It’s time to talk about fertility. More conversation means more information. It is time that we stopped suffering alone. Because there is no room for shame or stigma. Together we can start the conversation and empower women.
This year we are honoured to be bringing you real life stories called MY STORY. Our first story for 2018 is written by Tahlia Watts who has kindly shared her IVF journey. Let’s make 2018 the year of #letsstarttheconversation. You can follow the journey of these incredible women on our blog and instagram #letsstartheconversation
I was always one to think I’d have kids early. Text book- really. Finish school, Go to Uni, Gap Year/Contiki Tour, test run a few boyfriends and then find the ONE! Engaged, married, buy a house, and then of course the final step in the supposed formula for life: kids. I literally followed this script without hesitation, because… that’s what we do. I threw a couple of ‘Super Star Student’ accomplishments in there, like buying my first investment property at 24 and starting my own successful small business, but overall, ‘normal’, proud-parent’s kind of stuff.
My husband and I got together when we were 26, we were ticking the list perfectly and married by 28. Almost straight away after marrying, I came off the pill and assumed, like so many of us probably do, that I would be preggers in no time. The problem is, whilst education around safe sex and avoiding teenage pregnancy is so important, we are actually taught very little about how to fall pregnant. I had imagined the process was super simple and straight-forward and that as soon as I came off the pill, after a couple of settling months, it would happen. My Mother had 6 kids super easy, my sister and sister-in-law had fallen pregnant easy and hence, zero need for concern.
And so, the trying began. And then the learning. I mean, was it just me or do most women even know the time for conception is 14 days before your next period and that’s when you ovulate? After a couple of months, I started keeping track of my periods a little monthly journal, and then as time progressed I got into a little more in detail and included daily body temperature (thanks google) and various other measure as I was trying to “learn” my cycle. Fortunately, I was very regular, 28-day girl, had no signs or symptoms of irregularity and had a ‘normal’ bleed. So, in the beginning it was easy to monitor. From here I (and I say “I” because at this point it was definitely a me process. Sure, my husband was ready for kids and loved the idea of getting pregnant, but was happy for me to do the understanding and know what was required and then for us as a couple to just cruise along), I started to play around with more google advice, silly things like; sex in the am, legs up in the air, no toilet after shags, and I won’t bore you with the tricks…
One year goes by. Nothing yet and so I started to just ask a few simple questions to those around me. Apparently having been on the pill for 10 years can mean it takes a while for the body to normalise although I was reassured on many occasions that the pill had no proven long term effects and that plenty of women have fallen pregnant swiftly after stopping. I was told that it’s a timing thing and actually getting pregnant it super dooper hard… near impossible even…and it’s a bloody miracle it happens at all!!. Then, as already mentioned, some people suggested that particular getting-jiggy-with-it positions may make a difference and so we started to spice up the bedroom. Still, at this stage, all innocent, all stress free.
It wasn’t until around the 16-month mark, on a routine trip to the doctors for my asthma, I decided to chat to my GP (but really, when is the timeline to chat to anyone about this stuff? Like, how long is too long verse when are you being too needy? Well, there isn’t a right time, so just go with your gut). She advised that this period of trying really wasn’t long and at my age and health, everything would be fine. I also frequented a Chinese doctor who too, had no concern and simply started by guiding me to better health, or should I say, the best health. I was already super healthy in the scheme of things and so was my husband. We both exercise a lot, eat really well, get plenty of sleep, don’t smoke, drink alcohol in moderation, are of healthy weight range, we avoid chemicals on and in the body, avoid tap water, have a happy relationship and I could go on and on…… The only questions mark around my health – in her perspective – were my stress levels. She did make mention that my work and small start-up business in its infancy, may be taking too much energy away from my female flow and that I needed to make the disconnect from work and home time better. I worked (and will always be working) on this. The Chinese doctor was also really good at giving me additional insights and tips like; eat eggs/milk/chicken/heaps of green veges/apples, don’t do impact exercise post ovulation, have sex at this time and this time, lots of walking, lots of acupuncture, have heaps of bone broth and take collagen if possible, plus several more.
