In 2011 I got married to my best friend. I was 23 and my new husband was 32. I had always had irregular periods, so I thought that we might struggle to fall pregnant. I stopped taking the pill straight after our honeymoon and we decided that “we were not trying, but we weren’t not trying”…I guess we decided to “see what happens”.
Six months later, I decided to see the Doctor about my irregular periods and my concerns about my fertility. I knew that if I said we’d been trying for a year, that only then, they’d take my concern seriously, so I lied and said it had ben 12 months, not 6.
We both had some routine blood tests, my husband gave a sperm sample and I was given some instructions of when to have sex, how to track my temperature and how to use a saliva test to check for ovulation. Needless to say that the temperature tracking was completely pointless and the saliva test was a waste of time. I never seemed to be able to pin point ovulation let alone see it in the first place.
After a couple of months, we got a referral to a gynaecologist/ Obstetrician. He was a lovely man and took our concerns seriously. We proceeded with a laparoscopy and dye. I am diagnosed and am medicated for anxiety and OCD, I have been since I was 16, so needless to say, having an operation where I thought I could die was a scary thought. Little did I know then that it would pail in comparison to what my future held.
The scans and results of the procedure came back inconclusive. There were no signs of PCOS or Endo. We were so relieved to find that there was no “physical” problem as such. So our Doctor put us on a course of Clomid, the gate way drug. We did three “cycles” of Clomid, having sex every 2 - 3 days, only around “ovulation” and then on third month, EVERY DAY. For an ENTIRE MONTH. Needless to say, our sex life has never been the same since.
We felt like shit, Clomid didn’t work and our next option was IVF but we didn’t have the money and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was prepared to go that far. So we put it off for a little while, had a little break and just went about our everyday life as normal. My husband landed his dream job as a career fire fighter, so we packed our things and moved up to the big smoke.
Now that hubby was set for life in a job he will NEVER leave and being in a big city where there we more services and options for fertility treatment, we asked to be referred to the Women’s hospital to be part of the fertility program. We put our names on the list for government funded IVF and in the mean time, met with the nurse and discussed our options.
Because it was a new clinic, they of course wanted to do all of the blood tests, another sperm sample, and more blood tests. After a month, we were notified that the Government IVF scheme had ben cancelled and if we wanted to wait, it’d be about 4 years just to start. The only thing the clinic could offer us, was Clomid. Yep, another round of Clomid. So, we sucked it up and did another 3 months of Clomid. Sex became a chore. It was a race to the finish, foreplay was a thing of the past and don’t even think about cuddling afterwards. 3 tiresome, fruitless months of passionless sex and legs in the air later, we were wondering how much more we could take.
I really struggled to get my head around IVF. I felt it was so clinical and too meddlesome. I kept thinking, maybe theres a good reason we can’t get pregnant. What if we were to fall pregnant and we passed on some horrible gene or disease? My anxiety and OCD started spiralling out of control and my medication was increased so that I was able to manage my mental health.
We didn’t have the money for IVF, so we looked into Naturopathy. We took some potions and changed our diets, but again, nothing. No signs of ovulation or pregnancy.
We were now 2 and half years into our infertility journey and we were tired. Our future was uncertain, did we want to continue? We had come so far, already spent so much money, at what point do you call it quits? That year, one of my grandparents sadly passed away. My mum received a generous inheritance from her father and she selflessly, with out hesitation, gave that money to my Husband and I so that we could do IVF.
I’m tearing up as I write this as there aren't many people who would give you, no strings attached, $10,000. My parents generosity and compassion is like nothing I have ever experienced. My husband and I are forever grateful for their gift and love.
So, 3 years into our journey and we are starting IVF. We leave the clinic looking like pin cushions carrying what can only be described as half a tree of paper work. I have my medication, we have the schedule and we are officially doing IVF.
Our first collection cycle came around and we were nervous, but the scans look promising and we had a good chance of getting some mature eggs. The first thing I asked when I woke from the anaesthetic was “how many eggs did we get?”. We got 3. I was disappointed to say the least, but it only takes one right?! The next 24 hours we sat by the phone waiting to hear news of fertilisation. They all fertilised, we were feeling pretty confident! Day 5 and 6 came around and we were waiting for news of if they made it to a blastocyst in time. 2! We have 2 blastocysts and we were getting a transfer today! How exciting, we had our first ever blastocysts.
