6-12 September 2021

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Jody's story

I always knew I wanted to be a Mum.  To me that meant being married by the age of 25 to a wonderful man and having three children together.  I had always joked though that if I was still single at the age of 25, I would make an appointment with the sperm bank.  Time went by, I had a few relationships, but the men I dated never wanted to have children. I had been to university and had a promising career as a medical laboratory scientist.  But I was prepared to give that all up if I could just be a mum

At about age 36 I approached a fertility clinic, the closest clinic was five hours away.  This time I was more than ready.  I had to go on a waiting list to get donor sperm.  I was on that waiting list for about 18 months.  They called me to say they had some profiles for me and I would have to come in that week or else go back on the waiting list.  I had to swap around some shifts, and had to ask for some very last-minute leave, from my boss who was usually not very accommodating.  But I think he saw how important it was to me.  I hadn’t told anyone apart from my mum what I was doing though.  I chose the first profile I saw.  He had come from the same city and country as my great grandmother, and I just loved his selfless reasons for donating.  Later when I received the full profile from FA, I reread it and realised he was the male version of me.

At age 37 I had my first treatment, IUI.  I had a funny feeling I was pregnant a few days later.  I did a test and thought I saw a very faint second line, so faint I decided I had imagined it, even though I used to do the tests in my job.  Sure, enough I was pregnant, but with a very low level of HCG hormone, they said I probably had an ectopic.  I went into a deep denial, took it day by day and just enjoyed being pregnant. They monitored my level until finally at 7.5 weeks it was high enough to be able to see something on the ultrasound.  Sure enough, it was ectopic, the pregnancy was in my Fallopian tube, and I would die from internal bleeding if it continued.  Sadly, I had to take medication to end my pregnancy and my hopes and dreams.  I named my baby Poppy as I remembered reading, she was the size of a poppy seed at one point.  This was less than two weeks before my 39th birthday.  I spent that birthday alone and miserable.  I felt forced to keep my pain inside.

I kept on going.  Two more attempts at IUI resulted in nothing.  I went to a gynaecologist, he said my tubes were blocked and I had hydrosalpinx in one, meaning it was fluid filled and likely really damaged.  He said he couldn’t do anything more for me, my only option was IVF, and at my age (39) I was unlikely to be able to get pregnant anyway.  I went into surgery six months later to remove my tubes.  I’d been taking a natural remedy for blocked tubes called serrapeptase all that time.  I came out of surgery to the news my tubes were still in, they looked good, and there was no sign of the hydrosalpinx.  So that was good news.  I decided to proceed to IVF anyway as I felt time was not on my side.  Sometime around then I changed IVF doctors, purely because of the doctor’s availability, as she only worked on Wednesdays. My new doctor I could see on a Friday and only 4 hours’ drive as they had a visiting clinic in Tauranga every fortnight.  I remember one of the early visits with my new Doctor’s nurse, and she is a lovely bubbly person and she said, “we’re going to get you a baby”.  I just felt so good about that.  I don’t give up easily and it was good to know I had her support.

First IVF round was a dismal failure.  I had seven eggs, three mature and fertilised by ICSI, I thought great.  It ended up being freeze all as my progesterone was too high, meaning my uterus wasn’t in the receptive phase.  I had a phone review; it was then I found out (devastatingly) that I only had one embryo in the freezer.  It took eight months on and off various medications to get that embryo put back.  Progesterone too high, trying to ovulate on downregulation drugs, lining too thin.  Then finally the embryo was put back in (for me) a long and painful procedure. I kept my hopes up though. I was very disappointed to find out at the end of it that I was not pregnant.

Back to square one.  Re-mortgaged the house.  Found I could just afford another round.  There is basically no government funding for anyone who doesn’t fit the 1960s mould of a family, i.e., a heterosexual couple.  To obtain funding for IVF as a single woman or same sex couple, you must self-fund 12 rounds of IUI and still be under 40 at the completion of that.  I started another round of IVF. I got to my final scan, after about six weeks of injections (long protocol), and they saw only three follicles.  Like Goldilocks, one was too small, one was too big, and one was maybe just right, but borderline too big.  Cycle was cancelled and unfortunately my hormone levels were too high to convert to an IUI.  Devastated, with ovaries the size of melons and the rest of the week off work, I went away to lick my wounds.  Fortunately, we had a great family holiday in Brisbane (to visit my youngest brother), with my mum, siblings, nieces.  I was told to call with my day 1, but it took an agonising 69 days to come, and only after I went to my acupuncturist and asked her to please help.  It came within an hour of that treatment. 

