In my twenties I never gave having children a second thought, in my early thirties, the idea became of mild interest to me, but making this a reality was not on my life-radar. I guessed I would have one/some, some day. I don’t recall the exact day it occurred to me that this was now something I really wanted, maybe a sunny day during my 37th year when I realised I wanted to have a family with the lovely man who had become part of my life.
The time was not right for him, he had other goals, so I concluded it couldn’t hurt to wait, could it? My life was so full that time passed quickly. My career was amazing, rewarding, demanding & stressful, but I had reached to the ceiling of my ambitions, as Director of a company that I loved & nurtured. My every waking hour was focussed on this organisation, shaping it to be what I believed it’s best. A path I saw as long & winding, difficult, but hugely satisfying and ‘my life’.
Gradually it dawned on me, around my 38th birthday, that ‘everyone’ else had children, & that there was a lot of press & chatter about difficulties conceiving as an ‘older woman’. With further research & subsequent shock, I realised that I WAS an ‘older woman’, the naïveté of this as I reflect, is quite astonishing. As a well educated person, supposedly fully participating in society, I had completely blanked out a whole section of life. I had never really discussed fertility with anyone before, or even seen the (now very obvious) multitude of advertisements across London for fertility clinics. With my family in another country, the only people I ever saw were other ‘young’ career focussed, city-dwelling, professionals- and my life was a whirlwind.
So, I stopped, and panicked. I convinced my partner it was now, or never, and we began ‘trying’. I still spoke to no-one, researched nothing, but I expected results. The months began to pass by quickly, every month that my PMT set in, deeply affected my psyche. I began to carry regret with me “…why had I waited so long…”, and fear …”what was wrong with me…”.
I buried my head in the sand for a long time and kept my busy life running at top speed. Still expecting that something would just happen, I felt young & fit, pregnancy was just natural, surely?
As the months turned into a year, and more, I gradually started talking to people, my GP was of no assistance or support, so I began to speak candidly with friends and acquaintances. I was shocked by the stories people were telling me, infertility was widespread, and a painful part of life for many others. I was recommended, by a friend, to Dr Lily of Acumedic- who said “…she can make it happen”, another enlightened me about IVF, & the fact that the NHS don’t fund it after the age of 40, I was 39 by now. Others had me in tears talking about my options for adoption. I now knew I needed to do something more than ‘trying’, as my GP had suggested.
A deadline, and planning, was something I knew well, & relished in my professional life. I now felt I had to set myself some real personal deadlines and focus also on myself, instead of the company being my all. I quickly enrolled with the NHS fertility programme & discovered I would only get one free treatment due to the waiting list and my impending 40th birthday. So began the research into private IVF clinics, and the new news to me of my tiny statistical chance of having a live healthy baby. I had thought that becoming pregnant was the hurdle, and had not anticipated the shocking rate of miscarriage and birth defects that comes with being an ‘older’ woman. My experience of the IVF clinics was withering and test results confirmed that my reproductive system had declined to normal/ below average levels for my age. In my mind I began to accept that my ‘fate’ was not to be a mother. My partner was supportive of me and mostly disbelieving of the statistics we were being told, the statistics were dire! Fortunately somehow he still believed we could be parents and was unfailing in his support.
I decided that the next step was to meet the infamous Dr Lily. I have always believed that non-Western cultures have so much to offer us with respect to philosophy, and concluded that this ‘other’ knowledge may also have something to offer me medically. But I knew nothing of Chinese medicine, apart from an unfortunate incident in my youth involving misuse of tiger balm…I was a little skeptical, but desperate to be ‘fixed’, by any means.
So began an unforgettable journey with Dr Lily and her team. Initially I found the experience and treatments ‘slow’ I would have to say. I could not imagine that someone assessing my pulse and tongue was going to lead to any conclusion about my ‘condition’. I was a terrible patient, I continued to work long hours, carried on with my diet of white wine for dinner, often. Had too few hours of sleep, sent work texts during appointments and definitely did not boil, or take, my herbs regularly. The reasons being that I could not stand the smell, and had not used my cooker in a very long time, ready meals or snacks were my back stop, cooking ANYTHING for longer than 5 minutes seemed like taking on a second job. Also, I flew abroad a lot, there was no taking a bag of dry herbs to a hotel option.
Consequently, I could see that I was frustrating this amazingly kind, patient and wise woman, and I was letting myself down, I couldn’t see progress, and a few months had passed. I was accustomed to things happening with haste and immediacy. This seemed to be a solution for other people, not me. Fortunately Dr Lily has huge amounts of grace and patience, and had probably encountered many others like me. She spoke to me about balance and the physical, emotional and psychological factors that may be distressing my system. I was ignoring my emotional and psychological state, I began to realise. I had been a workaholic, pretty much forever.
Dr Lily prescribed me capsules, less effective than the ‘real’ herbs, but I began taking them religiously, and began to feel results. I also identified a window in my work life where I felt it would not be to the detriment of the company for me to take a three-month sabbatical. My intention was to focus on becoming calm and happy and address my eating/ sleeping and fitness habits in order to get in the best shape possible for the private IVF treatments we had booked. I felt as though a break from work to do this for me, would give me the emotional assurance that I had done everything I could to become a mother. My partner and I had agreed that we would do three rounds and then if unsuccessful, accept a child-free life. With huge trepidation, I asked the company owners if I could take a three-month sabbatical to travel and pursue some personal goals and was amazed by their generous “yes”.
