Losing confidence: 3 women’s stories of fertility issues.
In a new series on Confident Life, we are exploring and sharing different stories from women who have experienced miscarriage, difficulty conceiving, and infertility. Even though such experiences are remarkably common, grief and struggle during pregnancy, fertility, and conception is very rarely discussed openly and publicly. It is our hope that by sharing such stories, women realise that they have support and may not feel so alone in their sadness.
My husband and I started trying to conceive on our wedding night, when we were both 29 years old. I was very keen to start a family, but had a strange feeling that something would be wrong with me. I had anorexia in my late teens/ early twenties and my period stopped for about 8 years. I was a normal weight when we started trying, and still relatively young.
However, each month would bring another negative pregnancy test and before long, ovulation tests, temperature charting, acupuncture appointments and obsessing about trying to conceive had taken over our lives. I sought medical advice after 8 months, and was told “You’re still young” “Don’t worry about it” “It will happen.”
Eventually, after two years of trying, we found out I was pregnant. We were of course overjoyed. We didn’t wait the necessary 12 weeks to tell everybody. We were too excited! And all our friends and family were so excited for us too. It had been a stressful 2 years leading up to it. However, the joy was short lived.
I knew it was ectopic a couple of weeks in. I could feel it throbbing at work, and after I ate, and when I was lying in bed. But I ignored it as long as I could because I didn’t want the dream to end. I was so desperate to be a mother.
Eventually I couldn’t ignore it anymore and I ended up in the Emergency Room and a few hours later, minus both Fallopian tubes and the embryo I had wished for for so long. (Both tubes were removed because the left had the embryo growing in it, and the right was swollen and blocked and filled with fluid. It’s called a hydrosalpinx)
My husband and I were truly shattered. I felt like nobody in my world apart from him understood. People kept telling me their miscarriage stories and telling me how common it is. But it wasn’t just the lost embryo I was grieving. It was my fertility. From that day on, I was sterile. The possibility of conceiving naturally is 100% impossible. That was a very hard pill to swallow.
Our next step was IVF, and again we were filled with hope. I was assured once again that I was still young and that the odds were in my favour. But after three cycles, I was told I was experiencing premature ovarian failure (Maybe due to my anorexia, maybe not). My doctor suggested donor eggs.
I don’t think anyone can understand what it feels like to give up on your own body, and your own genes unless you have been in the same situation. There are so many overwhelming feelings to deal with. So much ‘it’s not fair!’ and ‘Why meeee?!’ There is also a ridiculous amount of ignorance to deal with from the people around you. “Will you tell it who the real mother is?” “So who will carry it?” “I could NEVER do THAT!”
However, my husband and I are extremely resilient people. We believe life is what you make it, and happiness is a choice we make every day. So we went for it. We took up an offer from my hairdresser, who became our egg donor. There is no Medicare rebate for donor egg cycles. So I took a second job as a waitress (I was a teacher by day) and we worked hard and borrowed plenty, and got ourselves psychologically ready. My hairdresser and I underwent an IVF cycle together. Three eggs were collected from her. All fertilised with my husbands sperm, and then each, (one at a time) transferred to my uterus in the hopes that one of them would grow into our baby. Yet grow they did not. All three donor egg embryos failed.
This was probably the lowest point in my life. I was filled with so much sadness and grief and helplessness. We found that the only way for us to keep from falling into a hole of misery was to keep planning the next cycle. We switched doctors and he convinced us to try one more cycle with my eggs.
This time he threw everything at it. Steroids, blood thinners, a variety of different hormones. Doses of hormones they give to 45 year olds (I was 33). And low and behold they extracted one good egg from my lousy ovaries. And to everyone’s surprise and joy… he grew and thrived to become our strong willed little rascal Angus! He’s a child against all odds, and we could not be prouder or happier.
We know how lucky we are. We feel so blessed and everyday I kick myself. Angus was 4 years coming, but now we can say he was worth the wait.
I would not wish the heart wrenching path of infertility on anyone. It really is a rollercoaster of emotions and there is no way to describe the revolving cycle of hope and devastation. We are so happy now and grateful for our little boy.
No matter what happens, we have him and that will always be enough.
I was 19 when I got engaged, and we made the decision to start trying for a family straight away in the hopes that we would have our baby before our wedding.
Month after month, those sticks stayed stark white. The months leading up to our wedding, the months past our wedding, a year past our wedding… our hearts broke a little more each cycle that came and went. Common thoughts were “Why was it not happening? We are both young, and healthy!”
I saw a specialist around 18 months into trying and after a few rounds of clomid (fertility treatment) I booked myself in for a lap & dye test. I was so nervous. What if my tubes were blocked? What if my uterus was riddled with endometriosis scarring? What if they discover I cant actually conceive my own child? What I was told in the follow up appointment, I couldn’t have ever predicted.
‘you have a Unicornuate uterus, and the one tube you have is scarred.’
Umm.. what? A uni-what? A think my heart dropped into the bottom of my stomach while I heard her explain what she discovered. Unicornuate means ONE HORN. So essentially, I have one half of a normal uterus; one ovary, one fallopian tube. The one fallopian tube I do have is riddled with scarring.
