As told to Megan Emery of September Baby.
My husband, Craig, and I had both been married before. He had two children and had a vasectomy. I was just over 30 and wanted kids badly so we decided to look at our options. We went to the doctors and were told there is only a 40 per cent chance of a reversal working and we would be better off going through IVF.
Jump forward to over nine years, twenty-two IVF cycles and 10 miscarriages, it was coming up to my 40th birthday. I was feeling disgusting and was giving up on having children. I’d just had my last miscarriage, we’d sold our house to pay for IVF and I was left wondering where it stops.
Maybe I had to accept that I wasn’t biologically going to be a mum and we should look at going down the path of foster care or adoption, or, I could just be the best auntie in the world.
Not long after, my sister’s mother-in-law suggested I call a specialist that was featured in her Woman’s Weekly magazine. At the same time, The Herald Sun had written an article on reclaiming confidence for those who had lost themselves. After reading it, I decided I wanted to be fit, fab and forty. I wrote to them about my fertility struggles, how I put on weight and explained how I was feeling. I was selected for an online fit camp and lost 20kg! I also contacted the specialist from the Woman’s Weekly magazine and that’s where our journey took a change.
Our fertility doctor was fabulous. She gave me a list of things she wanted to check and took lots of blood for testing. She said the issue could be with Craig or myself and suggested we do an IVF cycle where they test the eggs and the sperm. It had to be done in America and she admitted it would be quite costly but we will get a final answer, so, we agreed and the embryos were sent over to America.
Two weeks later, we had a conference call with our fertility doctor to discuss the results. I always thought the issue was with my husband but the results showed I had genetic abnormalities in my eggs. There were two chromosomes missing in the eggs which could cause fetal deformities and my body knew so it was rejecting my pregnancies. That’s why I was miscarrying.
It was a massive blow. I hung up because I couldn’t talk to her and I went through a circle of emotions.I was grieving, bewildered, upset, angry, devastated. I felt so many things in the space of twenty-four hours. I was an awful person. I yelled at Craig and at my family. I was just so angry. How could this be, after so long, my body couldn’t do what it was supposed to do?
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Someone I knew also had fertility issues and they went overseas to have a surrogate. When they came home with a baby, I remember how happy they were. I knew it was my aim in life, do or die, I was going to be a mum.
A couple of days went by and we discussed our options with our fertility doctor. We couldn’t use my eggs but I could carry a baby, so, we looked into egg donations.
Here in Australia, it was illegal to pay someone to donate their eggs but someone could give them to me. I couldn’t see myself taking a gift of eggs from anyone. I knew friends or family would but I couldn’t do it.
Another option was to go overseas so she gave me a list of countries that do egg donations. I scanned the list… America, India, South Africa, Thailand… I wondered what nationality would look most like me and thought, South Africans are tanned with blonde hair and blue eyes, that’s me!
We decided to have a look online and contacted a company in South Africa. They employ women as egg donors and surrogates. Craig and I agreed to do it so we joined, paid and were able to access an ebook to view people’s profiles. The donors were anonymous so we could only see photos of them as babies.
We found our first egg donor. She didn’t want children but didn’t want to deny her gift to other women so we wrote to her. She was happy with us and went for her to testing to make sure everything was good, only to find out that she had issues with the production of embryos so we were unable to continue. It was back to drawing board.
Our second option had one child. We saw a picture of her and her son as babies and decided to write to her. She was happy and was booked in for her testing but unfortunately, her husband and son were in an accident a couple of days before and we understood she had to give all of her attention to her family.
We told ourselves the third time would be lucky and came across our third option. She was twenty-eight, a similar height and weight to me with blonde hair and blue eyes. She went through her testing and the results were great. It was happening. It was surreal. Two days before we were due to travel to South Africa, she went in for her egg retrieval and had fourteen eggs retrieved from her IVF cycle. Out of those, eight fertilised.
No one, not even our immediate family, knew at that stage. We didn't tell anyone because in the back of my mind, I felt like a failure. I thought I was going to get judged for my body not being able to produce a baby.
Travelling to South Africa was a big thing. In the back of my mind, I kept questioning if we were dealing with a real egg donor company and we had 20,000 thoughts running through our minds. On the morning we were due to go to the airport, we called all of our family and told them what was going on. We created a private Facebook page on the way to the airport and decided to add photos while we were there to update our family. We felt relieved once they knew.
We flew from Melbourne to Perth to Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, which was a beautiful seaside city, a bit like Mornington Peninsula. We couldn't believe where we were. There were lions, panthers and other things that could kill you! We treated it as a holiday as well as an IVF cycle. We went on safaris and out to the ocean to watch for great white pointers, whales, dolphins and penguins. It was surreal. We were on this beautiful holiday but also to finally get our long held dream, to have a baby, through this donation from a woman we didn't even know.
