Hannah and Manu's story
In 2018, my husband and I shared our story for the first time. At that time, we had just received our letter advising we were nearing the top of the public funding waiting list and had no idea what was coming our way.
For a bit of background, my husband and I were married in 2015. After a few months of marriage, we decided to just "see what happens" and not plan, but "plan" to try and get pregnant. We both came from big families so assumed that it wouldn't be long until we started our own. This couldn't be further from the truth.
After a year of trying and no luck, we sought help from our local GP. Following that appointment, we were referred to see a specialist and subsequently qualified for public funding for fertility treatment. We were told that we would be on that list for 12-18 months until our treatment would start. True to their word, right on 18 months was when we first started treatment.
After our first round, we got 19 eggs at egg collection, 12 fertilised initially but only 5 made it to freezing. This meant we had 5 chances to get our miracle baby. After the first 3 not sticking, we were losing hope, but still persevered. To us, we would continue until we couldn't anymore.
On our 4th try, we were lucky enough to get that first positive test. At this point, we were 4 years into our TTC journey, and 18 months into our IVF journey. We were so happy. We shared the news with our family and close friends and just couldn't believe our turn had finally come. Little did we know, that happiness was short lived. At 5 weeks and 3 days, we lost our baby.
After our miscarriage, I didn't feel ready to try again. In all honesty, I didn't know if I would ever feel ready to try again. But, after a year of healing, we finally felt ready to give it another go with our fifth and final embryo. In March of this year, we transferred our final embryo. To our delight, it stuck.
Now I would like to say that at this time we were full of so much joy and excitement and hope, but I had no idea how much the miscarriage from 2019 really affected me. The whole time I was pregnant, I was anxious, doubtful and did not connect at all to the fact I was pregnant, because I didn't believe it would work. This was how I felt the whole time. At 8 weeks, we went in for our scan, and saw our baby for the first time. We saw the heartbeat and then the words, "I'm sorry, but the heartbeat is very slow and you're measuring 2 weeks behind. It is not likely this pregnancy is viable" came out. My world stopped. I had just seen a heartbeat, seen a little baby, and now it was all going to end? There had to be some mistake.
Sadly, they were correct. At a follow up scan a few days later, no heartbeat was detected. Sometime over Mothers day weekend, our little miracle had died. Heartbroken did not even begin to describe what we felt.
The following two weeks were the worst weeks of our IVF journey to date. It took 2 weeks for our baby to pass my body. 2 weeks of pain, physically, emotionally and mentally. Hospital visits, stays and medicine. And a further week of pain following retained tissue and a subsequent infection. Then came the surgery. At that time, 3 weeks had passed and still I was suffering from the effects of our miscarriage. Finally, at what would have been 15 weeks, most symptoms have finished and I'm almost "back to normal".
So now you're caught up. But that's not the end.
Over our 4 years of IVF life, we have had a lot thrown at us. The challenges and decisions along the way have hurt us, but also taught us a lot about ourselves and each other. One of the biggest challenges over our time, has been the amount of babies being born around us. Our younger siblings having multiple children in the time we are trying to have one, friends who have been together less time than us and trying less than us, getting pregnant full term. To constantly be surrounded by babies, pregnancy and families while you're being met with disappointment after disappointment, heartache after heartache and failure after failure, does something to your soul that changes you. Me personally, from the female perspective, I became bitter, jealous, angry and hurt. I stopped interacting with people, distanced myself from these people, stayed away from social media. I turned into someone I didn't even know I could be. All because everyone else had what I so desperately wanted. Everyone else had it so easy, and then there was me. I can't say that I've dealt with this challenge. At least not fully. My "dealing" is to distance myself from the "trigger" until I feel ready to change that. Unfortunately, in this journey, no way, is the right way to deal. It's what is right for you.
Decisions we have had to face over our journey, is whether or not to continue. With each loss, a part of us changes. I feel like a small part dies with the loss that we have. After this last loss, my husband, for the first time since we started this journey, said "I don't think I can do this anymore. I can't watch you suffer. I can't sit by, watching you take pill after pill, needle after needle, visit hospitals, be in pain, and then all to have your baby taken away, I don't think I can do it anymore". We have never let anything stop us from trying, no matter how hard it's been. And while we both wish we didn't have to have a journey this hard, we won't ever stop until we don't have any other choice. Another decision we consistently make, is to stay together. Yes it's true, we could just "break up" and try to have children with someone else, but we don't want that. I would rather have no child with my husband, then have one without him. Call it what you want, but I choose him first. Everything I endure, is because I have him. This journey can destroy relationships, marriages-but it won't destroy ours.
Being Maori and Pasifika, our cultures find it hard to talk about anything regarding sex, body health and things that are deemed "uncomfortable" or taboo. Since the start of our journey, we made a conscious choice, to change that, for ourselves. We have been open, vocal and unashamed of our journey to our family. We share our journey on social media, we document our journey on YouTube. We are going against everything our cultures know, to show couples like us, that it's okay to talk about it. That it's not something that is embarrassing. We show everything, so that others know that they aren't alone. So they can look at us, two "brown, Polynesian and Maori people", and see themselves. We want to start conversations. We want to change the "norm". And in our now 5 years on TTC, 4 years of IVF, we are seeing the changes being made.
To be in the IVF journey, means every area of life is impacted. I mentioned earlier about relationships, but it also affects your work and social life too. For me, so many sick days and annual leave days were used to combat the effects of IVF and recover. Late starts, early finishes, short days.. so much scheduling to fit in scans, blood tests, phone calls, medication-it's a full-time job alone going through IVF. It also affects your social life too. Planning get togethers around taking pills, making sure you're feeling okay not only physically but mentally as well. It really makes its way into every part of life.
IVF has changed me, it has changed my husband and it has changed our relationship. Our views on life have changed, our priorities, our goals-everything we do and are, had been shaped by the experiences we've had while undergoing IVF. While I wish this wasn't our path, we would not be as strong as we are as a couple, without it.
After 5 cycles of IVF, we are still where we started at the beginning, just the two of us. But we have so much knowledge behind us, so many stories to tell and so much more to gain.
We are in the process of getting started on round two. While we don't know what the next round will bring, we do know, that as long as we go through it together, we will make it out the other side. Our greatest desire in life is to be parents-no matter what, we will do everything we can to get there. It may take another 5 years, or may even be in the next few months, but either way, we'll get there. Until then, we will continue living our life the best way we can and enjoying being the number one aunty and uncle in our nieces and nephews lives.