I love my job. It is all I have ever done, and all I’ve ever wanted to do. But, I very rarely get to talk about – let alone boast about – the work I do. If you look on my website, you’ll see lots of stories and baby photos, and the one thing they all have in common is their anonymity. I am hugely appreciative of (and indeed indebted to) the people who agreed to let their stories be written and posted on my website, as otherwise it would be hard to reach the people who need my skills, or indeed make my business work well enough that I can help to support my family with it.
In this blog though, Eve Harris has been kind enough to write her story for me ‘on the record’ and allow me to bask a bit in her reflected glory. I am so proud to have been part of her journey.
Here she is, in her own words:
“I met Naava at the start of May 2011. My periods had completely stopped due to a silent miscarriage of twins at 10 weeks in November 2010. The twins had been conceived spontaneously and naturally after a month’s cycle of Clomid. I was 37 years old. The fertility clinic had decided to evacuate their foetuses and usually this is an uncomplicated, safe procedure although my doctor warned me that about 1% of women may become sterile post procedure. I was not worried at all. I simply thought – if I fell pregnant once, I can do it again, can’t I?
Sadly I was that 1%. The evacuation wrecked my womb lining, leaving it scarred and very patchy – hence, the lack of periods. I was suffering from a disease known as Asherman’s Syndrome. I went on line and researched it – only to find a website with hundreds of women all suffering from Asherman’s due to an evacuation of a dead foetus. None of these women were able to conceive. There was no cure for Asherman’s.
On top of that, I had previously been diagnosed with a very low AMH level (a measurement of my ovarian reserve based on the number of egg-producing follicles I had left in my ovaries). I was told I only had 5 follicles left. I was 37 and the average for my age is many more than this. I also had an AMH level of 1.21 which was in the category of ‘undetectable’. This meant the clinic were not willing to perform IVF on me, because I could not grow a big enough batch of eggs to make it worthwhile – they need at least 3 to 4 good ones out of about 12. Most women on IVF are expected to produce at least 10 eggs, but a woman needs at least 10 follicles or more to do this.
I felt pretty hopeless by the time I met Naava. I had been pumped full of drugs and hormones in an attempt to restart my periods, but my lining was not responding. My doctor talked of possibly sending me to Jerusalem to have my patchy womb lining cut out, in the hope that a new, healthy one would grow in its place – but women who had undergone this operation were often left worse off than before.
Finally, my doctor asked me to contact a Dr Barad in New York. He had trialled a new method to help women with Asherman’s – that involved injecting a drug given to patients that had finished chemo into my patchy womb lining to make it thicken up to quadruple its current size (invisible to the eye even on a scanner) and allow an embryo to be planted into the thickest part of it. The trial had involved 4 women and all 4 had conceived and 3 delivered at full term, whereas one chose to abort because her embryo was growing in an unhealthy area of her womb. It seemed a long shot but I had no other choice. At least I had been allowed to stop all the useless hormones and other drugs I had been taking.
So there I was, with no periods and only 5 follicles and what seemed like a crazy pipe-dream in New York. Everyone around me was falling pregnant, having babies or pushing a buggy. New York was four months away – four more months of agonised waiting.
A friend suggested I see Naava in the meantime. Naava had helped her and maybe she could help me. I had been going to see a local acupuncturist who treated me like I was a simply another number on her list – and had failed to bring my periods back. I was loath to believe any other acupuncturist would actually do more for me. Nevertheless I emailed Naava and was excited and surprised by her direct, honest and practical response. She wrote that she was no miracle worker but she had helped women with very low AMH levels previously and also women with damaged or thin womb linings. Naava knew what AMH meant whereas I had to spell it out to my NHS doctor and the previous acupuncturist. This Naava knows her stuff, I thought.
Our first meeting was easy. Naava was warm, and friendly but professional. We just talked and she asked me a lot of detailed questions about my lifestyle, health, eating habits and state of mind. She made notes. She looked at my tongue and took my pulse. Her method is holistic. I was diagnosed as having a lot of ‘damp’ in me. I needed to cut out dairy, bananas and peanut butter – all things I love. The food that was suddenly denied to me seemed arbitrary and somewhat bizarre, but I followed her instructions based on my unbalanced ying and yang. I was willing to try whatever she felt would help. I instinctively trusted her, even if I did not understand or have any belief or previous experience of taking Chinese herbs. Yet, I felt calm and positive by the end of my session.
Her aim was for me to have acupuncture weekly with her for the next three months, in order to rebuild my womb lining as much as possible to help my chances in New York.
I took the herbs she prescribed every morning (even though they were the foulest thing I had ever tasted). I took my temperature the minute I woke up and noted it down on her chart. I went to my first actual session of pins.
I enjoy acupuncture. For me, it is relaxing and very gentle. It does not hurt. Occasionally, I felt a twinge when Naava first put the needles in but it never bothered me. Naava is very careful and an expert with her needles. She takes her time and things are done in a calm, measured fashion. She made me laugh at times and I felt like I was talking to a friend, albeit one with a professional purpose. Once she put the needles in, I was left to lie comfortably on her massage table. She would ask if I wanted music or preferred silence. I preferred silence.
