Month: July 2016

Fertility Friday: Mother’s Day

The next guest post in my Fertility Friday series is written by my dear friend Sam. I’ve actually already written a little bit about Sam’s pregnancy in this post. Sam and I work together, and her struggle with infertility and IVF built an incredible bond between us, as only a shared understanding of pain can. I truly will never forget the day she told me she was pregnant – my heart felt like it was going to squeeze out of my chest with happiness that finally, FINALLY!, it had happened. Despite the fact she is now in the ‘holy crap when people said I’d be tired I had no idea that they actually meant this’ stage of new motherhood, Sam has found the time to put her experience into words here. 

There were a few years in my late 20s and early 30s where I really couldn’t stand Mother’s Day. All of that commercialised bull. Or so I told myself.

In reality, I resented all of those mothers out there who would wake up on that early Sunday morning in May to hear excited little foot steps running down the hall to their bedroom. And a toothless grin from a tiny little human flinging the bedroom door open, with a handmade card in one hand and burnt Vegemite toast in the other. Or maybe it would be a painted macaroni necklace and lukewarm cup of tea? There would be sloppy kisses and big hugs and all that gooey, oozey love that only tiny little humans can give.

I resented all those beautiful mums out there who would experience all those little things that I thought I never would. My husband and I started ‘trying’ when I was 27. When I say trying I mean we ditched the pill and hoped for the best. We had been together since we were 18. We had studied, gotten good jobs, a mortgage, a fur baby, and then another fur baby. We’d done all the ‘right’ things in preparation to bring a tiny human into the world.

At first we were pretty relaxed about it all. But then a year passed, and then another. By 29, we upped the ante and started to get more serious about ‘trying’. We were relatively young and healthy, and on the outside looked like we should be in our fertility prime. But no luck.

We saw specialists and were told that we had a 1% chance of conceiving naturally. It was crazy. We weren’t even in our 30s. That kind of thing happened when you were old. Turns out that all of those years of horrible period pain was actually endometriosis. That and, as the fertility doc explained, my ovaries looked like they were wearing pearl necklaces (but not the good kind). I had the double whammy – endo and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). It took years for a diagnosis because I didn’t have any of the classic symptoms.

IVF was our best option. So we optimistically went for it. And despite all of our optimism and hope (and financial expense), it didn’t work for us. Emotionally, it was a rollercoaster. Cliche metaphor I know, but all my fellow IVF peeps out there, you know what I mean. We silently salute each other when we pass in the hallways. For those who haven’t had to experience it, let’s just say IVF, when it doesn’t work, is shit. Or as my husband would say,  fucking horrible.

As time passed, I found myself googling ‘how to adopt in Australia’ in my lunch break  (turns out that’s not a piece of cake either). Hubby and I were having those serious philosophical conversations that went something like ‘do we really want kids or do we just feel societal pressure to have kids because we’re married and in our 30s?’ and, ‘well, if we can’t have kids, we can just be a great Uncle and Aunty to the nieces and nephews and focus on travel’ and ‘maybe we could get a miniature pig?’ (yes, we really did have that conversation because three chooks, two dogs and an arsehole of a cat still didn’t fill that void).

We’d decided to focus on our careers, do a bit more travel and then give IVF, despite all of its horribleness, another go. I applied for a new job, booked a trip to India and spoke to the fertility doc about doing another round in December.

Then one afternoon in September, after not feeling so well all week, I realised I was ‘late’. I poured myself a glass of wine and ran myself a bath. This was a ritual I had developed over the years to deal with the comedown after having my hopes up that I may be pregnant. That stupid blue line had been evading me for years. Off I went with my pee stick, waiting to stare aimlessly at that imaginary line.

Within seconds, a determined, strong, bold, blue line appeared.

What the…?

I was pregnant!

No rhyme nor reason to it. After years of trying, I just was. That sneaky 1% chance finally came through for us. At first my husband didn’t believe me. After years of disappointment, he’d trained himself to be the reasoned sceptic, gently talking me around in case it was a false positive so I didn’t get my hopes up and then crash and burn. So, as you can imagine, our first scan was pure magic. The rhythm of that strong heartbeat confirmed any doubt. And both of us already so in love with our tiny little human. We couldn’t believe we could be so lucky.

