FERTILITY JOURNEY OF A GERIATRIC MUM

HEALTH, MOTHERHOOD, PREGNANCY, BIRTH & BABY'S, Uncategorized

I vividly remember being told that after 35 you are considered geriatric in terms of fertility and pregnancy! The shock! I could have sworn I was young just a moment ago!? Fortunately, the terminology has moved on but doesn’t mean find yourself in that bracket isn’t without its challenges as Liberty Mills explains…

  • “You may look young, but your insides don’t lie, they are still old”. 

  • This is what a “well-meaning” person said to me after fertility tests came back saying my partner and I had a 0.7 per cent chance of conceiving a child even with the support of IVF.

  • “Maybe its time to get a dog, you are moving to the country. A lot of people get a dog who can’t have children,” was her response to my blank stare and open mouth.

  • I met my now partner on the dating app, Bumble with I was 41, two weeks away from 42, he is four years young than me.

  • I already had a beautiful grown daughter who was on the cusp of turning 19 from a relationship in my early 20s. Things moved rather quickly with the “Bumble” man and within a year we all living together and I knew he was the man I wanted to raise a family with.

  • He had no children and seeing how much joy radiated in me around my daughter and what she meant to me knew he too wanted to experience being a parent too and he wanted to do that with me.

  • We tried for a while, around six months and nothing happened. Once was a few weeks late, but other than that every other time I took a pregnancy test it came up negative.

  • When we went to see the local GP together to ask for fertility tests, she almost laughed us out of the room, asking me did I know how old I was?

  • She reassured me that she was born in the same year as me and it was a total waste of time for my partner and me to try naturally to conceive. In fact she herself had met someone later in life and was going to a leading IVF clinic and having an egg donor.

  • Due not only to my age and the fact that I already had a child, we were not eligible for treatment on the NHS for IVF.  Egg donor, she assured us, would be our only chance and then it was still a very slim chance. She kindly gave us the contact details for the European IVF clinic and then granted us the basic fertility tests on the NHS. 

  • My partner’s sperm count can back fine, the motility wasn’t perfect, but it was average for a man of his age and my primality tests came back normal.

  • At the time I felt rather unwell and was losing vast amounts of weight and was convinced I had a thyroid problem. I repeatedly made doctors appointments and was told I had a salvia gland infection and one doctor suggested it was stress and also asked me did I have a history of issues around food due to being a model. No one was listening to me.

  • So off to the IVF clinic we trotted. They boasted a 71.4 pregnancy success rate in women under the age of 38 with their own eggs which was well above the national average.  Plus they were one of the few clinics that would actually see us due to my age.

  • There they took more investigative tests for both of us and found that my thyroid antibodies were sky high and having to work hard to make my T3 and T4 “look” like they were doing a happy job for my body. They said in the UK I was just under the borderline for healthy with my thyroid function, but it France and Germany who had different markers I would be recommended to go on thyroxine, a hormone treatment if I wanted any chance of conniving even with IVF, so I agreed.

  • After three weeks on the thyroxin, my chronic jaw pain had vanished,  my weight was fully restored and my thyroid levels were up to fertility fitness.  

  • Further tests came back and the results were in that would determine what treatment would be viable for us. The consultant called us in to reveal our percentage pitching ratio. The magic number was in. I was given a 0.7 per cent chance of conceiving with my own eggs. 

  • It also transpired that I had only one verifiable follicle in my low egg reserve. To place this in some kind of context, The following percentages are from the HFEA, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority  (2017 data). They show the average chance of a live birth after IVF treatment per embryo transferred, using a woman’s own eggs and partner’s own sperm:

  • Aged under 35: 29%

  • 35-37: 23%

  • 38-39: 15%

  • 40-42: 9%

  • 43-44: 3%

  • Aged over 44: 2%. 

  • Seeing as this clinic only offered women treatment with their own eggs who had a minimum chance of 7 per cent we were offered to explore egg donor, counselling and we were advised we would have to travel to Spain to start the treatment and get the egg donor as it isn’t possible in the UK to pay for this kind of treatment.

  • My partner was devastated by the news, he wanted my baby… “Not a random Spanish ladies,” (his words not mine). 

