Our Journey - Nathan Christopher Whitmore
It was December 2007 when my husband and I decided that we’d like to start a family. Little did we anticipate the long journey ahead of us…
After two years of trying to conceive naturally without success, tests on both of us; endless blood tests to see if I was ovulating; temperature charting etc. we were told that we fell into the category of “unexplained infertility”.
We embarked on our first round of IVF in 2010 and were able to produce a good amount of strong and healthy embryos. Having gone all this time without managing to conceive I think we almost looked at IVF as some kind of ‘prescription’ that was going to solve the problem and bring us the baby that we longed for.
We got to blastocyst stage and had the strongest two embryos put back. When this didn’t work we were devastated but were told and were aware of the fact that statistically there was more chance of IVF working the second or even third time around.
However, these second and third attempts came and went and still no success. Each time, we were always able to create a good batch of healthy strong embryos, and each time, the ones put back never implanted. The clinic where we were receiving treatment gave us very little in terms of how to proceed differently with each cycle and we felt like we were just a ‘number’ without any personalized care or attention being given to our situation.
We were told that we had to look upon each round of IVF as ‘another month of trying to conceive’ and that statistically our chances would increase with the more attempts we embarked upon and to ‘just keep going’. I remember feeling very empty and dissatisfied with each follow up appointment after an unsuccessful round of treatment and it really started to take it’s emotional toll on both of us.
By mid-2011 and not being satisfied with ‘statistics’ any more and still having no real reason for us not being able to conceive, we started to look down other avenues and other places for treatment.
The wife of a colleague of my husband fell pregnant (who had repeated miscarriages) following treatment under Mr. Shehata in connection to both The Miscarriage Clinic and New Life Clinic.
When I looked at the New Life Clinic website, everything it was telling me rang true of our situation. Although I had never actually become pregnant, subsequently never suffered a miscarriage, failure to conceive for no apparent reason and in our circumstances, failure for our embryos to implant was viewed upon in a similar way, almost like a ‘mini miscarriage’.
We went to see Mr Shehata and following some simple immune system blood tests it transpired that I had very high activity Natural Killer cells which could possibly be the cause of the problem, attacking any healthy embryos. The very fact that someone had actually taken the time to pin point a ‘potential’ reason for our ‘unexplained infertility’ was a huge lift and filled us with a new found hope that had very much started to fade. Finally, someone was paying attention to us as individuals, rather than just another number!
So, armed with a variety of drugs and steroids aimed at suppressing my NK cell activity, we set about our fourth attempt of IVF with the assistance of Mr. Shehata. The cycle of IVF itself was still carried out at our original clinic as we were still entitled to NHS treatment. However, once again it was unsuccessful.
To describe how crushed we were at this stage is almost impossible. We had pinned such huge hope on being successful this time, especially as we were targeting what seemed to be the cause of us not being able to conceive. When we went to our follow up appointment with Mr. Shehata it was all I could do to hold it together emotionally.
We were ready to give up, we couldn’t take any more physically and emotionally – infertility had beaten us and we were never going to have our own biological child. In my mind and in my heart I was already thinking about finding other ways to become parents, with adoption becoming more of a possibility. I will never forget for the rest of my life what he said to us. Just three simple words, looking me straight in the eye: “don’t give up”.
After much soul searching we decided to give it one more shot: our fifth and final attempt at IVF. In our minds we had always had five as the number of attempts we would try, mainly because it was generally perceived that after five attempts the chances of conceiving are very small. However, because we were so mentally and physically exhausted by this stage, numbers almost didn’t really come into it any more. Although we were gearing up for this fifth and potentially final attempt, we were so beaten down by and used to disappointment that our hearts weren’t really in it.
We were then referred to Mr. Gafar at New Life Clinic who, during our initial appointment, recommended that before embarking on our fifth cycle, (which we were now going to carry out completely with New Life) I could try taking the drug Humira, which we were told could help us conceive naturally and that some people fall pregnant naturally by just taking it without the need for IVF!
It was thought that in our situation, it could help calm down NK cell activity and prevent embryos from being attacked that were trying to implant.
In my mind I was thinking this is the kind of luck that happens to other people, not to us, and sure enough, my blood tests showed that it had in fact increased my Cytokine levels even further! Although we were told this was common on first taking it, it still just left us feeling disheartened… how much more could we take? However, on New Life’s advice, we decided to give the Humira one last shot before our IVF cycle… why not…
I will always remember that morning. I’d been feeing a little different… my period was a couple of days late, and I was used to a lot of spotting before any bleeding which hadn’t yet happened. However at this point this still meant very little in terms of getting our hopes up. I decided to take a pregnancy test.. it was a Sunday, I didn’t tell my husband what I was doing, after all, I had taken countless tests before, what was so different this time? So used to seeing a negative result and why get his hopes up? So when those two blue lines appeared, to say I couldn’t believe my eyes is an understatement! A few seconds went by when only I knew, only I could see what was happening. After sharing the news with him, we were both in absolute shock and I remember us just sitting on the bed bewildered, just staring at the positive test in disbelief!
After some further treatment at New Life Clinic to help us hold on to the pregnancy, I am delighted to be writing this with our dear little son lying sound asleep next to me. It seems that the Humira had appeared to completely ‘re-set’ my system, enabling my body to allow a naturally conceived embryo to implant.
To think that after all these years we didn’t even need IVF treatment in order to conceive. We have finally realized our dream of becoming biological parents. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for the help of Mr. Shehata, Mr. Gafar and New Life Clinic we wouldn’t be blessed with our little miracle, and for this we will always be deeply grateful.