Any one who has done IVF knows that the 2 week wait is horrendous. To take a pregnancy test or not to take a pregnancy test, that is the question. It was the day before the blood test and I was excited that I had no signs of getting my period, so I took a PT, but it was negative. It was still early days so I was staying upbeat. I woke the next morning, got my blood test and went to work with fingers crossed. I was expecting the results by 12pm. I went to the toilet at about 11am to find I had gotten my period. I was devastated. I took the rest of the day off and waited for the phone call to confirm there was no pregnancy.
It’s ok though. We had one more embryo to go, maybe it would work. So another month of hormone treatment and injections and blood tests and transfer day came. We got in the car and half way to the clinic we had a call telling us that the embryo hadn’t survived the thawing process. Heart broken is an understatement. We weren’t deterred. We had come this far, we will keep going. So we scraped the savings we had together and a second collection round was booked and paid for.
I was struggling to keep my head above water, the stress of IVF got to me and something had to give. I decided to quit my job as a Business Development Executive and take a casual role at a local leisure centre. I had worked there before when I was younger, so slotted back in easily. Still being friends with the manager, I told her about our IVF journey and she offered me a secondment to the office, a comfortable desk job where I would end up staying for the following year.
The Dr’s were confident this time round and expected more eggs. Boy were they right. We got 21. YEP TWENTY ONE eggs. I was so sore after the collection from being pin pricked that many times that when the Drs told me it would be a freeze all, I was secretly doing the Mexican wave in my head! The following days came with great news, 14 fertilised, 12 made it to day 6. We had 12 embryos. We were over the moon and couldn’t believe how lucky we were to get that many.
A month later, we prepared for our first transfer. A flurry of emotions; scared, excited, nervous, anxious, you name it, we felt it. The transfer went well and the Dr sent us on our way. 2 weeks later, I had no signs of a period coming and our blood test was the next day, I decided not to take a PT this time. The next day, I had my BT first thing then went to work. I was watching the clock, I was expecting the call from the clinic between 12 and 2. I went to the toilet at about 10am and when I wiped, there was blood. I was devastated again. I grabbed my things and drove home. My husband and I cried and screamed and laughed in frustration. We sat for 2 hours watching shit TV, saying “Fuck It! Lets go out for dinner and get an amazing bottle of Red Wine and just get pissed.”
I had let my mum and sister know that we were expecting bad news as I’d started bleeding. By this time, it was past 2pm and still no call from the clinic, so I decided to call them. I asked to speak to a nurse for my results, the nurse said “Ok, yep, everything looks great, HCG is really good, congratulations, you’re pregnant.” I was speechless… I just turned to my husband and looked at him and said “What?!” The nurse on the phone said, “Oh haven’t you taken a pregnancy test? You’re pregnant, everything looks fantastic!” I explained that I’d started bleeding and she explained that I would just be spotting and it was completely normal.
The next few moments of having to go from being 100% convinced that we weren’t pregnant and that we are going out for a steak and red wine dinner, to being pregnant was insane. We were gob smacked. I called my mum and told her the amazing news and we squealed and cried and laughed. It was amazing.
The next 8 months went as perfectly as they could have. I was 35 weeks pregnant and finished work on the Wednesday, we decided to head down south to see my parents for a last long weekend away before Bub came. We arrive on Thursday afternoon and that night at 12:30am, my waters broke. A spontaneous rupture of the membrane at 35 + 5 meant that we were rushed back to where we had just come from to wait around for Bub to arrive. She was healthy, happy and a little sleepy from being in such a hurry to come out. She weighed 2.99kg, so she kind of did me a favour coming early as she would have been a lump full term. We named her Penny-Joy or PJ for short and she has been a Joy ever since.
We decided a year later to try again. We had a transfer and got pregnant again, first time. However, it didn’t feel right to me and at about 6 weeks pregnant, I said to a friend that I felt like this pregnancy was going to end up miscarrying. 30 minutes later, I got a call from the clinic with some blood results. I was going to miscarry.
We were disappointed, but knew we had to keep going, we still had 10 embryos left, so why not. We had another transfer and voila, we fell pregnant again. We were very excited, this time the pregnancy felt “right”. Every thing was ticking along nicely, I was getting big, we’d found out that we were having a boy. Every thing was perfect.
