her

the option of having our baby at home I

tights off. High five Mildred!

suddenly felt excitement overflow just as I

Admittedly one born every minute came

brother immediately after the delivery, one even cutting the cord! I was in, until the next clip showed a

heard “I'm not keen…“ I could hear the subtle

potentially life and death situation (should

along - the good, the bad and the hold on to

panic pang in my husband's voice. The

have pre recorded and subtly hit 30x when

your vjay moments and gave an accurate

shutdown felt like a blow but I wasn't going

that clip came on..) his concerns were rightly

insight of what bringing life into the world

to give up (or go on a rant about whose

so. What was the likelihood of something

really looked like. As I sat watching the

genitals were about to stretch to unknown

going wrong, was I putting myself and baby

episodes which people told me not to do I

territory). I knew the comment came from

in danger by choosing to birth at home? Was

found myself eagerly awaiting the arrival of

fear of the unknown so as long as I didn't go

my pain threshold good enough to only

my baby but still hadn't planned the delivery

on the defensive and put my reasons forward

potentially have gas and air?!

other than my husband to announce the sex

I knew there was a good chance I would end

of our baby and cut the cord.

up having the homebirth which I suddenly

clips and speaking to our midwife stopped

had my heart set on.

myself from doubting my gut instinct to birth

Turns out I was right to do so, decisions and choices were taken out of our hands

Looking at studies, stats, watching which?

I set off on my mission of home birth

at home. We were a low risk pregnancy, I had

(hopefully you'll be enticed to read them in

information overload, luckily for me Emma

laboured naturally without issue with my first

another post) meaning when it came to our

Willis delivering babies showed an amazing

baby, if there was an issue or if during labour I ALICE & THE MUMS | 25

changed my mind we would be at the

I'd always fancied a water birth as I used

falling in between my legs, you know the

hospital in no time. Statistically 12% of

water to help with my endometriosis pain so

feeling as if your baby would fall out and be

second births result in transfer to Midwifery

it seemed pretty natural for me to want to

like “Hey” but nope nothing… Even

Led Unit or Labour ward, taking into

labour in water and seen as I didn't get to do

attempting to get it on wasn't an option, it

consideration that a percentage of those

this first time around I was adamant I wanted

was like a game of hungry hippos whilst

mothers will have been transferred down to

to be able to at least give it a go.

looking like an overturned beetle (sexy

choice rather than medical emergency and

Birthing pool bought, extra towels, plastic

imagery right there). Sunday came and “hello

knowing I was in safe hands with the

coverings, energy snacks, a shed load of

there bloody show” finally more than just on

midwifery team we both felt that birthing at

biscuits, extra tea and coffee for midwives

off niggling and bits of plug, my show must

home would be for us.

and another tap adapter after one failed

mean that labour isn't far off! The side

attempt at filling up the pool in the bag we

walking on the stairs and stupid cleaning

were set (nearly…)

positions had paid off and now there wasn't

Then came other people's views- “why when you can birth at a hospital?“, “It's a stupid idea due to risks”, “you’re brave doing it

At 36+5 I pushed the dining room table

on your own”, the negatives - the people who

out of the way (nesting the hell out of the

much more waiting to do…

due to fear unfortunately ended up annoying

house) and the pool sat in the dining room

gave me the look, like he knew I was going to

the hell out of you (polite term). Women have

under the light fitting, we placed fairy lights

go into labour. Not long after due to feeling

laboured at home from day dot, today's

around the room, lanterns, wrote a little

rough I got on the sofa and cuddled up into

research and well trained medical midwives

message on the light box - I was ready to give

our faux fur throw, I did exactly the same

ensure this process is as safe as can be. Most

birth in my home apart from the birthing

thing the night before my waters went with

home births require little to no intervention

pack not arriving and with 37 weeks


in comparison to hospital births, so doesn't

approaching I was slightly freaking out.

