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Friday, 20 January 2017

IVF

TTC after loss brings about a whole new range of emotions to deal with and when infertility is added on top of this, it can seem insurmountable and can be incredibly painful. The loss of our Ava Grace and the trauma I was still feeling almost 18 months later was very raw. Deciding to add to your family is a difficult decision because you know that no baby will ever be a replacement for the child that died but there is a gaping hole that you can feel desperate to fill. In our case IVF turned out to be the path we walked.

The path to IVF can be very daunting and it took quite some time before we took that step. It was definitely the right one though and was nowhere near as hard as I was expecting, I think because I was so used to Fertility Clinics procedures after undertaking 17 assisted conception cycles (also known as ovulation induction) I was pretty much swapping tablets for a few needles a day and of course adding in two day procedures (the first of which was not pleasant at all). I feel that these cycles helped prepare me for the IVF process.

We had changed to a much more affordable clinic for IVF as the thought of being financially ruined after every failed cycle as well as being emotionally messed with was not something we could get our heads around. I had a good friend recommend Westmead Fertility Centre and I am so glad she did, even though it meant a much further drive for treatment and appointments!

Dr Ashley Fong was very understanding and compassionate about our loss of Ava and went through our whole history which included endometriosis and adhesions which had included 3 surgeries, PCOS, AMH levels which seem to change every single time I have had that blood test done, a blocked tube due to an undiagnosed ectopic pregnancy as well as looking at my previous response to Fertility Medications, which years ago had worked well, though not when trying to conceive our Ava and longed for rainbow baby. 

I think for many women the thought of giving yourself needles can be one of the hardest parts of IVF.
I knew my husband would not be able to do them for me as he is needle phobic and goes pale just talking about them! So it was up to me! During my nurse appointment and subsequent day that needles began the nurse demonstrated to me and talked me through the process. I had decided to
schedule the needles in the morning so if I found that I really couldn't do them myself I could always go to the clinic to have a nurse do them for me. I can remember her telling me the Gonal F needle feels like a knife sliding into butter and when I did it I would have to agree! It really didn't hurt, although luveris was a much hardr needle to do and stung as well as the orgalutran. I just kept telling myself short term pain for long term gain and that I wouldn't be looking back and regretting it once I was holding our baby in my arms.

The day of egg pick up arrived and I was really sick with a heavy cold and was scared they wouldn't go ahead which would be a waste of a cycle and money down the drain. I also do not respond well to anaesthetic but the anaesthetist was amazing going over my previous reactions and what medications I had been given beforehand so she did everything she could to prevent this. My husband went off in one direction of the hospital to play his part and I went to my part of the hospital where I waited and chatted to other women waiting for their turn. I was quite surprised that all of the women there waiting looked relatively young, I know that IVF is often thought of being used for older women but it just demonstrated that infertility can affect anyone at any stage of their life, not matter how young or old or healthy or unhealthy they are!

I was taken in and met the doctor who would be doing my EPU and was put to sleep very quickly. When I woke up I was in recovery and in pain and out of it but awake enough to check my hand for how many little eggs they retrieved which was more than they had told us to expect. I was finding it difficult to breathe so had oxygen and fluids via an IV and more pain meds and was then moved to
the sitting waiting area, where not long after I fainted (for those that know me they won't be surprised). This happened within seconds of my husband arriving and me holding up my hand grinning while telling him about me little eggs). The nurses got me into a wheelchair and back to the bed where I proceeded to faint again. A little more oxygen and talk of keeping me in overnight and I came good after being violently sick ridding my body of the pain meds that I reacted to. One of the scientists came and saw us and explained that my eggs looked good and what the next stage in the process would be. I was really disappointed knowing we wouldn't be able to do a fresh transfer 5 days later due to one of my hormones rising too quickly but I understood this was also to make sure no viable embryos were lost because of it.




A phone call the following day told us how many embryos were created through the in vitro
fertilisation process which had all gone well so far. Our embryos were now going to be frozen.

