When I was 17 years old, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, a stay-at-home mum. This was pretty unusual even 20 years ago when us girls were encouraged to have a career of our own. And a career I had, as a Primary School teacher. I tunnelled my love for children into my students and it was great. I just knew that I could never combine this super demanding job with being a parent. The only way I was able to be a great teacher, was by making it my life. So, at some point, it was going to be one or the other. I always joked that I wanted 12 kids, 4 of my own, 4 foster and 4 adopted. To me, this sounded like a dream.
It took me until my early thirties, after I had left my job as a teacher, that I met the man with whom I wanted to have children. I followed him from Amsterdam, where we met and I was living, to Perth. A little over two years later we got married and were ready to start a family. Soon after I fell pregnant, but the day after we found out, I lost it. Then my period became all over the place and something seemed off. I had always had painful periods but was always able to somewhat function. The pain would stop me in my tracks now and then, but I could handle with over the counter meds.
On our honeymoon though, things had already started to change. It was the first time over the counter medication didn’t work and I was left in bed crying for a day. And my period pain kept increasing to the point where the GP started to prescribe me heavier pain medication. She also ordered some tests and they found a large cyst which needed to be removed. I was referred to King Edwards and seen a couple of months later. The gynaecologist I saw was the first one to tell me he thought it might be endometriosis. And he was right. He found two large endometriomas on both ovaries and endometriosis lesion and tissue all over my insides. At this point, I didn’t know however that this would only be the start of months of bad news.
Before the surgery, I had already booked an appointment with a fertility doctor who came highly recommended by some friends, just to be sure. He had a long waiting list, so it seemed like a good idea. Less than two months after the diagnosis we started doing all the fertility tests, most of which came back okay, except one. My ovaries were most likely heavily damaged, so he ordered an ultrasound which confirmed that, instead of 8, I only had 2/3 follicles. According to him our chances with or without IVF were not that different and it would be a lot of money for a very low chance of success. We decided to keep trying naturally. Luckily, I was also referred to the fertility doctor at King Edwards and I thought it wouldn’t hurt to get a second opinion. They did more tests which showed that one tube was blocked, which made falling pregnant naturally even more unlikely.
Usually, it is recommended to remove all the endometriosis before trying to fall pregnant. I saw an excision specialist to discuss this option, but due to the extensive damage already done to my ovaries, surgery would most likely leave me unable to ever have children. She recommended to first do everything to have a baby and then have the surgery. The second fertility doctor explained that this meant that the environment was very hostile for a baby to develop in and it was very unlikely that I would fall pregnant naturally. I agreed with that. I’m pretty sensitive and I could sometimes feel something happen inside, but it never made it. As we were unable to afford the 5/6 rounds of IVF we were most likely going to need, she told us that there was a bulk billing clinic opening in Perth.
I have to tell you that at this point I had already given up. When we got bad news upon bad news it felt like this might not have been meant to be. But I knew that at the end of this road, I had to be able to say that I tried everything. And therefore, we decided to go down the IVF route at the bulk billing clinic.
Between our first appointment and actually starting was more than 6 months, because we suddenly moved to Melbourne for my husband’s work. Luckily they had a sister clinic in Melbourne, so we transferred there. The doctor was super nice and I was so lucky that she had extensive knowledge about endometriosis and created a protocol especially around that. The first round was very disappointing. I know they usually need to get the medication right, but we had only one egg developing and they decided to stop early, something I hadn’t anticipated. The second round seemed to go better. I had two eggs, but this time I ovulated before they could get to them. The doctor decided to not wait a month, but as soon as possible start round number 3. All the stimulation with hormones started to take a huge toll on my endo. It flared up like never before. I was put on heavier pain meds, but they didn’t work one bit. I was in horrific pain for days and there was talk of stopping this cycle. I decided, however, to continue as the pain started to decrease and I had already made it this far. We had two eggs developing and by the end of the cycle, there was again only one egg which was ready. This time we decided with the doctor to get it out and see what would happen. The only reason why I went ahead, was because I wanted to know if I could do all this another 5/6 times. We were not at all expecting to have a positive result with our first egg. My plan was to take a break after this round and visit my family in Europe. In my head, the rest of 2019 would be spent doing IVF.
Besides an intense physical journey, this has also been an intensely emotional journey. My dream of becoming a mum was shattered in a million pieces. The amount of tears I cried, the one-year-old birthday parties which I had to flee from, because I couldn’t bear being in a room full of little ones, the hurt when friends would announce their pregnancy. You want to be happy for them, and you honestly are, but deep down it also feels like a dagger to the heart. When I was doing IVF and so sure I would never fall pregnant, just seeing babies on the street and pregnant women would ju