My Journey to becoming a mummy
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve walked through the doors at Fertility Associates.
For something that is supposed to be the most natural undertaking a female human can experience in her life, the realities of actually getting pregnant are a total windfall. If you get pregnant naturally, buy a Lotto ticket.
Before starting my IVF journey, my perception was that you just had to have sex at the right time of the month to get pregnant.
Boy was I wrong. It truly is fascinating the way the human body reproduces, but the number of things that have to fall in to line to actually conceive and turn that twinkle in your eye in to a developing fetus are astounding.
Everyone’s IVF stories are different. This is mine.
From my teens I suffered from endometriosis. This lead to multiple surgeries and ultimately I ended up with a Mirena IUD that I believe was responsible for the growth of massive cysts on my ovaries. My left ovary suffered the most and I had a number of surgeries to remove 10cm plus cysts. In the end I was left with about 10% of an ovary on my left side. Ovaries aren’t big things to begin with so by the time the cysts were done with me, my left ovary was totally nonproductive and all the work fell on my right one. At the suggestion of my specialist I met with a doctor at Fertility Associates to discuss a plan. It wasn’t until I met my partner a number of years later and seriously started thinking about having children that the process properly started. By the age of 35, a woman’s egg production is significantly reduced and we were told we had a less than a 10% chance of conceiving at all.
I’m not sure at that point I was truly ready for children, but alas I became a pin cushion in the hopes that I could stimulate production of as many follicles as possible to turn into embryos and put in the freezer for when I was ready. Of course this was going to work, IVF is the fail safe back up plan isn’t it? After a 6 week process I got the final call one Sunday morning from the embryologist - a young man with whom I had no relationship whatsoever, telling me all the dreams I’d conjured up in my head over the last few months would never be. You see, to get to that stage there are a number of hurdles to overcome. For me, $30,000 and countless tears were the least of them.
Let’s step back a bit. First, pay a lot of money. Second, jab hormones in to your body day and night for a few weeks, not knowing if they were having any effect. Scan after scan, blood test after blood test. Eventually it's egg collection day and you’re still full of hope given the last scan identified 5 nice follicles ripe for the picking. A dose of something to make me woozy and I’m in stirrups in the collection suite at Fertility Associates. Four usable follicles are harvested. Amazing! All that’s left to happen is to turn these guys in to embryos (mixed with sperm) after which they wait for a few more days to develop to the right stage for freezing. Sounds pretty straight forward, right?
After the procedure, I was sent to the recovery room. I was in a lot of pain but apparently it was normal and would settle. Eventually they lifted the blanket off my knees and realized there was blood pouring out of me. I’m not sure I’ve ever been so scared in my life but I’m grateful I was still dopey and not overly aware at that point. What happened to me is so rare that it’s not even documented, but ultimately the wound they create to get across to my ovary didn’t self-clot. I was in so much pain and so scared that I would bleed out. I was totally conscious and no pain relief they could give me would work. My partner is the most unbelievably calming influence and held my hand the whole time. He wiped my tears and kissed me telling me I would be ok, all the while he could see massive clots of blood falling on the floor and he thought I was bleeding out. He even called my mum and told her to get to the doctors rooms straight away! I was none the wiser and fortunately couldn’t see the blood. Two of the best fertility doctors in the country couldn’t seal the wound and were close to sending me to Auckland Hospital for surgery when finally something worked.
Its ok I told myself, I’m ok and it’s in the interests of creating new life so I could deal with a bit of blood and a lot of pain.
Over the next 8 days we received 3 phone calls. Call one: 3 of the four follicles had successfully paired with their mate. Call two: just two looked to be developing correctly. Call three: unfortunately none of the embryos had made it. ‘Yeah sorry about that’, the embryologist said.
But hold on. You can’t take that away from me. This is what I’ve dreamt of my whole life. I was destined to be a mother. That’s just what women do. I so badly wanted someone to love me like my nephew loved my sister. The possibility of that happening was now completely eradicated. I had no idea why, and I couldn’t change it.
Shortly after, we visited our doctor again and she was very clear with us that chances of IVF working were now less than before, under 10%. I felt like my life was collapsing around me. I couldn’t stop crying and I was embarrassed and ashamed to tell anyone. I was a total failure of a woman. The only person I could talk to was a friend who had been through the same thing because it just feels like no one else understands.
Interestingly my doctor did recommend a few things that were proving to have positive results in the success of IVF treatments - cut down on red meat and alcohol, only consume from BPA free containers and take CoQ10.
It took me a year to get over the heartache. For my partner and me, it felt like we had lost a child because that’s what those little embryos – our future children.
Then finally my sister said to me it’s now or never – at 37 time was not on my side. So back we went. I must admit I didn’t go in to round 2 with a very positive attitude but I knew I had to try, so you can imagine the shock when more money, more hormones (a different concoction this time), more scans and blood tests and two successful embryos later, the blood test came back positive. Levels were low at first so I didn’t get my hopes up – I was having blood tests a couple of times a week for about 4 weeks and my hormone levels continued to rise but slowly. All the reading didn’t give me any hope so it still didn’t feel real. Even when I was having the embryo put in, I don’t think I really thought properly about what was happening because I needed to protect myself from more heartache. I really felt like I was just going through the motions through the whole of round 2. Of course I wanted it to work but I didn’t expect it to, so the reality of actually having a baby never felt real.
And now, at 38 weeks and 4 days pregnant, after 270 days of being sick for just about every one, it’s real alright. I’m going to be someone’s mummy.