I never knew when I was struggling my way through an infertility journey, that years later it would lead me to what I do today. There was a time in my life when being around babies was so painful, and now over a decade later my life has come full circle and I have babies around me all the time and I love it so much. My journey has truly made me appreciate the gift of every child born. Here is our story...
After a year of trying to have a baby we spoke to our GP who referred us to Fertility Associates. The wonderful Mary Birdsall was our specialist and I loved her from day one.
After having surgery for my endometriosis, and testing on Stu (which showed some significant sperm issues) we met with her again. Her words that day will never be forgotten. Our combined fertility issues created an impact on our fertility that was ‘exponential’. That word became etched in my brain and we started the path of fertility treatment.
We tried first with a procedure called IUI. It is way less invasive than IVF but after two cycles, and no result we were advised to undertake IVF treatment.
IVF was grueling, mentally and emotionally challenging and completely overwhelming. It was just so darn hard! There are so many ups and downs that can happen from one day to the next.
However, on our first cycle we were positive and hopeful. After many self-administered injections, a surgical egg removal procedure which produced 6 eggs, daily phone calls from the embryologist letting us know how things were proceeding in the lab, we ended up with ONE embryo. That is not a great result. One chance! That embryo was transferred back into my uterus and after an excruciating 10 day wait, we got our result – a positive pregnancy blood test. We honestly couldn’t believe it. We were pregnant and going to have a baby – finally! However only a week or so later we found ourselves in A and E with me in agonising pain and miscarrying our beautiful baby. The despair after this was so real and so awful.
When we were ready, we decided to do another cycle. Because we only got one embryo from the last cycle, we had to start right back at the beginning. Back to daily injections and the emotional roller coaster that comes along with it all. To be honest I can’t remember the small details of this cycle but again we only had one embryo to implant and this one did not result in a pregnancy which was devastating.
During this time my mental health really started to suffer. I was obsessed with having a baby, couldn’t attend baby showers, being out socially with friends was very difficult and I just wanted to stay home and not be exposed to babies, pregnant women or people in general who would often ask when we were going to start a family. I felt so very alone. I felt like Mother Nature did not think I was worthy of being a mother, that I did not deserve a baby. It was excruciating.
We were determined and brave enough to start again with cycle number three. We were told by our lovely specialist that if it didn’t work this time, we would need to start looking into egg donation. I really wasn’t ready to even think about that even though my sister had already offered me eggs, which is a gift beyond my imagination.
I took a term off work to do this cycle. I was a teacher of 5-year olds and I just felt that my emotional state was not stable enough to have all those beautiful little children in my care. I needed time out and no responsibility. The difference with this cycle was that we ended up with 2 embryos at the end. This was the first time we had more than one. I felt quite strongly about not freezing one (as I felt fresh was best) and asked Mary if she would consider putting both embryos in at the same time. Double transfers are not standard practice here in New Zealand and they are only done under specific circumstances, but Mary agreed this was the best option for us at this time.
So, two embryos were transferred and the wait began. 10 days later I had a blood test and got the result. POSITIVE. Oh my goodness, I was pregnant. Of course, I was worried about miscarrying again but we just carried on putting one foot in front of the other and hoping that this baby or babies would stick. At 7 weeks we had our first scan. I remember feeling excited to see if it was twins. Twins was an exciting option for me – it meant I would have a ‘complete family’ and never have to think about fertility treatment again. However, that was not to be and on our scan we saw one beautiful heartbeat inside a baked bean!
We nurtured this precious baby of ours throughout the pregnancy and on the 4th of July 2008, we finally became parents and it was the best day of our lives. We named our son Elijah and we love him with everything we have.
I struggled being a mum. I had undiagnosed post-natal anxiety and it was tough. It wasn’t until Elijah was three that we were ready to try for a sibling. I felt really strongly that it was my duty to try to provide a sibling for Elijah. Stu and I agreed that we would do one cycle only. We were burnt out emotionally from doing IVF, not to mention the high financial costs of every cycle.
Our fourth cycle of IVF produced two embryos. We put one embryo back in and the other got frozen. We got an unusual result from the pregnancy test. It was a ‘maybe’ result. There was some evidence of pregnancy hormone there, but not enough to be sure. It became a waiting game to see if the required numbers started to rise or whether I started to bleed. I will never forget the day I got the final result. I was at my sister in law’s house when I got the call. The pregnancy had not continued on. It was over. I was so devastated.
Even though Stu and I had said only one cycle, we couldn’t leave that embryo in the freezer and so we went ahead with that cycle as well. A frozen embryo cycle is physically easier as you don’t have to do all the injecting etc but emotionally for me it was no different to all the other cycles we had done. Grueling
We did not get a positive result from that cycle and it was at that point that we drew a line in the sand and said, ‘no more’. We needed to focus on our mental health, our son and our marriage. We just couldn’t do this anymore. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.
So, we have an only child who is deeply loved. Yes, our family looks a bit different to many others but we are who we are, and we did what we could do, and we are so very grateful to have our one child.
He is almost 11 and writing these words bought tears to my eyes several times. Going through all of that was the hardest time of my life and it is now deeply woven into the fabric of my soul.