Beth (39) and Johnny Rivett-Carnac (40) from Penn near High Wycombe, turned down a free round of IVF on the NHS as they didn’t feel that it was the right time for them as a couple.
Coach, Alternative Therapist and ‘Fertility Circle’ Facilitator Beth, explains how, following counselling, a career and lifestyle change, her and Contract Manager Johnny discovered Thames Valley Fertility (part of The Fertility Partnership), and following their first, successful round of IVF, welcomed Maddox.
Beth said; "In 2015 we sought fertility advice as nothing had happened after three years of trying to conceive. We wanted to check to see if there was anything we should be aware of. The doctors kindly rushed through all the tests as my 35th birthday was looming and I would no longer be eligible for fertility treatment on the NHS. We were offered a free round of IVF after we were classified as having unexplained fertility; there was no reason why we couldn’t fall pregnant naturally, but we hadn’t so far."
"After the initial appointment with the fertility clinic, we looked at each other in the car and discussed how we weren’t sure our relationship was strong enough to go through IVF. Somewhere over the course of the challenges we’d faced over the previous three years, we’d drifted apart from each other."
WE FELT LIKE THE RIGHT THING TO DO WOULD BE TO WORK ON OUR RELATIONSHIP AND MAKE IT STRONG ENOUGH FOR THE EMOTIONAL JOURNEY. WE WANTED TO LEARN HOW TO COME TOGETHER AGAIN.
"We felt like the right thing to do would be to work on our relationship and make it strong enough for the emotional journey. We wanted to learn how to come together again."
"We had some couples counselling, learnt how to truly communicate with each other and began to really embrace our differences and celebrate what brings us together. We got a dog and spent lots more time in nature. We made changes that would help shape us to be the best parents we could be. We considered how we wanted to rebuild our lives to make space for a child and the life we wanted for them."
“As well as wanting our relationship to be in the best possible place for wherever the fertility journey was leading us, I wanted to be in the best possible state too. Rather than resisting the journey I was on, I wanted to be totally open to it and let it transform me. And it did. I finally started listening to my body and changed my diet and lifestyle and discovered tools and alternative therapies which transformed my mindset, helped build emotional resilience and helped me let go of old stuff that I knew was impacting my ability to conceive. It turned out that the creative urge that wasn’t being fulfilled through having a baby came out in other ways and I discovered creativity I didn’t know existed within me. Which in turn led to a change in career I never saw coming."
“I had a year and a half of counselling just to say yes to the IVF, it took me a while to come round to the idea. I knew I had to be all in. The mind body connection is so important.”
I HAD A YEAR AND A HALF OF COUNSELLING JUST TO SAY YES TO THE IVF, IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO COME ROUND TO THE IDEA. I KNEW I HAD TO BE ALL IN.
When the couple were ready to start IVF they explored private clinics and it became apparent just how important choosing the right clinic for them was. Beth explains; “In 2017 we visited a clinic for an initial consultation but didn’t have a positive experience. I very nearly overruled my instincts that were telling me the way we were handled there wasn’t okay. Having just come round to the idea of IVF, I was concerned I would back away from it if I didn’t keep moving forward with it now. But as we drove home, Johnny held my hand and insisted that if we were to invite anyone into this intimate area of our lives, and my body; they had to be someone who treated me with care and sensitivity.
"We had a set criteria we were looking for the clinic to fulfill – it had to feel right, we wanted to feel confident that the consultants knew their stuff and were compassionate too, and it had to be a place where I’d feel comfortable; where I’d feel able to weave in my alternative therapy and spiritual practices, so it felt more personal and less clinical."
“We attended an open evening at Thames Valley Fertility when it had just opened. We really felt the warmth of the people there and the consultants were empathetic.”
Thames Valley Fertility treated Beth and Johnny with ICSI, which is similar to IVF but involves the injection of a single sperm into each egg.
Beth said; "We were really fortunate and had a great first round of ICSI and had eight embryos make it to the blastocyst stage, with seven more frozen. We opted for an extra treatment which involved still shots of the embryos development every hour to observe the progress. You don’t disturb the embryos as the camera system is already set-up. It allows you to look back at the embryos development over time."
“The embryologist advised on day three that there was one embryo that was already looking more like an embryo they’d normally see on day five. When it was time for the embryo transfer, it had already hatched. They explained it was at the stage where it was looking for a womb to implant in. Any questions we’d had over which embryo or how many to transfer went away; it was clear that this was the one.”
Although the embryos were in safe hands, Beth explains how the clinic supported her personal wishes; “Whilst my body was in the stimulation phase, I used a lot of the tools I’d learnt to support me emotionally and mentally and my body responded really well to the medication which prepares the body for the transferring over of the eggs. After egg collection and fertilisation, the embryos were cared for by other people, people in the clinic. I realised I felt a little powerless and felt I needed to do something proactive. When I was still under sedation (after having my eggs collected) I asked the embryologist if she ever spoke words of encouragement (to the embryos). She replied no, but I could? I said yes, please speak kindly to them. I felt like they were taking really great care of them and had so much affection; we could not have done it without their support.”
I CANNOT DESCRIBE THE EMOTION WE FELT WHEN WE GOT THE POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST. IT WAS GREAT BEING ABLE TO PHONE THAMES VALLEY FERTILITY AND TELL THEM THE NEWS, AS EACH AND EVERY PERSON IN THE CLINIC WAS SO EMOTIONALLY INVESTED IN WANTING US TO SUCCEED
On discovering they were pregnant, Beth said: “I cannot describe the emotion we felt when we got the positive pregnancy test. It was great being able to phone Thames Valley Fertility and tell them the news, as each and every person in the clinic was so emotionally invested in wanting us to succeed; they were rooting for us so much.”
To anyone considering IVF and treatment at Thames Valley Fertility, Beth said; "Trust your journey, let it change you and be open to receiving support and encouragement, IVF is a massive thing and can feel extremely isolating and can challenge feelings of femininity. Find ways to nourish and care for yourself through any challenging feelings and embrace the vulnerability of the journey. I have always felt it is important to be open and honest so other people don’t feel alone."
"I have recommended the clinic to a few people, but no matter what someone has shared with you about their experience at a clinic, you should focus on what you need as an individual. You need to make it part of your journey. I asked for what I needed. Remember the people you work with are human beings. Get to know them. The first consultant we met at Thames Valley Fertility, we asked him his story, if he had children, why he did what he did, and he was happy to tell us. Ask people for what you need; whatever it is that’s going to make you feel most relaxed."
“I brought in items from home. I blessed the space with positive intent. Johnny and I went on a date after every appointment to make it feel special rather than a process. It’s a personal, intimate journey to make a baby but it’s especially hard at this time, with Covid-19 placing restrictions at some clinics on partners being able to attend appointments. Create ways your partner can be involved – take a photo of them to your appointment, have a date afterwards, ask them to record a voice note that you can listen to when you arrive at the clinic, send a picture to your partner whilst you are there.”
Beth and Johnny welcomed Maddox two weeks early on 14 April 2019.
Describing him, Beth said; “Maddox is so funny, vibrant, cheerful. He’s obsessed with cars, just like his dad; one of his first words was car key! He’s a big foodie and has a massive appetite. He’s wild but sensitive and funny at the same time, and likes to hug trees.”
Concluding Beth said; “The journey we went on when we went through fertility treatment brought us closer. And whilst it wasn’t what we’d expected when we first started trying to conceive, I truly believe it was the perfect journey for us. The male and female journey is very different but it was a good foundation for parenthood.”