Amber and Chris were just like any other young couple madly in love with one another. They had travelled the world, just built their dream home together in Melbourne’s outer east and had eagerly decided they wanted to start a family.
In late 2014 Amber and Chris began trying for a baby. As we all know, there is no set time frame on how long it will take to get pregnant, but by early 2015 Amber had yet to fall pregnant and began to have hot flushes, around 20 a day.
She decided to take herself to the doctors. Upon describing her symptoms, the doctor joked and said, “oh maybe you’re going through early menopause” – but of course being so young, just 23 at the time, they laughed it off. Amber was told it was most likely something viral and to just go home and rest.
Two weeks passed, and still the hot flushes were happening so Amber took herself off for a second opinion. They called her urgently with results and she was told her FSH level was 75 – menopause range.
“I was just in shock,” Amber recalls. “I just remember crying and asking, ‘can I still have children?”
However, her doctor didn’t seem too concerned and assured her that she was still young and not to worry. They referred her to a gynaecologist for more tests.
When Amber first saw a gynaecologist, she was told she had seven centimetre cyst on her ovary which had to be removed. She was under the impression that once this happened, her levels would return to normal and everything would go back to normal.
Unfortunately, this was not the case.
“I was put on Clomid for six months, a drug to induce ovulation. I absolutely hated this medication and had terrible side effects. I also never ovulated so it was decided it wasn’t for me,” Amber says.
After going through so much and feeling like none of the medications or procedures were helping, Amber decided to give acupuncture a go.
“My acupuncturist was absolutely amazing but unfortunately after seeing her for a year my body was too far gone for her to help.”
That’s when Amber and Chris decided IVF would be their only option.
To my beautiful sister the godmother of our little boy.. thankyou for everything you have done for us! You have blessed us with two beautiful babies.. I don’t think you and Will realise how incredible you both are!! We love you forever and always!! ???? @taymahoney3 #eggdonation #sisters #bestfriends #family #pregnantwithtwins #twins #babybump #babyboy #babygirl
Amber went to see an IVF specialist and was moved along right away for more testing. They ended up trying two rounds of IVF with her own eggs but each time their cycle was cancelled due to there being no follicles.
After both these cycles failed, Amber’s specialist pursued more testing and found a cyst on her left fallopian tube. Amber was told she would need to have the cyst removed, along with her fallopian tube.
While in recovery from her surgery, Amber’s specialist delivered some more bad news. Neither one of her ovaries worked and an egg donation from her sister would be the only viable option should she ever want to get pregnant.
“I can’t even tell you how it was decided she would donate her eggs. I never asked and they were never offered. It was just this bond we had that we would do anything in our power for us to make this work,” Amber shares of her relationship with her sister.
Amber’s younger sister, Taylor was only 24 at the time, and with no children of her own yet, had to undergo counselling with her sister before they could move forward. They then had to each go alone with their respective partners, to make sure they were on the same page and understood the roles they would each play in the baby’s life should Amber fell pregnant.
Once given the all clear to go ahead, Taylor had to wait until she started a new cycle.
“Taylor was such a trooper. Injecting herself morning and night to stimulate her follicles,” says Amber.
Amber had to go on the pill to regulate her cycle to coincide with her sisters. She also had to take medication to thicken the lining of her uterus to better house an embryo. Taylor then had to go in every three to four days for follicle scans to see how they were progressing.
Finally, the day came for egg collection. Taylor was put under a general anaesthetic for about 20 minutes procedure to collect her eggs.
“We were super lucky and got nine eggs! Unfortunately, I didn’t realise how fast the eggs could die.” explains Amber.
When transfer day rolled around, Amber was a little disheartened that only two of those eggs had survived. They implanted one of the eggs, with the intention of freezing the other but sadly the second egg died.
Ten days later and a negative result.
“We were all broken. Mentally, physically, emotionally and financially I didn’t think I could do this again.”
However, after a three-month break Amber and Chris decided to give it one last shot. This time around they were joyed to get thirteen eggs, and decided to do a 3-day transfer with two of those eggs and freeze the other two that had survived.
“The two weeks wait was horrible” recalls Amber. “One day you think it has worked then the other day you feel like you have failed again. I got to 9 days past my transfer and went to the toilet and saw blood.”
Absolutely gutted at the prospect of yet another failed transfer, Amber told her partner Chris the bad news. Still hopeful, Chris assured Amber that it could just be implantation bleeding.
“Pfft, how do boys even know this,” Amber thought.
The next morning, Amber felt she needed to put them both out of their misery and took a test to confirm what she already knew.
“I took the test expecting it to be negative but it was the strongest two lines I had even seen! Well, only lines I had ever seen.”
Later that evening she told her partner, Chris. But they didn’t want to get their hopes up just yet. It wasn’t until a phone call from the doctor came four days later that Amber was told her HCG levels were through the roof and she was certainly pregnant.
“Taylor came over and I showed her the tests and she just burst out crying. It was the best feeling in the world!”
A week later, Amber began to bleed again and she was rushed for a scan. Scared for the worst, Amber was told she was in fact bleeding because she was pregnant with twins.
LISTEN: Journalist Deb Knight shares her IVF experience on I Don’t Know How She Does It (post continues after audio…)
As her pregnancy progressed, Amber was crippled with bad morning sickness. Throwing up between five and 10 times a day till around the 14-week mark.
“All I could stomach was salt and vinegar chips.”
Yet it was around the second trimester that her symptoms thankfully subsided and apart from the usual heartburn and reflux, everything’s been pretty smooth sailing.
At 20 weeks, Amber and Chris hosted a gender reveal party to announce the gender of their twins – a boy and a girl.
A hairdresser by trade, Amber says that all she ever does is talk. So, sharing her journey of IVF and egg donation has only come very naturally for her via her Instagram page @ambergraces2.
Amber hopes that by sharing her incredible journey, it can help others going through the same thing, feeling isolated or ashamed can find hope in her story.
“I think so many women believe it’s only happening to them but unfortunately it affects so many of us. Even if you don’t want to speak to someone face to face. Join the many IVF Australia groups on Facebook. These women have become my best friends and understand everything thing you are going through. No question is right or wrong and you feel so safe. It is a long and hard road definitely not easy but worth it!”