Time to start the next round.  I was now 42. I had received a partial refund enough though that I could use my credit card to make up the balance, big mistake.  I had to re-mortgage my house for a second time later down the track.  Round 2.1 went seamlessly.  Five eggs, and two fertilised.  I awaited the day 5 call from the embryologist with dread mixed with hope.  I got the call on my while stopped at a petrol station in the middle of nowhere on my way back home from Hamilton.  Both embryos had made it to the freezer!  It was unprecedented to have 100% of zygotes (fertilised eggs) survive to blastocyst stage, or at least very rare.  Finally, something was going my way.  I had an heir and a spare.

We decided to go with The Colorado Protocol for my next two embryo replacements. As I’d had the previous issues with embryo replacement, high progesterone, etc. I would also be getting a Zoladex implant to put me into an artificial (and temporary) state of menopause.  Transfer day came.  As always, I had before and after acupuncture sessions, and started a new tradition of Indian takeaways for lunch afterwards, as my acupuncturist had said no cold foods.  I also drank a lot of bone broth and did the old pineapple trick.  I had lots of promising symptoms early on, I waited until 7dp5dt to do a test at home as from my work I knew that was most likely to give me a reliable result.  I went back to bed, thinking surely, I wasn’t pregnant, all the symptoms were in my head.  I was thrilled to finally see those two lines.  I was so excited I confided in my workmate, as she knew I was doing IVF.  My first blood test was over 100, fantastic.  I had a second blood test and the HCG level had dropped to the 20s.  I miscarried a week later at 5.5 weeks. 

I decided to take some time off from trying, around six months I thought, as I was so broken, emotionally, and physically.  After that I had a lot of things go wrong in my life, I hit rock bottom shortly after.  I went and got some counselling free through my GP after my boss suggested it to me.  I went for my next transfer (last embryo) a while later.  That night, I had a sudden thought jump into my head that I was pregnant.  I’ve always been very intuitive about this sort of thing, often knowing when others are pregnant even sometimes before they realise, and almost always knowing the gender of unborn babies of people around me.  More promising symptoms to follow.  I got to day 7, the day I gave myself permission to test.  This time I couldn’t go back to bed.  I just waited, and the two lines came up within seconds. Wow!  Pregnant again.  I had so much hope, but to have that realised was just unreal.  Blood test day, again I drove out of town as I had taken two weeks off including transfer week.  This time my result was 210.  I didn’t want to tell anyone.  Finally at six weeks, all going well, I confided in my workmate.  The next day, I began to get very sick, later diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  I booked an eight-week scan. Because of being so sick I hadn’t been able to keep down enough water, so was sent to the waiting room to drink some more.  I finally got to see a beautiful little blob and a beautiful little heartbeat.

At 39w4d I got out of bed and my waters broke.  I had planned a natural water birth. I had to be induced after labour didn’t start properly, and two days later I ended up having an epidural.  At the end of that day, after no more progress had been made, I reluctantly agreed to a caesarean.  In a plot twist, the very same obstetrician who had told me 5 years earlier that I was unlikely to get pregnant was the guy who was going to be delivering my baby. Haha I win!  I nearly fell asleep as they wheeled me into theatre, I was so exhausted.  I had chosen not to find out the gender, I was convinced it was a girl.  I was so surprised when they held my son Luca up to show me.  They put him down beside me, and I said “hello, I’m your mum” and he just looked straight into my eyes, and he knew exactly who I was, it felt real at last.  Less than five hours later we went into level 4 Covid lockdown. I can honestly say that deciding to become a mum, and then never wavering from that decision was the best thing I have ever done.  It took me 7 years, but it was worth every second.  We have a wonderful full life nowadays.  Luca is 1 year old and the light of my life, which is ironic because Luca means bringer of light, and I didn’t know this when I named him.  He is so full of joy; I think it’s testament to the joy I felt when I got pregnant with him and then held him for the first time.  Thank you to all involved.