My hormones are always all over the place so I had to do a medicated cycle for the Frozen Egg Transfer. I also had to wait almost two months which felt like years. Finally the time came for that cycle to start and I was taking medication that I had taken before for many times during ovulation induction cycles (letrozole). However for some unknown reason for the first time I had no response to  it, the cycle looked like it was going to be cancelled. After speaking to my FS it was decided I would start doing injections again to try and get my body responding how it should. So again I started jabbing myself and finally it worked after a very long cycle and an ultrasound where my ovary was not seen till the last minute and it was time to trigger (with another needle at midnight).

Transfer was the following week, it was a quick process and was quite amazing seeing our embryo on the screen. I was sad to hear that some of the embryos had died off in the first 2 days of the thawing process  but the one being transferred looked as good as they get and we were given an excellent chance of it sticking! Even with this information I was still very pessimistic and was talking to our FS  about how soon we could transfer again if this cycle failed. I think when you have had so much disappointment ad delays during  fertility treatment it is only natural to feel like this. The procedure was over before I knew it and we were back home again.

For those who know me, know I a man a serial tester when it comes to pregnancy tests. You are told the day that you are supposed to test with a home pregnancy test, however I cannot handle the suspense and would rather know early if I think worked or not. I had taken a trigger shot needle which is the HCG hormone so can give false positives. I tested that trigger out every day until it was gone, then after one full day of seeing no double lines, the next day was the faintest  line. I didn't really believe it so of course I did about 4 other tests  that same day with various brands of HPTD. This continued until the "official test day" where I already knew the answer! I was pregnant with our rainbow baby! This led to a mixture of feeling overjoyed and so grateful yet terrified at the same time as I knew very well that a positive pregnancy test unfortunately does not equal a live baby screaming in my arms 9 months later.

This journey didn't end here, but the IVF process seems so long ago. Now as I look back and reflect it was very difficult emotionally, as you feel like you have little control over anything (which for me is very difficult). People also have their own views on IVF and I had to ignore these and go ahead with what we felt was right for our family and in the end had such a peace about it.

A rainbow pregnancy (a term used in the babyloss community for a pregnancy after loss) is always going to be hard and full of emotions, however at the time I was completely unprepared of what was ahead in the coming weeks and months but nevertheless this is where our rainbows journey began and we are truly blessed and grateful to God for modern science and technology to help us complete our family.

A special thankyou to Dr Ashley Fong and the team at Westmead Fertility Clinic.



Monday, 9 January 2017

The grief of infertility on top of babyloss

Losing a baby can be soul destroying. Dealing and living with infertility on top of grief over the death of a very much wanted baby is something hard to describe. It is incredibly painful.

Bereaved parents don't set out to replace their baby that has died. They are well aware that no one could ever take the place of their loved one. However you are left with a burning hole that feels like it will never be filled and the truth is there will always be that hole, but perhaps that hole can be a little bit healed by the arrival of a sibling and not end on such a sad note. It was never the way it was supposed to be and I think our family will always be incomplete as Ava's absence is evident daily, but to bring some sort of completion to our family with the arrival of a healthy baby will hopefully bring some healing to all of us.

I have shared a bit on our infertility journey in previous posts, going through 17 rounds of assisted conception, 1 IVF cycle and 1 FET cycle over the past 9 years to complete our family. Without modern technology and medications it is highly likely that our family would consist of my husband and I and no children. I know to the outside world people probably assume we have had little problems forming our family where in actual fact we have had to fight for every single one of our children. The only naturally occuring pregnancy ended quickly with my first miscarriage in 2008 and that was just before starting fertility treatment. I also realise our journey has been much faster than many couples going through the maze of infertility and I am also blessed that I have always had very proactive doctors who were willing to treat me quickly with surgeries and medications and also try new treatments. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of the loss of a dream to form a family with children and it must come at a great loss to these families, so I do want to acknowledge the absolute blessings we have been blessed with when some families were desperate to just hold one baby.