At the two-year mark I went back to see the GP, husband in tow. By now, alarm bells were starting to ring and he was also beginning to invest more and more in the process. She sent us for some routine tests; multiple bloods, pap smear, ultra sounds, sperm test (him, not me… obviously). Everything came back clear. Hence, the advice was to go away and keep trying for 6 more months with the addition of an ovulation kit ( pee on me after your period until I flash stick). Time passed by way of periods and I had now entered into the “I hate you period” phase. I don’t actually hate anything and according to my mum, hate is swear word we should never use, but I was certainly feeling negative at that time of the month. Plus, as you can imagine, every single 28 days was becoming a reminder of the fact I wasn’t having any luck fallen pregnant.
Two and a half years in we return, still to the GP, who with a concerned vibe herself, mentioned those three letters to us for the first time. “Maybe it’s time to see a specialist and consider I.V.F.” I’m not sure if I speak on behalf of everyone but to me, IVF certainly seems to be a lot more common and familiar these day, and not such a big deal but I had never, ever, consider myself a candidate for IVF. Never! And so, it was no surprise that post that appointment, I sat in the car and cried and cried and overwhelmed with emotions like “What’s wrong with me?” “What’s wrong with him?” “What’s wrong with us?” “Maybe it’s not meant to be!” “We can always adopt.” Irrational and extreme but oh so real and brutal to my heart.
And so, the IVF journey began….
At still only 30 years old, the specialist did agree that while we were young and time was on our side, it’s best to start thorough investigations and the process of I.V.F, before it does become more challenging. Each year over 30 really does make a difference and so we all agreed to move the bus forward. Lots more test, all clear which was great but also giving us nothing specific to work with. He sent me off for a detailed laparoscopy, the most extensive and invasive test to date and although I was sore for a few days, it rocked my world a bit and now have 3 permanent tiny scars on my belly, it all went well. I then went on Clomid for 3 months to try stimulate egg production, which seem to have zero effect on helping me fall pregnant but maximum negative effect on my energy levels and moods. Crazy lady alert. Which was super out of character for me as I was highly fortunate to have had barely any period signs in my past. No mood swings, cravings or real disturbance with my mood. All seemingly irrelevant in the scheme of things though. After a couple of visit the specialist diagnosed us with “unexplained infertility” … the most horrific of labels, to us, at that point.
Up until now, all of the investigative tests and interventions – brilliant examples of science and medical advancements – were very much text book and followed a specific chronological order that all couples must complete in the IVF process. We assumed, due to lack of time and resources, that individual fertility cases are not really considered in this Western Medicine process, above and beyond anything blaringly, obviously wrong and hence, the same route for most is taken. This is why I so passionately believe in seeking alternative and natural therapies, and the main reason I was also seeing a Chinese doctor (weekly now) and a naturopath frequently. They too sent us both off for many blood test and health checks, although the main difference is they would spend much more time to personally dive into the results and paid greater attention to things like hormone production, organ health, gut health, parasites, blood types, DNA and stress to start to get more detailed picture of our unique situation and make a full diagnosis. I’m a huge believer, now more than ever, that the GUT is the second brain and I do genuinely believe that although not proven, the contraceptive pill interferes significantly with the health of the GUT leaving it compromised post a bout of the pill. In turn, so many things inside can be not functioning correctly and perhaps this had something to do with my body wasn’t allowing me to fall pregnant.
Anyway, we were now three years in, both 31 years old and still, no luck. My periods now made me cry every 28 days for a fleeting moment and at this stage, my husband was super invested as well, and more than anything else feeling sorry for me and the fact we had absolutely no medical reason as to why we were not falling pregnant. I was always worried about who he had to turn to in these difficult times. We are very close and of course, were dealing with this together as best as possible, but did he have friends or family that he was also speaking to? Was he getting enough off his chest? I don’t think so, and I think that as much as he may have wanted to, he didn’t know who to turn to. I feel particularly sorry for men sometimes that they don’t all communicate as intensely as women and yet do we have the right supportive networks for them? Fortunately, he was surrounded by a brilliant football club, that gave him great comradery and even though he may not have been talking to them about specific events, he was comforted in a physical, man way.
So what the reason and meaning behind all of this?
Were we not falling pregnant because I had been taking the contraceptive pill for 10 years and therefore had never allowed my body to really womanise? I think so, but science would disagree with me. How can suppressing the way nature intended us to be, have no consequences? Or perhaps like I mentioned, it had damaged my GUT?
Was it the fact I worked long hours for my own business and had a lot of stress? I think so. Stress is so underrated as a major contributor to bad health. Another contributor to damaged health.
