Month: August 2016

Fertility Friday: Maybe

Fertility Friday has rolled around again, and not before time. I know from all your comments and messages that you are loving reading these stories, as much as I am enjoying sharing them.

Today I’m handing the blog over to my dear friend Kristin to talk about her journey. It is one I know well, as we shared a very similar path in both finding our blokes later in life and then having a rocky road to motherhood. Kristin’s dogged determination to become a mother has been equalled only by her love for her beautiful boy Joe. Here is her story.

When I was 12, I had my whole life planned out. In my naivety, I thought I would have successful career in Public Relations, a wonderful caring, attentive husband and two beautiful children all by the age of 25. Well best-laid plans and all that, at the age of 36 I found myself single and childless. I didn’t have a successful career in PR but I did manage a small team of business analysts (see the connection with PR? Me neither.) and I owned my own home and had a gorgeous fur baby, Charlotte.

Living in a regional town where most people got married young and who in their late 30s were either still married or on to their second or third marriage, I thought I was destined to remain on my lonesome. Then it happened, I was at a party and looked across the backyard and saw the man that was to become my husband. It definitely wasn’t love at first sight and he wasn’t my normal type but he was handsome and kind, although very quiet. I might’ve been a bit tipsy (read: drunk) as I made my way over to where he was sitting to have a chat and the rest, as they say, is history. Two years later we were married.

After our wedding we decided to try for a child. Surely, it would be easy. I had spent most of my adult life trying not to get pregnant because I always thought there was such a high chance that I could. After six months of trying with no results, we decided to undergo fertility treatment, especially as at 38 I was considered ‘geriatric’ by doctors! We went to a local ob/gyn who diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (you might know it as PCOS). It wasn’t really a surprise; I had always had very irregular periods and always tended to be on the chubby side. The specialist put me on Clomid and for two cycles, but it didn’t do anything except make me want to stab my husband in the eye with a blunt pencil when he left his shoes lying around the house. When the doctor told me he wanted me to try a third cycle, I burst in to tears. I couldn’t face the emotional and physical side effects for another month.

My good friend, Julie [editor’s note, that’s me!], suggested I try a fertility specialist in Brisbane who she had found to be excellent. And this was how I ended up under the care of Dr Warren De Ambrosis. He was unlike any other doctor my husband and I had met. His sense of humour was so dry but he was so caring and hell-bent on doing everything he could to help get me pregnant. He suggested that IVF was our best option, and so our IVF journey began. He explained that it might not work because my eggs were old, even though my PCOS meant I had the egg stores of a 20 year old. In his words, ‘there were lots of nuts on the tree but they were 39 year old nuts so you wouldn’t want to eat all of them’.

I started the hormone injections and religiously took the regime of vitamins, aspirin, steroids and blood thinners. I had bruises the size of tennis balls on my stomach but it didn’t matter because I wanted to be pregnant more than anything. Often you hear women undergoing fertility treatment say how upset they feel when they see women with babies, but I felt upset when I saw pregnant women because that was my first goal.

The day of my first egg collection came and went (well, I did have hyper stimulated ovaries so I could hardly walk on the day and every bump in the road felt like someone was stabbing me in the abdomen). Warren collected 13 eggs, I knew this because when I came too from the anaesthetic I had ‘13’ written in black nikko all over my lower legs. Over the next five days, we got regular updates from the lab on how our embryos were doing. We ended up with 4 embryos that made it through to blastocyst stage and had two transferred into my uterus.

I endured the 2 week wait and lo and behold, the pregnancy test was positive. I was so happy! One IVF cycle and I was pregnant. How lucky could I be?!? Three weeks later, my joy came crashing down around me. At work I went to the toilets and found I was bleeding. I went to my GP and she sent me for a blood test but suggested I see Warren as soon as I could. The blood test showed that my HCG levels were not rising as they should’ve been. Warren gave me an ultrasound and there was nothing in my uterus. He broke the news that it was probably an ectopic pregnancy. At seven weeks, the embryo was so small he could not see it inside the tube, as he said; it was like ‘trying to see a cockroach that had been swallowed by a snake’. I went home to wait out the weekend. I was hopeful, always hopeful, but things did not look good.

On Monday I travelled to Brisbane to be told it was definitely ectopic and I needed to have the embryo removed the next day. That night I was in agony and the next day I went under general anaesthetic for only the second time in my life, but this time it was to remove my baby. I woke up to find out that my tube had ruptured and had to be removed. So now my already low chances of getting pregnant had just halved! Even now the heartbreak I felt at that time brings me to tears.