We put Reuben to bed that night and he

Monday morning 2.30 I woke with the

that count for anything? A few people were

On the Friday before he arrived Rich had

more positive and in fact shocked me with

printed a door sign off stating “Home labour

hour they didn't stop. I started to time them

their reactions (I was pretty much expecting

in progress please do not disturb” to make

and they were constantly every 8 minutes

the above) simply stating it wouldn't be for

sure the amazon delivery driver didn't end up

apart, I gently shook Rich to tell him I was in

them however it was my choice and they

with more of a view than he had bargained

labour, his response “Are you sure this isn't

respected that.

for! We went on a walk into the centre of our

just another false start” this sounded quite

So with an ear bashing, information

usual morning pains except this time after an

village and on the way back I was struggling, I

like the disbelief when my waters broke first

overload and excitement for our new arrival

couldn't wait to get home and sit on my gym

time round. Second go to for Rich, prompt

we started planning the details. You know

ball. Saturday was pretty much the same ball

showering to ensure he is labour ready! I sat

the major things like where the baby was

game, feeling like I was walking whilst

bouncing on my ball and timing the

actually going to be delivered; pretty big one!

attempting to keep a bowling ball from

contractions, we were excited and called the midwives to let them know that today was the day. We were told to contact them when contractions were 4 minutes apart or if the pain became unbearable and they would send someone out to have a look at progress I attempted using my tens machine but I didn't get the relief I had first time round, this time the contractions were in my back and the tens made them feel more intense. I decided to get into the bath as my contractions became erratic and much more intense, after throwing up on myself and in my hair I asked Rich to call the midwives for advice. He was told to get Reuben up and out of the house as it was likely to be my concern for him causing me anxiety. I began focusing on my contractions and pouring hot water into the bath with each one that passed. The urge to go to the toilet, I remembered it well and now knowing what to expect I was also aware that I wasn't going to poop or


pee I was in fact likely to be 10cm dilated and

require admission to the ward. I was lead

wouldn't require stitches and they would now

ready to push. Not wanting to freak my already upstairs in order to deliver the placenta and

be leaving us to it.

white as a sheet husband out I asked him to

get comfortable in our second bedroom whilst

We sat in the spare bed, the 3 of us in

call the midwife as I was nearly 4 mins apart, I

the necessary checks were completed,

complete amazement of what had just

won't apologise for the language that then

weighing an unexpected and respectable 6lb

occurred. Our little boy was actually here in

occurred within the next 34 minutes. After the

11oz Caleb was returned to me for skin to skin

our home, Reuben would be coming back to

call whilst filling the pool with water I was told

and his first feed and oh my did this boy want

meet his brother for the first time within hours

the midwife was 30 minutes away… “they can't

his first meal…

of his arrival and we would finally all be

be, I haven't got 30 f#*ing minutes!! I exclaimed”.

The after pains this time were a lot stronger,

together as a family of four.

I would 100% be taking pain relief for these as

So did everything go to plan? No it didn't.

I knew they would get stronger as my uterus

Would I change it? Hell no!

not wanting to tell Rich I just held onto his

returned to its usual size. This however didn't

Everytime I go into the downstairs toilet I have

jogging bottom pants like my life depended

seem to want to make my placenta make a

a little grin on my face, knowing right there

on it, peeling my hand off he went into the

move and attempting to push felt lame with

was where our lives changed again in the best

other room and I heard the front door go.

nothing to push against, and an hour had

way possible!

Midwives had arrived and after being asked if I

passed and it was time to admit it wasn't

The question isn't about how brave you are or

wanted any pain relief I shouted “gas and air”

budging on its own accord. I was given the

are you doing the right thing, it's merely does

I was sat on the downstairs toilet pushing,

whilst knowing there was no way I would get it injection and within seconds the placenta

Home Birthing feel right for you and if so do

as I was too far gone.. As soon as they stepped

finally made an appearance, I was then

you fancy purchasing an unused pool in a bag?

into the dining room I confirmed that fact by

checked over and happy to be reported that I

feeling a head covered by waters, everyone rushed in and I heard the following discussion “the pool isn't ready as the temperature needs confirming, is there anywhere else we can go?” .

