I always knew I wanted to be a mother.
Right from when I was tiny, I fed, bathed and bedded my dollies and teddies, and wouldn’t let anyone do up the top buttons on their tiny clothes in case it choked them (this could have been an early indicator of OCD, in hindsight). I gravitated toward anyone with a baby in their arms, and when my parents finally delivered on a sibling for me when I was 11, my poor little brother essentially had three parents all over him, all the time. I even attended antenatal classes with my parents, and remember thinking “this will all come in handy for me one day.” There were many things I wanted to do in my life, and having babies was always part of my grand plan.
Despite practicing for “becoming a woman” long before my time (generally by trying on Mum’s bras and stealing from her boxes of Tampax so I could watch them puff up in water), I was completely blindsided by puberty. Health class showed us pictures of girls swimming, running, wearing white pants while hanging out with their friends, laughingly passing each other itty-bitty tampons from colourful cases in their bags, whereas each month I was a miserable mess, huddled over a hot water bottle, sleeping with a towel under me and wondering how I could get out of PE. Our wonderful family GP understood my plight and put me on a high-dose pill, which meant that I could skip periods and just deal with them every few months. The downside was that the hormone overload sprouted me hips and took me from a B cup to a D cup almost overnight; a process that left angry pink stretch marks in its wake. Teamed with pimples, no real understanding of fashion (I still lack in this area), and accidentally getting The Worst Short Haircut Ever, my early-to-mid teens were a particularly awkward and unattractive time.
The pain I experienced each month got worse as I got older…
to the point that the simple act of going to the loo could cause me to pass out or throw up. My GP sent me off to a female gynaecologist when I was nineteen, thinking I’d be more comfortable seeing a female specialist. She was a cold woman who said I might have something called endometriosis, but to just take painkillers and put up with it until I was ready to start a family, and go back to see her then. Helpful.
A year later I was nannying for the gorgeous little boy of a family friend during University holidays when the mother clocked the hot water bottle stashed in my bag, asked me a few questions, then told me of her experience with endometriosis. She urged me to see her specialist. The next month, after being scooped up off the bathroom floor by my Dad one particularly bad day, I set off to see Dr Mark Insull. He was A-mazing. He made me feel so at ease and understood, and slotted me in for a laparoscopy as soon as possible. As it turned out, his expedient approach saved my ovaries…the laparoscopy showed that my insides looked as if someone had gone crazy with a hot glue gun and soldering iron. When you have endometriosis, rogue cells that should be in your uterus bleed and create scar tissue each time you have a period. The cells can be anywhere, but tend to be in the pelvic area. The scar tissue that had been growing with each cycle inside me had stuck things together that definitely shouldn’t be stuck together and had grown over my ovaries. I was somewhat horrified to be told that the sensations I’d described as feeling like something was splitting and tearing inside me were, in fact, attributed to scar tissue splitting and tearing inside me. That surgery altered my life for the better.
Eighteen months later I had a tune-up surgery after a few niggly pains resurfaced, and elected to try out the Mirena IUD. Following that, I became one of the all-swimming, all-laughing, white-pant-wearing girls who had just itty-bitty tampons in her handbag (it was the early 2000’s, so I can be forgiven for the white pants).
I’d been gently warned not to leave having children until I was in my 30’s…
But I was wildly optimistic at 29 when my husband and I started trying. Quite frankly, I was a bit put out when the first pregnancy test I did came up with one line instead of two. I’d planned how I was going to tell Jeremy and how we’d announce it to my parents and everything! So began the first of many, many disappointing moments after weeing on white sticks in the bathroom. I wish I’d bought shares in Clear Blue and Crystal Clear tests. Each month I’d nonchalantly buy a test, telling myself I’d wait until day 28 before using it. Day 24 would see me impatiently ripping into the box after re-reading the bit about how the test is so effective you can test up to four days early. Days 25 to 28 would see me racing back to the chemist to buy more.
Trying for a baby was a funny thing…
At first it was all wistfully looking at baby shops, plugging dates into due date calculators to work out when the possible baby would be born, happily laughing about All The Sex, and thinking about the sort of parent I would be (I’d make all their food from scratch! There’d be no TV watching! I’d never yell at my children! I’d get back in shape really quickly and never stuff chocolate in my mouth while hiding from the kids in the pantry! Now, quite often, I want to smack the pre-baby me really hard in the face). Then after months of disappointment I was still wistfully looking at baby shops, but I was also frustrated, wishing time away – particularly the second half of each cycle so I could hurry up and find out if we’d been successful, spending too much money on ovulation and pregnancy test kits, and saying incredibly loving and sexy things such as “I don’t CARE if you’re tired, it’s DAY FOURTEEN, get your pants OFF!”
Without the aid of an IUD or the pill, I noticed that endometriosis pain was creeping back. I tried to ignore it because I didn’t want to be out of circulation and miss any baby-making opportunities, until one evening I found myself clutching the walls in a restaurant loo to stop myself yelling with pain, and decided it really was time I went back to see Dr Insull. He whisked me in for surgery and found that endometriosis was running rampant once again. If I had miraculously fallen pregnant, it would have been very painful when all my organs started moving around to accommodate a bump. I was sent home to recover, with a plan in place to go to Fertility Associates in a few months’ time to get the fertility show on the road.
With no baby in immediate sight, we decided to crack into renovating our house, had a trip overseas with our best friends, and I took on a few extra projects at work.
One morning, the month we were due to go to Fertility Associates, I picked my way over the plywood and tarps that were standing in for floors in our demo-zone house, did a test out of pure day-28 habit, and watched in ecstatic disbelief as a plus sign appeared. I ran back to our room yelling for Jeremy, and we sat on our bed staring at the stick, until he went all pale and whispered “what have we done?”
Our friends and family were thrilled for us, and despite revolting all-day sickness until nearly five months, I absolutely loved being pregnant, and constantly felt a combination of grateful, excited, and nervous that something would go wrong (thanks to an unnecessary scare at the 12 week scan, but that’s a blog for another day). I loved the baby from the second I saw that plus sign, and the moment that our beautiful Amy arrived (crossly protesting) Jeremy fell head over heels for her, too. We fall more in love with her every day. Well, most days.
We adored our obstetrician (Paul Robinson at Origins) as he was completely fantastic, understood Jeremy and I as a couple, and was well versed in endometriosis himself. I felt very safe in his care, and actually really missed him after the 6-week post-natal check. My mother in law said we should invite him to dinner, but I said there’s probably some sort of rule about that, and, anyway, I generally like to limit the number of people who’ve seen me with my knickers off to one in any given dinner party setting.
Given the time involved in Amy coming to be, we decided to charge into trying for a second baby when she was about five months old. Feeling a little more pragmatic and a little less naively optimistic this time around, I sought the advice of our GP after several unsuccessful months. Subsequent blood tests indicated low fertility levels, so off we went to Fertility Associates. An AMH test (which indicates how many eggs are remaining) revealed that I had a drastically depleted egg reserve, probably due to the scarring over my ovaries from years of endometriosis. We were advised that IVF presented our best option for conceiving another baby, and, armed with the knowledge that time was not in our favour, we decided to give it a try.
Our team at Fertility Associates was made up of seriously great people. Dr McChesney and his nurses Juanita and Miranda were pillars of both knowledge and support. I think it would have been a different experience without them.
I remember breezily thinking in my twenties, “oh, I could always just do IVF if I don’t get pregnant naturally.” The reality of IVF was a little more intense than I anticipated.
**To be Continued**
(blog originally appeared on ifonlytheytoldme.com)