If we WERE to somehow miraculously fall pregnant, there would be significant risk. The baby could not have room to grow, move and develop properly and there was a high chance of early onset labour. God forbid it were twins, because according to this (it turns out, not so reliable) ‘specialist’ we would have to make the heart wrenching decision to have a ‘selective reduction.’
We left feeling a little broken, and not so optimistic about the future.
For the next cycle, we stopped the clomid. We stopped ovulation testing, stopped tracking, stopped remembering what day of the week it was. And guess what? I was 3 days late and a squinty almost missable BFP when I held the test to the light. My GP was convinced I was seeing things and I’m sure only ran a test to humour me.
Our beautiful, healthy, albeit cauliflowered eared, breechy boy was brought into the world via cesarean in January 2015. He was perfect. He still is, tantrums and all.
So, here we find ourselves 17 months later, 6 months into trying for baby #2. While slightly more optimistic about our chances, still equally frustrated with how NOT SO EASY it is to fall pregnant.
(thanks health class, for freaking us all out about being within 10 meters of a boys nether regions)
It’s funny how when you are a little girl you just think, ‘I’ll grow up, get married, have babies and then live happily ever after’ But for so many women it doesn’t go quite so smoothly. For me, like many, the baby part was a bit trickier. After a good 18 months of trying pretty hard on the baby front, we decided to go and see an IVF doctor. I know it sounds extreme to jump straight there, but I think I knew something wasn’t right.
The first thing he did was check out an old ultrasound of mine and told me that he needed to operate to fix my uterus… AHHH FIX, AS IN… ITS BROKEN?! SINCE WHEN! I was a little shell shocked, but apparently the shape of my uterus was a bit abnormal. One laparoscopy and hysteroscopy later I found out I had Stage 4 Endometriosis (which he was able to remove). On top of that, my lovely partner had a rubbish sperm count. Our doctor told us, ‘You will have a baby, but it will probably be with IVF.’
We were pretty positive in light of what we’d found out. I remember doing my first injection in my office at work, behind my desk, hoping that no-one came in! I didn’t feel too many effects to start with, the injections were manageable and I just knew in my head that it was all for a good cause.
My body responded beautifully to treatment and at egg retrieval they got 22 eggs. After the eggs were retrieved I went a bit downhill. I started progesterone pessaries (these lovely 2cm wax-like bullets that go in your, well… I’m sure you can imagine). I hated them, they were annoying to use and made me a sooky, blubbering mess. On top of this, I am almost certain my poor little ovaries, that would normally produce a egg or two a cycle, had been over-stimulated (producing 22 eggs was hard work after all). So I was feeling crampy, tired, bloated, fluey… the list goes on! 5 days after the eggs came out, the embryo was due to go in. So no matter how terrible I felt, I wasn’t sharing that with ANYONE. To the world I was in top shape, ready for our little embryo to go in and grow to be our baby.
After we had our embryo transferred in, I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared in my entire life! I didn’t walk too fast, I sat down slowly, I peed with so much care in-case my little embryo didn’t fall out (as if that is even possible)… and I drove myself insane.
We went through our first two week wait and it felt like a lifetime. I peed on so many sticks we should have had shares in First Response. But before the two weeks was even up I got my period. I was shattered. I still had to go in for a blood test to tell me I wasn’t pregnant. Even though it was only one failed cycle, I felt like it had been my hundredth.
We reasoned with ourselves, ‘It was our first cycle,’ ‘My body was just tired,’ ‘It will be better next time,’ and decided to jump straight into a thaw cycle. We had 6 embryos make it to a day 6 freeze so we were good to go.
I didn’t ovulate naturally. They had to put me on oestrogen and progesterone to get my (somewhat failing) body to do what it was supposed to do. It took a little longer than expected but eventually I was ready for our transfer.
This time round I didn’t pee on any sticks and again I started bleeding. I was shattered yet again. I called the clinic and they told me to come and have some bloods done to see what my progesterone levels were. This time around I was on much more progesterone so I shouldn’t have been bleeding. My levels were low, so the dosage was increased again. I went home and gave in, I peed on a stick. And for the first time ever… there were TWO pink lines. OH MY GOSH, we were pregnant!
At 37 weeks, bub was measuring small so they decided to induce us. Our son was born by emergency caesarean at 38 weeks and 4 days and was a nice 6 pound 11. After some initial health problems (TOF/OA. His little oesophagus was not connected to his stomach!), an operation and recovery, our little Jack is now thriving.
He smiles, rolls around, interacts with us and is a beautifully happy baby! Despite the difficultly we had in getting him, and the challenges he has faced in his short life so far, we wouldn’t change him for the world.
Infertility is a terrible thing that impacts on so many people’s lives. No words can really express the anguish you feel when you see ANOTHER negative pregnancy test, and so many of us have felt that pain. We don’t talk about it, but we should. Tell someone, get it out, it will make you feel better. And then, keep trying, because you never know what is just around the corner.
Sending lots of love to those out there who have lost pregnancies, are grieving for their loss, or are struggling to conceive. You have an army of women behind you xx