Well the answer was no, I wasn't moving far

in fact I made it from the toilet to in front of the toilet. Yep my water birth wasn't quite as I had pictured it, with the water supplied being my own that is but considering I had already been pushing before their arrival and knowing my body I knew I was nearly at the stage of meeting my baby. Without any prompting I was pushing on contractions, visualising the descent of my baby. Within 10 mins of pushing the head was born, I heard Rich telling the midwife he was just taking a quick picture (hold it just there, that's the shot) and then with one final push and a little shrug my baby had arrived within just 12 minutes of the midwife and student midwife arriving. “Oh its a boy” I heard the emotion in his voice as he revealed the gender of our baby, he had been adamant I was carrying a girl (apparently I was that moody it had to be a girl…) so was happily shocked. My whole body at this stage began to shake uncontrollably whilst I attempted to hold my baby for the first time, this was apparently due to the quick delivery. My body was in shock, the second midwife arrived which is normal practice at the stage of delivery (missed all the fun!) and looking at our tiny bundle they wanted to double check his weight as it looked like he was on the small side so we would possibly




HOW CAN I SAFELY RETURN TO EXERCISE AFTER A C SECTION? There have been lots of questions asking

a deep breath in through the nose, fill the

about how to safely return to exercise after

lungs so you expand the ribs and feel the

Another huge factor is eating enough! If

having a C-section delivery, so we wanted

pressure pushing down in the tummy. As

you do not provide your body with enough

to go over a few tips that will hopefully

you exhale, breathe out through the

calories then it will take its time to recover,

help you ease back into your fitness

mouth and start to perform your kegel,

provide your body with the fuel it needs to


drawing the pelvic floor up. Once ready

build itself back up.

Unfortunately this is not going to be the

improve the time it takes to recover.

you can progress this by being in a seated

answer for all of you as each person's

position with a good posture. This should


recovery will vary from the scar healing, to

get the pelvic floor and diaphragm

Get up and start walking, from early on

the mobility in the tissue and to how you

working together which will lead to

your walking will help increase your blood

are resting to allow your whole body to

stronger pelvic floor strength rather than

flow to the scar which will speed up

recover just to name a few variables. A C-

the usual “squeeze like you're trying to

healing, it will help work on the tissue

section is a serious surgical procedure but

hold in a wee”. This practise does take

mobility and it will keep you active. Just be

tonnes of mums assume you will be good

time and A LOT of work, it may also be

careful not to go too far too early on, take

to go after 6 weeks as you have your check

useful to work with a PT who can help

your time to build up your distances.

with your GP but realistically you will need

guide you in more detail, the above

at least 12 weeks for your body to get to a

information is a brief outline of what to do.

place where it can exercise safely.

Scar Tissue Massage

This is for further down the line once the Hydrate

scar has healed but self massage on your

as some mums want to get back to their

Your body needs water to function

scar can help improve tissue mobility

fitness routine and to lose the baby

optimally and that counts in recovery.

which can lead to you getting back to your

weight, now is not the time to worry about

Athough it is tempting to survive off flat

previous exercise routine quicker. The

that. Yes you can be conscious about your

whites, try to keep your body hydrated

more mobile your scar is the bigger your

health and do things to help your recovery

with regular cups of water and foods that

range of movement will be. You can also

but if you go too hard too soon, you will do

have a high water content.

book in to see a soft tissue masseuse who

As tough as you may find that to hear,

more damage than good to your body.

can do scar tissue mobilisation.

Listen to your body and give it the time it

Eat for Recovery

needs as you have just gone through a hell

Focus on getting a variety of foods high in

The main thing to remember is to allow

of a journey with your pregnancy and

protein, fibre and vitamins. Foods that are

your body to recover not only after a c-

finished off with a massive surgical

high anti-inflammatory are also a fantastic

section but a vaginal birth too. You have a

procedure, 6 weeks in the grand scheme

addition to your daily diet. The proteins are

newborn to deal with, most likely a lack of

of things is not that long and giving it a

needed for the cell regeneration and help

sleep and you may have other children to

few extra weeks to heal will not be the end

rebuild your body, F High Fibre (along

deal with too. The last thing you need to

of the world. Focus on your recovery. So

witheing hydrated) helps reduce the risk

worry about right now is how quickly you

what can you do?