  • It was hard to see him go through this and I feel fertility is already such a taboo subject in general and definitely a big silent one where men are concerned.

  • We had friends going through IVF and rather than sharing the turmoil of it all they refused to talk about it with us at all. It’s such a personal and unspoken topic even amongst families never mind with friends.  

  • Personally, I was more than happy to have an egg donor, the egg was not the issue for me.

  • I grew up with not my biological father and to me, he was the best daddy in the world. The new scientific findings on epigenetic also reassured me that I would also biological have a connection to the child even if the egg was not mine but was donated and the sperm was my partners. As explained by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, “epigenetic is defined as heritable changes in gene expression that do not involve a change in DNA sequence,” (1) Although the gene sequence itself cannot be altered, other environmental factors in the birth mother’s body modify the gene expression, or what the gene does.

  • The clinic told us how many thousands of pounds we would be expected to invest and my partner’s Mother even kindly visited one of the clinics in Majorca as it was close to where they had a house. The only aspect of the journey ahead that was apprehensive about was placing all the chemicals into my body. I had previously been chronically ill with an autoimmune disease and chosen a functional medicine path to take my long recovery in becoming marker-free. I had also seen many friends who had had IVF success after being plagued with gut issues and autoimmune symptoms. This area of health did concern me.

  • However, my partner didn’t feel the same as me on the emotional connection to an egg donor and even with the fertility counselling he went into depression and was affected deeply by the news.

  • At this time I was also studying at IIN ( The Institute of Integrative Nutrition) to become a wellness and nutrition coach and the module of that term was on female hormonal health. I being the geek I am devoured the resource library that most of my fellow students didn’t even enter and found many other integrative practices such as changes in diet, what type of exercise and incorporating acupuncture and ayurvedic adaptogens may have a profound effect on our fertility journey. 

  • I approached my partner, armed with all the clinical data and medical research from my course and other findings I had found in medical published papers in India, Germany and America and asked him to give me three months to fertility coach us both to conception. 

  • We set off on a journey, that meant less hardcore workouts for me, introducing yoga, daily mediations, zero alcohol for us both, removal of refined sugar for me, lowering his intake of refined sugar. He went swimming, took up fermented foods like kimchi and we both took adaptogens such as aswhgahada and Macca daily. I also saw a fertility acupuncturist. 

  • Ten weeks in I had my regular weekly acupuncture, normally after my stomach would bloat a little and I would feel a tad fuzzy for an hour or so.

  • This time within four hours I felt like I had a fever was seeing stars and my stomach ballooned so much I looked like I had fast-tracked to the end of a second trimester. At the time I was working in an office in admin in North London, by the afternoon I was sent home. I have no idea how I made the hour journey on the tube I just recall the last change I had to make a kind gentleman helping me onto the train as I was doubled over In tears with abdominal pain. 

  • The South London train station was only one and a half streets away from my home, normally approximately a 7 min walk. Grabbing onto every bin I passed for support and dragging myself along neighbours fences I got to the door of my home 40 mins later. I called the acupuncturist to see if this was normal, he said no and not in 12 years had this happened. I also text and called every friend that had fertility acupuncture and nothing, no one had ever had a reaction.

  • My worst fears plagued me that somehow, something had reacted in the acupuncture and I had been triggered into a Lupus Flare. I cried with pain, despair and fear. I did however insist that with to partner when he rushed home from work that we have sex. He looked at me like I was mental. I didn’t exactly look like I was in the mood for making love or physically capable. I quite firmly told him, it was now or never because I was never going back to have those bloody needles placed in me and I was not going through all this hell if there was even a minuscule possibility that the acupuncturist was not triggering my Lupus into coming back and robbing me of life but this was a chance of making life to add to our family. 

  • For the days that ensured I didn’t move from my bed, still in huge pain not just in my stomach but also in my legs and when I started to recover in my head, I vetoed the thought of pregnancy. I had given up. I already had a fabulous child, maybe we adopt as there were so many children out there that we could parent. My partner was supportive and was much more open to this avenue of expanding our family than the egg donor. 

  • Two weeks later, my period that was normally so on time (4pm on the hour) had still not come.  The two pregnancy tests that followed were positive. We oddly didn’t celebrate or tell a soul.

