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It took my husband and I four and a half of the most tumultuous years to finally hold our little miracle in our arms.
I was diagnosed with PCOS in my late teens. I had struggled with my weight since I was around 16 and continued to do so into adulthood. I NEVER had a regular cycle unless I was on the pill and I was cluey enough to assume that only getting one period a year would result in me needing some sort of fertility treatment when the time came.
Fast forward to 2007. My hubby Stuart and I had been ‘trying naturally’ for about six months after our wedding, all the while waiting for the appointment I’d made with our first fertility specialist. The big day finally came and with much trepidation, we waited nervously to be told when I’d be able to start on Clomid (which I had just assumed would be our path). The specialist was a bit of a twat and basically rolled his eyes and sent me away with the instruction to lose some weight and he’d see me in six months. As an afterthought, he also requested Stuart have a semen analysis prior to the next appointment.
Six months later and 5kg heavier, we went back. He begrudgingly conceded that I’d be best to commence a round of Clomid but only after I asked, did he retrieve my husband’s results.
That was when our world imploded. He literally walked back into the room, reading the results for the first time, and without looking up told us, “Well you’re f*$@ed. You’ll need to do IVF.” Obviously, the results were bad. Really bad. This was totally not what we had expected and my hubby took it especially hard. I sobbed the entire trip home. I must have rubbed off onto Stu because he spent the rest of the afternoon sobbing with me. Good times.
But after a week or so we got our shit together and just decided to deal with it. I googled the bajeebus out of IVF and ICSI, which was the treatment that had been recommended to us. The biggest stress at that time was the financial impact. Neither of us had any savings so we got the first of many loans. I remember going into that first cycle so starry eyed. I was terrified of course, but had that naïve optimism that we would be one of the lucky ones that had one round and would walk out of hospital 9 months later with a shiny new baby.....We weren’t.
I woke up from my first egg collection with a ‘2’ written on my hand. I was devastated. Only one fertilised. We anxiously waited until day 3 and the day of transfer and had our precious little cargo popped safely back in. This is when the crazy set it.
My nursing background certainly helped prepare me for what we were undertaking. And I was lucky in that I wasn’t all that affected by the drugs. But that two week wait (or TWW as it is commonly known on the IVF forums) was hell on earth. I scrutinised every niggle, every twinge. My poor boobs were bruised from the poking (are they tender? The feel tender. Are they extra veiny?? They look veiny!). As we got further along in cycles, I took out shares in First Response HPT. I’d pee on a stick up to four times a day.
Unfortunately, I started spotting a few days before my pregnancy test. I went for an early blood test only to be told that it was positive!! I was blown away. I cried. My nurse cried. I met my husband and told him. He cried. And from the highest of highs, we plunged to the lowest of lows. I stated bleeding two days later and finally had what’s known as a ‘chemical pregnancy’. I was raw. I never even saw a heartbeat but we loved that baby like nothing else.
But as you do in this game, we picked ourselves up, dusted off and dove straight into another cycle. This one was even worse. One egg at collection which didn’t make it to transfer. I could see our specialist mentally pop me into the ‘too hard’ basket. I decided that I was time to change doctors. As luck would have it, Dr Kee Ong had just started practicing at Monash so we packed our bags and jumped ship.
Kee was amazing. I felt completely at ease with him and was very confident that he’d get us our baby, or he’d know when to tell us that it wasn’t meant to be. Over the next 3 years we did 3 more cycles. Finances meant we couldn’t go back to back. We borrowed from the bank and from family. We paid off credit cards and maxed them out again. We did whatever we could possibly do.
Unfortunately, my eggs were never very good quality. Kee always managed to retrieve 14 eggs but only two would ever make it to blastocyst and though both were transferred, they weren’t successful. And we never had any left to pop in the freezer. For our last cycle in 2011, Kee added a couple of new drugs to my regime. When I woke in recovery, I struggled to make out the number on my hand. 28!!! Of those, 25 were mature and 21 fertilised. I could not believe it. We had two beautiful blasty’s put back in and so began that torturous wait. I had promised Stuart (and myself) that I wouldn’t use a pregnancy test. I lasted until 2 days before my blood test. Stu had popped out for milk and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I so clearly remember standing in the bathroom with my heart in my throat, trying to look at the stick out of the corner of my eye. I eventually got the courage and looked. They were the most beautiful two pink lines I had ever seen. My legs went out from under me and I howled. Stu found me on the couch crying when he got home and immediately thought the worst. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I gave him that stick.
After this came a new type of hell. HCG levels. Progesterone levels. What should the be at this point? Continuing to analyse every twinge. Soooooo many trips to the loo when I was convinced that I’d stated bleeding. We finally got to our scan date. I was so scared I wanted to vomit. But the moment I saw those two little heartbeats flickering away like butterflies, I realised that every moment had been worth it.
Sadly, we lost one of our twins shortly after this scan. And after another huge bleed at 8.5 weeks it’s safe to say that I spent most of my pregnancy on eggshells. I rented a home Doppler and then bought it when I couldn’t stand the idea of not having one. But our little babe was tenacious and after years of waiting and a super short delivery, we finally had Nate Phillip in our arms. It was the most surreal and precious moment of my life.
We started having frozen transfers when Nate reached one-year-old. We had to have three in total to achieve our second pregnancy and 4 days after Nate’s 3rd birthday, we welcomed his little brother Jack.
