Kelly F’s Story

My fertility journey began nearly two decades ago when I was unable to get pregnant with an ex-partner. I endured heavy bleeding and severe menstrual pain since I started my periods aged 9. I went to the doctor where I was told there was nothing wrong. They said they couldn’t send me to a specialist just because I didn’t like how heavy my periods were. It was life as a woman and I just had to get on with it.

Thankfully my nan arranged for me to be seen privately and I was diagnosed with severe endometriosis. Now I had a reason why I couldn’t get pregnant. I had laparoscopies and different hormone treatments to improve my fertility but still no success.

We went ahead with an IVF cycle in 2006 when I was 26. We didn’t make it to transfer as no eggs could be retrieved.  On a second cycle a few years later we made it to the transfer stage this time. But there was no implantation.

We didn’t have the money to go ahead with another cycle. The relationship ended. Not due to the infertility, we just weren’t right for each other.

As I had been told my chances of getting pregnant with IVF were less than 15%, I accepted that I would never have children. I was angry, jealous, depressed and felt like a failure.  I grieved my involuntary childlessness and eventually found myself in a place of acceptance.

In 2014 I met Brendan. The kindest and gentlest man I’d ever met. He soon became the love of my life. I explained my infertility issues and he understood. He wanted children, but if we couldn’t achieve that as a couple, the most important thing to him was that we were together. He suggested going to see a fertility doctor to see if there were any other options. I agreed, just to humour him. I knew my body was defective and not capable of growing a baby. But as the doctor talked about success rates with donor eggs, a little seed of hope was planted. Perhaps I could actually do this!

We found a donor. A wonderful woman willing to offer us this chance of a miracle, accepting nothing in return. We know only a snippet of her story. I wish I could meet her. I’ve got so much to thank her for, but she remains anonymous.

We got off to a false start with the donor cycle as I did not respond to the drugs as expected. This very rarely happens, but it would happen to me. My body letting me down again.

The donor’s side of things went well, and we were overjoyed that we ended up with eight perfect embryos, which were frozen until I could start the cycle again.

I found the embryo transfer very stressful. I have a tilted uterus, and a fibroid that was in the way of the opening, but after a dummy run with an empty tube to make sure the midwife could get past the fibroid, the first embryo was transferred into my uterus in 2021. I was 40.

We took a holiday during the two-week wait. We had lots of adventures as we wished and wondered if our embryo was implanting.

Then we took the test. And we saw them. Two blue lines! I have never seen a positive pregnancy test before; I could not believe it. We were both over the moon, and our family were elated as we shared the news with them. I let myself cherish the joy of being pregnant as I knew it wouldn’t last long. It was miracle that my stupid body had got this far. It wouldn’t be able to keep it up.

The next milestone was our viability scan at six weeks. And there you were. Our little fetal pole, with a heartbeat! I was so surprised that this was really happening to me. Me! The infertile woman with endometriosis adhesions obliterating her insides, was actually pregnant. I kept expecting it to end at any moment. Every time I went to the toilet, I was convinced I would find blood in my underwear. But I didn’t. And we got to the twelve-week scan. We saw our actual baby! Then it became real for me. I wasn’t going to miscarry. I’d gotten past all the scary hurdles. It was happening. We were having a baby!

We chose not to learn the sex of our baby, but we felt like we knew, and we called my bump Big Joe throughout my pregnancy.  The pregnancy was pretty straightforward. I did have a minuscule amount of spotting a few times, but I was reassured by the maternity assessment unit that everything was fine.  My baby was so precious to me that I was worried about any small change. I went to the hospital a few times when I was concerned about reduced movements, but each time it turned out to be absolutely fine.

We had been living at my mums while waiting for a house sale to go through. We got the keys to our new home when I was 39 weeks and 4 days. By the skin of our teeth, we managed to move into our own little family home in time for our baby’s arrival. That night I went to sleep on an air bed, surrounded by boxes. I knew I was ready for my baby to come now. His movements felt lower down. I thought he was moving down into the birth canal ready to come. I was so excited!