One day when I was 29 weeks pregnant, I was having a terrible day. I felt like SHIT. I ended up having a 3 hour nap and I just wasn’t up to anything. We were living back down south close to my parents and I was working at a Cafe. I did my days work and collapsed on the couch. The next day I felt better, Bub was sitting in a strange position and I couldn’t shift him, he felt heavy and uncomfortable, but I felt better, so got on with my day.
That night, my husband left to work his night shift. I sat on the couch after putting PJ to bed and waited to do my kick count. I waited. And waited. I went to lay on my bed to change position and waited for the kicks.
I called my mum and told her my concerns, she said she’d pop over and be at the house incase PJ woke while I went to the hospital to get checked out. I let my husband know what was going on and left for the hospital. I said “see you in 20 minutes mum” as I walked out the door. I arrived at the hospital and was taken to the maternity ward. The midwife took the doppler, but couldn’t seem to find the baby, she reassured me everything was ok and changed to a different machine.
She said she could hear something, but wanted to get my Dr to come in and double check. My beautiful, sweet Dr came in, I’d only just seen her 2 days prior for a routine check up. She got the ultrasound machine and as soon as the picture lit up, I could see that something was wrong. Baby wasn’t moving, there was nothing but static white noise coming from the ultrasound. My poor Dr was shaking her head, trying to get a different picture from a different angle. Then she put the handle down and turned to me with tears in her eyes. My baby had passed away.
Those following seconds and minutes felt surreal. This can’t be happening. This kind of thing only happens in movies or to other people. Ladies in the womens magazines, not to me, not to any one I know. I wailed. I kept saying over and over, “Yep, ok. It’s ok, it’s ok. It’s alright, we can handle this, we’ll be alright…” all the while tears streaming from my eyes. I called my husband and told him “You have to come home, theres no heart beat, our baby has died.”
I can only imagine what the next 30 minutes for him would have been like. Helpless, unable to help me or hold me. Only having a few snippets of information. The world would have fallen out from under his feet. His shift supervisor quickly contacted head office and arranged for one of his shift mates to drive him home in one of the spare, small ute like fire trucks, lights and sirens the whole way.
I called my mum and she was speechless. She said not to worry about P.J. That she would stay with her and look after her until we came home, when ever that would be.
My husband arrived and the moment I saw him walk through the door I broke down. He had so many questions that I couldn’t answer. We just held each other and waited to find out what happened next. Over the next 12 hours, we went home, packed a hospital bag and made our way up to the regional hospital to prepare to have our baby.
We checked in and had more scans. I couldn’t watch them and the sound of static which came when they checked for the heart beat haunts me. We stayed in hospital and waited for the labour to start. I had a folly catheter inserted to manually stimulate labour. Luckily it worked and I didn’t require any drugs to get the process started. As the pain of labour started to intensify, I asked for an epidural. Of all the labours I didn’t want to feel, this would be the one. I had my pick of the pain killers and I was going straight to the top.
Unfortunately, the anaesthetist didn’t place the epidural correctly and I could still feel everything. I cried out in pain “this isn’t fair - I just don’t want to do this, just make it all stop.” The anaesthetist returned and redid the placement which finally worked and I was able to “sleep”. I didn’t “sleep” though, I was in limbo between sleep and awake, cry so often, my body would jolt as if it were a reflex to falling. I would lose my breath as if I’d had a fright. It was horrible.
Then, at some point, I don’t know how long it had been, but I could feel my baby ready to be born. I had dilated enough for him to make his way down and all that he needed was a push.
But I couldn’t. I was so scared to push. Not scared of pain or anything like that, but scared of pushing when I knew that I wasn’t meant to be having my baby yet. I didn’t want to have him. I wanted it all to be a bad dream and I wasn’t ready to meet him.
My sister was on standby, waiting for my call for her to come to the hospital to take some photos for us. She had just recently been unwell, so I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy for her. But she was so kind and brave that she selflessly offered her professional services to us. I called her and let her know it was time and that our baby boy would be born any minute, so she made the 30 minute drive to the hospital at 3am to do the hardest photo shoot she will ever likely have to do.