Was it that I spent many years practising and playing very strenuous sports like track and field, gridiron, marathon running and lifting weights? Too much over stimulated testosterone for too long? Perhaps and so to combat this I have fallen in love with yoga.
Was it that I completely lost my yin? As high achieving females, driven to make a difference in the world, so independent and right in the midst of equalising out gender standards, have we lost our yin? Our ability to be female in the true sense. To be soft and gentle and nurturing and create a sense of ‘Welcoming in a baby’ and really having time for it? I believe so.
Was it that I did too much? Around the house it’s majority me (my husband is a great cook and I am forever grateful but it almost stops there and in compensation, I take the bins out). I exercise as much as him, I socialise as much, I work as much, I earn as much, I make the big decisions for us, I am always, right there, by his side. Should I have been sitting at home reading books, pottering around and listening to music, letting him have more responsibility for the big stuff? I think so.
Or was it just a loud message from God (I am not religious at all but I am super spiritual and God to me is the greatly divinity, the purpose, the universe, the why) to say “stop trying to control everything, all the time, humans” and putting a holt to probably the only thing we can’t really control. Trying to get us to understand that maybe life isn’t about following the plan and maybe we don’t need children to make us happy and best we get on being perfectly as is. Probably. One of my favourite sayings has always been “Patience is being at peace with the process of life” and yet I could not exercise this AT ALL whilst wanting a baby.
And yet knowing and believing all of the above, we soldiered on. For me, I found the whole IVF process foul. Firstly, I’m not a huge fan of western medicine (absolutely no disrespect, I am a scientist so I know there is so much great to it, I am just also a conspiracist and don’t believe in the whole system) and whilst I totally appreciate it has a purpose, I much prefer practising holistic skills. Secondly everything about the process screams “money maker” to me. From our specialists’ array of fancy cars parked right in the entrance to the rooms (Bentleys, Porsche, etc, spew), to the immediate, aggressive and substantial payments, to the fact I literally felt like a number (in all seriousness, they identify you by your patient number), to the lack of personalisation, to the constant reminders that it’s “unlikely to work the first few goes”, to the mere fact our clinic is listed on the share market. Safe to say, I never loved it my visits. But then again, does anyone? Of course, absolutely and please don’t misunderstand me, we are eternally grateful that such science exists and the we have resources to be able to replicate such a phenomenon. It was just super hard to continue showing up for appointments and procedures without wanting to pull the pin for one of the above reasons.
The nurses are so lovely and the system does do a good job at checking your mental health prior to staring. They even check your police history, which is super strange as anybody else can try to get pregnant?? Also, your working with children background, yep, odd… but let’s put both of those in the ‘money maker’ pile. Although despite the comforting efforts and education around what it’s going to be like, nothing could have prepared me for those first jabs!! Everyone has an inkling that IVF means injections and feel sorry for patience, but as with everything else, I have NEVER imagined injecting myself up to 3 times per day straight in the stomach with a decent sized needle. I didn’t even take Panadol in effort of being a naturalist and here I was jabbing who really knows what into my precious tummy.
I remember my first injection night like a bad dream. We had just lost our first ever glimpse at being pregnant after I had a heavy bleed out almost two and half weeks overdue and one day before I did my first pregnancy test, so I was already extremely emotional. But unfortunately, that’s exactly the time you start. We thought we were mentally prepared and prepped for the jabs but it wasn’t until I was holding a big syringe to my stomach that I had a freak out moment. I was sitting along in my room because I was trying to be as low key as possible and I knew my husband was frightened of the needles, when I completely broke down. I was crying so bad I could barely breath. As soon as my husband walked in he knew. He held me close and we just sat together, both crying like babies. To be honest, I think three and a half years of trying came out in that very moment. And as much as we wanted this, were we making the right decision? Was our ill-luck maybe just a timing thing or was this going to be our only option of having our own babies and so waiting longer made no sense. Whilst our story is by no means a tragedy in the scheme of the horrible events and diagnosis that happen to other people every day, it’s so okay to feel defeated, and as a close friend once said to me, allow yourself the time and grieve as you feel.
We eventually calmed and together, we got the first jab in.
For anyone about to start the process, just be aware the needles can be super emotional and difficult to actually self-administer and it’s so, SO, okay to ask for help injecting … or to break down and cry like a baby every time. The appointments feel like every day, your mood varies, your emotions run wild. But try not to let it overwhelm you or get the better of you. This too shall pass… and it does.