Naava would get on with her work on her laptop and I was left to drift with my thoughts. I never felt down or desperate on that table. It was like having half an hour of my week reserved for horizontal meditation.
I saw Naava every week for 3 months. Every time I saw her, she greeted me with a warm smile and asked me how I was doing. I felt her interest was genuine and I felt humbled by her kind enquiries, because she was always asking about me – how are you feeling, Eve? How’s your week been? Her focus was purely on me, each and every session.
At the end of May, I had my first period. It was very light but IT WAS A PERIOD! My lining was finally visible on the scanner. The doctors at the clinic could ACTUALLY measure it. It measured 2.1 millimetres. You need a lining of at least SIX millimetres for an embryo to embed itself and begin to grow. I was still very far away from that.
But by the beginning of August, my lining had doubled in size and had grown to an incredible thickness of 4.2 mm! The doctors were surprised but when I mentioned the acupuncture, they made non-committal noises. Yet I was on a roll. I had had THREE real periods and I had seen a huge, ripe egg about to burst out of one of my poor remaining follicles on the scanner. I asked the doctor if he thought I could get pregnant on a 4.2mm lining and he said it was fairly unlikely but why not try? After all, I had nothing to lose and I was still bound for New York. So we did – without any real hope or desperation. We gave it one last try.
I still had two or three more sessions with Naava until we flew.
The IVF drugs were sitting in my fridge and I was due to start them as soon as my next period arrived. Some had even been Fedexed over. I had an endless list of instructions from New York, these included that by the time my follicles containing the eggs had ripened to a size of 12 mm across, my husband and I were to jump on a plane to New York BEFORE I ovulated. I was to be scanned every day at the London clinic to make sure we did not miss a trick. We had not booked tickets, we would do so on the day.
At the end of August, by day 28 of my cycle, there was still no sign of my period. Not a drop. NADA. I thought that it was simply a case of Sod’s Law and my nerves were making it late. My temperature had been going up and staying there.
On Bank Holiday Monday evening, I took an early predictor pregnancy test. I was sure it would be negative. I just thought I would check to be sure I was not pregnant; to reassure myself my period was coming! (However weird that might sound).
I looked at the test sitting on top of the toilet cistern. It was negative. I showed my husband and was about to chuck it away, when I noticed a second faint line had appeared. I showed him the stick again, but he did not want to believe it. The line had become darker. I did another test and another and another…all three tests showed a second faint line that gradually darkened.
I could not speak. I was all over the shop. We were visiting friends that evening for dinner. We promised ourselves that we would not say a word. The minute they opened the door, I blurted out “I think I might be pregnant!”
I was. The next day I rang the clinic and had a blood test that confirmed matters. I had fallen pregnant on a 4.2 mm lining against all the odds.
We informed the doctor in New York who was as surprised as we were.
He told us he would still be here for us should things go wrong. Somehow I did not expect them to. I just had this feeling, that this time, it would all be okay. My London doctor was beside himself. He said to me, “Eve, you willed yourself to be pregnant. There’s no other explanation – you were so determined, your body obeyed!” But I had done nothing of the sort.
And it was. Nine months later, I had a beautiful baby girl. I called her Rosie. She is now three years old and really cheeky and smiley. I love her to pieces. Rosie would not be here today if it weren’t for Naava. I am sure of that.”
HOWEVER – Rosie was Eve’s first, but not last, baby of 2012! I am a crazy reader; fast and voracious and I average (or at least I did before I had a baby) about 150 books per year. I happened to mention this to Eve, and we got chatting about our love of literature. It turns out that behind the scenes Eve had written a book which she allowed me to read called The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. It also turns out that Eve can write the hell out of a book! So, seeing an amazing piece of work in front of me, I was in the fortunate position of being able to reach out to Diana Beaumont (another talented woman I was able to help conceive, and who has also graciously waived her anonymity and allowed me to talk about her) who is a literary agent with The Agency Group.
Diana knows her stuff. She was a senior commissioning editor at Rupert Heath Literary Agency and is responsible for numerous bestselling authors including the ground-breaking cookbook The Meatliquor Chronicles. She saw what I saw in this book, and so I bowed out and left the ladies to it. Next thing I know, Eve’s book is being published, and then…ta da! She was Longlisted for the prestigious honour of the Man Booker Prize!
I have always wanted to write a book, but I don’t believe I have one in me, so the next best thing, and the very best thing Eve could have done for me, was to mention me in the acknowledgements. I cherish this gesture, and it remains on my shelf as a testament to something extraordinary that happened over the years of 2012-13.
Tags: acupuncture, ashermans syndrome, chinese herbal medicine, clomid, Diana Beaumont, eggs, Eve Harris, fertility, health, longlisted, low AMH, Man Booker Prize, miscarriage, pregnancy, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman