My greatest gift
The gratitude and love I feel is all encompassing and overwhelming. It melts me to tears. Years of waiting, setbacks and trauma. I am here. It is surreal.
I dreamed of being a mother my whole life. I never dreamed that this involved over three years of medications, hundreds of needles, invasive treatments, tears, pain and utter lows.
After twelve months post pill amenorrhea (no period) and a diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome I reluctantly saw a fertility specialist. Tears streamed down my face walking out of the initial appointment. I felt a total failure. Reproduction is meant to be easy and natural to a woman. It is what we are born to do. How could this happen to me? I am young, fit and healthy.
I throw myself whole-heartedly into everything I set my mind to. My logical mind did not understand why this was not working. I am an achiever. I do not quit. When I set my mind to something I look for answers. There is no fail.
I was “doing” everything. I felt in the best health of my life. And I probably was.
I consulted with the best specialists in the field including a naturopath, hypnotherapist, acupuncturist, counsellor/ “energy healer”, yoga teachers and speciality doctors.
I read everything on fertility. I was well informed. Questions flooded through my head. What is wrong with me? What can I change? Anxiety pulsated through my blood.
I radically changed my diet and experimented with gluten free, grain free, dairy free, sugar free, high fat/low carb, high protein. I was “cleaning” up my body. The occasional treat loaded with guilt. Fear that the “wrong foods” would prevent me achieving my dream pregnancy. I was vigilant. I took the best nutritional and herbal supplements never skipping a day.
I went cold turkey on alcohol and caffeine. Reports ringing through my ears that even one glass of wine would reduce my chances of conceiving to 50%. The self-criticism of one glass was not worth it. I was all in.
I gave up my love of running and took up “easy” forms of exercise such as walking. Fear that my lack of body fat was contributing to my infertility. When you are a high-energy person such as myself walking just didn’t cut it. The stress of infertility with my outlet for burning up energy/anger/stress gone was a hellish combination.
I looked to “spirituality” for my escalating anxiety. I needed relief. I read copious texts from modern spiritual leaders such as Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson, Gabrielle Bernstein and Mastin Kipp who became my mentors. I took up yoga and many forms of meditation (mindfulness, chanting, tapping), and went to church. I was looking deeper.
Little did I realise I was at a turning point in my life. A new life was emerging. This new life was confusing. It was terrifying. I was out of control.
My deep yearning to be a mother was innate. It was there every single day. Growing stronger and more intense.
I opened myself up to the medical world’s offerings to achieve that dream. We attempted five month long cycles of an ovulation stimulation medication with no success. Next to follow was four months hormonal treatment. It felt like I was being told to wait an eternity. I wanted to be a mother now.
IVF was the next logical step.
I cried when people said they would never do IVF. I wanted the dream of a natural pregnancy too. The weight of loss was tangible.
The day of our first negative IVF result four of my friends announced their pregnancies. They didn’t know. I was utterly shattered.
We pursued three more heartbreaking IVF cycles plus two frozen embryo cycles with our first fertility specialist. IVF is torture because you know you are pregnant in that horrid two-week wait post embryo transfer. The first spots of blood sent me into a meltdown. A precious embryonic life lost. A grave feeling of wasted time, effort and hope.
I grimaced when people told me to “just get drunk and let it happen”… “relax”… “don’t think about it”, when a burning ache inside me persistently niggled. The nature of IVF is inherently impossible to relax because you are always doing. Daily phone calls and appointments for blood tests, ultrasounds and picking up medications. There is an endless submission to needles and day surgery procedures, many under general anaesthetic. My poor stomach and arms transformed into pincushions. It is utterly exhausting. It takes over your life.
Each pregnancy announcement shook my core. Breaking yet another piece of my heart. Baby showers and mother’s day were tough reminders of what I craved but lacked. Easter, Christmas and other annual events painful nudges that yet another year had passed by.
Research shows that the stress of infertility is comparable to a cancer or HIV diagnosis, and that a high percentage of couples do not survive the rollercoaster ride of IVF. However if anything the journey bound my husband and I stronger each day. We held hands each night in bed and I cried as we listened to inspirational music. The theme piece from “Braveheart” soothed my heart. We felt battered and broken but we were determined.
We were in our infertility driven bubble. There were a special few who understood and reached out to us. To those gracious hearts I am eternally grateful. Their never-ending unconditional words of love and support were uplifting. Putting up with me when I didn’t really want to see anyone at all.
Over time I felt my inner spark fading. I put on a brave face and turned up to work, college and social occasions. I tried to function.
The years ticked by. We changed to a different fertility specialist. We had high hopes.
After two and half years of trying our fifth IVF cycle was positive. I was terrified of leaning into the joy, blatantly aware of just how much I had to lose. But it was not to be. A miscarriage at seven weeks sent my world into turmoil. It was cruel and unfair. I wept daily for the next month.
We picked ourselves up and attempted our sixth cycle. The result a disaster we felt done with IVF.
I submitted to a laparoscopy (key hole surgery under general anaesthetic) to test for endometriosis. We were desperately looking for answers. The negative result left us with nowhere else to turn.
We decided we needed a break. We needed to live. We lived in the moment seeking joy in adventures together. Even in the midst of pain we learnt it is possible to feel your true joyous nature.
