6-12 September 2021
Infertility, a topic that is now starting to see some light as woman find the courage to share their fertility stories, some have a happy ending, some are still trying and others are at the end of their trying to conceive journey.
I don’t use the word journey lightly, as for some, it truly is a long dark road, a windy path with what feels like boulders blocking the way for you to become a mother.
I am going to share with you my fertility journey, the highs, and the lows. I hope that another one in four might read it and not feel so alone and to educate the friends and family of those trying to conceive.
A bit of background before we dive deep into the world of infertility.
It all starts with that first period, my oh my, I am not sure any 13-year-old is really ready for all the changes, right? For some, it is not just the inconvenience of bleeding each month. It is the headaches, body changes, it is the absolute crippling pain that can come along with it. For me it was also time off school, in bed with a hot water bottle, in tears and sometimes a visit to the A&E ward as Panadol was simply not going to cut it. Every month I wished I was the girl whose period came and went each cycle and life carried on somewhat normal. But this was not my path.
This went on for some many months, trips to the GP for over a year before I was finally referred to see a Gynecologist. They suspected it was endometriosis as that matched all my symptoms, I was booked in for a Laparoscopy procedure. For those who don’t know what that is, it is where several incisions are made, your stomach is filled with gas and the surgeon can view the uterus and ovaries for signs of scarring etc, while they are inside they can also remove or burn off any scarring or cysts that need to go!
Diagnoses, no endometriosis. Solution, double dose of Depo-Provera contraceptive to stop my periods all together. You know because if you stop the periods, you stop the pain, problem solved! Well, it did solve the pain problem but 5 or so years later, more age and knowledge within me that I wanted less chemicals in my body and that one day I would like to start a family, I decided to stop the Depo-Provera medication to encourage my cycle to return, only it didn’t.
After over 12 months of not having a period, my GP referred me back to see the Gynecologist. I am given a script for medication to bring back my period, that didn’t work either. I am now in my early 20’s, in a relationship, own a house and starting to get that clucky feeling and have my heart set on getting that family started, like yesterday!
My period eventually came back but not regular, it came on a when it wanted basis, which is really not helpful when trying to conceive. Back to the Gynecologist for some monitored cycles, here they basically blood test you every other day for the week that you should be ovulating but when this didn’t eventuate into pregnancy, I was referred to see Fertility Associates.
We seen an amazing fertility specialist, Peter Benny, he was supportive, compassionate and knowledgeable. We qualified for Public Funding for IVF, the waiting list is over a yearlong so we were given some tips and offered monitored cycles with medication for a few months while we waited it out.
These monitored cycles were injections around the time of ovulation and blood tests to monitor what was happening in my body.
While this was happening we also had tests carried out, to check on egg supply, hormones and all things blood! Good news, I have loads of eggs, bad news, no reason why. With no success from the monitored cycles we gave trying to conceive a break until we were called up for our IVF.
I was relieved to have a break from all the blood tests, I had become a human pin cushion and my veins welcomed the reprieve.
A few months later I was feeling unwell, thinking I was coming down with a cold, my mum came over to check on me, with a pregnancy test in hand! I was in denial, how could I be pregnant? I humored her and peed on the bloody stick! POSITIVE, wow, my heart filled with joy and love instantly, I was excited and couldn’t believe it, I went to my GP and we worked out I was around 6 weeks pregnant. Finally, my dreams were coming true.
Over the next few weeks, my tummy changed, I hated bacon and bananas and felt ill more often than not! Great signs that all was going well. Due to my struggles to conceive the GP requested an early ultrasound to make sure everything was going well. I was so excited, heading into the ultrasound room doors like “yep, I’m pregnant!” but that soon turned to heartbreak when my little soul’s heart had stopped beating and I was having what is referred to as a “missed, miscarriage” where my body was still producing the hormones to support the pregnancy but the wee one had slipped away. I was absolutely heartbroken, I held in all my emotions in the room, to be fair I was in shock and then I headed to my car to let it all out in a somewhat private space.
To make matters worse, this happened right before Christmas so I was asked to wait a few days to see if I was going to miscarry naturally or if I needed a minor surgery (DNC) to remove my lining and pregnacy sac. Nothing happened so the days between Christmas and New Years I had the operation to help, the days that followed were, well they were gross I am not going to sugar coat it, it was full of blood and clots and gory bits that you can’t believe came from within you. I spent hours upon hours in the shower or in bed with a hot water bottle. Life felt dark and sad.
Then came my first taste of the “helpful comments” from well meaning family and friends.
