Last year I found “My Fertility Specialist” magazine and was amazed that it was being produced by one, very motivated woman in the UK. She had been through her own fertility struggles and decided a new online magazine was needed to help others with the questions she had when going through her fertility treatments. We spoke on the phone recently. You know when you speak to someone and immediately can feel they are genuinely warm and caring? That’s Sheila. She has popped over to my blog today to bravely share with you her own story and then how she set up this really useful resource. Hope you enjoy meeting her.
I’m Sheila Lamb and I’m the very proud Founder of the online fertility magazine, My Fertility Specialist. As my magazine is also all about supporting others as they go through their own journey (or ‘battle’ as I often called mine!), Jules asked me to share with her community a little about my fertility story and how I now support others.
Mine and my husbands journey lasted roughly six years after being diagnosed with unexplained infertility when I was 41, he 30. A diagnosis of ‘unexplained’ never sat comfortably with me – as a previously qualified nurse and midwife and sensible-all-round-person, nothing is ever ‘unexplained’; so I definitely wasn’t having any of that. Due to my age, the ‘unexplained’ also went hand in hand with ‘old eggs’, which I understood of course but my lifestyle had always been very healthy and as my husband was younger, we thought we could still get pregnant, even if we had to turn eventually to more medical means. So we enthusiastically went into our first Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) cycle but got our first negative pregnancy result. Our clinic in London advised we went straight to In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) because of my age – cheek! So we prepared mentally, physically and financially for our first IVF cycle – we opted for embryo chromosome testing to ensure the best embryos where transferred. One embryo was transferred on Day 5 but it hadn’t developed as much as it should have so I wasn’t very hopefully. Less than two weeks later my period started. (We later saw our notes and this baby would have been our son).
We were very disappointed and despondent and apart from the clinic, there wasn’t anyone to talk to or anywhere we could go to find out why it didn’t work and what we should do now. We decided to carry on trying naturally – made some lifestyle changes, I did Traditional Chinese Medicine with acupuncture for six months, had my hair tested in case I was missing out on essential nutrients, had my Vit D level tested which was very low, did hypnosis and obviously had shed loads of baby-dancing 🙂 All to no avail, never even a day late.
Fast forward three years and we were starting to accept that children may not be part of our family. On my part, I felt huge guilt for my husband and our parents – every Fathers Day, Christmas and his birthday, no card or present from his son or daughter. But I never felt ashamed about our ‘unexplained’ diagnosis, and I spoke quite openly to family and friends that we were having problems. Because of this people close to us started talking about their journey (we had no idea) so we didn’t feel so alone. Still looking for support and answers I occasionally logged onto Fertility Friends but that really was all the support there was eight years ago. Not at all like now, where people like Jules are sharing their journey on YouTube, others are blogging and tweeting, celebrities are talking, clinics and other experts are running support groups and you can join closed Facebook Groups – something for everyone. The internet started to play a large part in our research but I never really trusted what I read online and always wanted some sort of paper magazine that I could pick up and read useful articles – a sort of Fertility Cosmopolitan! However I did read an article in a Sunday magazine that set us on the next part of our journey – to have treatment abroad.
The article was about a clinic in Spain and the fertility nurse was English – I showed it to my husband and we both had a feeling that this was the right next step for us. So we organised a trip to Marbella – there are worse places to go! We were very happy with the whole experience – it was a very small clinic which meant we always spoke to the same Doctor, there was no language barrier because the nurse was English, scans and other tests could be organised in the UK and we could start preparing straight away.
It was very relaxing being ‘on holiday’ and doing the cycle – I had acupuncture before and after the transfer and relaxed every afternoon and visualised our embryos snuggling in. We got through the dreaded two week wait and we got pregnant! The HCG level was a little lower than ideal at 29mmol/l but another test 48 hours later and it had gone up to 159. We were elated and as it was so close to Christmas, we shared our news with family and a handful of friends. We went for our scan at 6 weeks and sadly no heartbeat could be found. Unless you have experienced a miscarriage, no matter how many weeks pregnant, no one will understand how your life can change so dramatically within seconds. A week before Christmas I miscarried.
Not one to hang around, I researched early miscarriage and implantation failure and came across the work of Dr Alan Beer, (he’s well known for researching the link between immune issues and miscarriage). With my medical hat on his work made sense to me so I had the common tests but they all came back negative. Great in one way but frustrating in another! Our Doctor at the fertility clinic didn’t have any other suggestions other than another scan and try again, but we didn’t believe in just repeating what we had already done. Fortunately the Doctor who did the immune tests agreed I could follow his protocol for our next cycle.
Organising our next cycle 5 months later was very easy until a volcano in Iceland decided life wasn’t stressful enough and decided to erupt, causing all flights from the UK to be grounded! Fortunately just in time the air was deemed to be OK to fly in! Everything went smoothly with the cycle, two embryos were put back but none were good enough to freeze, and the two week wait was as nail biting as the previous ones! I was a day late going to the local hospital for the blood test (so had a two-week-plus-one day wait!) and the HCG level was 487mmol/l. We were over the moon but in shock! At our 6 week scan we saw a heartbeat, the most amazing sight ever.
Even though I was now 46 and pregnant, I had a text book pregnancy, no problems that they warn you about because you are older. Our daughter is now nearly six and we have no regrets or shame about what we went through to welcome her into our lives. I still regularly thank my lucky stars I read that article and we acted on it – how different life would’ve been.
I’ve never forgotten what we went through and my husband and I would often discuss how we could help make other’s journeys a little less painful, which is why I started, with my husband’s technical help, My Fertility Specialist magazine. It’s the ‘Fertility Cosmo’ I was looking for all those years ago – full of expert fertility advice, true stories, recommended resources, latest news and much more – weeks of research in one place! Through the magazine I have supported women in other ways – I’ve attended support groups, been interviewed for radio by Ann Diamond and for the Fertility Podcast, have written guest blogs and regularly have readers email me asking me questions and just wanting sometimes to share their feelings with someone else who knows what they are going through.
I thank Jules so much for inviting me to share my story and how I am helping and supporting people the world over whilst they travel this unwanted rollercoaster journey. The next issue, the 8th, will be out the end of October in time for National Fertility Awareness Week. It’s a special issue with the theme of “12 weeks to plan for pregnancy” and a number of fertility experts will be sharing how they support and help women to conceive. With several readers already unsubscribed due to having a baby, I’m waiting to hear about more.
If you would like to find out more about My Fertility Specialist, please click here “My Fertility Specialist“