I woke up at 3 am. I couldn’t feel him move. I stroked my belly to encourage him to say hello, and moved into the position where I had felt him dance inside me the most.


I went downstairs and had a glass of orange juice to get him going. Still nothing.

I called the maternity unit.

‘Well, do you usually feel him move at 3 o’clock in the morning they asked?!’ ‘No’, I agreed, but they said I was welcome to come in for reassurance.

And that’s what I thought it was. I wanted to get checked out just to know that I was doing everything I could as a mum, but I knew really that they would trace the heartbeat and we’d be on our way again. I would probably start feeling his movements on the way, or in the waiting room.

Even when the midwife struggled and said ‘hang on, I’ll get a doctor’ I wasn’t that worried. I just thought he was in a funny position, difficult to find.

But then one doctor came to examine me. And another to confirm. And they told us ‘I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat’.

I screamed ‘NO’ over and over again as I crumpled into Brendan’s arms. I was aware that all the other expectant mums in the waiting room would be able to hear me and know exactly what had happened. They would be cradling their bellies praying it wouldn’t happen to them. But I could not stop screaming.

Three days later my baby came silently into the world. Being able to experience a vaginal birth with my baby was sacred to me.   The midwives announced ‘it’s a boy’ as they placed him on my chest. We always knew, and Big Joe formally became Joseph Timothy.

We spent three nights in the hospital bereavement suite with our son. Before we said goodbye, I knew that I could not rest until I had a baby who would come home with me.  Not to replace Joseph, he is irreplaceable, but because of him. When I met my JoJo, my heart burst wide open with the purest love.  I need to have a baby to fill the space in my arms and to create their own space in my heart.

Joseph was born in May. We started IVF again in February. And I fell pregnant. It was easy. We have brilliant embryos, we know what medication my body responds too, we know the right formula for complementary therapies, we can get pregnant.

I would not live in fear this pregnancy. I remembered how I could not believe my pregnancy was real with Joseph and convinced myself that disbelief must have caused his death. This time I would make a strong connection with my baby. I was constantly stroking my tummy and talking to them. I felt a female energy and I was sure I was having a girl. I named her almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Her name is Frida Magdalena. I imagined her as a strong warrior girl, her personality contrasting with our tender and gentle Joseph. I prayed to Brigid, the goddess of fertility, to protect her. I banished every negative thought from my mind and imposed a toxic positivity on my feelings. I was desperate to wish and believe my baby to life. But it didn’t work. A few weeks later, whilst on holiday in the highlands of Scotland, I had a miscarriage at only 6 weeks pregnant.

It was hard, but nothing like the pain I experienced after Joseph died. I spent three weeks lying on the sofa, not shopping, not cooking, not cleaning. But after that period of convalescence, I felt able to pick myself up and get ready to try again.

This time I was more realistic, willing to accept that emotional polarities are part and parcel of pregnancy after loss. It’s normal to feel hope and excitement at the same time as anxiety and fear. You can’t get rid of the hard emotions, but bringing them to the surface and acknowledging them grows resilience. I thought this mindful approach would reduce tension and lead to a successful pregnancy outcome for us.

But it didn’t, and this time we got a negative pregnancy test.

That was in July. Since then, I have experienced a sudden onset of a visual processing disorder, with some distressing symptoms. No doubt this is a physical manifestation of the trauma I have experienced. I am focused on overcoming this before we go for our next cycle.

I have not given up my dream of bringing a baby home. But I won’t push myself into getting pregnant at any cost. I need to take some time out to heal and have physical and emotional stability before we try again for our rainbow baby.

Kelly wears an orange top and the rainbow skirt. There are large rocks in the background.

Kelly wears an orange top and the rainbow skirt. She has flowers on her head and is holding a framed photo of her stillborn baby.

Kelly wears an orange top and the rainbow skirt. She has flowers on her head and is holding a framed photo of her stillborn baby.

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