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Miscarriage after IVF

My IVF and miscarriage journey has been difficult but that doesn’t mean I want to abandon it just yet.

If someone had asked me a year ago “what are you most afraid of?” I would have perhaps grinned and said something flippant like ‘getting chased by geese’ or ‘being buried alive’. I didn’t have any real fears that stopped my everyday life; as someone who suffered as a child with chronic anxiety over public toilets, unusual foods and wearing any kind of new clothes I had been there, done that, and worked myself out of it.

Things change.

Waiting lists, tests, mixed up papers and more waiting lists meant my husband and I had been on the slow train to IVF since 2019. When a treatment plan was finally confirmed just under a year ago we both felt relieved and nervous, and dare I say a little hopeful. We felt so grateful to have a chance to start a family, and I felt ready to part from my identities of focused-teacher and runner-extraordinaire, with the end goal being so much more important than any ‘thank you teacher’ card or runner’s high.

An initial slow response to IVF drugs followed by a complication of moderate ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome meant our journey to embryo transfer was mentally and physically tough, but we got there.

However, all that was a drop in the ocean compared to what happened next.

I was pregnant. Yet I couldn’t allow myself to be happy as I was so scared of loss. From the moment of the ‘official test’, literally not one hour went by where I didn’t think about a miscarriage. Every twinge, cramp, or tiny bit of spotting had my pulse raised and me in tears. I was not ready to let our ‘little bean’ go.

As an IVF patient I had regular contact from the clinic’s nursing team. I have since lost count of the number of messages I have left. They would call me back and, like my husband, try to assure me that none of the symptoms were of any concern.

However when the spotting became an angry red I was referred to my local early pregnancy unit (EPU). An early scan showed the foetal pole in its sac, but it was smaller than it should have been. Alarm bells were ringing but I was also hopeful that ‘bean’ would catch up, that it was just slow like I had been slow to respond when undergoing the IVF stimulation. I was not ready to give up hope.

But at six weeks and a half weeks I miscarried my bean. I screamed and screamed and screamed. The bright red blood would not stop. The pain doubled me over and the bleeding would not stop, yet all this was not enough, it didn’t reflect the depth of our loss.

Later in the day I passed something more than a clot, and at this point I wailed like an animal as I immediately saw it perfectly matched what I had seen on the scan. Once again I attended the EPU and they confirmed it was the gestational sac. My husband met me there and I feel both blessed and traumatised to have seen what I saw.

We have since buried our bean under an apple tree in my parent’s garden. It may sound silly to some people but I hope they can be soothed by the birdsong around them. Even though I never got to know my baby’s personality, hear their laugh or see them waddle I feel that I have connected with them; they had such an adventure to even get close to this world and I feel lucky to have carried them with me for a short time.

Weeks on it is still raw. I blame myself completely, feeling like it was my fault even though medical opinion says not. I even miss my daily injections and pills as administering them felt like I was protecting and helping our bean.

I have still got a long way to go though. Today I tried to run but every mile felt double its length, and every pram I passed made me want to scream, cry and curse the cruelness of the world. I think about my job and all those I have let down by being absent, and rehearse my sentences of what to say when someone undoubtedly says ‘great to see you’re back, are you feeling better?’.

For now I am taking one day at a time, trying to pick up the shattered pieces of my self-esteem and glue it back together. I swear by the motto of ‘be more cat’, choosing to do things that I am comfortable with and saying no to anything that could trigger more pain. Some people may read that as failing, but for me it is coping.

My IVF and miscarriage journey has been difficult but that doesn’t mean I want to abandon it just yet. Despite all of the above I am not ready to give up.

By Victoria