For Elaine, the road to motherhood was a very long and painful journey, including six rounds of IVF and four miscarriages. Here she looks back on her experiences and hopes to help others to speak openly about their struggles and seek support.
Very soon after getting married my husband and I decided to start a family.
We were really surprised that after a year we hadn't fallen pregnant. We went to see our GP who sent us for tests. I kept telling myself it's just a matter of time, but deep down I was a little concerned, especially since all my friends seemed to get pregnant pretty soon after trying.
After numerous tests (some very uncomfortable) and a laparoscopy I was told I had severe endometriosis, but that this had not been proven conclusively to cause fertility issues. I almost wanted them to find a cause, so it could be addressed, cured, and we could move on with starting our family.
Then after almost two years of trying for a baby and more tests, our specialist advised us to try IVF. We knew absolutely nothing about this procedure and we didn't know anyone who had tried it. I didn't want any of our friends or family to know we were doing IVF, as I was embarrassed that as a female I couldn't' do the key thing my body was designed to do - reproduce naturally.
So after expensive consultations with a private IVF specialist and very expensive drugs, we did our first round of IVF. It didn't work.
I was so upset; I thought IVF would be the answer to our prayers. I was naive then and I now have great appreciation of how unpredictable the process can be. My husband was more optimistic and encouraged me not to lose hope and that we should try again.
So a few months later, we did another round of IVF. After doing a pregnancy test two weeks later, you can imagine our sheer delight when it came back positive. Then a few weeks later a scan showed that we were expecting twins. I remember crying with joy. We told our parents and some close friends, who were all so supportive, and naturally we started to plan our lives around the arrival of our long-awaited babies.
Then the week before my 12-week scan, I experienced slight bleeding. I told myself it was probably caused by the two little ones growing inside me. I went to the Early Pregnancy Unit at my local hospital for some reassurance, that we had nothing to worry about.
That day our worlds fell apart and to his day, I will never forget the consultant telling me there were no heartbeats and how I told them, over and over, they must be wrong.
After more than two years of trying to get pregnant, I felt so angry that our two little babies had been stolen from us. I soon went on to feel very angry at myself. I blamed my body. I felt I wasn't a real woman; I was a failure. I felt guilty that I had let my husband and our families down. I felt I couldn't really talk to any of my friends about this, as they had children and just wouldn't understand and I didn't want to upset my parents, so I told them I would be fine. I wasn't.
My husband spent many nights holding me as I cried for our lost babies and what could have been. Although my husband was incredibly supportive, my rock, I still felt very alone. I felt like a complete failure, and comments from people at work (who didn't know what we had been through), such as "when are you guys going to hurry up and start a family?" and "are you not interested in having a family, as you are so career-focused" didn't help.
The experience affected me in many aspects of my everyday life. I felt jealous when I saw the women on the tube with the 'Baby on Board' badges and there seemed to be so many more than I had noticed before. I even felt my confidence as a whole was knocked, but I choose to keep as much as I could to myself.
Looking back now, seven years on - after six rounds of IVF, two natural pregnancies, four miscarriages and the loss of six little angels - and finally being blessed with our miracle daughter in 2015, it's been a very long and painful journey. I wished I had been more open to friends and family as to what we were going through, I also wish I had contacted amazing charities like the Fertility Network and Tommy's.
Now both my husband and I speak very openly about our struggle with fertility and our recurring miscarriage experiences. By doing so we have learned that we are not alone; I never realised how many people have been on similar journeys. The statistics show that around one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving; that as many as one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, and that around one in one hundred women in the UK experiences recurrent miscarriages.
I hope that by sharing our story it will help others to speak openly about their struggles to seek support.