After 9 Rounds of IVF & Miscarriages, I Watched My Newborn Twins Die -- But I Refuse to Give Up

Nicola Fletcher

newborn twins
Nicola Fletcher

TRIGGER WARNING: This post contains images and information about infant loss, which may be triggering to some.

As told to Lauren Levy by Nicola Fletcher.

My now-husband and I started trying for a baby after about two years of being together. But after one year of trying to conceive and failing, we went to our local fertility clinic in London for tests. Here, we found out that I have high follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, low anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) levels, high natural killer immune issues, and thyroid problems. Marc found out that he had high sperm antibodies, resulting in him producing antibodies against his sperm. Therefore all together, this all made it extremely hard to conceive naturally. Going forward, the doctors advised us we would need IVF to start our family. At first, we were upset but deep down we kind of knew that we both had problems. So Marc and I accepted this surprising news … and this was the start of our IVF journey. 

  • We started the process six years ago and have gone on to have nine rounds of fresh IVF.

    Nicola Fletcher
    Nicola Fletcher

    This resulted in four different rounds of nonimplantations and four different miscarriages at six, eight, nine and 11 weeks. Looking back on my first miscarriage at six weeks, I felt devastated, empty, and numb. I just couldn’t work out why, why us, why me why, would this happen?

    But our first cycle was the easiest. It gets harder and harder each time. The waiting seems to get longer and longer; the treatment got more invasive and intense. You harden to the disappointment. We have become resistant. IVF can become an addiction -- an addiction to having a family. 

    After that first miscarriage, I was left determined -- determined to try again for our family, the family we longed for. During our first consultation after our first IVF miscarriage, I was told I would probably go into early menopause due to my high FSH levels, so we were advised to start trying again ASAP. So we did and we started another round only two to three months later. 

    IVF round two resulted in another miscarriage at eight weeks. This loss again left me numb and very disappointed. However, I was also left not only still determined to start again but also to do things differently this time with new research and a new clinic.

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  • That's when I started my deep dive into research ... and found a new clinic as we investigated miscarriages and immune issues for nonimplantations.

    It was at this second clinic that we found out about my immune issues....

    I was tested for natural killer (NK) cells, and I was told that if you have a higher number than normal of these NK cells, or they’re more aggressive than is usual, they may attack rather than protect a pregnancy and cause a miscarriage. 

    My blood tests were sent to Chicago and then I was started on an infusion treatment before we began rounds three and four. We had both rounds at this new clinic and both resulted in nonimplantations. We had no real answers as to why this happened and were again advised to start trying again ASAP. We decided to change clinics again and to be honest, I wasn’t 100 percent happy with the service that we received or clearly did not receive.

  • As the years went on, there was more research, more saving, more loans. At this point our funds were very low so we also had to borrow some money. 

    We found another clinic where again, we had further testing. There was more testing for Marc at this clinic and it was here we found out that Marc also had high Sperm DNA Fragmentation -- our urologist put Marc on a 26-day high course of strong antibiotics. This brought Marc’s Fragmentation from a high level to a perfect level. Hopeful, we went ahead with our fifth IVF fresh cycle, which resulted in another miscarriage with twins at nine weeks.

    Needless to say, we were devastated. We thought we had finally made it and finally found our happy ever after as a family of four.

    We went onto have another fresh cycle, number six, at the same clinic, resulting in yet another miscarriage at 11 weeks. 

  • On the sixth cycle, we found out that my father was diagnosed with a rare form of gallbladder cancer.

    He fought a hard 18-month battle but, sadly, after losing our baby at 11 weeks, we also lost my dad three weeks after. It was just a week before his 61st birthday. At this point, dealing with the loss of my father and all our baby losses I was totally exhausted, so we decided to have a break, but deep down I knew this wasn’t the end. I knew in my heart that we would carry on, determined to have our family. 

  • Summer 2017 we decided to take our IVF journey to a new country: Greece. 

    Because our money was running out and we weren't having any success in England, we decided to expand our search and settled on Greece. My father had loved Greece, so this felt right and it also helped that it was less expensive. We Skyped with a clinic and felt that it was the right one to continue our journey with. So we started IVF cycle number seven. 

    Before getting stared, we flew to Greece  -- with white sands, turquoise sea. But the stresses and anticipation were still with us as we completed our cycle, and it resulted in yet another nonimplantation. The clinic was kind enough to offer a discounted cycle four months later, which we accepted. We flew out for cycle number eight. 

    We completed this cycle which again resulted in another nonimplantation. After a Skype consultation, I was advised going forward that I would need donor eggs. I’ve never been against that option but I felt in my heart that I wasn’t ready to give up on my eggs. We again had a break; we needed some time out away from the IVF world. We tried to carry on and saved like crazy trying to not speak about IVF. I always had IVF in the back of my mind knowing that one day somehow I would make our dreams come true.

  • I’m not someone who gives up easily.

    Daily I would think Why can’t we conceive naturally? Why us? Why does it seem that everyone around can conceive apart from us? IVF can be a lonely world at times.    

    The decision to try IVF cycle nine was upon us and we decided that we just couldn’t give up. I researched yet again and found another London clinic, and this round was different -- we were finally successful in a pregnancy resulting in twin boys.

    Round nine felt amazing but we were still in denial for many months as it just didn’t seem real. We hardly told a soul until we were just over four months! It was probably because of all the previous heartache that I had and constant bleeding from eight weeks. We found out we were expecting one boy at five months but we couldn’t tell with the other twin because he was breech so we wouldn't know until he arrived. 

