My husband and I knew we were ready for children a good year before we started actively trying to get pregnant. We had booked a big holiday, as we knew it was hopefully going to be our last one together as a twosome and we wanted to do something special.  

As soon as it got to the point where we knew we would be able to still fly and go on the holiday if I was pregnant we decided to “not try, but not prevent.” We felt like it would be a win-win situation either way. If we got pregnant quickly, we would have been over the moon and so excited. If we didn’t, we would make the most of that last special holiday just the two of us and drink cocktails without having to worry!

As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, we didn’t get pregnant. At that time, I wasn’t too concerned or disappointed. We had a chat on the way to the airport and decided that this was the time we would start trying properly.

I had already been tracking my cycles to prepare so I knew I was due to ovulate while we were away, and at that moment we were both so excited! We imagined how I may get pregnant on our holiday and we would get the most wonderful surprise when we returned home.

Looking back, I was very naïve. The thought of struggling to get pregnant hadn’t really crossed my mind. We just assumed it would happen for us. How wrong we were.

Fast forward six months and nothing. I expected every month to be the month, and even though it was still early days the disappointment of yet another negative pregnancy test was awful and I would get so upset when my period showed up. When you want a baby, you want a baby!

We remained positive and carried on the mindset of “if it’s not this month it will surely be next month.” We were doing everything right, we were both very active and healthy. We were eating well, having sex at the right time, but nothing was happening.

I confided in a few people I was close to and everyone reassured me that I didn’t need to worry until we had been trying for longer than twelve months. Something just felt off, though. I knew my gut was trying to tell me something was wrong.

As soon as the one year mark was approaching I knew I wanted to be as proactive as I could about any issues either of us might have, so we went to our General Practitioner for some help and guidance. We were assured that everything seemed normal. My cycles were slightly irregular, but still within normal limits. That’s when we started the process of fertility testing to rule out anything that could have been preventing us from conceiving.

We got the initial test results and everything seemed pretty good overall. I had definitely ovulated, which was a relief, and everything else seemed fine with both of us, so we continued as we were.

About 9 months later we finally got an appointment to see a fertility specialist after having a few canceled appointments (so frustrating!). My husband was sent for another semen analysis which came back normal, and over the next six months I was sent for a transvaginal scan, an HSG, and a hysteroscopy.

From the HSG, we were told I had adhesions in one of my fallopian tubes, but as my other tube was clear they wouldn’t do anything to try and remove the blockages. All of the other test results came back okay, so we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility and referred on to a fertility clinic.

I couldn’t decide how I felt about this. In one way, I felt relief because no real issues had been found, but I was also extremely frustrated that there was nothing we could do but continue on as we were. I felt so helpless!

At the end of February last year, we finally got a letter in the mail from the fertility clinic. I saw it sitting on the doormat and felt a huge sense of relief. Finally, someone was going to help us have a baby! To my huge disappointment, the letter stated that because of the lack of funding in our area we would be waiting a minimum of 12 months just to have our first appointment.

I phoned the clinic in tears to get more information and to find out where we stood. I know how privileged we are to have the NHS in the UK and I am very grateful, but I wish we had been told about the waiting list sooner so we were emotionally prepared for the long wait ahead.

This was probably the lowest point in our journey. Everyone around us was getting pregnant so easily, moving on with their lives, and enjoying themselves. I wanted to be one of those people, but we were stuck. We couldn’t move forward, and everything in our lives revolved around infertility. I felt like our dreams of having a baby were slipping further away, and I just knew I couldn’t wait another twelve months.

It all felt impossible, and by that point I was desperate. Nothing else mattered to me anymore apart from getting pregnant and being a mom. I didn’t even recognize the bitter, isolated, and miserable person I had become, and it was beginning to take its toll on my relationship with my husband.

After a lot of thinking and talking with close family and friends, we decided to book a consultation at a fertility clinic privately. This was a huge gamble, as we knew once we started down the private route we would lose our NHS funding, but it just felt right.

We met with the fertility doctor, who was amazing! He was no-nonsense and to the point, but I appreciated his honesty so much. He looked through all of our notes and told me he wanted to do one final test, a blood test for AMH. I had asked for this previously but was told that due to my age I didn’t need it. The doctor gave us all the facts and answered all of our questions. We decided to go home and think about it, but I already knew what I wanted to do.

We started treatments right away, and I finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel! My AMH results came back and were very high. I had another scan that day and then spoke with our doctor. This is when I got my diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). At first I was shocked, confused, and so angry! I couldn’t understand how this hadn’t been picked up sooner.

The doctor reassured me and told me that it wouldn’t affect our chances of IVF being successful, and to leave it all to him. It was so nice to have someone take charge of the situation and make me feel positive.

We started our IVF cycle in July of 2019 and were incredibly lucky with how it all went. On August 20th we had our egg retrieval and then transferred our beautiful little blastocyst five days later. Walking out of the transfer room I felt like I was on cloud nine! I cried tears of joy all the way home--I couldn’t believe that this could actually be our time.

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As many of you know, the two-week wait is an emotional rollercoaster. I felt an instant bond and love for our embryo, and the thought of possibly losing that was terrifying. I decided not to test early as, frankly, I was too scared of a negative result. I wanted to cherish every moment in my maybe-baby bubble and enjoy all the time I could being “pregnant until proven otherwise.”

After the longest 12 days it was time to test...and it was positive! We couldn’t believe it! I remember thinking to myself that it couldn’t be real. How had we been so lucky for IVF to work the first time around?!

What I didn’t prepare myself for were the emotions to come. I had spent so long focusing on getting a positive test that I hadn’t thought past that point. I was filled with worry and anxiety that this could so easily be snatched away from us. The feeling of not being in control was horrible. I almost expected my body to let me down again.

I started taking pregnancy tests multiple times a day, scrutinizing the darkness of the lines and basically torturing myself. I know I am not the only woman who has felt like this, as so many have shared that they felt the same way. Infertility already steals so much from us, but I couldn’t shake the overwhelming worry I felt in early pregnancy. Waiting for our first scan felt like an eternity. I can easily say waiting to go in and check for a heartbeat is the most scared I have ever been.

Throughout this pregnancy, I feel all I have been doing is counting down and praying we get over the next hurdle or milestone–the seven-week scan, the twelve-week scan, the twenty-week scan, and so on. We have spent a fortune on private scans (all worth it, of course), as this is the only thing that put my mind at ease. Well, at least for a day or two.

I sit here now holding my twenty-four-week bump, and I still can’t believe it’s real. I can’t believe that in just a few months our baby boy will be here with us and safe in my arms. The worrying never stops, but I guess that’s part of parenthood.  I think it’s all a process to navigate and work through, and although it isn’t easy we learn to find a way.

We are one of the lucky ones, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Pregnancy didn’t come easy to me, but I am now starting to be able to look back on our journey and think about what our struggle taught me. It proved to me how strong I am. It has made me a lot more compassionate. It has strengthened my relationship, and it has brought me closer to some wonderful friends and family. Most of all, it’s shown me that when you work really hard for something, you appreciate it so much more. 

Rebecca Richards documents her infertility & pregnancy journey on Instagram at @the.infertility.diaries.