It felt like a lifetime…but actually, it had been 45 minutes, to be precise. I sat there with the needle in my hand, shaking, crying and sincerely wondering how I had gotten here. This was the first day of my IVF journey. Unbeknown to me at the time, it was going to fail. Hi, my name is Rachel Francis-Nweke, and like many women, I assumed that I would conceive as soon as I was ready….why wouldn’t I? Well, I was wrong. But let me start from the beginning.
I got married at 30, but my husband and I always said we would wait two years or so before we started a family. It was important for us to settle down, find our feet and get to know each other within the marriage. Two years became three, then four, then five…and we were not using contraception throughout, so it was becoming evident that we should really get tested. In the UK, depending on where you live and your fertility history, amongst other factors, you may be able to get funded IVF cycles on the NHS. We had been married for over five years, and we were told that we were entitled to 3. We had unexplained infertility. All blood tests had come back fine at the time, so GPs didn’t have an answer as to why we had not yet conceived.
As mentioned before, I had never taken contraceptives, so it was a real mystery. It took a lot of courage for us to get tested, but we did. Thank God. There seems to be a stigma around IVF in some communities. I’m not sure why. We are blessed to benefit from modern medicine, and the way I saw it, the scripture (Bible) says that God knew us before we were conceived, so it will only be babies that are ordained with the exact genetic makeup via IVF that will be conceived. That has been my comfort anyway. So we were referred for IVF. Up until this point, I had not really thought too deeply about having children in that I was living my best life, working, travelling, singing in ministry… it was great, to be honest, but I knew that if I were to go for IVF, I would need to allow myself to really want this. So I did.
I can say it was the most emotionally stressful and draining experience I have ever been through. In that moment with the first injection, I felt incredibly alone.
Even though my husband was very supportive, it was me having to inject, go for scans, go for procedures to ensure my fallopian tubes were not blocked. The hormones I was injecting were creating a warped reality for me. Everything felt much worse than it was. I was impatient, extra irritable and intolerant. I must have been incredibly hard to be around.
What made it worse was that we had decided to go through this without an audience. To be frank, nobody knew. I went through this without emotional support. Not something I would recommend looking back, actually. At the end of the day, it was a tough process, but it changed me a little.
It prepared me for the desire to become a mother because when that choice was formally taken away from me and us, it was devastating. I even remember finding out by email that the cycle hadn’t worked and that although we were entitled to two more cycles, my ovarian reserve measured by AMH was too low to justify any further cycles. We were invited back into a clinic in a month to “discuss our options”. “You will need an egg donor if you want to conceive naturally,” a fertility doctor told us.
I remember encouraging myself in the Lord as I fought back the tears in the doctor’s office. What should we do? I felt as if I was beginning to grieve something that I never would know. It was a very strange moment. By the time I got home, I had decided that I would see what I could physically do with the information we had been given. This was so that I didn’t have to live with the fact that I had not done my best with what was in my control. I would then leave what only God could do – to God. I googled what the doctor had said but added the word “testimonies” to my search. I figured that there was nothing new under the sun, and I couldn’t believe the sheer volume of results that came up. I also purchased the audiobook ‘Supernatural Childbirth’ to try and renew my mind.
There was a programme at church at the time, called the River. The worship leader sang a song called Healing Rain. I remember the atmosphere being electric. When the Pastor called people to the front that needed healing, I felt the urge to go. I didn’t care who was nosey enough to wonder why I was there. I needed a change, not necessarily for my fertility but for my spirit. I had a lot going on at the time with a new job, a Masters I was studying for, music albums I was recording and also fulfilling my role in my home.
Through my tears, I told God. “Lord. I’m broken. You are the only one that can put my broken pieces back together. I have nothing left to give. I am leaving it all here at your feet, and I am walking away whole”. I also added in that prayer that “whatever will You(God) have for my life, give me the strength to be ok with it. You are Sovereign.”
And I believed in my heart what I had said. I really had no other choice but to leave it at the altar. I knew I had to streamline my schedule and drop anything that was stressing me out. I began to sort out my eating by always having breakfast every single day and drinking 2 litres of water. I began to take supplements every day after consulting with my GP colleagues – another perk of working as a pharmacist. I decided to get ovulation sticks to know when I was ovulating and try and ensure we were intimate. But I didn’t share my ovulation days with my husband – too much pressure for him. So he was oblivious to when our important days were.
Three months later, everything changed. It was the day I was due to lead worship at my church. It was for the evening service. My period was late by seven days, but I was reluctant to take a pregnancy test. However, something told me to just do it. The result is the result. It is what it is. On March 4th 2018, I found out I was pregnant. I had conceived naturally.
Within three months of giving birth, I found out I was pregnant again with our second miracle. Nine months after my second child, I was pregnant again. I now have three children, three and under. My final thoughts? Never lose hope. Hope to me is that still small voice that whispers “maybe” when the world is screaming “NO!”
And for those that may feel unsure about IVF, be careful not to let your reservations of IVF rob you of the avenue to what may be your only chance of conception.