I think this project is so important, breaking the silence is crucial. The irony is, my story still needs to be anonymous. My husband's family know nothing of our battle with infertility and I have to respect that that is how he needs it to be. I hope that's ok.
Our story begins in 2008, newly married and keen to grow our family. The desire to be a mother had long been a part of my being, particularly prominent during my summers as a camp counselor and in the work I did in orphanages in South America and Africa. I believed it was who I was born to be. Little did I know in 2008, that our path to parenthood would be such a rocky one.
After a year of trying with no pregnancy, and by 'trying' I mean charting my temperature every day, peeing on countless ovulation sticks and obsessing about dates and little signs and symptoms, we sought help. Preliminary tests showed all looked fine with me, but my husband had a low sperm count. It was such a shock, I always thought infertility was something that happened to other people. So fervent was my desire to be pregnant, I never pictured myself as part of a struggling couple.
We were referred to assisted conception services and eventually placed on a waiting list for government-funded treatment, where we remained for the next 22 months. Unable to bear the thought of waiting, especially with my advancing age, we decided to spend our savings on private treatment. I remember the excitement, the anticipation of finally getting to day one of that first cycle. It was actually happening! We were going to attack this head on and at last make a baby!
But I over-stimulated and all embryos had to be frozen. Four unsuccessful frozen transfers followed, each filled with hope, only to end in deeper and deeper disappointment until we were left with nothing. And so we pooled our resources and 18 months after our first, we began a second cycle of ICSI. Again I over-stimulated, this time significantly, producing 37 eggs, leaving me at high risk of ovarian hyper stimulation. Again all our embryos had to be frozen. We had a further three frozen embryo transfers over the next year. All were unsuccessful.
The fear of never getting the chance to experience pregnancy and parenthood was palpable. It was with my every breath. I hurt when I saw pregnant women and new babies. I felt many of my long term friends slip away from me, as they all joined a club I yearned to be a part of and yet couldn't seem to find a way in. Just when it felt like all hope was lost, we were gifted a cycle of treatment. Finally things went to plan and we got our first fresh transfer. And four years after our journey began, we found ourselves staring at an elusive positive pregnancy test. That moment remains one of the happiest in my life. My pregnancy progressed perfectly. It was a magical time, filled with wondrous firsts and tentative excitement. I worried incessantly, but as my due date approached, I began to dare to believe.
We had moved into the perfect wee home, painted and furnished a beautiful nursery, bravely bought clothes, books and toys for our miraculous little one. My fears about stillbirth still penetrated through the magic and it was decided I should have a planned induction of labour on my due date to minimise the risks. When we arrived at the hospital that day, everything looked great, my baby had a strong, clear heartbeat and I was well, if a little large and uncomfortable. Six hours after the medication was started, my waters broke spontaneously. With surprise and excitement, we told a midwife. It was really happening, our baby was coming! She told us to find her again when I was contracting three times in every 10 minutes.
We sat back down, too energised to watch the film we had started. My husband got out his phone, ready to time my contractions. And then everything went wrong. A trip to the toilet, a heavy bleed, a plea for help, only to be told it was "just your show"; intense pain, contractions every minute, too sore to talk through; a desperate search for someone to help, but no one came. Twenty five minutes later, help finally arrived, but it was too late. There was no heartbeat. It was all over. My beautiful baby girl, arrived naturally the following morning after a peaceful labour and birth, made as beautiful as possible by the most amazing midwife.
My little miracle was absolutely perfect, incredibly beautiful with dark whispy hair and a little button nose. We spent two precious days with our baby girl, holding her, kissing her and telling her a lifetime of stories, while crying a lifetime of tears. Her daddy bathed her and we dressed her in the special outfits we had chosen just for her. And then we had to say goodbye, a memory I cannot linger in, as it still shatters my heart.
As we walked out of the hospital that day, I could not have imagined that 10 months later we would be leaving with another beautiful baby girl. We had one frozen embryo remaining and after seven previous failed FETs, hope was barely there. But by some miracle, it worked and for the second time, we heard that amazing news: you're pregnant! My second pregnancy was clinically straight forward, but emotionally it was the biggest challenge of my life. Every day I am thankful for the care of the most incredible obstetrician. I honestly have no idea how I would have survived without her. Watching her lift my youngest baby girl into the world will forever be one of my most treasured memories.
And now my little bundle of hope is an energetic toddler, bringing smiles and laughter to my every day, much needed respite from the intense pain of missing her big sister. A few months ago, we decided to try for another baby, so my wee girl would have a sibling who's here with her, to share in her laughter and play. But it wasn't meant to be. And so now as I type, I am stuck. I want so desperately for my family to grow. I long to feel the wonder of pregnancy again, to hold another newborn, to breastfeed again. But I don't know if I will ever get that wish. Diminishing time and money may be too much to overcome. I feel so lucky to be a mother to two precious girls, but I am terrified of spending the rest of my life with the painful longing for more. I hope that my journey isn't yet over, though I know there may be many more bumps in the road ahead.