We are never guaranteed anything in this life and many times I have wondered when do you say "enough is enough" and move on and sell all the baby things. I have been told by many people that maybe I should of taken losing Ava and then subsequent infertility as a sign that we shouldn't have anymore children - which is a very hurtful statement. If that were the case many, many families would never have children or make use of modern technology to assist in creating their families.

Was it worth going through all the tests, surgeries, pain, invasive ultrasounds and bloodtests where I now have blown veins from having blood taken so frequently over years that I now have permanent scarring on my arms? Was it worth the breakdowns just thinking about sticking needles into myself and swallowing pills that would turn me into a hormonal mess? Was it worth the disappointments that came month after month after month? Was it worth the money that felt like it was being tipped down a drain and being gambled month after month?

Yes. I had hope. I had more hope than fear that our family may be completed, maybe not the way that I had imagined, but I had HOPE.

Ella Georgia was worth it.
Oliver Noah was worth it.
Ava Grace was worth it.

This baby boy is already worth it.

                                                                WORTH EVERY TEAR
                                                               




It's been awhile since I have blogged...


It's been awhile since I have blogged and I have some news. Our family is expecting a little boy to join our family in May of this year. It has been a long, hard, and at times a completely torturous road but I know it will be worth it when I am holding our baby in my arms in a few months time!

 This was our announcement picture we used, of course I included Ava, how could I not? She is very much a part of our family.

20 week bump pic


I will be sharing some more of our journey of  our "Rainbow Baby Pregnancy" (a term commonly used and identified with in the babyloss comunity) in coming blog posts.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Ava Grace making an impact in our local community

Today a bit about our Ava was shared in our local paper, The Penrith Press. Tomorrow I will be sharing Ava Grace's story and legacy at Nepean Hospitals Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Service.
http://newslocal.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/iphone/homepage.aspx#_articleb53569b1-f5b4-4e6c-97d0-9669f9aa973b

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=674156152742303&id=456622537829000




Sharing about Ava, breaking the silence around miscarriage, stillbirth and infant loss are all things that come naturally to me now after living with this grief the past 19 months. However, it is also still incredibly painful. I hope I can keep it together tomorrow for both my talk and when my husband and  I share a song that is very meaningful to me.

I am grateful to all my family and friends who have and continue to support me and our family and also to the wonderful, generous volunteers who continue to help Ava leave her legacy through Ava Grace No Footprint Too Small.

#breakthesilence
#saytheirnames
#miscarriagestillbirthinfantlossgeneticinduction
#avagracehttp://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/newslocal/penrith-press/ceremony-to-remember-our-lost-babies/news-story/325cb0b494a0b6d92e8c0e6cce565aaa

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Infertility after loss

Infertility after loss - what sad, depressing words. Yet for many bereaved parents this is another painful part of their journey. 

Why can some people seem to fall pregnant in an instant? How do people manage to fall pregnant in consecutive years? What's with having 4 under 4? 3 "surprise" pregnancies! Why did my baby die after everything we went through to have them? These are all statements and questions that women share on the journey. 

I am fortunate that I have two healthy living children that I am eternally grateful to be able to hold in my arms and watch them grow. I also have three waiting for me in heaven, including Ava. 

I have been told the words "I'm sorry there is no heartbeat, your baby stopped growing weeks ago", I have been shattered hearing that my fertility has been reduced even further due to damage caused by an ectopic pregnancy. I have held my tiny baby Ava Grace in my arms and then had to let her go. 

I have also been on the path of infertility. 

Infertility - It's another word alongside miscarriage/stillbirth/early induction that can at times provoke an uncomfortable silence but more often that not, well meaning but utterly devasting comments that hurt to the core.

Just relax 
My husbands brothers cousins friend had to do IVF and they had triplets!
Go on a holiday, that worked for me!
You obviously aren't meant to have more children 
Why would you want another, you already have a pigeon pair (well they forget about Ava) 
More kids cost more, think yourself lucky 
Quit while your ahead 
Don't roll the dice 
You might end up with another baby who has something wrong 
What if you miscarry again
You know another baby won't replace her
Do you wish you didn't use a favourite name for her and saved it for another?
The older you get the more risks there are that your baby will have something wrong with it 
The age gap will be way too big
Are you the only one in your family that has issues falling pregnant?
Doesn't your twin sister have 3 healthy children?
You'll have a spoilt child since you will have two kids at school and another at home 
I didn't think you would want another after losing babies
I wouldn't try again if it happened to me 
Can the medications your on (for infertility) cause your baby to have birth defects? Was the medication you took to fall with Ava the reason for her birth defects?

