It was time to tell our two young children how we came to be our loving family. It is suggested by experts - The Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) - www.varta.org.au the earlier the better, and so the conversation and story was told in simple language so our 3 and 7 year old would comprehend. It was just like any another story we'd told, and they carried on happily, playing together as kids do, unaware of the enormous weight that had just lifted from me.
It has taken me some time to feel safe in a space with like minded people I've recently met to reveal my story. It's taken courage to ask myself why I need to let my story be told publicly . Because there is no shame and no secret that people take on many paths to create a family. It is no secret that our world is a smaller place, that infertility is on the rise, that women are having children later and the facts need to be told.
I want to break down misconceptions, so prospective parents can take charge of their fertility and understand the many processes to creating a family. I would like our fertility journey to help inspire other women and couples on their unique journey and the different paths to parenthood.
When people go to the earth and back and more to fight to create a family, it involves dedication, passion, time, money, fear, loss, heartbreak, love and perseverance. The cost is huge both financially and emotionally.
Social events can't be planned because you're life is arranged by an IVF schedule, a medication schedule, a hospital schedule, a donor schedule, a surrogate schedule. Those in this fertility journey know what this means. You have to be creative in excuses.
22 x IVF Cycles over 7 years.
In 2008 we started trying to conceive naturally at 38 years and knowing that age affects your fertility, we went straight to a Fertility Specialist after 6 months of trying. I didn't really pay attention to the statistics. I'd seen many stories of women in Hollywood having children above 40 years so I thought that it would be easy. How wrong I was.
We did many rounds of IVF, 22 to be exact. After just 2 cycles, I ended up in hospital from an inability to pass urine and a fluid filled tummy. Very painful! They call this OHSS - Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome which can occur from the IVF medication overstimulating the ovaries to produce too many follicles. The problem is, I only had 6 follicles that the medicine produced but was experiencing the exact symptoms. Dr's were baffled but pain medication and a catheter helped me. It is not a pleasant experience not able to pass urine for hours.
I changed Fertility Specialists after 3 cycles, no reason really, just a fresh start. The second doctor advised me to do donor eggs straight away. I was taken back as I wanted to at least give it a try with him and I was not finished trying with my own eggs. So I was put on a different protocol, the 'antagonist protocol' with the 'Colorado'. Much gentler than some of the others.
The Colorado is a common protocol that not all Fertility Specialists believe, but some do and it worked for us. It involves, steroids, intralipids, estrogen patches, blood thinners, and progesterone intramuscular injections in addition to all the other IVF medication. It is to prevent your body's Natural Kills cells attacking an embryo. With all this medication, I only ever got 6 eggs at the most. When fertilised with my husband's sperm, and the embryos grown in the clinic to day 3 or 5 , we'd be left with only 2 or 3 embryos at transfer day, lucky to ever get 1 embryo to freeze in my first cycle.
In each cycle we transferred 2 embryos. The TWW - 'two week wait' became all two familiar with a negative pregnancy, and we followed into a another fresh cycle of injections a few months later. I started to feel the pressure of time not being on my side around cycle 5. The hormones weren't helping with the continuous negative results and I ended up in tears too many times to remember. The thoughts of 'what if I can't have a baby' consumed me.
One positive thing with IVF though is that they can check your husband's sperm for male factors affecting fertility, such as speed and formation and choose the strongest sperm and inject this one into the egg in a process called ICSI. In the meantime, I had a laparoscopy, and a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test for blocked tubes. We were up to our 7th full stimulation cycle.
We continued with all the lifestyle things, cut out alcohol completely months ago, took our prenatal vitamins, drank lots of water, monitored stress, increased my yoga, slowed down on exercise, increased my acupuncture. Things I did differently was:
1) I insisted on a 3 day transfer not a 5 day Blastocyst. I'd read on forums the big debate back then when clinics were doing both. I thought it was better in my body than the dish in case I didn't have any embryos left to transfer. It was a strong gut feeling as well.
2) Cut out all chemical cleaning products, as well as perfume, deodorants etc.
3) Purified my eating with natural, healthy foods, and swapped a sandwich for lunch with warm foods. My acupuncturist advised warm foods equal warm uterus.
4) Meditated daily. I had meditated through all my cycles with visualising a healthy balanced body and a baby coming into my womb. This time, I imagined I was a soldier. I had mantras when I walked, I repeated positive affirmation everyday, I created my own visualisations. I spiritually balanced my body.
5) I 'let go' in the two week wait. This is not the same as 'relax'. It is something that occurs first consciously then subconsciously and takes little effort. It is trusting that there is nothing more you can do to control the outcome, and you put your hope and trust into something higher than yourself.
It was Positive
I was at the last end of my TWW during cycle number 7 and could feel cramps like my period was coming. Just another failed cycle I thought so again I prepared my husband for another failure and we went to visit friends for lunch where I enjoyed my first wine for a long time.
The next day was blood test day and I couldn't believe it. I was pregnant at 40 years of age. OMG ! I was elated! I was so busy planning our wedding, hand decorating invitations, seeing reception venues, trialing hair and make-up, choosing my wedding dress and meantime doing all the IVF protocol, taking off work, skipping to the hospital and doing my visualisations that I was too busy to think about anything else.
I enjoyed every second of pregnancy and for me it went very smooth and I had a natural birth at 41 years. No amount of cycles, tears, or stress matters when you hold that baby in your arms.
Fast forward after finishing breastfeeding we went straight into cycling again with our 3rd new Fertility Specialist with our one and only frozen embryo. It didn't take.
We continued with more fresh cycles, a total of 8 more. I had an early miscarriage at 9 weeks, it's horrible. It was hard and it was early. I can never imagine women having a miscarriage at any stage later, that must be heart wrenching.
When is enough, enough?
As I continued each cycle, I could feel pain on my left side of my body near my ovary. As the medication creates more than one follicle to grow in your ovary, I could sense something else was growing and causing pain. Investigatory surgery removed a bunch of growing tissue - endometriosis. Growing each time I was stimulated with hormones. Listen to your body - it tells you.
On my 8th cycle I woke from my egg collection day hospital with '3' written on my hand. They got 3 eggs only. I burst into tears, I couldn't stop the deep emotions I was feeling. I sobbed for over 30 minutes. It was like the flood gates opened. Enough was enough. My body needed a break. My eggs were no good. The chromosomal risk was increasing at my age of 44 years.
But......I wanted a sibling for my other child. I just didn't give up.
I need an EGG DONOR
Part 2 continued..
Disclaimer: All information found on Fertile Horizons.com.au including this blog is the opinion of the author unless otherwise noted. It is no substitute for consulting a health care professional. Anything relating to medical and health conditions, products and treatments is for information purposes only. Please see your doctor or fertility specialist before starting any alternative treatments, supplements or programs or if you have any medical concerns.