23-29 September 2019

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Infertility in New Zealand

Infertility in New Zealand

What is infertility? Who is affected? What help is available?

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Experiencing Infertility

Experiencing Infertility

Understanding the non-physical aspects of infertility

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Supporting those with infertility

Supporting those with infertility

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Arwen and Ryan's Story

Arwen and Ryan reflect on their challenging journey to baby Zuri.

I have wanted to be a mum for longer than I can remember. My mum says I have wanted to be mum since I was around 3 years old. But I didn't have much luck with relationships. I was 34 when I met my now husband. We had only been seeing each other for approximately six months and the day we first moved in together I was seeing my GP for something unrelated. However while there I asked what my chances were of getting pregnant as I had some concerns. I will never forget the moment that she told me based solely on my age, so a best case scenario, my chances were only around 15%. This was absolutely devastating, crushing and so heart breaking. I was a mess when I got home to Ryan and was also full of nerves about talking to him about this as this was such a new relationship and we have a big 11 year age gap between us (haha I’m a cougar!). We talked and I cried a whole lot. The short version of his response was "well we will just start trying now then, if it doesn't happen straightaway at least we have started, and if it does happen we will work it out, people manage if tougher situations than we are in."

So from that day we were 'trying'. 

It felt like my whole world changed. There were changes around my diet, lifestyle, choices, focus and who I was. We also just happened to be surrounded by people who were getting surprise pregnant all around us. At our wedding at the end of 2015, there were four pregnant people in attendance! That has to be some kind of unintended record. It was devastating for me, as we were still trying and having no luck. I was so happy for them but it was tough to see, and nearly impossible to share in their journeys.

Time kept ticking by and it kept getting harder. but we did our best to stay hopeful and to keep trying. We found out that we qualified for government funded IVF which is awesome but also meant that we had to wait nervously for our turn, and it meant that we had issues. It was great but awful at the same time. I was obviously not a spring chicken, and had a low egg count. Ryan had a low sperm count and it turned out that some of the were a funny shape too. So the cards were stacked against us. We were both taking lots of pills etc to try to help, we gave anything a go. I also began having lots of acupuncture which was also really hard and very painful at times, but I had to feel like I was giving us the best chance that I could. No take backsies in this situation.

It also turned out that I had blocked tubes and so had to have a really painful procedure to "flush" them out before we could start IVF.

After that we started IVF, or I started the daily stabbings as I called it. IVF is such a tough process to go through. Getting your head around giving yourself that first injection, all the waiting, the worrisome build up, all the ridiculous hormones making you go crazy. I remember feeling so grumpy and angry going through the process and knowing it was irrational but still having difficulty controlling it. I remember on one occasion trying to explain it to Ryan and the example I gave him was as we were driving home and there was plastic bag on the floor by my feet. It happened to be touching my feet and this was making me warm and angry. I know, just move the bag right, but this was a great example of how stupid and irrational the anger was. My husband thought it was crazy but began to understand a little about the state of my head.

Anyway we had eggs harvested, around 10 or 12 I think, which is also a pretty unpleasant experience. Half of them were no good, only four of them were able to be fertilized and then only one survived long enough to be put back into my oven. It didn’t work and we lost that one too. We were devastated. 

When you have a cycle that doesn’t work you have to attend a 'debrief' type of appointment. That was the last thing I wanted to do. Through tears I told them that I didn’t want to wait to start our second and final cycle. They suggested I wait to get into a better emotional state, but I knew that every day we waited our chances got smaller, so I told them I would start again as soon as my body allowed. Fortunately that was only about a month later. So we went through it all again. This time it was only 10 eggs harvested, and I was hopeful but at the same time realistic. This time only three could be fertilized, so my hope took another knock. Again only one egg was suitable to go back into my oven. So at this point we had lost 6 babies and the one going into my oven was our last hope. The wait was horrific. I wanted to be hopeful but was trying not to get my hopes up too. 

However, this time it worked!!!! We couldn’t believe it and were beyond excited. Our little egg was a fighter. I was quite sick through the whole pregnancy and I don’t think I relaxed the whole time. Getting through every single week felt like a milestone, and even when she was due to join us, I still felt like i could not take for granted that we were going to have a baby. Anything can happen, and sadly often does. I wish people would talk more about how common miscarriages are.

The Saturday before she was due she pretty much stopped moving. Our midwife ordered us to the hospital to get checked. We had a scan and she didn’t move the whole time. I was terrified and felt like every one of my poorly buried fears was about to come true. They decided to induce labour and told me I couldn’t go home. Another two induction tapes, and two foley balloons later I finally started having contractions on Tuesday afternoon. They went for hours and hours. Finally at 9.36am on Wednesday 18th October 2017 (her due date), I had to have an emergency C section. She had got stuck and was very swollen when she came out at 9 pounds 6. She was amazing.

We had a hell of a time getting feeding established and I ended up with post natal depression. I am slowly finding my way out of that. 

Even though Zuri is now just over 18 months old I don’t think I have taken a moment for granted. I hate the rare moments we are not together. Our journey has definitely had a big impact on our parenting style and decisions so far. I know I probably have more anxiety than some mums, partly because I still cant believe she is here. We have our little miracle.

This has been one hell of a journey. I can absolutely see how this stuff can end relationships, but with a lot of love and hard work we made it.

We know we are not likely to be able to have any other children which is incredibly sad but we are beyond grateful for the little miracle that we do have. It was tough but we were lucky and I would do it all again.