Keeping Hope

On New Year’s Day 2012, Colin finished chemo, battle-weary but still alive. Heidi was delighted to have Daddy back at home, though knew there were times she would have to be quiet, to let him sleep. To let him recover. At first he was seen every six weeks, then three months, then every six. Each time the all-clear.

Now it was time to rebuild our lives, try for the child we so longed for. All through Colin’s treatment, I kept looking forward, readying myself for IVF. I kept in shape, avoided alcohol, watched my diet and ate only fresh produce to optimise my chances of fertility. Aware of the emotional turmoil that the hormone treatment can cause, I underwent a course of Chinese acupuncture to prepare my body and my mind for what was to come. Throughout the daily injecting I stayed focused on the end result. It was all a necessary step on the road to achieving our heart’s desire – a little brother or sister for Heidi. A new baby, a new life, to help rebuild the family after the trauma of Colin’s illness. I watched Heidi playing with her teddies, talking to her favourite dolls, telling them how she wanted to have a little baby sister or brother. And I was determined to do whatever it took.

So every day, twice a day, I injected hormones into my uterus, to make the lining of the womb ready for our implanted embryo. I decided to tell all my family, friends and work colleagues, as we wanted to be open about the whole process. Talking took away any stigma attached to this intimate procedure and that helped with the emotional piece of the jigsaw.

We knew success rates were low. We knew most people had to undergo many costly cycles of treatment, sometimes without a successful outcome. But we also knew that for some it worked. That was what we focused on. The 17 straws of sperm were thawed and monitored closely. One by one they failed to fertilise. Sixteen of the 17 didn’t make it. It was all down to the last one. Our only chance. But one is all you need. One healthy embryo. And the last one successfully attached itself to my egg and fertilised. A huge achievement in itself. The transfer was done. One hurdle down. Now all we could do was wait. Two whole weeks, they told us. Two weeks and then we would know if we had surmounted the next hurdle.

Of all the things we had been through, this waiting was the hardest. Waking each morning wondering. Was the embryo taking? Did I feel any different? Was I pregnant? Could I possibly be? The days were interminable, the hours, the minutes crawling by. Luckily Colin was back at work, making a good recovery. And I too was busy with demanding projects at the office. But still the days dragged. A week passed, eight days, nine. On day twelve we could wait no longer. Colin bought a bagful of testing kits, standard, early, digital, all kinds. The first showed a faint blue line. We were too scared to rely on it. Maybe a false positive. Five or six more we did over the next two days, the blue line strengthening each time. When the doctor confirmed that yes, indeed, I was pregnant, I cried. Colin cried. I think even the doctor cried. It felt like we had won the Lotto. Our luck had turned. All the emotional and physical preparation had paid off. And with Colin getting stronger each day, it seemed almost too good to be true. At 20 weeks we underwent a detailed scan. A beautiful little baby, strong heartbeat, perfect limbs, moving gently in its amniotic cocoon. We were beside ourselves with happiness. Now it was time to share the joy. Parents and friends alike were delighted with our news. And once again, all we could do was wait. Wait and hope.

At eight months, the doctors discovered that the baby was breech, with no sign of it moving to a correct position. So I was promptly summoned to the hospital. They weren’t going to let me out of their sight. Once again grandparents stepped up to the mark and kept the home fires ticking over. Heidi loved all the attention and spent her free time making cards and posters to welcome the new baby home. It was a tense few weeks, but I kept the goal in my sights. Every day was another day closer to seeing our precious baby.

And finally the day arrived. I had to be induced but I didn’t care. Whatever it took. And every contraction was a gift. As the waves of pain swept over me, I thought only of my baby’s journey into this world. And nothing, absolutely nothing can compare to that undiluted joy of giving the final push, hearing that longed for cry and holding my little baby girl Pippa on my chest. A head of red hair, the only grandchild to inherit Granny’s beautiful auburn locks. Our miracle baby. A sister for Heidi.

Now nearly two, Pippa is a bundle of mischief, a partner in crime for Heidi, a daily blessing in our lives. And having come through so much, Colin’s illness, the IVF, has only made us stronger. As people. As a couple. More appreciative of every moment in our lives. Every time Pippa woke at night, I didn’t mind. Every time she cried, every time she wouldn’t sleep when we were dog-tired, I didn’t mind. And we know, Colin and I, that things can go wrong and do go wrong, but our challenges have made us stronger. And we are eternally grateful to all those people who travelled the road with us, helping us to where we are now. Colin’s mother and my parents have been amazing, the Waterstone Clinic so helpful, supportive and easy to talk to. We wake every day and thank the doctors who looked after Colin so well, and continue to monitor and look after him. And we look at our two girls, Heidi and Pippa, and we face the future with hearts full of gratitude and hope.

In conversation with Justine Carbery.

The Gloss magazine