My story after publishing my IVF book

This is the epilogue of my book Looking for Easter Eggs.

Saturday 2 August 2014
Sharing my personal story was the most meaningful and rewarding thing I have done in my life (besides giving birth to Felicia of course). It was also quite exciting to share our story with people we knew and didn’t know. How would they react? My neighbours, friends and family, and others.
Thank God, everyone loved my book! I have received the most beautiful reviews, I was told people had to both cry and smile when reading my story.
I received the first copy of my book on Felicia’s first birthday. I remember the big truck that drove into our narrow street, and the postman handing over a small package with the first two copies. It was three o’clock in the afternoon, the birthday cake had just been delivered and our guests were about to arrive. I felt so proud, I had finished my book and now it was so real! We celebrated the birth of my book and the birthday of our little girl. She had no idea that book was all about her, and everything that had happened before she filled our lives with joy and happiness.
It was a hectic period. Two days before the book launch, my oldest sister gave birth to her third child, a baby girl named Jolie. The day of the book launch I had my first visit again at the IVF clinic, to start with a new round as we were hoping to have a little brother of sister for Felicia one day. Although she had only just turned one, you never know how many years it might take for yet another miracle to take place – if at all.
The book launch was a great party at the fancy North Sea Jazz Club in Amsterdam. The director of the IVF clinic handed over the first copy of my book, together with the doctor who had transferred the Felicia-embryo and who had showed us her very first heartbeat.

Then, all of a sudden, I found myself in this roller coaster ride, I was invited for tv shows (which is a bit too scary I think), I got interviews in fancy magazines, photo shoots and started blogging on several websites. How I loved all the beautiful and professional photos I received from Felicia and me.
The ‘Moeders voor Moeders’-organisation embraced my story, and gave away thousands of books to early pregnant women. It was amazing how many people read my book that first summer.
Ever since the day my book came out, I have received the most touching messages. Women were inspired by my story; they found comfort in my words. They praised me for my openness and thanked me for sharing my personal story with them. They didn’t feel so alone anymore. They were no longer the only ones. They read my story and knew there were so many others with similar feelings and fears and thoughts. They told me I spoke their minds and lent my book to family and friends to make them understand what fertility problems are all about.
Those women tell me they feel inspired to deal with this long road in a different way now, celebrating life like I do, talking about it, instead of keeping it a secret. They feel lighter, like they no longer have to carry their heavy burden alone anymore. My book is a tool that people use to talk about their deep and uncertain wish to be parents one day. I once got a letter from a man, his wife had gone through the IVF roller coaster with her previous partner. He thanked me, because thanks to my story he was able to understand better what his wife had gone through. They are now blessed with three children.
There are women who read my book over and over again. Someone read it five or six times. Personally I never read a book twice, or watch the same movie again. It feels amazing and very fulfilling that my book has a deeper meaning to them.
I hear so many beautiful but just as many sad stories around me. Not everyone has a happy end. I find it hard to accept that some dreams don’t come true. Or to accept that some women finally do get pregnant and then lose their baby. I feel the pain of those who have done everything they can and are still left empty-handed. Life is not fair. I talk to them, and keep asking myself ‘Why not?’ I have met really great couples, and they are definitely worthy of having a baby, their kid would have such wonderful parents. Sometimes it makes me cry when I hear their stories.
I decided to send my book in pink gift boxes, similar to the birth announcement box we made for Felicia. People like to be surprised with my little box filled with love and luck and a personal touch. It is not just any book in a white envelope. I decorate it with ribbons and put little hearts on the box, I always write a personal note in my book and include chocolate Easter eggs and a ’gelukspoppetje’, which is the Dutch word for lucky doll, a little talisman. It is truly unbelievable, but so many women got pregnant after receiving my little ’lucky doll’. All those emails I have received with happy news, I cannot count them anymore. I think I give hope to people and try to share my luck, let them believe miracles do happen, sometimes the miracle appears at that moment.
My dear sister Kim (‘Emma’), who has translated my book, turned out to be pregnant at my book launch (she told me afterwards), and last year she gave birth to a beautiful son called Liam. She is so grateful and feels so blessed to have a healthy little boy.
In November 2012, I also got pregnant myself for the second time in my life, after the third embryo transfer. It was an embryo from the Felicia batch we had saved in the IVF tissue bank. We felt it was a little gift from Felicia, like a twin sister or brother, conceived in the same lab at the same moment, but born at a different time. We could hardly believe I was pregnant again. Once we started to realize Felicia was going to have a little brother or sister, I miscarried. It was a difficult time in our lives having to say goodbye to this miracle. We were optimistic, and remained optimistic and confident. It had been another confirmation that I was indeed fertile. It is so different now I know I can get pregnant. I was so hopeful; we really believed it would happen again. I started a new IVF round and we got twenty-two embryos! The top embryo was put into my womb, and the fifteen embryos were put in eight straws to be stored at the tissue bank. I felt blessed having so many embryos in stock, there would have to be one to make me pregnant again. I even seriously considered embryo donation, to help others.