of constipation which can lead to pressure

are getting back to doing some squats.

on your scar along with increasing the

Listen to your body, do not compare your

Focus on your core

workload on your pelvic floor. Vitamins

recovery time to other people, take time

Take the time to improve your pelvic floor

and minerals will keep the body healing at

out for self care and know that it’s ok that

strength and how that links with your

its best ability, while the anti inflammatory

you are not getting straight back into the

breathing. Start by lying on your back, take

foods could help reduce the swelling and

gym. Look after yourself.


AUNTIE K'S TIPS: POTTY TRAINING! Are you going potty about potty training?? Read on for my tips on getting your little one out of nappies. Your child is ready to use the

If your child is

potty or toilet when they are

definitely ready, put

physically, cognitively and

them into

emotionally ready, usually

pants/knickers. Pull ups

between ages of 2 & 3. If they

can cause them to be

are not ready, no amount of

confused and they will be

stickers, sweets or other bribes will work.

less likely to try and 'hold on' if they don't have the security of a nappy.

Being emotionally ready usually comes last so the

You might find that your

more you push the more

child prefers to use the

they will resist - what

toilet rather than a potty,

toddlers like to do best!

particularly if they have older siblings. Again,

Make your child aware of the

GO WITH IT! It makes life

potty and talk about what to do

much easier when going out

and what happens but keep it

and about as they will be more willing

fuss free - as frustrating as it

to use toilets.

can be when you know your child is ready.

Not all children will be able to stay dry at night

Trust that your child will

until they are older. This

come round to the idea

is absolutely fine and

when they are ready and

nothing to worry about

see learning to use the potty or toilet like learning

until they reach age 8 when it is advised to visit your GP.

to crawl, walk and talk. It happens when they are ready.

And lastly, did I mention that your

Trying to get your child to use

child needs

the potty or toilet before they

to be

are ready can cause them to


'hold on' which can cause UTI's and constipation. If your child is showing they are ready before you are....... GO WITH IT!! You will be surprised how easy it is!




BY LAURA HALL I started seeing Mick ten years ago. After our first date, I went home and told my parents that he was the man I was going to marry and my prediction came true. We got married in December 2015, but we started trying for a baby in October 2015. We both presumed that I would get pregnant straight away, how wrong we were.


After a year of trying, we went to the doctors for all the necessary tests. My results revealed that I might not be ovulating every month, but on the whole there was nothing much to worry about. Mick went for the results of his sperm analysis in December 2016 and we were told that we would need medical assistance due a male fertility issue. We were referred to a specialist and we were put on the waiting list for IVF with ICSI. We started our first round of IVF in June 2017. We went into our first round filled with optimism and approached each injection as a team. Mick would inject the needle, I would plunge, and I would always treat myself to a piece of chocolate after. After two weeks of monitoring, I went for a scan and a blood test. I called the clinic in the afternoon for the results and was told that they would be cancelling our first round, as I had barely responded to the stimulation medication. We were absolutely devastated; we’d never considered not getting to egg collection. We met with our consultant in early July to plan our next attempt; he decided to increase my stimulation medication. We started our next round in late July during the summer holidays. We were both teachers at the time so we didn't have to worry about missing work for scans and other appointments. I responded much better to the stimulation medication and, after what felt like forever, we finally reached egg collection day. Egg collection at our clinic is carried out whilst you are awake; you are given painkillers, and gas and air to manage the pain. You are allowed to take your own music in with you