So began the most wonderful three months, I travelled, read, relaxed, spent time with family and took care of myself like I never had before. I saw Dr Lily often, had many acupuncture sessions and delighted in boiling my herbs, and making my own food. My optimism grew, and by the end of the three months, I was asking Dr Lily if I was ‘better’ yet, she smiled (as always) and with good humour and a twinkle in her eye told me I was making great progress. I was excited about returning to work, and starting IVF. I had reconciled with myself that I might not become a mother, and also learned to care for myself in a whole new way. I felt I had a company, full of amazing and talented people, to care for, if there would be no baby in my future.
It was a sunny day in Vienna, two days before I was to return to work, that I got a message from the office that they would like to delay my return date, as “…people were a bit busy…”. I quickly called the owners, curious about this odd message from a relatively new person in the company. My calls were met with silence, I carried my shopping bags of the new work outfits for my new figure back to my accommodation with a growing horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. To cut a long story short, and it is still painful to recall, I was not welcome back.
I felt like my world fell apart. I spent the next month dealing with lawyers and crying a lot. I saw Dr Lily often and was supported immensely by her treatments. Having previously suffered depression, it could have been a default to slip back into a state that had crippled me once before. I found strength I did not realise I had, through the support of Acumedic. I canceled my medical treatments, knowing that my body was simply not in the right place to create new life. As the month drew to an end I decided to seek closure on the legal process. I still felt I had a deadline, my 40th birthday was fast approaching and I needed to space out IVF treatments to culminate in my NHS slot. I walked away from the company with a heavy heart and many unanswered questions, but was determined to move forward.
It was a strange day at a clinic in Harley Street that began a new hope. We had a distressing consultation where we were reminded of our statistical odds. I could see my partners mind calculating the costs-vs-odds and accounting for my newly unemployed status after an unpaid three months leave, it felt bad. But after this, I had a scan at this clinic, a very detailed scan with a woman who radiated sparkle, she was astonished with the readings she was getting for blood flow and all the things inside that constitute a very receptive environment to nurture a foetus. With delight she told me I had two ‘wonderful’ looking healthy eggs, and asked if I had been taking fertility drugs, to which I replied no, but I have been taking Chinese herbs, “amazing” she said. I left the clinic floating on air, Western medicine with all the gadgets and digital readings had now confirmed that my insides were now wonderful. The next appointment at the IVF clinic was in a week, to commence the treatment, the sonographer said she did not expect to see me back. And sure enough, I never went back.
With fear, I took a pregnancy test the next week, the pain of all the negative results I had taken each month before, was ever-present. I got a positive before my period was even missed. I took tests for three more days before telling my partner, tried every brand, I was in shock. The poor man received texted photos of my tests whilst on public transport with colleagues in the U.S. Dr Lily knew immediately from my pulse, and she and her team were the most amazing people to share my news with.
It had happened, I was naturally pregnant, and it had occurred within a period of immense emotional distress. I began to feel resilient and positive and resolved to holding on to this baby with all my heart. Shortly after, and not too my great surprise (I really felt like both of the eggs I had seen deserved a life) a scan revealed my twins! And so began my morning sickness.
It was not long before I came across the term ‘hyperemesis gravidarum’, this was the extreme version of morning sickness. My mother and sister had suffered morning sickness for the entire duration of their pregnancies, and it looked very much like this was to be my affliction also. With multiple pregnancies, the hormone levels are even more elevated, and so I braced myself for a rough ride. Shortly into this rough ride, I began to despair, factoring in my age and this being a twin pregnancy, my chances of miscarriage were very high, a new goal, get to the ‘relative safety’ of a 12-week pregnancy. After nourishing myself with organic everything, freshly cooked by me for months, I was reduced to a ‘diet’ if you could call it that, of crisps and chocolate milk, very little water, not a vegetable or fruit in sight, this went on for many many weeks and was so distressing. The radius of my world became tiny, the kitchen was off-limits (the smell of any food, or the hint that anything had ever been cooked made me sick), the bathroom was a difficult place, any scented product, including toothpaste, made me sick. The outside world largely disappeared, too many smells.
Again I sought the help of Acumedic, and made regular trips for acupuncture and capsules, I made it to 12 weeks and beyond. Then miraculously, my morning sickness abated at 19 weeks, never to return, I got half the pain my sister and mother endured! I kept contact with the clinic, and had a wonderful second trimester, I suffered no emotional lows, swelling or other common pregnancy difficulties. Into my third trimester now, things are good, just a week from seeing our babies faces, I feel happy and heavy!
We owe our new family-to-be to the skill and care of Dr Lily and her team. I will continue to seek out treatment via Chinese Medicine whenever I feel that my body or life are unbalanced. This is a powerful ‘science’ that is still somewhat mysterious to me, but that I can fully attest to delivering astonishing results.