I let my body recover and mentally prepared myself for a second round of IVF, when I found out that Dr Wazza was going to be off for a month due to back surgery. Secretly I was relieved because it meant a longer break from hormone injections and those dreaded blood thinners! I went about my daily life and enjoyed the freedom of being ‘hormone’ free. Then one day I was having lunch with one of my besties, and I started to burp. Naomi said to me ‘You’re pregnant!’ I responded with ‘No, I’m not!’ How could I be pregnant? My chances of falling naturally were less than 1%! She said, ‘I have only known you to have reflux one other time and that was when you were last pregnant’. I honestly believed I was not pregnant but I peed on a stick anyway and straight away there were two lines! I walked around the house stunned. I rang my husband and told him the good news. The conversation went something like this, ‘OH MY GOD I AM PREGNANT! OH MY GOD I AM PREGNANT!’

The next few weeks and months were filled with fear of losing this baby but also filled with wonder at the tiny human moving and growing inside me. On the 24th of May 2012 at 5:24am I gave birth to our son, Joseph Daniel. He is the coolest little man that I know. He is kind, funny and smart. He drives me crazy and he lights up my life. I have never known love like the love I have for him. He is truly our miracle baby.

Now I am 44 years old, my hopes of giving Joe a sibling are dwindling. The drive to have another baby is not so strong that I would ever go through the trauma IVF again. But every month a little voice inside me says, ‘Maybe this time…’

Kristin and Joe

Fertility Friday: Complicated

Today’s Fertility Friday post is by a very talented author called Yvonne Hughes, whose book One Piece of Advice  is a must-read for people diagnosed with breast cancer, their families and friends. I met Yvonne at a breast cancer forum where she was a guest speaker, and was totally charmed by her honest, funny and heartfelt retelling of how she came to write the book. Yvonne and I kept in touch after the forum, as we have much in common, not least the fact that we are both breast cancer mothers of only boy children. Whilst the sibling ship has sailed for my family, I’m so pleased that Yvonne has agreed to share her story about her family’s wish to bring another child into their lives. 

I’m struggling to write this piece, but I’m going to try anyway. I’m not struggling because I’m too emotional, too angry or too anything really. I’m struggling because it’s complicated.

I often say ‘there’s nothing easy about breast cancer’, and this applies to the fall out from breast cancer too. The big ticket item for the younger women with breast cancer is the affect treatment can have on fertility.

There are many ways it can affect your ability to have children – side effects from chemo, long term medication, or the fact that by the time your treatment was finished you’d missed the baby boat. We don’t all get the chance to freeze eggs before we start treatment – and even if we did, well, that’s not a sure thing anyway.

I didn’t freeze any eggs – I was given the choice, but I decided to get on with treatment right away. I have never regretted my decision – my husband and I were unequivocal in our thinking that our child needed a mother more than a sibling.

Do I feel cheated? Absolutely. But not by anyone responsible for my healthcare. I was presented with choices and I made the decision that I would make again. It’s the situation that cheated me. The fact that I had cancer. The fact that I was powerless to direct my future towards the vision I had for it.

I did make peace with the fact that I would not have a second biological child. I looked at my son and imagined what his brother or sister would have looked like. I imagined them, and I said goodbye.

I did not make peace with the notion that I may not have another child, because I didn’t – and still don’t – believe that this will be the case. I very easily switched my thoughts to adoption. I’ve never believed that I needed to have my ‘own’ child to love it. Any child in my care will be loved, I can say that with 100% surety.

But this isn’t an easy path either. Even with a clean bill of health and a spotless police record, we have not been placed with a child. All the boxes are ticked, all approvals are in place, but the wait continues. The hardest bit is hearing stories of abuse and neglect. Of kids coming to harm when there’s a safe and loving home for them here. It’s being powerless again. Powerless and frustrated.

I told you it was complicated. But it’s not without hope. I saw a movie recently, and there was a scene with a foster carer and a 12 year old boy. She said: ‘I’m so glad we found you. Sorry it took so long.’ If you’re reading this and you’re somewhere in your own fertility journey, take heart and keep hoping. Your child may not come to you in the way you expected, but there are other ways of having a special child in your life. You just have to find them.

yvonne and riley

Yvonne and her boy.

Fertility Friday: Journey of Three

It’s Fertility Friday time again. I cannot tell you how much I am loving reading and sharing all these amazing stories. It is a privilege to know so many bloody amazing women!