Meanwhile a fancy magazine asked me to write a weekly column about our wish to have a baby – part two. Thousands of people were reading our story, everywhere in the Netherlands people were burning candles to help us conceive again, they were sending me cards and charms and keeping their fingers crossed. Embryo after embryo got transferred, but the miracle did not happen. The total of embryo transfers doubled compared to how many we needed to conceive the Felicia- embryo.
After the ninth embryo transfer, I got a phone call from the hospital again: ’I am sorry Mrs Tel, we have not found any pregnancy hormones in your blood.’ I felt devastated. I could not bear to hear those words again. Every time, my period was late, and every time we were hopeful.
In the week of the ninth transfer, I had a job interview. I was working as a writer and freelancer from home, but I was really eager to have a regular job again outside the house. On Wednesday I got a job offer. On Friday I heard the bad news I was not pregnant. When one door closes, a window apparently opens. I believe in that saying. My new job is exactly what I could wish for, the right challenge for me. So I decided to stop with IVF. I have to move on with my life and my career. I am thirty-eight years old now, and I have been distracted from work by my child wish for eight years now: it is time to let go. It must be a sign that I got this new job opportunity.
Coincidentally, it was also my last column in the national magazine. It was a period of hello and goodbyes, of endings and new beginnings.
I felt the courage to quit and to say it out loud. Everyone knew I had chosen a new direction in life. I felt completely happy with our Felicia. She is three years old now, and so funny. She makes us laugh every day. She’s our everyday bundle of joy and happiness, the gratitude and love we feel is immeasurable.
Our happy and charming girl, I cannot even believe to ever have such a wonderful child again. She is exactly what we have dreamed of, or even more, she makes me feel so proud.

Still, I have cryos left in the freezer and still I have the right to two more IVF treatments covered by our health insurance. Months went by, and then it was the first day of a new cycle. I asked Frank: ’What shall we do? Shall we give it one more try?’
It is almost impossible to stop when there are still chances. So we tried one more time. We did not tell people. This time we were lucky! This week I had a Big Fat Plus on a pregnancy test! Today I am pregnant for the third time in my life. Tomorrow we’ll see. We hope for the best and keep on dreaming to one day have a little brother or sister for Felicia. Miracles do happen…
Good luck to you & don’t forget to celebrate life! Love,
Anne

Today I am 20 weeks pregnant and expecting a baby boy!

Prologue Looking for Easter Eggs

One thing I have always been sure of in my life is that I wanted to be a mum. As a child I used to play with my dolls for hours; as a teenager I was the super nanny in the neighbourhood; and as a young adult I wrote top 10 name lists in my diary for any future children.

I was only waiting to find the Love of my Life.

When I was 28 years old, I met the Love of my Life. Just when I was about to travel through Asia on my own for two months.

I quickly booked my flight and went ahead with my plan. After six weeks he came to find me and we have been inseparable ever since.

Our relationship has been filled with passion, love and adventure: we have always had all that going for us.

On my thirtieth birthday I stopped using birth control: Frank and I were very sure we were ready to start a family. I thought it would be a beautiful moment to ‘conceive a baby’.

The first month went by…then the second… and the third. My belief and self- confidence of becoming a mum slowly changed into a deep and overwhelming feeling of insecurity.

After a year of waiting, we went to the doctor’s. He sent us to hospital. After many physical examinations and months of waiting, we started our first fertility treatments: IUI and IVF. We became experts in areas that had been unknown to us before.

My true story is about love, travelling and fertility issues. Three elements that have played big roles in our lives. The book is about how relaxed we used to be, how we always try to look at things from the bright side, and how we dealt with and made up for our disappointments (another failed IVF attempt? – Let’s book a trip to Marrakech), until the moment I felt genuinely miserable. I realised that the women around me got pregnant easily and we were left behind, empty-handed.

Although she has her own story to tell, my older sister gave birth to two healthy children in the time that we were trying. My friend got pregnant three times in three years. I was really happy for all those pregnant women, but I was fed up and most of all so sad and disappointed that we were not blessed with the miracle of life.

So, what was plan B? Can you still be happy if you don’t get what you wish for most in life? We have always learnt that if you work hard enough, you can make your dreams come true, reach your goals. Our dream though, despite all the hormone treatments and dozens of hospital visits, never seemed to come true.

How far should you go? We were able to create the high points in our lives only to end up on a rollercoaster of hope, disappointment, sadness, acceptance and moving on. The feelings of insecurity were growing, and the feelings of sadness were getting more unbearable every time we found out I was not pregnant.