In that 30 minutes, I had plucked up the courage to push. Our baby wasn’t helping me, so it was all up to me to get the job done. One final push and bub arrived. I will never forget the sound and I will never forget the lack of sound. No baby crying, not monitors beeping, no Dr’s or midwifes rushing around, no celebration or congratulations. Just me and my husband holding each other crying. My husband telling me how brave I was, how well I did and how it was all over.
We decided not to meet our baby straight away. We asked that he be taken away and wrapped up and bought back in once the placenta had been delivered.
In those moments between the placenta being taken away and our son being bought back into us, my sister arrived, she was flustered and had a look of sadness on her face that remains with me still.
Then the midwife bought us our beautiful baby boy. He was perfect, he looked as though he was just sleeping. His hands and feet were just like his sisters. He had the same little notch on his ear that PJ has. He already had a full head of hair, little finger nails and toes nails. He was perfect. We held him and cried for him. We kissed his little forehead and then we said goodbye.
The following months, waiting for the autopsy, waiting to get his ashes. I can’t remember a lot of it. I know I slept alot. I know that my daughter started saying “mummy crying?”, which made me cry even more. My dearest friends surrounded me and we have bonded like never before. I started seeing a psychologist to work through my grief and feelings of guilt. Even a year later, even after the results of the autopsy found no explanation for his death, I blame myself. I just feel like it’s my fault. I was the one responsible for his life and now he is dead. I’m his mum, I should have known.
It took my husband and I months to get used to our new normal. We managed to get to accept what had happened and continue our life with William as a memory. We very much felt, that one of the quickest ways to heal, was to try for another baby. Which meant doing another round of IVF.
Our clinic has been so supportive of our journey and welcomed us back with open arms and broken hearts. They have truely felt every bit of our loss with us.
We did another round which was a no result. Back in the day, prior to having PJ and William, a “No Result” would have rocked us to our core. But I guess when you’ve been to hell and back, a “no result” was nothing.
We did another round the next month, we had our transfer on Christmas Eve and found out we were pregnant 2 weeks later. My husband was very excited about the pregnancy. I was much more reserved. I wasn’t “excited”.. I was nervous.
I told my closest friends that we were pregnant. I told my cousin, who’s response was “Me too!! Whats your due date?” Our due dates were 3 days apart. I told my friend Mel and her response was “Me too!! Whats your due date?”, we were 3 weeks apart. My husband told his best friend and his response was “Me too!!”. We were 6 weeks apart. Then I told Lisa and she said “Me too!”.. We were 3 weeks apart. Everything was falling into place. My 3 best friends and my Hubby’s best friend were all pregnant together. We couldn’t be more excited. It was all too perfect to be true.
And then we got our results from our Harmony Test. At 15 weeks pregnant, our PNT test came back positive for T21. Trisomy 21 also known as down syndrome. I couldn’t believe it. What are the odds? I can’t even put into words how my head felt. We were in shock.
The next 3 weeks consisted of amniocentesis and scans all to find out that our little girl was very sick. She had holes in her heart and a number of physical deformities. The specialists said, even if she didn’t have T21, she is a very sick baby and isn’t likely to make it to a live birth.
We made the decision to interrupt the pregnancy at 18 weeks. We couldn’t believe that we were here again. In a hospital, waiting for our precious baby. Waiting to say hello, only to say good bye.
We spent our last hours with her singing, swaying and watching the sunset. I told her we loved her. I put all of my energy into giving our sweet little Poppy the most loving, nurturing last moments alive possible.
Now, 4 months later, our friends are having their babies, sending out the invites to their baby showers and posting nursery and pregnancy updates on their social media. We are 4 weeks away from Williams birthday and 2 months away from Poppy’s due date. How I have survived that last 7 years of infertility and the last 12 months especially, I don’t know.
But what I do know is, that beneath all the bad luck, I am actually so lucky. I have a beautiful, happy, healthy daughter. I have the most loving, supportive husband, who works tirelessly to give us the best life possible. A loving and supportive network of family and friends and a dedicated team of doctors, nurses, midwifes and specialists who truely care for us. I am lucky. One of the luckiest.
Will we try again? Yes, more than likely. We are fortunate enough to know what its like to have and love a child of our own and we can’t think of anything more worth trying to do than have another one.
You can follow Kate's journey on Instagram at @native.state.oils