to listen to, so I took Boyzone's first album... my guilty pleasure. Apparently, I spent most of the procedure telling the nurses how fertile Ronan Keating was and where he was on holiday (Greece, just in case you're interested). They retrieved nine eggs. After a cup of tea, a cheese sandwich and a biscuit, we were sent home and I spent the next couple of days recovering on the sofa. The embryologist called us the morning after to tell us that we had six embryos going strong. After three days, we had four embryos and we were booked in for a five day transfer. On the day of transfer, we headed up to the clinic and transferred one hatching embryo. The embryologist gave us a photo of our little blastocyst which we proudly displayed on our mantelpiece. We tried our best to carry on with daily life and not think too far ahead, I even went to V Fest (I swapped alcohol for progesterone pessaries). After ten days, I had a hCG blood test. I had refrained from doing a home pregnancy test. I rang the clinic later in the day to be told it hadn't worked, this round had failed and I wasn't pregnant. We were devastated and shocked; we never thought that it wouldn't happen for us. The next day we booked a last-minute trip to Ibiza. We didn't forget what had happened, but we let our hair down and had fun. After Ibiza, we quickly planned another transfer, as we had two remaining high quality frozen embryos. My cycles were regular, so we made the decision to try a natural frozen embryo transfer. After monitoring my lining and hormone levels, one embryo was transferred in early October 2017. We didn't make it to test day before my period started (honestly, I was nursing my best friend's newborn baby as my period started). Another failed transfer within the space of two months. We transferred the final frozen embryo as soon as possible. We planned another natural FET and transferred our remaining embryo in early


December 2017. After a difficult two-week wait I went for my hCG blood test. I rang for my results and was told that my level was 2 mIU/mL, meaning that I was not pregnant. As my level was above 1 mIU/mL, the clinic asked me to return the following week for a repeat blood test to check that my levels had returned to zero. After the blood test, I went out with friends for Christmas. The following day, I rang the clinic to be told my hCG levels had risen to 54 mIU/mL... I was pregnant. The nurse warned me that it might not be a viable pregnancy, as the levels were not as high as the clinic would like. The nurse then asked me to go to the Early Pregnancy Unit for another repeat blood test. I spent the next two days daydreaming about our little Christmas miracle. After having my blood test at the EPU, we went to visit my Gran in hospital. Just as we were about to go in to the hospital we received a phone call to tell us that my levels were falling and that I was experiencing a chemical pregnancy. Not only were we losing my Gran, we were losing our baby too. Needless to say, Christmas was tough. I got a new tattoo over the festive period. I had a small rainbow on my wrist made up of three lines in honour of my three little embryos that didn't make it. We planned our next round for February 2018. We were entitled to one round funded by the NHS, so this time we had to pay. My grandma kindly decided to use some of the money from the sale of her house to pay for our IVF treatment, something which we will be eternally grateful for. We started our next round in mid-February after having made a couple of changes to my medication. Everything progressed well, and after just under two weeks we were ready for egg collection. We experienced very heavy snow the evening before the procedure. Our consultant carried out the procedure as the doctor that was supposed to do it was stuck in the snow. This time they managed to collect fourteen eggs. Once again, we went home to wait for news from the embryologist. The morning after we had six embryos, two days later we still had six embryos going strong and we were booked in for a day five transfer. This time two embryos were implanted, one was already hatching. The four remaining embryos were frozen. Once again, we were given a photograph of the

embryos which we displayed on our mantelpiece and talked to each day. A few days after transfer I saw a friend who didn’t know we were having IVF; she asked if I could be pregnant, as she’d dreamt that I was. I thought that this might be a sign so the next morning I decided to take a test... an extremely faint second line appeared. I rushed out to buy more tests. The next day I tested again and the line was stronger. The day after was Mother's Day and the line was still there. I continued to test until my blood test at the clinic, and the line continued to become stronger. My hCG level came back as 121 mIU/mL and I was officially pregnant. As my hCG level was high the clinic told me that I would not need a repeat blood test, but I would need a scan at six weeks. I stressed and worried, and took pregnancy tests for the next few weeks, until our scan day finally arrived. I had decided that we couldn't be lucky enough to have our own little baby, how wrong I was. There on the screen was our tiny little baby, with a tiny little beating heart. I can't begin to describe the joy that we felt. Over the remaining months of my pregnancy we had more scans, appointments with the consultant and midwives, antenatal classes, and hypnobirthing sessions until finally November arrived. I had a healthy pregnancy until at 38 weeks I was diagnosed with preeclampsia. I was admitted to the hospital on the 5th of November, induced twice that week and then finally on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at almost 11am Adie was delivered under a general anaesthetic emergency c-section. We had a perfectly healthy baby girl, although I wasn't feeling so perfectly healthy! Four days later we came home to start our lives as a family of three. Adie is the most perfect little girl; she has made our lives complete. We would love to give her a younger brother or sister. As I write this, I am preparing for an ultrasound scan at the clinic and we are meeting with the consultant to move forward with a frozen embryo transfer later this year. We're not entirely sure what the future holds for us, but we feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have Adie in our lives. She was absolutely worth the three years that we had to wait for her. ALICE & THE MUMS | 33

