Content Warning: This article contains references to pregnancy loss and may be triggering for some readers.
From the guilt over having a medical termination, to the heartbreak of multiple miscarriages, and the fear when considering an egg donor, one mother shares her incredible journey and how she survived…
It started with three cycles of Clomid. No pregnancy.
Next, two cycles of IUI with stimulation. No pregnancy.
So, we moved on to IVF. We got four beautiful embryos, and our baby girl was born in 2005. She’s now 16.
We’d frozen our remaining embryos, so when the time came, we commenced our first frozen cycle. Our second baby girl was born in 2007 – she’s 14 now.
We still had two more frozen embryos, so we went for the next frozen cycle. No pregnancy.
Down to our last embryo, we tried again.
One frozen cycle.
I desperately want another baby. I’m a midwife, what can I say! I have always loved babies. I have three older sisters and have just always wanted lots of babies.
So we try again.
One cycle of IVF gives us 5 embryos.
I’m pregnant. I’m overjoyed, but terribly sick.
And then comes the 12 week scan. The Nuchal Translucency. Baby has many abnormalities, that are incompatible with life – it’s diagnosed on the scan and then confirmed with a CVS test.
“ I am deeply depressed, ashamed, I feel a phantom kick after the termination. I wish I had let my little baby die on her own. ”
We ‘interrupt’ our pregnancy. It’s a sanitised way of saying we terminated the pregnancy.
I am deeply depressed, ashamed, I feel a phantom kick after the termination. I wish I had let my little baby die on her own. She would now be 12.
It’s such a divisive subject. Let me share with you, though. I have looked after a few women who have terminated pregnancies for similar reasons (and social reasons). I feel their grief, and so I want to let them know that they will move on and feel better. But it stays with you.
I have never judged a woman having a termination, but it has made me question who I was as a person. What right did I have to choose who lives and who doesn’t? My main thought was, ‘what if one of our daughters had a profound developmental disability that was undetectable in the antenatal period. What would we do?’ The answer, I know, is we would care for her and love her. Not end her life.
I feel fortunate that we had the choice and received safe medical care. Many women don’t.
I put my little baby’s ultrasound pictures, with her CVS results, together. I wrapped a beautiful pink striped ribbon around them and put them in a special old box. I look at them from time to time. Not so much now. But I’ll never forget her and that sad, sad time of my life.
We try again.
One frozen cycle. No pregnancy.
One frozen cycle. No pregnancy.
I beg my specialist to transfer two embryos this time. He does. No pregnancy.
I change doctors. Not sure why.
One cycle of IVF. I’m pregnant! We see the heartbeat at 7 weeks gestation. But the embryo is a week behind the expected size for gestation. I’m worried.
It’s a miscarriage. I have a D&C, and feel that I deserve this, as I terminated a pregnancy.
“ I visit my obstetrician in my morning tea break from a busy delivery suite morning shift. But baby’s heartbeat is about 50 beats per minute. It’s too slow. ”
One frozen cycle. I’m pregnant. We see the heartbeat at 7 weeks gestation. I visit my obstetrician in my morning tea break from a busy delivery suite morning shift. But baby’s heartbeat is about 50 beats per minute. It’s too slow. I’m to come back next week, go back to work. I deliver a baby on my shift.
I return following week, in my morning tea break.
There’s no heartbeat.
I return to work.
I don’t want to have another D&C. I’m worried I will increase my chances of placenta praevia if I carry another pregnancy to term, or other complications that can be caused by damage to cervix and uterus from repeated D&Cs. So I wait until 12 weeks to miscarry naturally. I have major blood loss and need an emergency D&C. Ironic. I can’t even miscarry efficiently.
Again, I feel it’s deserved. I know I’m going to hell for terminating my earlier pregnancy. I can’t complain, because I deserve this.
We have a chemical pregnancy, naturally achieved. It’s a total shock – only find out when it’s all over. My period was a bit late. It’s never late. It’s bittersweet.
One frozen transfer. I’m pregnant. We see the heartbeat at 7 weeks gestation. It looks good. This is it! I’m so excited. I let myself be excited, even if it doesn’t last. I have a repeat ultrasound at 10 weeks, due to maternal anxiety. There’s no heartbeat. I’m terrified to have another major bleed, so I have a D&C on Christmas Eve.
I come home and cook the ham.
I fall apart a few days later.
“ He tells me the only way to have another baby is with a donor egg. I think ‘nope, no way, never. ”
One cycle of IVF. I’m back with my first specialist – I have known him a long time, as we work at the same hospital.
