As I sit here in my Christmas jumper, counting down the hours to that one special day, it’s easy to forget Christmases gone by.
Bethany, Rachel and I had a strong family bond and we were so happy with each other. Despite only meeting Bethany when she was 6 literally 7, we’ve really hit it off and there’s no part of me that doesn’t feel like her Dad. She is my daughter.
There has, however, always been a cloud over us every Birthday and Christmas.
Every year when asked what Bethany would like her reply was always the same, “A brother or sister?”
Due to a number of complications this wasn’t possible and the void that we felt had been temporarily filled with another cat and eventually the dog. But nothing ever truly quelled that desire to have another. For we are great parents, love adventure and nuture Beth’s creative as well as educational side. It’s the question lots of our friends would ask us. “So when are you having another?” Without knowing that we’d actually been trying and failing multiple times some quite distressing.
Christmas 2011 was a really tough time, as a clever 9 years old it was the same Christmas wish and we sat down as a family we decided to discuss the possibility of adopting. We spoke about the logistics of it all and how we could give a child that hasn’t had the same opportunities that Bethany has had the chance to experience the Palmer way of life. I had no issue raising a child as my own, Beth while not being my biological daughter hopefully doesn’t feel that at all.
Having spoken to a number of organisations and charities following, we were pushed towards fostering a child. Financial gains, low commitment etc While we know a number of families that do this, being someone that puts my heart in to what I do, I couldn’t ever imagine letting go after building up that relationship and connection. It wasn’t about financial rewards, it was about a forever home. My wife felt the same and however hard it was we just couldn’t.
Mrs P and I were at a very low point and the thought of growing our tribe meant that the need grew strong every time we spoke. One of the questions for adoption was about assisted fertility and if we were trying or tried. In truth we couldn’t rule this out and it was decided that we were going to seek medical assistance to find the root cause. If this obviously didn’t work we could truthfully answer the questions and look at adoption.
Following on from this and multiple other appointments Rachel ended up with a referral to a women’s clinic for a “growth” on her ovary. As you can imagine this was in particular a very scary time for us. Being completely positive about everything to counter any feelings Rachel had, also probably meant I was dismissive of any negative sides and thinking back probably made me seem distant.
After a procedure to find out the issues, it wasn’t a growth but significant debris and there were two blocked fallopian tubes with the prospect of a removal of both and an ovary.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know how to feel! Rachel was going through this on her own as I’d distanced myself to stop getting emotional and to maintain business as usual and be the rock should everything go tits up. There was a moment post surgery when Rachel was informed that both tubes were gone but a simple “clerical error” was to blame and actually there was one spliced with a working ovary.
Mrs P was the true rock over this time and despite having the stresses or work, home and this operation, there wasn’t a moment where she wanted to give up, concede defeat or think that there wasn’t hope.
The time had come for discussions around testing for IVF procedures. At the Hewitt fertility clinic, it was now my time to be tested. Something I’d not really thought about that much. With everything going on there wasn’t any room in my brain to comprehend that there may also be additional issues with me. The morning came along, literally, and I was now faced with the daunting task to perform.
The next few months seemed like a blur. Appointments and letters coming out of our ears until we get an appointment with the IVF consultant. Looking back we were lucky as we had up to 2 free IVF goes and as our BMI was good, diet and lifestyle great we’d been selected as a lucky family.
The appointment that followed went a little something like this:
Actions were going to take:
1 – Pump your wife with loads of drugs so she’ll produce loads of eggs
2 – Harvest all the eggs
3- Fertilise the best ones
4- Pop one back in to grow
5- Cross our fingers
We were given a box of needles, syringes and IVF stuff that was then to be administered into the leg! WTF! Was there no way I could slip Rachel a tablet? Apparently not as what we were doing was invoking the vast reproduction or eggs and then a chemical menopause. Ouch!
This was one of the toughest times in my life, seeing my wife slowly lose her bright light, the glow that she normally has and become pained with the daily routine of stabbing herself in the leg! The funny thing is Rachel did a stabby stabby test on my before we originally met. How the tables have turned. I’d lie if I said I could do this, constant injections come rain or shine at the same time every day. What a nightmare! Again she took it in her stride.
It was funny having to explain to Beth the whole process and carrying around a yellow sharps box like a junkie. Please read through this if you are in the same position, I’ll explain why further down: http://www.vintagefolly.com/my-blog/egg-collection-our-ivf-journey
Fast forward a few months and the day came to visit hospital for Egg collection and my big performance! That’s right it was my big part and it had to be a good one. There was a ban on all extracurricular activity prior to ensure production and as there’s a small timeframe for pot delivery to maximise our chances, it all had to be done in the ward.
Now in a time where there really is no fun and a lot of hope, this was funny! It definitely brought a smile to my face and that of my wife.
Upon entering “the room” on my own, I was greeted by a collection of “magazines” which included an N64 one and one my granddad had stashed under his extreme fishing collection. Very off putting. Having spotted a remote and wiping down frantically, I turn the TV on and I’m astounded to find a very un PC collection of pornos. Thinking to myself “I don’t want to know who downloaded these!” The room was very hot and the sound of the ward literally inches away through the door wasn’t conducive to a speedy performance but I can say I did what was needed. What a hero!
After what was a very invasive, gruelling and stressful time for Rachel my part was marginal and it was very hard to get my emotional state to the same level. I was very neutral in my views and felt up until the last second that “what will be will be!”
Egg collection produced 22 viable eggs which was amazing! Seeing them on the screen, it was like a very over inflated tyre. The hard work and specific diet really made a difference and production was so strong that OHSS had occurred and there was a potential wait to carry on. Luckily we pushed as we understood the risks but just wanted to go forward! Thank god we did.
The next stage was fertilisation which sounds like speed dating for sperm where they introduce likely candidates! My super swimmers and Rachel’s bumper batch of eggs produced 12 embryos and they were all doing great. Now in America you can have multiple put back, hence the Octopulets, in the UK it’s far more restrictive and however much I wanted a readymade footie team, it wasn’t going to happen.
There was a number that were particularly strong and went to blastocyst stage meaning they had an improved chance. For us it did sound like a lottery but they’re the experts so we had to just go with it. We were on standby for a call to go in and before we knew what was happening, Rachel and I were in a room listening to the nurses talking about Custard Creams.
Being whisked away with Rachel in a gown on a bed ready to have an Embryo inserted into her was daunting. Having someone else implant my Baby was a surreal feeling. After first seeing the embryo on the screen, cell division and all, our doctor said “good luck little one” as he finally released what was a bright dot on a screen into my wife, and start a process that was everything we’d ever hoped for.
Not to detract from our pregnancy but I can see that this post is very long already!
We are so lucky to have been given the opportunity to have IVF, Rachel the support of the consultant who pushed for referrals and of course Mrs P for being so very strong throughout the whole process.
So this Christmas will be our first with Dorothy and Bethany has already taken over as chief entertainer! It’s a good age at nearly 11 months too as she’s starting to understand what Christmas is all about and can even unwrap presents. I’m completely in love with Dorothy and enjoy every minute together.
Waking up in the middle of the night we look at each other and this is a decision that we’ve made. We can’t be angry ever as we’ve gone through so many challenges to get here that we’re so grateful! For everything, the good times and the bad too.
It’s going to be one of the toughest financially for us, but I know that I’ve got all the presents I want in Rachel, Beth and Dorothy. And if you wondered why we chose the name Dorothy, it was a group choice based on the fact she’s a rainbow baby and the very small bright dot on the screen.
Have a great Christmas and whatever you’re doing, be thankful for those sharing it with you not what you’ve been given.