When we were in the thick of IVF, it felt like this black hole we were never going to climb out of. We went through every emotion possible. We tried to convince ourselves that we would be happy to live a child free life. I’m sure in my darker moments, I tried to subconsciously sabotage my marriage. But now, it almost feels like it never happened. I look at my beautiful boys and I have to pinch myself. We are so extremely lucky that we were one of the success stories, as there are so many people that never make it.
And I would live every moment of it again just to have my babies.
It was time, a long time in the making, much scrutiny from the world around me, 1 week before my 27th birthday, I was about to become a single first time mum, by choice. You read that correctly, I chose to have a baby on my own with a little bit of science and a whole lot of love. It’s definitely not the conventional way to have a baby, and like many others your probably thinking “she’s so young, she has plenty of time to wait” but that stereotype doesn’t need to exist, who actually decides when one is ready for a baby? The individual I thought.
The journey to solo motherhood via IVF was the hardest yet most rewarding decision I have ever made, both physically and emotionally. It definitely takes a whole lot of determination and a fantastic tribe surrounding you to get you to the finish line, but I have zero regrets, I even got OHSS from being so young with very active ovaries which landed me in hospital for a week following egg collection.
Choosing a sperm donor, was like online shopping for your future, it was really cool but really daunting at the same time, deciding the other half of my child’s DNA is not a task I took lightly, and I ensured the donor shared the same values and beliefs I did. It was a bonus that the donor I chose was part Canadian, because I love All things Canada! So now I have a Canaussie. Coincidence? Maybe, but I’m not complaining :)
I used to think people who have had to endure IVF surely should be guaranteed a stress free pregnancy after all you’ve been poked and prodded that many times just to get to the positive pregnant test stage, but call me naive because I was so very wrong.
At 7 weeks, I started bleeding heavily out of no where, convinced I had lost the baby I gathered myself and made my way to the nearest emergency department. Following scans, my little bean still had a heartbeat, but was surrounded by a huge subgaleal hematoma three times the gestational sack, which was now threatening the viability of the pregnancy! Devastated to put it lightly. I was told it could go either way and there was not any way of knowing except for time to see what the hematoma was going to do!! So much bed rest and a bucket load of progesterone support was on the cards. Every week my little bean fought on, and we made it to the safe zone of 12 weeks.... phew!! The rest of the pregnancy was pretty uneventful, except I threw up all day everyday!..
I also interviewed for two SBS programs “the feed” and “insight”, talking about solo parenting and why I decided this was for me!! Wow well call me famous, I had that many supporters closely matched by haters, and let me tell you the trolls online at first tried to break my spirit but I just embraced them, because ultimately I was the one who was receiving the biggest blessing at the end of the day, and it would have zero impact on them.
Fast forward to 37 weeks, so much discomfort, nerves and fears, also some self doubt but that only lasted a second, I saw my obstetrician who was also my fertility specialist, and she informed me that this little babe was preparing to make an appearance earth side any day now. I made the decision to calm my anxiety and go for a planned induction, so 3 days later that is what happened.
At first I was like oh labor isn’t so bad, it hurts but bearable, and as the night progressed I was like “yeah okay who am I kidding this really hurts”, after a night on the labouring ward, I was moved to the birthing suite, where my obstetrician greeted me, “oh hey” I said “hope you’ve got the anesthetist running to my room, I’m ready for my epidural” she laughed and said “I have to break your waters first” very eager for my pain relief, waiting for my waters to be broken seemed like forever but reality was only like 4 minutes or something ridiculous.
My twin sister along with my best friend accompanied me to the birthing suite, just as excited as me and feeding me vegemite toast in between contractions they were a pillar of strength... hours past and I had the most amazing midwife, no judgement just love filled my room, when I started to shake uncontrollably, convinced I was going into some weird medical episode, she assured me that it was normal and most likely time to push! Hahaha push say what, okay I got this, I’m going to have a baby...
And so here we are nearing the end, I pushed for what felt like forever, and everyone assuring me it was all good, and then my obstetrician calmly said “baby needs a bit more help, we are going to help him out using a vacuum” righto was my response, I was exhausted just get him out already... so my next contraction, I pushed, the Dr. pulled and out came my little miracle!! MADDEN REID was here at last! Such a sigh of relief, but quickly turned to fear, when like earlier in the womb he had experienced a head trauma hematoma from the vacuum and before I could comprehend pushing this kid out, he was being whisked to the NICU. Luckily my twin Ash went with him. It’s so strange to go through all of that and then be laying in the room getting stitched up (yeah he tore me good) but not cuddling your most precious gift. I knew he was in good hands I never doubted his care for one second.
Funny story, postpartum bleed. I had one on day 2 bad but not terrible, I laid on the bathroom floor buzzing for my midwife, adamant I was bleeding out she asked me what I was doing, I said just leave me here that’s it, she responded “don’t be so dramatic Steph, it’s normal” haha well thank goodness for that, laughed it off and walked like the queen I was back to my bed.
Little man spent 2 nights and 3 days in special care before joining mumma up in her room, it was really and still is the most wonderful time of my life... would I do it all again? You bet, I want Madden to have a full blood sibling.
Remember beautiful ladies, always follow your dreams, never give up! Never let anyone dull your sparkle.
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