Rocky Road

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.

Yeah, right.

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.

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4 thoughts on “Rocky Road

  1. I say this in the most respectful way Shannon – this reads like a Dan Brown thriller. As I was reading it I could feel my eyes wanting to race ahead to the next sentence before my mind had time to properly process what I was taking in. The ‘$12 bottle of wine’ line was a true keeper. And what’s a personal narrative without a bee sting twist at the end?

    There must be thousands of potential readers who would find something to identify with in these Gold Class quality and detail-packed, heartfelt recounts.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eeshk… more please? I always, always wanted to be a mum, and it wasn’t easy. The early miscarriage was also part of our journey, although we then went on to have 3 children with no additional help… Then all three turned out to have special needs, and I have had so many moments of wanting to turn the clock back. Not because they are in any way a burden (they are, love them, but that is not the issue)… but because I have brought them into a world that will not easily accept them, and into a life which WILL be much harder than for most. And I hate that. I hate seeing them in pain. I hate being so exhausted all the time, still, 18 years later. Baby tired was fine… years and years of baby tired is taking its toll, and there is a quiet nagging voice that sometimes asks… maybe you should have heeded that first warning that was the miscarriage… (black thoughts come out there!!). All is fine, and I LOVE hearing your lovely stories. I also love that it stirs the black muck in my head a bit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Benedicte this hurts my heart. I completely understand the worry you must have for your babies, and the desperation you must feel regarding the baby tired that never, ever ends. I have a close friend with a very high needs child, and I see all too often the intense difficulty such a situation brings. Tremendous love too, of course, but undeniable adversity and struggle. I don’t know how you manage. And the worry about their place in the wider world and your motherly instinct to nurture and protect them speaks volumes to me. I can only imagine how this must feel. You are very entitled to have your black thoughts – it would be such a tough gig. I’m humbled that some of my words can ‘stir the black muck’ – I guess it’s nice to think that others out there struggle too and in some small way we can provide some solidarity for each other. Hang in there Mom, you are doing a wonderful job!

      Liked by 1 person

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