It’s not until you reach an age where you start discussing the idea of becoming a Mum that you realise just how many women, women you know, that have struggled to have a baby. It’s a club that no woman wants to be a part of. I am beyond fortunate that I am not one of these women.
I remember when I got my period after the first month we had being trying to have a baby. I was so upset. I sat there and cried. And then I realised how stupid I was being. It was only the first month. There were women out there who were feeling what I was feeling times by 50,000 for the 12th unsuccessful month in a row. I felt guilty, and knew I had to calm down and be patient. I didn’t know at the time that next month I would be pregnant. I was lucky. But this story isn’t about me.
It’s about my friend Kristy.
Kristy got married, had already been off the pill for 3 months and was convinced she’d be pregnant for her wedding. That was 5 years ago. By Christmas 2006, she still wasn’t pregnant. In January 2007 Kristy started a new job, (her new boss was aware she and her husband were trying for a family) and by March 2007, she decided it was time to go and have a chat to her GP. Kristy had fallen pregnant when she was 20 and decided not to go through with the pregnancy, so she knew she could fall pregnant.
Sadly, Kristy’s GP was not the kind helpful person she should have been and told her “10 months of trying is NOT 12 months of trying, we don’t run any sorts of tests for you and your husband until you’ve been trying to conceive naturally for 12 months”.
Kristy recalls her anger, “You could only imagine how I reacted. I virtually told my GP to get f***ed!!”
Thankfully Kristy found a new, more helpful GP who was more than happy to run some tests. The tests began with Kristy having blood tests every month for a few months to see if she was actually ovulating. Turns out she was. Like clock work.
Panic set in. “All my bits and pieces were doing what they were supposed to do. What else could possibly be wrong? It’s NEVER the man’s fault!!” recalls Kristy.
So once the GP realised everything seemed “normal” with Kristy, she suggested that they be referred to a fertility specialist.
Kristy recalls her reaction to infertility: “We had NO idea of what was going on and were very unaware of the whole idea of infertility and what it entailed. Hmmm how quickly that changed! We scheduled an appointment with Dr Raymond, (a Newcastle OBGYN) who I had heard was very pleasant and professional. He ran some more tests on both of us. So I went in for a laparoscopy just to check everything was correct on the inside, and the results come back all normal.”
So the testing turned to Kristy’s husband Scott. “Scott had his sperm tested and it came back abnormal, slow swimmers and very low count. His coping mechanism was ignorance. In true male fashion he became super withdrawn and didn’t really deal with it at all. So I just took over the situation with my ‘I can do anything’ attitude and just got on with it and at no time was prepared to let this stop us having a family” says Kristy.
“I’ll never forget, when we were back at Dr Raymond’s rooms discussing the results, it was December 2007 by this stage. He said the only way you are going to conceive a child together is with assistance and more than likely that it would be IVF.”
Throughout the trying naturally, and all the testing she endured, Kristy never specifically thought ‘why me’, but like any woman trying to conceive was frustrated when she thought about ‘those families’ who had numerous children, with numerous different father’s, or witnessed a mother yelling and swearing at her child. Or as Kristy puts it, “the people that try to get pregnant for 5 minutes and end up with bloody twins!”
After their discussion with Dr Raymond, Kristy and Scott had no doubt in their minds that IVF was the way to go. So Kristy did what most women like us do, she researched. And researched. She wanted to know what they were getting themselves into, and once they’d gotten their head around all the information their decision was made.
And the cost? Of course everyone asks about the cost. At the time Kristy’s only thought was “F*** the cost. We want a baby let’s just get on with it.” Kristy wanted to get on with it so much so that she wanted the first IVF cycle to happen ASAP before Christmas 2007! Dr Raymond suggested otherwise and advised them to enjoy the Christmas/New Year holiday and start fresh in the new year.
I ask Kristy if during all this they ever considered adoption? Kristy doesn’t hesitate, “Never”.
And so their IVF journey began in January 2008. They went through 7 attempts with Dr Raymond and Hunter IVF and sadly, not once, not once did they fall pregnant.
