Looking at my healthy boys, you might be surprised to read it took me many years of trying, to finally get pregnant. Sadly infertility is not uncommon. In fact, in New Zealand, 26% of women and 22% of men have experienced infertility before the age of 38. Here is my story.
I had always been fit and healthy. I was pretty young really when my partner and I (now my husband) decided to stop using contraception. I was aged 27. Every month we tried for a baby I would get my period and we would be so disappointed. Each month my period came, the pain and cramps would get worse. I would drag myself out of bed and off to work.
One day, I went to work with chronic period pain. I took my prescribed painkillers and whacked on a heat pack, but the pain kept getting worse. I decided to leave work and drove to the doctors. When I got through the door, I fainted at the desk. When I came to, I was asked whether I was trying for a baby. Saying yes, my doctor feared an ectopic pregnancy, called an ambulance and I was taken to the hospital. I was given gas and air, then morphine. It took away all pain, but after a scan they found nothing. I wasn’t pregnant and they discharged me. I was sad and confused.
We continued to try for a baby, but each month the pain got worse. I would spend two weeks out of four in pain, suffering cramps, migraines and bowel pain. Sex was so painful, we eventually stopped. My relationship was strained, I was miserable at work and I struggled to catch up with the workload. I was exhausted from terrible sleep. The wait for the day surgery felt incredibly long and I was given painkillers, anti-inflammatories, gastro medication and sleeping pills. My GP told me I probably had endometriosis, and to keep trying to have a baby because the symptoms would disappear once I was pregnant. He referred me to a gynaecologist.
After further investigation, a hysteroscopy and an endoscopy it was confirmed I had endometriosis and a blocked fallopian tube. After the operation my endometriosis symptoms went away. My health improved significantly and I was not in pain anymore. The gynaecologist suggested they test my husband’s sperm and we discovered he also had a low fertility rate. We were put on a waiting list for an appointment with Fertility Associates.
The fertility specialist told us that as a couple we only had a 2% chance of conceiving each month, but that the good news was we qualified for two free cycles of IVF treatment (publicly funded). We were pretty broke back then, and I did have youth on my side, so we decided to go on a two-year waiting list for free treatment. During those two years, we continued to try for a baby but still had no luck. Every month I would feel sad.
Finally, the wait was over and we started IVF the year I turned 30. It was ICSI in fact. I was terrified of needles and as the doctors told me I would have to inject myself every day I didn’t know how I was going to do it. After watching a few videos and meeting with a nurse, I somehow found the courage. I had to inject myself every morning and evening in the belly and it was important to get every injection done correctly and at the right time. When it was time for the procedure, we had to wait for a phone call and make a trip to Wellington at short notice (which was 4 hours drive away). It was stressful because we didn’t have very empathetic employers and we had to get time off work without explaining why.
Unfortunately, the morning of the egg collection, my body overrode the drugs and I released all but one egg. The egg was fertilised by ICSI but failed to implant in my uterus. We were devastated at the outcome. We had one more free cycle of IVF, but we decided to wait another six months before trying again. There was no way we could have got more time off work.
When I couldn’t conceive I would enviously look at other pregnant women and wish I had their swollen bellies. I would watch mums running around after toddlers and wish it was me. I felt so alone and I grieved the baby I couldn’t have. I would cry when I got my period every month and I avoided social media because of yet another birth announcement or photo of an ultrasound scan. I felt like stabbing the next person who asked me whether I wanted to have kids someday. Our social group had moved on, they were all dealing with their new babies and toddlers and we felt left behind.
Over the next six months, we still held onto the hope that we would conceive naturally, but we still didn’t. We started the second cycle of IVF. This time the drugs worked and I had a great number of eggs for fertilisation. We were able to transfer an embryo (as a blastocyst) and had one to freeze. After an agonising two-week wait, FINALLY, I was pregnant! Luckily I had a healthy pregnancy and my first son was born. It had taken us 4 years to get our baby, but finally, he was ours. I was aged 31 when I had my first little monkey!
Unbelievably, when our first baby was only nine months old, without trying for a baby, we discovered I was pregnant. This time by natural conception! Despite multiple pregnancy tests, I still did not believe it until I went to my midwife and heard my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. HOW?! I had a healthy pregnancy and our second little monkey was born. I was aged 32!
Two years later, when I had got over the shock of having two babies under two, we decided to use our frozen embryo (from our second IVF cycle), to try for a third child. Everything looked good and I was pregnant, but only for about a week. I was gutted. We hoped for another miracle conception, but after two more years of trying for a third baby, we decided to call it a day. I did not want to go through IVF a third time.
It seems I had a tiny window of fertility with the help of gynaecology and infertility treatment – but then it quickly closed! We spent a total of 6 years trying to get pregnant and 10 years trying to complete our family. I am so lucky to have two healthy little boys. We had one IVF miracle and one natural miracle.
When I started IVF treatment, I found great support in joining a support group and talking to people that understood the emotional pain of infertility. You know who you are! If you or a friend is struggling with infertility, check out Fertility New Zealand. It’s a registered charity helping people deal with infertility. If you suspect you may have endometriosis, check out Endometriosis New Zealand. It will help you understand more about the disease, how to manage the symptoms and the treatment that is available here in New Zealand.
Since having kids, I have met some amazing people who have shared their infertility stores with me. Stories of suffering, hope and desperation. Stories of failure, but also amazing stories of success. Please share this story, it may give someone a glimmer of hope.