My journey to motherhood is an interesting one and also very long, spanning nearly 7 years. In that time my husband and I have experienced the best day of our lives and also the most devastating. Here’s our story……
My husband and I were in our early 30’s when we met at a friend’s wedding and 2.5 years later we were engaged. I had been on the pill for well over a decade so once we were engaged I came off the pill and we decided to throw caution to the wind and see what happened, after all we weren’t getting any younger. 18 months later we were married, desperately wanting to start a family and not having any luck falling pregnant so we enlisted the help of a fertility specialist.
After a lot of tests, poking and prodding it was determined that our only chance of falling pregnant would be through IVF. That news was all at once very sad but also gave us hope that one day we would become parents. The process for IVF in Victoria is long. We had to complete mandatory counselling and mandatory police checks before we could start. And then there is the cost, but when it is your only hope you cannot think about the expense.
Once we had ticked all the mandatory boxes our IVF journey began on the first day of my next period. Our first cycle consisted of lots of injections, scans, tears and me feeling like I had PMS for weeks – my poor husband! When we did the egg pick-up we were lucky enough to get 9 eggs, 8 of which were able to be fertilised with my husband’s sperm. We were feeling on top of the world!
2 days after the egg pick-up we were back at the fertility clinic to do a ‘fresh’ transfer (ie. the embryo had not been frozen). Then came the agonising 2 week wait to see if the transfer had been successful, however, we didn’t have to wait 2 weeks because I ended up getting my period. We had put all our eggs (pardon the pun) into the one basket and were certain that after all the years of trying that we would fall pregnant first go with IVF. Words cannot describe the feelings you go through when that doesn’t happen.
It took us nearly 6 months before we felt emotionally, and for me physically, ready to have another go. This time we decided to do a natural thaw cycle. So that meant no drugs and when my body was ready (5 days post ovulation) the specialist would transfer a thawed embryo. In fact we made the decision to transfer 2 embryos.
And then we waited…….and waited some more.
When the 2 weeks was nearly up and there was no sign of my period I couldn’t wait another minute to find out, so against doctors’ orders (he wanted us to do a blood test) I did a home pregnancy test and it came back positive!! 24 hours later we then did the blood test and my HCG levels were through the roof! We could not believe it!
We then had to wait 2 more weeks to scan and see if there was a heartbeat (or possibly 2 given our double transfer). That wait was longer than the wait for the blood test. But the day finally came and there was a strong little heartbeat (just the one) and we knew that it was our time to finally become parents.
9 months later after an issue free, healthy pregnancy our beautiful daughter Willow was born via emergency c-section as a result of me not being able to dilate more than 4cm. This was the absolute best day of our life. It had finally happened, we were parents!
Willow is now three, full of energy and at times full of 3 year old attitude. We love her dearly and cannot imagine life without her. She is our little miracle. But our story does not end here.
When Willow was about 18 months old we decided that we would try for a second baby. We had 5 embryos on ice and we thought ‘how hard can it be?’ It only took us 2 goes last time, surely the same would happen this time. How naive we were.
Some of our embryos did not survive the thawing process and after 2 unsuccessful transfers we had none left. We then made the decision to do another egg pick-up. This time we only got 5 eggs, 4 of which fertilised.
We then had another 2 unsuccessful transfers before finally on our 5th transfer I fell pregnant. Hallelujah! This pregnancy was very different. I had heavy spotting for nearly 2 weeks but my hcg levels were strong. The spotting then randomly stopped just before my 6 week scan and we were blessed to see a very healthy heartbeat. We were elated! Doctors were unable to provide an explanation for the bleeding; it was just something that can happen in the early stages of pregnancy.
For the next few weeks my pregnancy continued without issue. We went to the 12 week scan, did the Harmony test and all was perfect. We celebrated and shared our news with all our family and friends. Willow was very excited to become a big sister.
Then on 30 November 2016, at 14 weeks and 6 days, our world came crashing down. I had a very traumatic haemorrhage and we lost our baby. A beautiful, fully formed but very small, baby boy who we were lucky enough to be able to spend time with and hold. We decided to name him Ben. He was our son and Willow’s baby brother and he deserved a name.
By total coincidence the midwife that was at Willow’s birth was also with us when we delivered Ben. Without her and the amazing team at Mitcham Private Hospital in Melbourne we would not have got through the next few days and weeks. We are forever grateful to them for making a very sad situation somewhat easier to navigate through as a result of their genuine support and care for our family’s health and well-being.
Trying to explain to your nearly 3 year old why Mummy is in hospital and why there is no longer a baby in her tummy is almost impossible, but we told her the truth. We explained to her that Mummy had a little baby boy that we called Ben but he was born too early and was too little to survive. We then told her that he is now a big, bright shiny star.
Nearly 5 months on Willow will talk about Ben, her brother, our beloved boy and our beautiful shiny star. Every night before bed we go outside to see the stars and Willow will wave. It breaks our heart that we didn’t get a chance to see Ben live his life but he will not be forgotten.
The chance of having a miscarriage in the second trimester is very, very low. We just didn’t understand how and why this had happened. After everything we had been through on our journey to become parents why us? So many questions, so many tears.
I had many complications following the miscarriage and was in and out of hospital 7 times over the next month with further haemorrhages and a blood transfusion due to blood loss. Our little family was going through hell.
After many tests and specialist appointments I was finally diagnosed with an extremely rare and often life-threatening condition called a Uterine Arteriovenous Malformation (Uterine AVM). My OB had only seen one other case in 25 years and the specialist is lucky to see 1 every few years. Basically it is a big tangle of blood vessels connecting to the artery and veins that feed the uterus and they believe it formed when my body was healing from my c-section with Willow. Scary stuff.
The AVM caused the haemorrhage and subsequent miscarriage. There was nothing wrong with Ben. What a bitter pill to swallow.
With a diagnosis I was able to receive the treatment I needed to recover and this involved embolization of the AVM. Physically I am now in the all clear but emotionally there is still a lot of healing to be done.
My due date with Ben was 26 May 2017. That date will be tough. The first anniversary of the miscarriage will be tough. Seeing beautiful pregnant bellies and newborns is tough. But our little family will survive this.
We take each day as it comes. Some days I cry, some days my husband cries. But together we are stronger and we are getting through it. We talk about Ben a lot - the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘what could have been’. We talk about what happened and we get support. It’s the only way to get through this.
And together our little family of three looks up at the shiny stars and we remember our little boy and baby brother.