I ask Kristy how she coped. “I had no idea, at first, what to expect with IVF, but my fear of needles, was very short lived!! After all the blood tests, then having to inject hormones into myself, needles and I are now the best of friends!! I NEVER thought I would be able to inject myself and do what I did, but my eye was always on the prize of eventually having a positive test and having a baby. After I got over my needle issues, I felt like I could pretty much conquer anything! But nothing can prepare you for IVF at all.
“Not once did it ever cross my mind, (ok maybe once!!) that I was never going to be a mum. I just drew so much strength from within and made people aware of where we were up to. I had the full support of my immediate family and close friends. I also told my boss and he was more than accommodating with whatever I needed. Emotionally I just saw it as something I wanted so bad, that I/we were NEVER prepared for it not to happen. After each attempt we always had something positive planned for either celebration or commiseration, like a really nice dinner or a weekend away, shopping trips, long drunken nights out if needed!”
After their 7 failed attempts, they decided to change to Sydney IVF and Dr Shumack. Their first 2 IVF attempts sadly resulted in miscarriage. “But at least we were finally moving forward and getting results” says Kristy.
“I remember our first appointment with Dr Shumack once we had our first cycle and positive result. It was our 6 week scan and he couldn’t get a heartbeat. He escorted us out of his office through a secret exit, so we didn’t have to go back through the full waiting room of pregnant women. Then said he would look after everything and keep me posted. Within 2 hours his receptionist had organised a curette and off to hospital we went. AMAZING how quickly things happen and SO professional and sympathetic.
“After our second cycle a similar thing happened again, no heartbeat and then another curette organised within 24 hours. All the staff at Sydney IVF were very compassionate and explained EVERY little step of what was going to be happening.”
Their third attempt could not have had a more wonderful result. Kristy and Scott were finally parents to be and made the magic 12 week mark in April 2010!
Naturally Kristy had worries throughout her pregnancy. “I was secretly extremely anxious the whole pregnancy, and until I held my baby in my arms, that’s when I would know that we finally had our long awaited baby!
“I had a flu vaccination at 14 weeks which was recommended by my Obstetrician, and I had a massive reaction. I had a rash and hives all over my whole body and no one knew what was happening or could explain what my body was doing. Then all my joints just ceased up, I was flat on my back for 6 weeks. I could not move at all, just stuck in the one position. I had appointments with skin specialists, arthritis specialists; I was on first name basis with every specialist known to mankind, and still no answers. Scott thought I had some sort of cancer and would never recover. Every time I saw a new doctor, I was like I don’t care what happens to me but NOTHING I repeat NOTHING must happen to my baby. Once I finally recovered I had a dream pregnancy, no issues, and worked up until 10 days before my due date.”
And so on Saturday 16th October 2010, right on time on her due date, beautiful little Stella Rose was born. After a very long labour with little progress happening in the dilation department, Kristy on the recommendation of her Doctor had a caesarean.
“Finally I had my baby, a priceless moment, words can’t describe the feeling.”
After their 5 year journey, little baby Stella finally made them a family of three. So will another baby make 4?
“We are in the process of discussing wether we would do IVF again. We have 4 frozen eggs, which means the egg has been implanted with sperm and has grown for 3 days then snap frozen, so our eggs are that of the age when they were taken out of me, which was 34.
“At approximately $4,500 per egg transfer and NO guarantee of a sibling for Stella, and also the rebate has changed dramatically, so we are now out of pocket around $3,600 every transfer. If we had to do a whole new cycle to produce eggs it’s approximately $9,000 with out of pocket expenses about $7,500.
“Not that we have ever put a price on it, but at the end of the day all of this money could go to bettering Stella’s life. In the next breath it would be sad for Stella not to have a sibling. Stranger things have happened; we may even end up conceiving naturally. Currently we are not using any contraception, so just running with wherever the journey takes us at this point in time. But another IVF cycle is certainly not out of the question.”
And how did Kristy’s marriage fair through this journey? “It certainly made us appreciate each other a lot more and realise the sacrifices we were prepared to make to have a baby and made our relationship much stronger. It’s pretty much the hardest thing we’ve had to deal with, well at least this far anyway. Certainly I think it changed us for the better.”
Thank you Kristy for your openness and honesty, and for allowing me to interrogate you and tell your and Scott’s story. It takes a brave couple to commit to the up and down journey that IVF is. I guess those mummy instincts kick in long before your baby is born. And such a wonderful happy ending, beautiful baby Stella.