Now to be honest, I didn’t really enjoy pregnancy. I was bloody tired. All. The. Time. (‘Good practice for when the Bub comes’, I was told. Yeah, that’s so not funny.) I’d gone from running daily and finishing my first half marathon just months earlier to puffing while walking up two flights of stairs. While I absolutely adored my expanding belly and still get emotional when I think about that amazing feeling of my tiny little baby kicking and squirming inside me, my body just wasn’t able to do what I wanted it to do. There was definitely some adjustment needed. But how could I complain? I was just so damn relieved and happy to be experiencing all the good, bad and ugly that is pregnancy (heartburn and all).

Then, after what felt like a lifetime, she arrived. It was an early Sunday morning in May that I gave birth to my tiny little human. My tiny, perfect, love of my life,  miracle, little human.

Actually, come to think of it, it was the second Sunday in May. Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to me.

Sam and Tavi

Fertility Friday: Seventeen and Pregnant

Last week I started a series of guest posts about fertility – stories of hope and sadness; real stories from real women, whose strength and courage defies what we often think is humanly possible. This week’s guest poster is a very dear friend of mine, Katrina. She is one of the smartest, warmest and most honest people I know. The notion of living an authentic life is one that has been caught up in new age bullshit and hype, but as Katrina tells her story below, I think you’ll agree she is someone who is above all, real.

I moved out of home when I was 15. I met my husband when I was 16 years old. We had our first daughter when I was 17 years old, became engaged and moved into together when I was 19 years old, had our second daughter when I was 21, purchased our first home when I was 22 and got married when I was 23. I am now 43 years old and I am going to be a grandmother in 14 weeks time. What a whirlwind the last 27 years has been. Life is good. My husband and I now are empty-nesters, and very much looking forward to the next phase of our lives as grandparents.

When telling this story to people who don’t know me, I am often met with a look of shock. Actually, not just one look of shock but many looks with varying degrees of the shock element as the story unfolds. The first look is usually in response to a casual conversation about how I am going to be a grandmother soon. I receive the usual ‘no way you don’t look old enough to be a grandmother!’ – I like that part.  I am sure that the person then thinks I will then tell a story about having a much older husband and that my step child is expecting. Instead, I tell them that I have a 26 year old daughter, followed by me feeling the need to overshare with the detail just to clarify that I wasn’t 13 or 14 when I had my first child, I was 17. Three or four years for this conversation topic makes all the difference. After the shocked look usually comes a comment like, you have done so well, must have been difficult being a teenage mum, how did you manage … I am appreciative to these people for their empathy but my first response is usually, not really, we all have our challenges in life. I guess it was difficult, but lots of things in life can be difficult. To me, life is always challenging and difficult for each of us at various times. I usually finish off this conversation stating that we will all be sitting in the nursing home together talking about our lives, challenges and our achievements. It is likely our journey will be much the same, just experienced in different ways and at different times. Being a teenage mother is not especially good or bad. Parenting is a wonderful experience, a challenge and and a reward, no matter what age you are when you become a parent.

As I wrote this piece I wondered why people would want to read about my experiences as a teenage Mum. I searched on the internet for information about teenage pregnancy and being a teen mum, and there is a lot of information available. A lot of it was quite horrifying data about the negative issues surrounding teenage pregnancy and the children of teenage mothers, low socio economic status complications and cyclic generational teenage pregnancies. Lots of scary stuff that if I had of read 27 years ago, I would have gone into a deep, dark depression about having a baby at 17 because the studies showed that it was all going to go badly.

All that research really does beg the question: do I regret having a child when I was a teenager? I think about what I might have missed out on. What were my friends doing whilst I was raising a child? Going to university, partying and having late nights, sleeping in, going overseas. The truth is, I didn’t really missed out on any of that. I still socialised with my friends, but I just had some additional complexity in planning and preparation to ensure a stay at Nanna’s that night for my daughter. I have always studied and I am still studying now; and these days, whilst many of my friends still have small children, I am able to enjoy an occasional night out and sleep in the next day for as long as I want! I have also travelled extensively, having had a job for about five years where I was required to travel overseas at least three times per year. I really don’t think I have missed out on too much, and actually I feel very lucky to be blessed with a wonderful husband (well, wonderful most of the time) who I am still excited to see every day, as well as two beautiful daughters who are successfully building their lives and careers, accompanied by two of the best sons-in-law I could have hoped for. And now a grandson on the way – life is so very good, it would seem ridiculous to say I regretted the way it all started out.

