Our excitement at being pregnant for the first time in 2002 was short-lived.
Tragically, our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 8 weeks.
It was three days after the Bali bombing in 2002 that we lost our first little one. We were actually supposed to be in Bali with my ‘in-laws’, T’s parents, at the time, but the bombing the day before meant that all flights over there were cancelled. We ended up spending our break at a high-rise resort in downtown Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast instead.
The devastation was indescribable. I could talk about the myriad of feelings that grief on this scale brings, but I won’t. It’s too sad, and even now, this topic remains largely taboo. As commonly experienced as it is, it remains for the most part a very lonely, private journey. There’s nothing anyone can say, and many times when people try, they get it wrong.
‘It just wasn’t meant to be.’ Wrong.
‘Things happen for a reason.’ Wrong.
‘It’s Mother Nature’s way.’ Wrong.
Insert many other well-meaning clichés here. All wrong. There’s nothing at all anyone can say. Particularly when you are gay and embarking on a path many don’t agree with already. It felt like salt on open, gaping wounds.
We got back on the horse again as quickly as we could manage after piecing our broken selves back together. This time we opted for the more expensive, but also more successful IVF (in-vitro fertilisation). The prospect of month after month of failed artificial inseminations again was too much for us to face. This was what our specialist, Dr Keeping, was referring to, we realised, when he told us we would successfully have our child ‘as long as we could hang in there’.
The emotional toll was intense and inescapable.
If we thought the process during artificial insemination was intrusive and an ordeal before, it was nothing compared to IVF.
The aim of IVF is to grow as many ‘follicles’ or eggs as possible to an ideal size and maturity, and then to ‘harvest’ these from the ovaries under a light general anaesthetic. A scientist at QFG could then, for an extra fee, physically inject sperm into each egg for maximum fertilisation chances, in a process called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). We opted to pay for this additional option. Two days later we would come back for a fresh embryo transfer, provided we had some resulting embryos to use.
The tricky part was determining the right amount of follicle stimulation that my sub-optimal ovaries required: too little would result in insufficient eggs, too much would result in too many eggs that weren’t mature enough to continue to develop. The potentially life threatening condition Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) was a risk too if I was particularly unlucky.
We ended up with 23 eggs, eight of which fertilised to a degree suitable for embryo freezing for potential use later. These were all average quality apparently. Like red wine, embryos mature to differing degrees and qualities. Mine were, I imagine, around the $12 a bottle variety.
We decided to transfer the ‘best’ two embryos into my uterus, in the hope that one of these would fertilise. If both did, so be it. We figured we would be twice as thrilled.
The two week wait after the embryo transfer was a killer. A medicinal shot of brandy to calm the nerves from the clinic and we were sent on our way. The advice ‘Just try not to think about it’ was bestowed upon us as we left.
I can safely say those two weeks were the slowest two weeks of my life.
When I arrived home after the transfer, I didn’t notice that there was a bee perched on the iron handrail on the front stairs. As I grabbed the rail to start ascending the front stairs, it stung me. My entire hand swelled up like a baseball glove. That, as well as the agonising symptoms of Ovarian Hyperstimulation I was experiencing, kept me in bed drugged up on paracetamol and sleeping for the first few days.
In retrospect I guess the pain and discomfort I felt during these early days stopped me from dwelling too much on whether or not the procedure was working. Perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, ironic as that sounds.
Finally the time came to do a test. To our absolute joy, the IVF worked. One of the two frozen embryos took and we were pregnant.
We found out the day we moved into our new house in Forest Lake. This felt like a much-needed omen for us – the start of a fresh, new beginning. One with joy, happiness and the family we craved.
We couldn’t wait. We knew all the angst was going to be worth it.
We were so right.