'I Spent 3 Years Trying To Get Pregnant. Then Birth Terrified Me'

Birth Diaries: "With IVF, they tell you there’s an increased risk of having a stillbirth – and I couldn’t get that out of my head."

In HuffPost Birth Diaries we hear the extraordinary stories of the everyday miracle of birth. This week, Sarah Harrington shares her story. If you’d like to share yours, email amy.packham@huffpost.com.

It took three and a half years for me to fall pregnant – and it was far from straightforward. We tried different types of fertility treatment, including three rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) on the NHS and, when that proved unsuccessful, were referred for a single round of IVF. But then we were faced with further complications: after taking the drugs I developed a blood clot in my leg and had to stop treatment for a while. Thankfully, our second attempt with IVF was successful.

Once pregnant, I was hit by really high anxiety. I’d spent such a long time trying to get pregnant, that I kept worrying about keeping it and making sure my baby was healthy and safe. With IVF, they tell you there’s an increased risk of having a stillbirth and I couldn’t get that out of my head – even though it was a marginal risk.

I knew I didn’t want to go full-term. I spoke through my anxieties with my midwife and the more I talked about it, the more I realised it’d be best for me to have an elective c-section, which was planned in for 39 weeks. I was frightened about having a major operation, but I was so riddled with anxiety that this was the best way I could control the outcome of him arriving safely.

It was 29 May. I was booked in for 9.28am and I was petrified. The feeling of waiting on the trolley to go down to theatre was a desperate-sort-of excitement – scared of things that could go wrong, but with such a strong desire to meet my baby.

All the midwives were in masks and gloves – but in a way, I just got used to it. It’s easy to see past it. I didn’t find it intimidating at all.

The actual surgery went quite well. The first time they went in to get him, it was a struggle. It felt strange – I had no pain, but felt lots of tugging and pulling. I felt a little wobbly on the table when they managed to get a hold of him and pull him out. The minute they did, he was crying.

My partner watched the whole thing, amazingly. I don’t think he planned on doing it, but he was so intrigued by the process of what was happening – he was fascinated! He got lots of photos, too. Although when they were pulling by belly apart to get him out, I think he had to turn away for that bit.

They brought my son straight over to me. I never understood that feeling of feeling so full up with love until he was placed on my chest. It was overwhelming, like I was floating on cloud nine. This beautiful bundle of joy we’d worked so hard for was lying on my chest. It was the best day of my life.

He cried when he was taken away – my partner got up from his seat, walked over, and started talking to him; he immediately went quiet when he heard my partner’s voice. My partner also had skin-to-skin, which I’d asked for. He didn’t want to cause a fuss, so I made sure it happened and I know he was grateful I insisted he had it.

Rob was in theatre with me on the ward and recovery for 30 minutes after, but then he had to go home.

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My son developed a squeaking noise after he was born so had to be monitored – it can sometimes be the first sign of a viral or bacterial infection, so he was rushed to paediatrics, had tests, and was put on antibiotics and medications while waiting for his test results to come back.

It was really hard going through that without Rob. That was the worst, wondering what would happen. The results all came back negative, but the wait for those results had been agonising.

Going home was an amazing feeling. I hated staying in the hospital, which was for four days in total. But leaving hospital to meet my partner? It makes me well up thinking about it. There are moments you dream about when you’re trying for a baby – and to be living it when we left the hospital, the three of us, was perfect.

I’ll never forget the look on my partner’s face when he came to pick us up: Proud. As. Punch.

My birth advice?

I read up lots about C-sections and knew what I was getting myself in for. I read, watched videos – and I knew it was beneficial for my partner to have skin-to-skin so insisted on that, which he was happy about.

Sarah had her IVF treatment with CARE Fertility. Find out more about how Covid-19 has affected fertility treatments.