This time, a scientist biopsies one cell from each embryo, and sends them to the lab to be tested. I don’t think I can manage another miscarriage. This is why we do this.
Most of my miscarriages have been due to chromosomal abnormalities.
Most the biopsied embryos are abnormal. One is indeterminate. We transfer that one.
He tells me the only way to have another baby is with a donor egg. I think ‘nope, no way, never.’
That’s now seven pregnancies, and two live babies. Makes me a G7P2. And this has all happened from age 32 to about 38. Not too old!
I turn 40.
It’s still in the back of our minds, but we know it can’t happen. I think about adopting a baby. My husband is not really keen on the idea. It’s too hard. International adoptions take years. We will be too old.
I’m still working in delivery suite, and I have a lightbulb moment. Every baby I deliver or care for, I believe, is the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. I love them all. I realise I could love any baby, whether biologically related to me or not.
We talk about donor eggs. It’s very casual, but we think ‘maybe’.
We’re busy with our little girls. Time passes.
We don’t want to disrupt our family life, chasing something that might not happen.
I google ‘donor egg.’ It’s a quagmire. It’s scary.
And then, I have a chance conversation with a preschool mum. She names a donor egg facility in Hawaii.
I email them.
They give me secure access to their database, and I look at donors. It still seems scary. I’m overwhelmed. I think, ‘maybe not’.
Randomly, we book a holiday to Hawaii the following year. It’s four months away.
I contact the donor egg agency again. Yes, they can help me. We need to move fast though, as there’s lots to do.
Somehow it all falls into place. They make it easy.
The first donor I set eyes on ends up being our donor. She has a lovely, kind face. She sounds like a gorgeous woman.
Donation is anonymous.
I wish it wasn’t.
My bloods are done in Sydney according to a schedule devised by doctors in Hawaii. My results are emailed to Hawaii. They advise me what to do with my ‘drug’ regime. My donor and I need to get our cycles in sync.
On my last shift before our ‘holiday,’ I care for a patient who is transferred from the country. She’s having twins, at 26 weeks gestation. Threatened premature labour. She delivers that night.
“ I feel sad that if I get pregnant, my child will not know its biological mother. ”
I know I will only have one embryo transferred. I just want one healthy baby. The risks are too great if I have two embryos transferred.. I’ve worked for so long in delivery suite.
I’ve seen it all.
We go to Hawaii. I have just turned 41.
The whole experience is surreal – corny, but true. Everything goes smoothly.
I write our donor a letter and send her a gift. It’s a little chain with a horseshoe. It’s pretty, and dainty. There’s nothing I could ever give her that could express my gratitude. She knows nothing about us, I know everything about her. I think I want her to be able to find us, one day. This is a bit naughty of me.
I feel sad that if I get pregnant, my child will not know its biological mother. I know there will be huge issues to deal with as my child grows up.
We decide never to keep secrets. Secrets are toxic to families. If we are lucky enough to have a baby, we never want the baby to remember the moment they were told they were conceived via a donor egg. It just needed to be out there from the very beginning, part of our story. We would start talking to the baby about it as early as possible.
The doctor in Hawaii wants to transfer two embryos.
I’m alone. My husband is on the beach with our daughters. My legs are in stirrups, I’m naked from the waist down, vulnerable. I’m so tempted to transfer two embryos, but I say ‘no thank you, just one.’ He’s a bit cross. I feel bad to disappoint him!
I know I’m pregnant five days later. My mouth always feels funny when I’m pregnant. I know this pregnancy will continue.
We have a baby boy.
Gender was never an issue, he’s the baby I was meant to have.
I would do it all again. He knows his story, we talk about it in the loveliest way. I couldn’t love him more.
Our little boy was born with a very manageable kidney issue. It was something we were aware of during the pregnancy. We knew he would need follow-up for a while, maybe surgery.
He required surgery at 10 months of age. It was safe, but big surgery. I remember crying just before he went into theatre. I had a profound fear of him being cold during the surgery, and dying. I said to my husband ‘what if he was just on loan….’
But he made the speediest recovery. He woke up and was breastfeeding within two hours.
He has the most delightful, happy temperament.
I see our donor’s face in his all the time. But I have never felt threatened by her. She gave us this child. She also gave me the chance to move on, if the pregnancy didn’t continue. I felt a real sense of finality with that IVF cycle.
That’s our infertility story. G8P3.
Genea can point you in the right direction if you are considering a sperm or egg donor, surrogate or becoming a donor yourself.