You are still so young, it will happen
My friend’s sister had the same thing, they just stopped trying and fell pregnant
Just relax, it will happen
NOTE TO ALL WELL MEANING PEOPLE, rather than saying any of the above, here are some alternatives
I am sorry you are going through this
It is really shit what has happened
Can I bring over some treats and we can watch a chick flick together
These are all much more appreciated comments. Trust me.
I make it through the other side, I have had a couple of months to heal my body and then another POSITIVE, yep that’s right, all natural and we are back on the baby train for 7 weeks this time, until I miscarry once again. So the roller coaster continues, we had told less people this time so it was easier to process, in our smaller bubble of family who knew, it didn’t hurt any less though.
I went back to my GP, unfortunately in New Zealand you need to have had 3 miscarriages for any investigation into WHY it happens.
A few months later I had my third miscarriage at 10 weeks. I was devastated of course and it was starting to feel like there was something wrong with me, my body was designed to have babies so why was mine not doing what it should ?!?!
It was beyond the GP so the answers I needed would come from the specialists at Fertility Associates. Before we entered into IVF I had more tests done, more hormone tests at different stages of my cycle, DNA tests, DNA compatibility tests, uterus lining tests and there are probably many others that after this long I have forgotten about! Still NO ANSWERS.
It wasn’t long after this that we get the green light for our first round of IVF, it was an exciting time at the start, to think that it would be easier to conceive and then carry this future baby……my oh my how wrong was I.
Daily injections to boost egg follicles
Then came the actual egg collection, to be fair this was fairly painless as I was so drugged up and had a wonderful team taking care of me with a quick recovery.
Good news, 5 embryos made it out of 20 odd eggs, in IVF terms they were great numbers, so we were happy. It meant that we would have one fresh embryo transferred into my uterus and the other 4 would be frozen for future use. It seemed so surreal, freezing the embryos, they were like small dishes of golden dust.
I am now carrying around this little soul, praying that it implants into the thick lining I have created especially for this moment, and I will tell you it didn’t come easy, one word…. vaginal suppositories, okay that’s two words but I needed it to be clear where they were going! I would tell myself, if this is all I must do to get a baby then this is nothing!
TWW = two week wait. NEGITIVE. It was such a letdown emotionally and also physically on my body, but we stayed positive that we had 4 more embryos so all is not lost.
Embryo #2. Negative
Embryo #3. Negative
Embryo #4. Negative
Embryo #5. Negative
It is fair to say, I was not expecting this.
More well-intentioned comments followed
You could just adopt or foster
I bet now that this IVF hasn’t worked that you will fall pregnant
Just keep practicing
Oh please, people. Please refer to my above more helpful comments section.
So we wait again, until we are called up for our second and final public funded round of IVF. Still practicing as they say in the mean time!
I want to touch on the subject of baby showers, at times it is so very hard to attend these when you have not only longed for a baby but miscarried too. It is not that we are unhappy for your amazing soon to arrive bundle or for you either, but it is hard. Please remember, we love our friends dearly but also know that we are fighting a battle more than likely behind closed doors that you may know little to nothing about, if we decline, please accept with love and compassion.
Okay, back to the journey.
IVF egg collection- Take Two!
As I have already mentioned, this process isn’t a simple walk in and walk out pregnant like in the movies, but we were ready to take it all on again, in the hopes it would help start our family.
The egg collection went as planned, great numbers and amazing quality of eggs collected (I may not be able to get the little buggers to stick BUT I have been told I produced fabulous eggs! You need to hold on to the good shit, no matter how small).
The day after the egg collection I wasn’t feeling well, I was at work and a co-worker said I should go home via a doctor, sooner rather than later. So I made an appointment to head back to the fertility clinic (we lived in Christchurch at the time, thank goodness!) and by the time I got there I had put on about 7-8kgs of fluid, it all happened fast and I was having intense pains in my stomach, the nurse did an ultrasound and I was told I had OHSS, Ovarian Hyperactive Stimulation Syndrome, a disorder affecting some women undergoing hormonal fertility treatment, initially characterized by enlargement of the ovaries with abdominal bloating and pain, sometimes progressing to serious circulatory, respiratory, and renal complications. This was simply too much for my body to process.
I was transferred to Christchurch Women’s Hospital.
When I first arrived, I was struggling to breathe as the fluids were coming up to my lungs, this was my first and unfortunate introduction to morphine directly down my throat as there was no time for the IV line to be put in my arm, all I can remember is sobbing and trying to breathe colapsed on the hospital floor. My liver was also struggling to keep up with processing all the added toxins in my body. I spent a week, literally weighing everything that went into my body and everything that came out!