  • In a way, I think we were a bit sad because the statics for my age state that  I would most likely miscarry. So in a way, we waited for it. 

  • What followed with the NHS was like good cop/ bad cop.

  • My midwife was like an angel, and care for me and the baby with an integrative and functional medicine perspective.  I had to see a lot of her due to my ageing age, it was protocol and due to my part history of Lupus.

  • The doctors, on the other hand, A) automatically assumed when looking at me I was younger, then B) when they did bother to read my notes on my records assumed I had conceived obviously by IVF and then last but not least C) kept telling me how hard going it was going to be. The pregnancy, difficulty delivery and I could get this and that complication all due to me being 10 years over the age of what they classified as a geriatric mother. Every test I aced and defied their predictions and statistics.

  • I did refuse a few tests such as a pregnancy diabetic test as they said once again due to my age and being part of the BAME community statics said I was more likely to develop gestational diabetes. I firmly refused even after three phone calls from them stating why statistics said I needed it and two more appointments with the heads of midwifery. Seeing as I had not even so much as touched honey in the last 32 days there was no way I was going to pollute my body with an overloaded sugar concoction and what In my mind was also going to pollute my placenta and therefore my unborn baby just because they were treating me like a black and old statistic rather than the woman in front of them.

  • I assured them that I was not a static and every other test my body had proved them wrong and had denounced their t needed zero extra care apart from more monitoring that only had to do with the Lupus and a previous heart condition as a result of lupus.

  • Near the end of my third trimester, my partner and I were summoned into a meeting with the head of fetal medicine, ahead of OBS and GNI I was what felt like placed under siege. I was told I HAD to be induced.

  • The head of fetal medicine proceeded to lecture me especially and ignore my partner on how foolish I was not to wont to be induced, supplying me death statics and percentages of stillborns to geriatric mothers due to old placentas. I accepted those statics and said I was happy for my placenta blood flow to be monitored if they half concern. Her response was that was only for women who were overdue. But I explained that it may not be a normal procedure, but I had discussed it with the midwife and it was possible as I only lived a short distance away. Her only reply was to laugh and ask me did I understand what stillborn meant?  I explained that if I had listened to statics I would not even most likely be there with a baby in my belly that had been made from my own egg. I also assured them that I wouldn’t be needed to be induced due to the fact that the baby was already engaged if they had bothered to look at my notes or to simply ask me. So I would be refusing their insistence of inducing in three weeks. I also stated that at the age of 45 and previously giving birth to a dead baby at 2 weeks over 20 years ago I did know what stillborn meant, this was also on my notes.

  • Two weeks later I was assisted by two fabulous midwives and the calmness of my partner in a water birth with the support of biting onto a wet flannel old school and reruns of meditations telling me to “let it go”. And 7 hours later of hideous pain another little girl came into our life.

  • Since my fertility journey, I have learnt so much about fertility and IVF and what I do find shocking is that the clinics only produce data on pregnancies and not live births which I find so terribly misleading and demoralising for people entering a fertility journey. As I know from numerous friends who have gone through the physical and emotional journey of IVF that many pregnancies DO occur and not unfortunately many babies. And these couples, singles and families that all enter this journey are not doing so to get pregnant but to have a child.

  • I fully support every person’s right to go for whatever fertility journey they feel suits them best. Why I wrote this is simply to show we are not all statics, we all have bio-individuality and I know for one on the outside I don’t look like the average 46-year-old, I most likely don’t eat, drink, live like the average 46-year-old, because non of us are average!!!

  • I’m not a geriatric mummy, I’m not a BAME statics, I’m me and I always will be. Maybe one day more women will have the success they want in many areas of health especially fertility when they are treated as individuals and not a number or a colour.  

***

**’But How Do Babies Get in Mummy’s Tummy’s?’ is one of the many tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to preorder now. **

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3 Comments

  • Reply Liberty February 26, 2021 at 10:57 am

    Hi Its Liberty my Instagram is @mills.liberty

  • Reply Erin February 28, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    Brilliant List thank you for sharing your story and kudos to following your own path x

  • Reply Heather March 3, 2021 at 8:14 am

    Really interacting read – shows that everyone should follow their instincts

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