Now, before I have you all feeling too doom and gloom, I’ll have you know this is actually a happy story 😊. As I sit here and write this, I am officially 15 weeks pregnant and our first little miracle baby is on the way!!!! That’s right, a prodigy child on route. Yes, it was IVF and yes, we are beyond grateful. Sure we won’t ever get our surprise pee on a stick “I’m pregnant” moment and we spent the first 12 weeks of our pregnancy in absolute angst but we have now put everything in perspective and we are so, so happy!
So, I suppose now to the real question then is, why am I sharing my story? I got pregnant in the end, shouldn’t I be happy. Why would we not keep this personal and go along like everything was seemingly perfect for us and that we just didn’t want children until now. Why not, continue the “perfect life formula” picture?
Because I believe so many women can relate to even a little part of this story. Whether it’s just you’ve spent so many years trying to avoid getting pregnant that when you do want a baby, you too didn’t actually know how to make one. And then who do you ask for this information? Google?! Seriously, shouldn’t we be doing more about educating women, and men, on how the phenomenon of growing a life works so when you’re ready it is less daunting?
Secondly, and sadly, hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful, strong women and men are faced with conception troubles, miscarriages and infertility every year and absolutely there needs to be more common talk around this. There are so many cases worse than ours and my heart yearns for them. We need to ensure much more support is offered and that there is better access to the right networks and systems. For instance, how awesome would a grant or charity be that gave underprivileged couples access to funds to try IVF? Better still, more from Medicare? How about incentives for doctors to really start solving one of the world’s greatest human unknowns… infertility? Stricter laws around IVF clinics, closer monitoring of their practices, with published and transparent results.
Perhaps this little piece will be a nice reminder that if you do already have healthy children, and it was a relatively easy and ‘normal’ process for you, just how incredibly lucky you are.
Although the main reason I wanted to share our story with you, is to highlight that despite whatever front we show to the world day in day out, so many millions of us have shit going on. Not even some of my closest friends knew the extent of my suffering for almost 3 years because more than anything else, I was ashamed. I was embarrassed to admit we were having difficulties, as horrible as that sounds, but I wanted to portray ‘my world is perfect’ bullshit image that so many us strive to live out (and thanks social media from making this so much worse). I cancelled so many social catch ups, unexplained or with some fake reason “sorry guys, sick today.” When really, I was either just crying too much that day, had a disgusting headache from all the hormones or could not selfishly, handle seeing a pregnant lady. But probably the biggest driver is that even now, no one would even need to know we ended up with a beautiful IVF embryo. As I said, we could have just done that iconic 12 weeks scan shot and pleasant “yay, when two becomes three” but then are we contributing to the “perfect” illusions?
My husband and I have even debated whether or not we will let our child know it was created via IVF or will doing so make them feel outcast? I mean, how ridiculous is that!!! IVF is now so common for so many awesome couples, that it’s so fine for it to become a normal talking point. Are schools considering these conversations though?
My parting messages for you are these: (there are probably more but now I have baby brain the rest are hiding). Guys and girls, know how to make a baby. Talk openly about having children and don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ time. I know men especially, tend to freak out when you start talking children, but women, don’t just shy away from it for years because he isn’t ready. It’s okay to be ready. Let’s make troubles surrounding conception, pregnancy and child-birth safe conversations for those wishing to have them. Women, be over achievers but please make time for femininity. We are not males (…yet), we have the greatest gift of all, the incredibly ability to reproduce, so try nurture that from a young age well before you want to start trying. DEAL WITH STRESS. This modern, fast-paced world that drives us to perfection is not normal, it’s not okay, it should not be acceptable on route to achieving your dreams. Make time for you, both. Explore your bodies all of
the time with an open mind for wellness. Eat well, drink well, sleep well. Understand your GUT and the importance of it. Try to let go of this obsession we have with controlling everything in life. What will be, will be, perfectly. And finally, bare in mind, every single time you pass another human being, you have absolutely NO IDEA what they are going through. Be kind to each other and be kind to yourselves.
Tahli has asked that anyone who is wanting to chat directly about this experience please contact her on: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a client and are wanting to share your story please contact us on PH: (03) 9510 3700 or Email email@example.com