    This pregnancy wasn’t easy though -- at eight weeks I developed a hematoma blood clot which caused me to have regular bleeds. Then, I was home one Saturday evening when I felt a gush of what I originally thought was blood. But much to my horror, that blood turned out to my water breaking.

    We both rushed to our local hospital and a scan confirmed that twin one's water had broken. From that moment on, I was rushed to a labor ward surrounded by women in labor or who had just given birth. I was told that I would go into labor within 24 hours. But after 42 hours, there was no sign of either twin making his grand entrance so I was then discharged with antibiotics and remained on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy. We were going in for heartbeat scans twice a week and both twins were both growing well -- even though we knew life would be tough for our twin whose water had broken. He was still growing and we kept our faith as we tried to remain positive. 

  • I was still on bedrest at home weeks later when I felt a sudden pain. I called Marc, who who rushed home because something wasn't right. 

    We rushed to our local hospital where I had an internal examination and found out the devastating news: Twin one, whose water had broken eight whole weeks ago, now had a prolapsed cord which had broken through the membrane. 

    Within seconds, I was rushed into the operating room for emergency surgery and Marc was taken away to get changed into scrubs. I need an immediate C-section and the news was horrific, very scary, and upsetting.

    Our baby boys were born just 10 minutes later on July 6, 2018, at just 24 weeks and 3 days. Twin one, Charlie, weighed a tiny 1.5 pounds and twin two, Ellis, weighed 1.7 pounds.

  • Both boys were strong immediately after birth even though Charlie had remained inside my womb for eight weeks with no waters. 

    Preemie twin
    Nicola Fletcher

    Our boys were taken to London St. Thomas' Hospital straight into the NICU ward -- I remained at our local hospital and I eventually managed to arrive at St. Thomas' later that morning. Mark had followed our boys. Charlie fought very hard, but after 10 hours his tiny body gave up and he passed away -- thankfully Marc was able to be with him when he passed. I never got to hold Charlie alive because both of our babies were taken straight away into intensive care as soon as they were delivered. 

    That evening, we moved into the Ronald McDonald housing for parents who have babies or children in the NICU.

  • It was all so bittersweet because we had one baby, Charlie, down in the mortuary and we had our Ellis who was fighting for life 24 hours a day. 

    preemie twin
    Nicola Fletcher

    But we had no choice: You have to carry on. You have to stay strong for your surviving baby. Ellis remained in a critical but stable condition. 

    After two weeks, Ellis developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), which affects the intestines of premature babies, causing overwhelming infections in the bowel. This resulted in Ellis having an emergency operation that lasted for six hours when he was just 2 weeks old.

    We were told to expect the worst and that our baby likely would not survive. But somehow, Ellis did survive. Ellis was strong. He made it through this battle, and he was determined. But after a few days, Ellis took another turn for the worse and the doctors had to perform another life-saving operation.

    At this point, we were able to hold Ellis because we’d been told this would be the first and the last time that we would hold him alive -- so that’s what I did. I held him in front of all the doctors and nurses. But my husband couldn’t hold Ellis because he was simply too scared. But I held him and I sobbed the whole time as I was so proud to call this baby my son.

  • But Ellis proved the doctors wrong again and he survived.

    dad and preemie twin
    Nicola Fletcher

    Doctors removed Ellis’s infected bowel and things were looking up. Even the doctors were discussing taking Ellis’s breathing tubes out, which we were shocked about. 

    But then, they noticed some swelling on Ellis’s brain and had an MRI scan that confirmed our worst fear: Ellis had developed severe brain damage at some point during the second operation. We were told Ellis would have no quality of life. This left us heartbroken and devastated to have to say goodbye to our amazing little boy. We had already had to say goodbye to Charlie and now saying goodbye to Ellis, who had fought so hard, was soul destroying.

    We were able to have two full days with Ellis where our family and friends came to say goodbye and they each held him. We said our final goodbye to Ellis alone, just us three. We played Ellis my favorite Whitney Houston song, “I believe in Miracles,” and he looked at us throughout the entire song. 

    We let Ellis pass away at 3:20 p.m. on August 5, 2018, when Ellis was just 4 weeks old. He continued to flight and stayed with us for one whole hour but our boys were now reunited. We left the hospital that day and went home in a cloud. I had this scar but no baby. Our home still wasn’t filled with things for twins. Were we still parents? I’d often think. We buried our boys with my dad, and we released butterflies as well as balloons. Ellis and Charlie made such a big impact not only to us but also to our friends, family, and people who never even met them. They were truly our miracle boys. 

  • My friend Carly offered to be our surrogate three years ago as she knew about all our heartache. She wanted to help us to achieve our dream, but at the time, we weren't ready to go that route.

    Nicola Fletcher and newborn
    Nicola Fletcher

    Carly offered again recently and it was then that we decided to carry on and go for cycle number 10. Only this time, it would be Carly who would carry our baby. Carly is a true friend -- the kindest of them all. We will be eternally grateful to Carly forever. Carly has her own completed family and wants to help us to achieve our dream.  

    Our friends, Amy and Nicola, kindly opened started a Go Fund Me page to help with the costs because we have already spent over $165,000 on IVF. We’ve always been open about surrogacy. I think it’s amazing, truly amazing, that our friend has offered something so wonderful. 

    Since sharing our decision to change course with how we start a family, we luckily haven’t had any criticism or negative comments. I’d just like to share that fertility and IVF can be lonely and hard at times -- you need to stay strong and maybe tell your close friends or family -- but they won’t always know what to say if they haven’t been through the same journey. But even so, that shouldn't stop you. They can listen and be that shoulder to cry on.