S IM A'S IV F JOU RNEY BY SIMA I always knew I wanted to be a mum. My husband and I both came from large families and so having a family of our own felt natural to us. I went to my GP and found out I was pregnant. Unfortunately, I was bleeding and we quickly discovered it was an ectopic pregnancy. I had to have emergency surgery and one of my fallopian tubes had to be removed. The following year I fell pregnant again but it was another ectopic pregnancy. It was unfortunate that I had to have surgery again and I lost my other tube. The doctors told me don’t worry, with IVF they will make sure the embryo is in the right place and you’ll be fine. Both of these surgeries were due to NHS negligence, they could have intervened sooner and saved my tubes, instead they left me infertile. I contacted the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and received a small amount in compensation. I then started the rigorous process of IVF starting with being referred to Hammersmith Hospital. I ALICE & THE MUMS | 34

underwent 4 rounds of IVF there, only one of which was funded. I suffered 2 miscarriages as a result and was no closer to understanding why I wasn’t conceiving this way. I was only 28 so very young when I had my first IVF so we were confident it would work once the embryo was in the right place. The doctors there were not very forthcoming in their advice, we changed minor things each cycle, such as adding embryo glue or taking a small dose of steroids. I clearly remember asking my consultant what would you do if I was your wife and he replied exactly what you are doing. Naively I didn’t know that there were private clinics I just assumed this was my only route. Not knowing where to turn or what to do after my consultant disappeared during my last cycle, I joined some online forums to get some answers. I came across a chat where a lady mentioned immune testing and a book called ‘Is My Body Baby Friendly’ by Dr

Beers. I immediately ordered the book, read it and finally, I began to understand why my body wasn’t holding the pregnancies. I decided to go to the top clinic in the UK, we saved every last penny we could to get the best treatment once and for all. After having a full set of blood tests done including the ‘Chicago Blood Tests’ or ‘Full Immune Testing’ as it’s known, I was told my natural killer cells or my white blood cell count was too high. What this meant was my own body was rejecting the embryos. I embarked on another journey which involved giving up pretty much 2 weeks to be at the beck and call of this clinic. I would arrive at 7am to join a long queue to get daily blood tests done. I would then wait for the results over the phone and then would be told what to take and when. I think by now I had injected well over 1000 times! I was scared of

needles. Shockingly this was the most expensive cycle with the worst outcome, I didn’t even make it to Embryo transfer. I went to a follow-up appointment where I was told to give up and try donor eggs! I burst into tears, I was only 34! What followed next was me looking into how I could improve my own egg quality. Being told I couldn’t use my own eggs made me more determined and we decided to give it one last shot! This was our 6th and final attempt. My research led me to an IVF clinic called Zita West in London. There I was put under the care of Dr George Ndukwe and his amazing team. Most importantly I had a course of Itralipid treatment which suppressed my immune system and allowed me to carry a pregnancy to full term. Their holistic approach of acupuncture, counselling and nutritionists gave us our precious little boy.


If you’d have told me eleven years ago that the boy I was about to meet in the pub, surrounded by shared friends at university, was to be the love of my life and father of my children, I’d have laughed in your face and told you to get the next round of jaegerbombs… If you’d have told me that we’d go through some of the most challenging things that you can face in life; including a long distance relationship, a cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as IVF, I’d probably have taken the drink off you and downed it in preparation for what was to come! Our IVF story started when my husband, then my boyfriend, got diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer when he was only 24 years old. We were told to plan ahead and freeze his sperm as it wasn’t certain whether any impact on fertility would be long lasting or not. It was an ‘insurance policy’ we never thought we’d need to use. Why would we? We were young. He was going to survive this battle, and life would get back to normal… The cancer treatment absolutely ravaged his body, and the once fit and healthy boy that I’d fallen in love with, quickly became weak and frail. Multiple leg surgeries left him needing full time care. So at 26, after only a few years together, our relationship drastically changed and I became his carer. Throughout the treatment, he tried to stay strong and he’s since told me that one of the thoughts that kept him going was the prospect of hopefully one day becoming a Dad. Everything had been pulled into perspective for him, and having children became an incredibly important goal.



"...A LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP, A CANCER DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT, AS WELL AS IVF..." Once he had finished treatment and we were ‘getting back to normal’, other milestones started to fall into place - we moved in together properly (rather than house sharing or living in a cancer centre), we got engaged, we got married… and then we nervously set about planning the next step; babies. It was pretty daunting that we were the only couple we knew, at our age, going through this. Whilst lots of our friends were planning on delaying having kids to pursue their careers; we were all too aware that the longer we left it, the harder it may be to achieve our dreams of becoming parents. We hit so many roadblocks during our IVF journey from paperwork being lost by clinics, to hospital admissions for overstimulation… Our families often joke that ‘everything is dramatic’ for us, and it certainly seems that way - I’m pretty sure we could write a whole book (or 2!) about our lives that would read like a soap! We ended up having to go private for our IVF treatment as the local hospital to us couldn’t guarantee any funding would be available when we got through all the testing etc, so we made the decision that because we had planned ahead and saved up for this exact situation,




then we may as well get cracking with it. We bit the bullet and went along to IVF clinics in Harley Street, until we found one we felt happy with. What we weren’t prepared for, though, was just how many things could, and did, ‘go wrong’. We were told what the process would be, and given that I was deemed ‘super fertile’, we were given the impression that it would be plain sailing for us and that we’d be pregnant within the month. Well, reader, we were not. In fact it probably took the best part of 6 months to end up getting to the stage where we were doing a pregnancy test to see if treatment had worked! A problematic egg retrieval process, due to an adverse reaction to hormones for me which resulted in me becoming massively overstimulated, meant that I was hospitalised and treatment had to be put on hold. Despite my pleas for us to use as little hormones as possible (due to my body going haywire whenever they are introduced), doctors insisted we follow the normal plan of treatment. Once my body had eventually recovered, we started the process of an embryo transfer.. but once again my body reacted awfully to hormones and when my lining should have been thickening nicely due to the hormones that I was being pumped with… it was actually decreasing. A situation that the doctor ‘couldn’t believe’. After 3 months of ‘cancelled’ transfers (and the awful cancellation fees!) because my ‘body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to’, we were so disheartened and stressed. Would this ever happen for us? We had 11 embryos ready and waiting for us, but would my body ever let it happen? After much pleading with the consultants, I managed to persuade them to give me a bash at a natural embryo transfer. No hormones, just scans to monitor the thickness of my uterus lining to see if they were happy to go ahead with the transfer. And, as I’m sure you can guess, my lining thickened to the point that they were happy - without any hormones at all. All that strain, on us as a couple, on our families watching on helplessly, on our friends for having to keep being cheerleaders when it all seemed so impossible… paid off when we had our second embryo transfer and a positive pregnancy test two weeks later. Our second embryo transfer gave us our eldest child, Joey, now 2. Our third embryo transfer (after a move ‘back home’ to Nottingham) gave us our youngest, Zack, now nearly 6 months old.

It’s been a crazy journey to this point. But despite how stressful the journey was to have Joey, it gave us incredible insights for our second IVF journey to have Zack. We were wiser, always questioned what we were told by experts, and crucially… listened to our guts. We went for another hormone-free embryo transfer. Despite our consultant (at a new clinic in Nottingham) being skeptical I knew what I was talking about. Just the one. It worked. I’d written notes previously on techniques I’d used to get that first positive pregnancy test - from drinking pomegranate juice, to raspberry leaf tea, to using a hot water bottle religiously. I knew I was pregnant when on day 6, nausea had started to kick in! With both pregnancies I suffered with the utterly debilitating hyperemesis gravidarum (see, always drama) so it was not ‘easy’ by any stretch once we’d got the big fat positive result! Since having Joey, our lives have radically changed. I gave up full time work and started my own business when he was only 6 months old. We moved back to my home town of Nottingham. We got pregnant again and then Covid-19 reared it’s ugly head just before I had Zack. The birth stories for both the boys are.. probably for the next edition! And crucially, my husband has made it to 6 years in remission. He now works from home full-time and is the most hands-on Dad I could have ever asked for. Watching him fulfil his dream of becoming a Dad has been incredibly special, and emotional. He spends so much time with his boys because, quite simply, all those years ago he never knew if this would happen for him or if he’d even be here. I’m always one to believe ‘everything happens for a reason’, and I’d like to think that what we went through with his cancer diagnosis prepared us to be the best parents and the best versions of ourselves that we can and could be. But whenever anyone asks me about our IVF journey, I tell them to surround themselves with as many cheerleaders as they can. Even if they don’t know you’re going through IVF - surround yourself with love and positivity and it will help. Those friends who cheered us on the most are the ones who cheered my husband on through his treatment, and they continue to cheer our boys on through their baby and toddler milestones now. Will we use any of the remaining embryos we’ve got in storage? The jury is still out on that one - and whilst Zack is teething and still giving us sleepless nights, we’re erring towards ‘no’, but ask us when he’s 1 and we may feel differently!






Infertility is the one thing you were never told about growing up. Had I known how much pain and sorrow conceiving a baby could be; I wouldn’t of felt so blind sided. It was as if in my ignorant bliss of being a young newlywed that the rug was pulled out from under my feet and got the breath knocked out of me, only unlike when you’re a kid and you fall off the see-saw you never really recover. After 6 months of trying naturally we saw a fertility ALICE & THE MUMS | 38

specialist. We went to ease my anxiety, because my husband was sure there was nothing wrong. After a month of tests we found out that my husband’s sperm was extremely low quality and that the only way we would become pregnant was with IVF using ICSI. This was the first devastating blow, that we would never conceive without science. I struggled with the idea of my future children being “unnatural”. However we quickly switched gears and got

into our first cycle, we were like little innocent IVF virgins. Everything was new, scary, the drugs and injections were overwhelming. BUT we thought that the horrible experience would give us a baby. The hard truth is IVF does not guarantee a pregnancy. On the day of our transfer we were ushered into an office and told non of our fertilized embryos survived. 15k, countless probes and blood draws, and a body covered with bruises from


injections we had nothing. No baby, just broken hearts. A failed cycle IS a pregnancy loss. It is experienced like a miscarriage for many women. It is the loss of a dream. It shatters your soul and makes you question your existence. I struggled with severe depression and suicidal thoughts after our first failed cycle. After 2 weeks in bed, we went to our “WTF” appointment, as good friend calls it. Where they told us we would not be able to have biological children with both of our genes. The sperm was too abnormal. We would need a sperm donor. Cue the second wave of devastation. Needless to say we were in a dark place. We struggled as a couple and as individuals. We were scared, angry, and alone. In the end our desire to be be parents and to experience pregnancy outweighed the genetic loss and we picked a donor and started a second round of IVF. And this time it was a success. In 2016 we had a beautiful healthy donor sperm conceived baby boy. Fast forward in time, today it’s the summer of 2020. My son in turning 4 and we have a 4 month old baby girl, who is also donor conceived through IVF.

After 3 IVF cycles, 1 IVF cancellation, 2 FETs, multiple surgeries, hundreds of injections and blood draws, 46 egg retrieved, and two sperm donors we have our family of 4. That is what IVF looks like. It’s terrifying, unpredictable, painful physically and emotionally, and isolating. But it was worth it. It was my path to motherhood. And I love my children more than anything on earth.


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