I had kind nurses and doctors take care of me during this time and then another week at home with my mum, who came down to look after me.
Because of this, there would be no fresh embryo transfer and all 6, yes 6 embryos were frozen, until my body had taken some time to heal.
What a roller coaster ride, thoughts like
What is wrong with me!?
Were all common and taking over my mind. Still no answers, I had Unexplained Infertility, GIVE ME A BREAK ALREADY!!!
I have now been trying to conceive for around 5 years. I have had 3 natural conceptions that all ended in miscarriage and 5 failed IVF transfers.
It felt as though this was defining me now, I was infertile! It was hard on a marriage, hard on friendships and hard to keep focused at work. I was lost down the trying to conceive rabbit hole, it was all I ever wanted, to be a mum, that was my purpose in life, who was I, if not a mother?
I tried many natural therapies, which all helped me as a human being but unfortunately not to conceive. I found my love for Reflexology on my journey and still get treatments as often as I can to help ease menstrual and mind pains. Meditation and Essential Oils have also been big healers for me, emotionally and physically.
More well-meaning comments flow in
You should try acupuncture
My friend used this herbal tea and fell pregnant
Maybe you should stop trying for awhile
Trust me, if you know someone who is going through IVF treatment or any fertility delays it is more than likely they have joined an online support group who has already given them 100’s of things to try, they may have tried them already too. It is okay to simply acknowledge that what we are going through must be tough and not offer advice, however well-intentioned it maybe.
Okay, back to the baby train….
It was time to try transfer one of those healthy frozen embryos from the pervious egg collection, back to the daily vaginal suppositories, YAY!! Love this shit!! Said NO woman ever! But it will all be worth it, right?
And I get a big fat…. POSITIVE, we are back on the baby train and so excited yet this time feeling so cautious, trying not to get my hopes up, pushing back thinking about what he or she might look like, baby names, how the nursery will be laid out, how we can tell our family and friends our wonderful news.
The blood results are in, and my hormone levels are rising, I am supporting this baby and he or she is growing! Naturally the guard (solid block wall, lets be honest) surrounding my heart starts to fall and I welcome all the feelings of this wee soul within me.
Just shy of 12 weeks and more devastation, I start to bleed, and an ultrasound confirms no heartbeat, we wait a week for more blood tests and another ultrasound just to be sure, still no heartbeat and my hormone levels have dropped to near nothing. I am miscarrying, again, because I am further along this time the bleeding and clots are very intense, cramps and emotions all raging inside me. Feeling alone and not wanting to reach out only to be told its “nature’s way”, as when you are in this moment nature isn’t fair and your mind certainly isn’t rational.
I grieved this wee soul, more so than all the previous babes. It hurt. it was hard not to acknowledge what I had gone through with others, especially those close to me. One thing during this journey I have noticed is that infertility conversations can make some people very uncomfortable so often I would not talk about what I had been through or share what I was going through with others.
I soon became the one feeling awkward when conversations with friends and others would turn to pregnancy and infants, their struggles and joyous moments, tips and tricks shared amongst mothers, only I was not able to contribute so I soon withdrew myself from these circles, to protect myself.
My marriage ended after all of this together, 3 natural conceptions that all ended in miscarriage, 5 failed IVF transfers and 1 IVF baby that ended in miscarriage.
I knew my journey to be a mum was on pause for now, I tried to bury the feeling deep within myself. I had many other events happening in my life, that for the next few years it was okay that I wasn’t a mum, I was only in my early 30’s so no rush, right?
I try to embrace my womanhood more, I had fallen out of love with myself so bringing back self-care and love has been so important in healing myself, both mentally and physically.
Let me share Fertility Journey 2.0 with you.
I am still dealing with painful periods and now I also have cysts making camp on my ovaries, oh how great! If you have had an ovarian cyst, you know what I am talking about! They can cause serious discomfort, sometimes they come and go, other times they stay and grow!
I have had one cyst surgically removed as it was getting larger and it had started to bleed into itself, which is not ideal and I did not want to play host to it turning into something more sinister.
I have also experienced cysts burst, which is the most painful experience! I cannot give you a scale of the pain, maybe 100 out of 10! There is nothing anyone can do once they have burst other than extra pain relief, monitoring and time!
Positive news, I have met someone, we have been seeing each other a couple of years now so fair to say it is getting serious. The catch is, he already has two young children so there was apart of me that thought he may not want more! and you know when you have those future talks, feels awkward but then you realize you both want the same thing, it is like a light has shined on your soul and you know you are walking the right and true path.