Although being a teenage mum didn’t ruin my life and I can honestly say I have no regrets, I was also, for many reasons, keen for my daughters to follow in my footsteps. Whilst I love my life, there were some really awful moments, particularly when I found out I was pregnant, that I didn’t want my daughters to have to experience.  I therefore ensured I instilled into them from from a young age that the birth control pill may not be effective if on one day you take it at 4pm instead of your usual 8am time; and that I strongly recommended that they did not fall pregnant at 17 and not to tie themselves into relationship too early. I jokingly told my eldest daughter a couple of years ago that although I hadn’t wanted her to be a teenage Mum, it was now time for me to have a grandchild. I’m so glad she listened to my advice.


Family – me, my husband, our daughters and their partners

Fertility Friday: Going it Alone

It occurred to me recently that I know so many women with so many incredible stories relating to their fertility. Stories of triumph, loss, joy, grief, perseverance, heartache and pure love. Stories that, because they are ‘just what happened to me’, are often only known to the woman and a close circle of family and friends around her. As someone who has suffered significant grief and loss because of fertility issues, it meant so much to me, actually still means so much to me, to know that I was not alone. Being able to share my story on this blog has helped me both to mourn what I lost and celebrate what I have – so much so, that I decided to start a series called Fertility Fridays. Every Friday from today until everyone who wants to tell their story has told it, I will publish a guest post about fertility, and how families are made, lost and sometimes made anew. These will be stories of hope and sadness; real stories from real women, whose strength and courage defies what we often think is humanly possible.

My first contributor is Janine. Janine and I used to play under 15s basketball together, and reconnected 30 years later when she came to my office for a meeting, and we both did that whole ‘hang on a minute, don’t I know you’ thing.  Janine has an incredible story of perseverance and determination, and ultimately, joy, and I am so pleased she has agreed to share it here.

I was turning 40, divorced and hoping to met the man of my dreams when it hit me like a sledge-hammer that my clock was ticking and I was very quickly about to run out of time. My hope of ever having children was rapidly slipping away from me. I decided I needed to take positive action or I was going to remain childless forever. I considered my options, and knew that I couldn’t put myself through the Saturday night pick-up routine, so I made an appointment with my GP to request a referral to a fertility specialist. It wouldn’t be that hard, right? After all, it wasn’t like I had been trying to fall pregnant, so if I did try, it would be easy. Wrong!

The first cycle didn’t work, nor the second, nor did the following seven. That’s right, I did nine cycles. I just kept hoping I would get lucky and one little egg would work. All of the sudden everywhere I looked I saw pregnant women that I had never noticed before, even the ducks on my morning walk had babies – why couldn’t I? My doctor was blunt, proclaimed he wasn’t the magician I so desperately wanted him to be, and advised if I wanted children I had better consider donor eggs.

By this stage I was approaching 45 and thought I might as well go out and buy granny undies and grow old with my cats. It was emotionally draining enough to go through all the failed cycles, but to have a child using donor eggs and donor sperm with no genetic link, was too much.

In a visit with my GP, I told him I had better get used to the idea of no children and that I needed to accept that it just wasn’t meant to be. His advice was that if I really wanted to make it happen I should at least try with donor eggs and that I would love any child I carried wholeheartedly, genetic ties or not. It took me six months to make the decision to give it a go.

I did my research and took off to Spain with the hope of getting pregnant via donor egg and sperm. Two weeks after returning I had a pregnancy test and the results told me what I already knew. I was pregnant! I thought the hard bit was over but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Overall, I had a relatively easy pregnancy from a medical perspective, but I lived in fear of losing this child. The day finally came for the birth, and I’ll never forget the moment I met my beautiful boy.

Many will argue that a family is made up of a man and a woman and their offspring. I certainly grew up believing I would have a loving husband, two happy children and a house with a white picket fence. Obviously, that didn’t work out so well for me. I was raised Catholic and had struggled with the concept of being a single mum. Initially, I found myself explaining to people why he had no father but after a while I realised that at my age I was entitled to make my own choices and I’m proud that I had the courage to go through it all by myself.

I have been asked if I will tell him of his origins and the answer is, absolutely. He will be told he is a very loved little boy, that mummy went all the way across the other side of the world to find him. I will tell him some very kind donors made him possible by giving me the cells that he grew from, and I will take him back to Spain one day to show him where he comes from.

I am biased, like every mother, and truly believe I have received a very special gift. I cannot begin to explain the joys of motherhood and the connection I feel to this child. He is everything to me and absolutely nothing else comes close. It has completely changed my life. My focus had been on the professional career I was pursuing and now it’s about being the best mother I can be and I can’t imagine a life without him. I guess I have finally met the man of my dreams, he is a lot smaller than I’d imagined but he gives me a whole lot more joy than I ever thought possible, and he does have some of my DNA.