Although the wish had not been fulfilled yet, we were able to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Suddenly the sun started to shine again and our luck returned.

I hope that you, as a reader of my story, can both laugh about and cry along with the story and that you will find that you can empathise with what we have been through.

Anne Tel

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Review Freya (Dutch Fertility organisation)

Book review Looking for Easter Eggs by Anne Tel

Read for you

Say, you are a woman in your thirties. You live in Amsterdam, you have great friends and a good job, and the love of your life is even more amazing than all of the above. He’s the one you hope to grow old with, and together you’re enjoying life to the max. You’re completely happy, the world is at your feet, and everything is going as it should without even having to really try. Then you quit birth control, because both you and your husband can’t wait to have a baby. Then, suddenly, things don’t go so smoothly anymore: 90 per cent of all the women who are trying, conceive within the first year. But not you.

My opinion ****

In this book, the author, Anne Tel, grabs you by the arm and takes you with her on a compelling tour of her life. A similarity with Bridget Jones is easily made, though the scales plus man in woolly knitted reindeer sweater are missing. She does write about her long journey of fertility treatments in great detail. And oh, how relatable it all is! Time just keeps ticking away while everyone around her is getting pregnant just like that. Anne Tel is very good at describing how hard it is to combine a job with treatments: just when you have that one oh so important meeting, you have to go to the hospital for the umpteenth time. And then, when you have finally decided you need a break and you’re about to take that well-deserved holiday, you find your dream to get pregnant will have to be put on hold for yet another month before you can even start your next round of trying. Meanwhile, in between every month that there is no treatment, there’s always that strong and silent hope that a miracle might happen.

When, after missing out for a month, Anne suggests to schedule in the next round, the assistant, who’s looking in her Big Book of Appointments, tells them they have room for her in January.

‘What!’ ‘January?!!’ Frank and I exclaim at the same time. ‘Our only wish is to carry on, we have lost so many chances this year already. We need one more try this year!’

Having to wait for no real reason is almost worse than coping with yet another disappointment of not getting pregnant. Frank goes berserk and is completely unreasonable to the assistant. I begin to cry silent tears. I don’t want to wait any longer.

We walk back to our car, feeling defeated. There’ll be no more chance this year. The radio is switched on and we laugh about this joke we hear that’s not funny at all. It feels good to be able to laugh over something completely silly sometimes.

This book is a real page-turner. Will the next attempt finally be successful? Anne Tel simply drags you into her story, into her life. The book is not only very relatable for people who are dealing with IVF themselves, it’s also a great read for their family and friends. It paints a very good picture of what it’s like not to be able to get pregnant and in what way the route of fertility treatments seriously affects your life. It’s a real must-read.

Source: Freya Magazine

http://www.freya.nl Freya is the Dutch organization for people with fertility problems.

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IVF: 10 Do’s and Don’ts

My advice to you, my readers who are going through fertility struggles as well:

  1. If you find yourself having to go through IVF-treatments one day: keep on talking to your partner and keep on loving each other. Never forget you have found someone with whom you want to start a family. Not everyone is that lucky, so feel blessed with what you do have.
  1. Find your moments to get away from it all, look for positive activities to distract yourselves, like sports, travel, going away for the weekend, or going to a spa.
  1. Don’t wait too long. If you are a female in your thirties, and you’re having trouble getting pregnant within one year, seek medical help. There might be a reason why you aren’t getting pregnant. Find out if anything is wrong.
  1. Take good care of yourself. It’s very hard to combine your job with an IVF treatment. Don’t stop living. Don’t put everything on hold for your big dream. The impact is enormous.
  1. Don’t Google too much, don’t go through all the internet forums: they will not make you better or happier. Watch out for the extreme stories people tell you. Dr Google is not a real doctor. On the internet you can find a universal truth, you can always find what you’re looking for, but you cannot draw any conclusions from what you read, nor diagnose yourself.
  1. Focus on your little nephews and nieces and have them stay over. Their parents are fine with that.
  1. Be genuinely happy for other people, try not to let it get to you when they get what you’re hoping for yourself. Try not to be affected too much by people who don’t know what it’s like. It’s impossible for them to relate.
  1. Be aware of the fact you’re not the only ones having to go through this. You only hear the success stories; ‘We were only just trying and she got pregnant straight away.’ You don’t hear the other stories, or only afterwards. It’s your choice to be open about this, though I realise it’s a difficult and very personal choice.
  1. If you feel a treatment or doctor isn’t getting you what you want, look for a different hospital/doctor.

10. Babies are born from love. You need this same love to go through all the hospital treatments.

Source: Looking for Easter Eggs, my story about love, travel and IVF (copyright 2014 Anne Tel)

cover engelsDownload now the ebook Looking for Easter Eggs for only £1.99.

This promotional fee is only valid during National Awareness Fertility Week UK till 3 November.