Because of my history I was not on any kind of birth control, I had tried to take them awhile back but just like when I was in my teens the contraceptive pills just did not agree with me, I would feel nauseous and sometimes vomit within minutes of taking them, so I stopped. I felt if I fell pregnant it would be by some kind of miracle anyway! A couple more years passed and nothing, not that I was surprised but now time was feeling like it was running out, all my friends were having babies, starting their wee families and it was crushing to not have that myself.
Note to the well meaners out there, Reminding people of the difficulties of childrearing will help them feel better is a complete MYTH and is really not helpful. We know there will be sleepless nights, we will at some point get peed and pooped on but we want it all anyway!We love you truly – maybe not your advice so much X
I recall one heavy period that was full of blood clotting, looking back on it now I would say I was actually miscarrying again, it was just that I was in denial to be honest. I feel like if a pregnancy wasn’t confirmed I wouldn’t need to bear the pain that was associated with loosing another babe, so I ignored it and tried to care for myself even more.
I knew what I had already been through, and I wanted to be proactive in any way I could going forward, I changed my diet to try put weight on, I removed dairy which helped a lot and I contacted a natural hormone clinic to see what else I could try, I needed to get my periods in order! Not just to get pregnant but to be a functioning human being each month.
Over the next couple of years I try natural progesterone cream, more clinical medications and trips to the gynecologist, no results. I had a RTT (Rapid Transformational Therapy) session which really helped with reducing painful periods and has encouraged my visualization of what I am trying to manifest in my life. I have dug deep and healed old wounds to clear space for bringing life into my world.
I have had another two Laparoscopic surgeries to check the outer of my uterus, a Hysteroscopy, which is a procedure that allows your doctor to look inside your uterus in order to diagnose and treat causes of abnormal bleeding. Hysteroscopy is done using a hysteroscope, a thin, lighted tube that is inserted into the vagina to examine the cervix and inside of the uterus, I had scarring lasered from the inside of my uterus during this procedure as embryos cannot implant over a scar.
I have had my fallopian tubes flushed, which showed no blockages. Which was great news but still Unexplained Infertility. Those two words can drive a woman insane, “if only I had a reason, I could work on it or know its not possible and move on” would often be drifting in my thoughts. I just wanted a, why?
I have recently had my questions answered, I didn’t give up, I finally found that one person who would look outside the box, put all my puzzle pieces together and give me a reason, so that I would not fall under the unexplained infertility banner ever again! I had found a holistic approach to my delayed fertility.
I have high prolactin levels, meaning my body cannot produce the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone needed to support ovulation OR pregnancy. WOW, I have got to tell you, it feels so bloody good to have a reason, and among other lifestyle changes this could be something I can turn around, to one day be that mum I was born to become, to not let this define me as a person.
Dec 2021, marks 12 years since my first miscarriage.
The past 12 years have not been easy, I have had stress, change, grief after grief of both my own losses through miscarriage but also loss of loved ones and relationships, poor mental health and loss of faith but I have also shown strength, I have learned compassion for myself and others, I have grown as a human being, I have taken leaps of faith to heal and to become a Wellness Facilitator, my purpose in life now is to shine a light for others and above all I have never given up hope.
Good things don’t come to those who wait, good things come to those who get out there and grab it with both hands!-Milinda Higgins
If you want support or want to support someone going through delayed fertility, check out https://www.fertilityweek.org.nz for helpful information. I am now at a time in my fertility journey where I am able to share my story with others, my door is always open to you.
I want to acknowledge all the beautiful woman and men out there who have lost babies, who are trying to conceive and those who have ended their journey without a babe in their arms. This week I send my love and light to you all.
I am one in four.
8 thoughts on “Fertility Week NZ”
Wow Minnie, I had a wee cry for you while reading this. You have evolved into an amazing woman and I ,for one, am very proud of the strength you and your Mum have found within yourselves over all these years .
Thank you so much 🙏 Loves to you
What an amazing young lady you are. Your mum is an amazing young lady also. Thank you for sharing. Huge hugs and lots of love ❤️ ❤️🫂❤️🫂
Thanks Joyce, hugs to you X
Oh Minnie, my heart breaks for you, and yet I have so much hope for you. You show such strength, as I know you have been through so much more as well as this. Kia kaha lovely lady xxx
Thank you Lisa, big loves back to you X
Wow Hun, what a read. You definitely have been through a lot. It goes to show we dont knoelw what battles some people are fighting. Beautifully written & thank you for sharing your story. You are an amazing woman. Sending lots of positive vibes & warm fuzzies your way x
Thanks Kelly! Sending loves right back at ya ! X