Today’s guest poster is my friend Naomi. As well as doing a frighteningly accurate Mick Jagger impersonation after a couple of drinks, Naomi is also a mother of three. However, she didn’t end up with her three beautiful kids in the ‘usual’ way. This is her story:

My husband and I had always talked about having a family and I guess it is just something that you expect to happen. We had everything planned; the length of our engagement, the wedding and then at our one year anniversary we would start trying for a family and we would have two kids, a boy and a girl. Things never seem to go as planned. We got the engagement and wedding bit right, but it took us three years to get the kids.

We tried for a year on our own to no avail. I made an appointment with my GP who then referred me to a specialist. And so the fun began! It started with blood tests, ultrasounds etc etc. In the end it turned out I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). It’s quite common and one of the leading causes of infertility in women. As many as 25% of women of childbearing age have PCOS, but most don’t even know that they have it until they begin trying to get pregnant. The big problem with PCOS is that you don’t tend to ovulate regularly, making it very difficult to conceive. Generally medical assistance is required so the process for us started out with tablets to bring on ovulation which then meant more blood tests, ultrasounds etc etc. It quickly became a very tedious process and the exact opposite of romantic – particularly when your doctor gives you and injection and then orders you to have sex at 10pm that night! Totally takes the romance out of “making a baby”.

For me this cycle continued for about a year with no success, until my doctor then informed me that we might need to do a bit more to make this happen, so the next part of the journey was some surgery. “Ovarian drilling” to be exact. They didn’t strike oil down there, but instead helped stimulate the ovaries to encourage them to produce those little eggs I so desperately needed. Surgery – tick, ovaries stimulated – tick, baby – nil. So the next part of the treatment was what I lovingly love to refer to, “the turkey baster method”, or for those medically inclined, IUI – Intrauterine Insemination. Basically my husband was required to do his part of the deal in a cup, the doctor then took that contribution and spun the semen in a machine to get the sperm all excited about this conception business, and once the spinning was complete the doctor puts the sperm in a syringe and inserted them inside my clacker! Along with this process came lots of needles to produce lots of follicles that were ready to pop.

Finally, we had success and I took a pregnancy test on Mother’s Day in 2004. Woo hoo! We were so super excited but the excitement didn’t last for too long. Unfortunately at around the 8/9 week mark I suffered a miscarriage. I was so very angry and upset – it had taken us two years to get a positive result and now it was being taken away from us. Of course all around me friends and relatives were getting pregnant and I was happy for them but inside me was this little voice saying “why them and not me?”. I guess that is the crappiest part of infertility, the hormonal roller coaster ride. My poor husband at times didn’t know what to say to me. Of course I blamed it all on myself because I was the one with PCOS. I would often find myself apologising to him because I knew how much he wanted children.

I eventually bounced back from the loss of our baby and soldiered back on with trying to get our bundle of joy. We continued the IUI cycles for another 12 months and exactly 12 months to the day we found out we were pregnant again. Yay!!!!!

This time it was a little different. I didn’t feel so hot. The pregnancy test came back positive really, really quickly. Looked like my hormone levels were very high. The first sign of multiples came in the form of over stimulation of the ovaries, which was incredibly painful and not much fun at all. Then at 7 weeks we trotted off to our doctor to have our first scan. While we were driving to the appointment my husband reached over grabbed my hand and held three fingers and he indicated to me that he thought we had three. I of course just laughed it off. The doctor lead us into the ultrasound room and proceeded to probe my belly “Congratulations we have twins!” then came the “hang on a sec……………….we have a third!!!!!”. From that moment on our lives would never be the same again.

On the 24 November 2005, I gave birth to triplet girls – Imogen, Caitlin and Hayley. The girls were kept in hospital for a period of four weeks and came home on the 22 December 2005. We were blessed with three very healthy babies. I don’t think anything can prepare you for the total shock of bringing home a baby for the first time, let alone three, but the support that we received from family, friends and total strangers was absolutely amazing.

It was quite a journey to get our girls, but they continue to bring us so much joy. Of course I tell them quite often how hard we worked to get them. They still find it quite freaky that I could fit three of them in my belly. Trust me when I say it wasn’t the most comfortable pregnancy, but we got there in the end. It has definitely been hard work having three at once but I wouldn’t swap it for the world. They are three very unique personalities, and can at times have a love-hate relationship like all siblings, but they are sisters who will always share a very special bond.

triplets 1 triplets 2 Triplets 3