And then we fell naturally pregnant. Totally unexpected. However our joy was short lived. Another shock miscarriage. A traumatic couple of weeks followed with three D&C (dilation and curettage) surgeries to remove the stubborn lifeless tissue. A part of me was grasping to hold on. My body was wrecked. I was emotionally spent.
I was at my lowest. I knew deep down something radically needed to change. I had to keep going and grow into something bigger beyond my wildest dreams. I saw a counsellor/ “energy healer”. Her words resonated with me. Get rid of hanging onto hope. Instead open yourself up to possibilities.
It was a full circle moment for me. To go from directionless, confused and terrified. To realise that it’s not over. To trust. After years of blood, sweat and tears I surrendered.
Surrender is about letting go of the pressure. Trusting your own innate wisdom. Acknowledging that what you are doing right now is enough. And not blaming yourself for the things that do not live up to your expectations or what you hoped they would look like. Being kind to yourself when things do not look perfect.
We would be parents. It would not matter how our little angel came into our lives. We discussed all of our options and enquired into foster and adoption and attended preliminary meetings. We were focussed and willing.
In the midst of our search an angel approached us. A sister with a heart of gold. Her unconditional love beyond measure. A selfless gift of her eggs to make us a baby. Imagine offering a part of yourself. But also being willing to submit to the tough IVF rigours of needles and egg collection.
We started our seventh IVF round with egg donation from our beautiful sister. A mother herself to two young babies. She went through the arduous process without one word of complaint. A super mum. Balancing her own extremely hectic life while giving so much of herself to us. Her strength and resilience is utterly inspirational.
A positive result the sweetest news of all. We had finally got there after three and half years of waiting.
When you get through the pain there is near blinding radiance. It is the most incredible feeling. An unmistakeable buzz.
I do not feel grateful for the pain I endured, but I feel immensely grateful for what I have learnt. Now at the other end, the confusion of pain and loss is met by the notion that my agony had a divine utility.
I have learnt to live in the joyous moment. To really know self-love and compassion… and to share this with others… particularly those struggling with their own issues. To discover how enormously strong I am really am. To not sweat the small stuff. Let it go. To be flexible with life. To slow down and embrace uncertainty. To be open to possibilities.
I have come to know life more deeply. To be comfortable to expose and accept my weaknesses. Loss offers the opportunity to crack the shell that shields us from the outside world. Having your shell cracked in the wake of loss is unbearably painful. It is a call to a shift in perspective. I had to be willing to wake up. You have a choice to let it break you open and surrender to a richer life with your heart wide open.
Loss can lead to an unexpected blossoming. Through it we can become more of who we really are than we ever dreamed possible.
I feel incredibly vulnerable sharing my story. But my wish is that it will touch those women struggling with fertility so that they feel less alone with the challenges and pain.
I want my suffering to be of service. I seek to offer so much love and insight. I feel blessed that I can share the lessons I have learnt and wisdom that has been bestowed upon me. My dream is that my “I’ve been through it” wisdom will be of comfort to someone else.
The resources that changed my life
“You Can Create an Exceptional Life” – Louise Hay and Cheryl Richardson
“I Can See Clearly Now” – Wayne Dyer
“A New Earth” – Eckhart Tolle
“The Power of Now” – Eckhart Tolle
“A Return to Love” – Marianne Williamson
“Dying to Be Me” – Anita Moorjani
“Miracles Now” – Gabrielle Bernstein
“Desire Map” – Danielle La Porte
“Daily Love Growing into Grace”- Mastin Kipp
“Mind over Medicine” – Dr Lissa Rankin
“The Biology of Belief” – Dr Bruce Lipton
“Daring Greatly” – Brene Brown
Gabrielle Bernstein – “Authentic power” (iTunes)
Gabrielle Bernstein – “Knowing your worth” (iTunes)
Gabrielle Bernstein – “Manifest your desires” (iTunes)
Brene Brown – “The power of vulnerability” (TED talk)
Eat, pray, love
thedailylove.com – Mastin Kipp
gabbyb.tv.com – Gabrielle Bernstein
lissarankin.com – Lissa Rankin
daniellelaporte.com – Danielle La Porte
Meditation – mindfulness (non-judgemental observation of thoughts, sounds, feelings): set alarm on phone
Meditation – guided
- Petrea King “Relaxation” and “Increasing Self Esteem” (iTunes)
- Gabrielle Bernstein “May Cause Miracles Meditation” (iTunes)
- Anita Moorjani “Deep Meditation for Healing” (iTunes)
Hot power yoga “40 day challenge” – hotyogiaustralia.com.au
Emotional Freedom Technique “tapping” – thetappingsolution.com.au
Being in nature
Baths – essential oils, Epsom salts, relaxation music (“Eckhart Tolle’s Music to Quiet the Mind”, “The Secret Life of Trees” (iTunes))
Dr Mark Livingstone: Fertility Specialist – genea.com.au
Jacintha Gunasekera: Naturopath – fertility.com.au
Francesca Naish: Naturopath – fertility.com.au
Dr Julie Philips-Moore: Hypnotherapist – fertility.com.au
Machelle Boothroyd: Acupuncturist – machelle-boothroyd-acupuncture.com.au
Linda Foster: Counsellor/Energy healer – lindafoster.com.au
Janine Leagh: Yoga teacher – hotyogiaustralia.com.au