The list goes on and on and these are just some of the things people have said to me.

Some of it is well meaning and I know they say it because they don't know what to say but I can tell you now telling someone to relax and then it will happen is a ridiculous thing to say to someone who has both physical and hormonal reasons for infertility. 

I have only ever had one natural conception where no intervention was needed and that was more than 8 years ago, so I think it's quite reasonable to assume that 8 years later that a naturally occurring pregnancy would have to be in the miracle category! 

I have completed 17 rounds of ovulation induction which is a type of assisted conception using medication. I have done 1 full IVF cycle and 1 frozen embryo transfer. I have swallowed pills,  I have given myself countless needles - at one point 3 a day, I have hundreds of blood tests to the point of now having blown veins and scars which are visible on my arms. I have endured multiple surgeries and invasive tests. I know way to much gynaecological and fertility language that only doctors and nurses should know. I understand hormone levels and what it all means. I know the disappointment of cancelled cycle after cancelled cycle and just wanting to have a chance! 

I am incredibly grateful to modern medicine and living in a country where I have access to safe and affordable treatments. A few generations ago my story would have been very different. These days specialists can do wonderful things to manipulate hormones and bypass physical issues that may be working against you. 

Infertility in itself is a lonely, soul destroying, joy crushing journey. Infertility after loss just adds another layer to your grief. I have come across way too many women who have conceived their miracle after years and years of infertility only to lose their baby in an instant. Every month that you aren't pregnant after loss just reminds you of what you have lost and who isn't here with you now. You live trying to reconcile with yourself just how much you wanted the baby who isn't here with you now, but also how desperate you are to be pregnant again and growing a life inside of you. You are fully aware that another baby is not at all a replacement. You just don't want your story to end the way that is has. Trying to conceive after loss is incredibly scary. You have to leave yourself open to possibly exposing yourself to incredible pain once again. You have to push the fear to the side to make way for a tiny speck of hope. You have to believe that through the pain and tears that it will be worth it because that's the only thing that picks you up to try again the next month. 

After all, 
Ella was worth it.
Oliver was worth it.
Ava was worth it. 

Hopefully this journey we have walked the last few years will end with holding a living baby that gets to come home and use their siblings things that have been packed away for some time now. I hope my kids get to greet a sibling that will let out a cry, not one that is silent. There are sadly many families who are parents to children they can't hold. There are also many families who go through the loss of fertility and the dream of having the family they dreamed about. 

This is just part of my story, it's not the start and it's not yet the end...



Friday, 12 August 2016

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day advertisement

For all bereaved families in the local and wider community, you are invited to the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day ceremony held at Nepean Hospital on the 14th October 2016. If you are not in the Penrith area, many hospitals and support services also hold their own Remembrance Day services. I feel honoured to have been asked to speak and share about Ava and her legacy at this years event.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Seeds for Siblings

A couple of weeks ago I came across an article on social media about a small organisation helping bereaved siblings. 

I was really instantly interested as it is not often to hear about support for siblings who have lost a brother or sister. 


"Seeds for Siblings provides children who have experienced the loss of a sibling during pregnancy or the days after birth with handmade fabric bags containing Sunflower Seeds. These seeds can then be planted in memory of their brother or sister." - seeds for siblings 


I love the little rock that came with the sunflower seeds. It will sit perfectly in our garden. Ava's name is handpainted on one side and a sunflower on the other side. 



Our kids were excited to receive these and can't wait to plant and watch their sunflowers grow. What a sweet connection this will be to their little sister. 
Thankyou Jamilla in what you have started to help beareaved families. You truly acknowledge the loss that these children feel. 


www.seedsforsiblings.com