Nurture was the donor company and Fembryo was the fertility clinic we went through. They were all so lovely. Everything was very different to Australia. The clinic was like a hotel room with beautiful bedding, slippers, glossy magazines and a personal maid who looked after us. She folded our clothes, poofed our pillows and even bought us food and drinks. It cost us $8,000 total for the flight, accommodation and fertility treatment. In Australia, every cycle we did was between $10,000 and $12,000. There was no subsidy but we had a holiday at the same time.
We had our two embryos transferred and flew back to Australia three days later. The flight was atrocious. I was feeling ‘blah’ from all the IVF drugs and we flew economy. Once we were home I had insomnia for three days and was so jet lagged. We went for a pregnancy test with our local GP and, unfortunately, it didn't work. We were just devastated. We went through all of that and travelled thousands of kilometres. We were on such a high, everyone wanted to know about it, we told beautiful stories from our trip and everything was so positive. I felt like it was all meant to be but then, nope, not even a hint of pregnancy hormones. There I was again, in a slump, I crashed and was down and out. I hated the world.
After I had my period, I looked at Craig and said “I need to go back. We have embryos in the freezer over there. It needs to be. I feel like it’s going to happen.” In that time, he hadn't been working and he had just got a new job. It was an overnight decision. I was going to South Africa on my own.
I knew I needed to look after myself more this time so I booked a nicer hotel and did nearly everything we did last time, like, the safaris, but on my own. I met a tour group and had some nights out, went to beautiful day spas and felt very relaxed. I went to the transfer fertility clinic to have another two embryos implanted.
I flew business class on the way home and stayed an extra night in Perth to balance out my sleep. I felt like I was in such a good place. I was happy to be home because Craig and I missed each other so much! Although I was going to have my blood test in a few days, I thought I would do a quick pregnancy test and left it on the bench. I went through my luggage and showed Craig some art I bought, started to get ready to go to sleep and remembered I did the test when I was brushing my teeth. I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked at the stick. I had to ask Craig if he could see a second line! He could! I lost it, I just bawled my eyes out. I was so emotional. It was a strong second line, that was it! I was pregnant! I was so excited.
Our fertility doctor checked my levels and confirmed both embryos had taken. I thought I was going to have twins! I started getting morning sickness and all was going well until one night, we went out for a family dinner and I started to have a bit of pain. I went to the bathroom but there was no bleeding. I thought it could just be my body reacting to the IVF and put it in the back of my mind but on the way to the car, I nearly doubled over. When we got to my sisters house, I went to the bathroom again and knew it wasn't good. I had to go home and have a drug called progesterone. It’s an extra hormone which can help to sustain an IVF pregnancy. As soon as I got home, I had a big loss of blood. I knew it all too well. I was just devastated. I took the drug anyway and went to bed.
I had an appointment with my GP and she wanted me to do a blood test on Christmas Eve. I thought I wouldn’t get the results back until after the new year but she told me to go in and she would tell them its urgent. I had the blood test and all of my family rallied around to help try and keep my mind off things.
At 4pm, I hadn't heard from the doctors so I rang and reached their voicemail. “Our surgery is now closed…” I managed to reach her on the after hours line and she told me my last hormone level was 2,600. This hormone level was 23,000. I went blank for a moment. I thought I had lost the baby until I heard the words “you’re still pregnant!” I couldn't believe it! She thought I may have lost one and sustained the other. I was asked to relax over Christmas and booked in for an ultrasound in January.
At the ultrasound, the technician pointed out the sac and we could see this tiny, flickering heart beat. Craig and I started bawling and I was shaking. There was a collapsed sac which we expected but it was like Christmas all over again. We had a strong little one that hung on and we wanted to tell everybody that I was pregnant! I developed preeclampsia and had really high blood pressure, lots of fluid, I got gastro but I didn't care because I was pregnant. I finished work early and was booked in to be induced at 37 and a half weeks.
When we had our little man, Jasper Williams, the stars aligned. I was meant to be a mum. It was the most glorious year learning to be a mum and watching him grow. I have the best support through my mothers group, friends and my sisters. We all need to have a vent because there are bad days. Not everything is rainbows and butterflies. At times, I would wonder, where has the good stuff gone, this is hell, but it only takes one moment, a kiss or a hug and hearing the words “I love you” and it all goes away.
Megan and Craig. Supplied.
Being a Mum has really changed me as a person. It’s made me more compassionate to other people. Since becoming a Mum I feel like there is a different calling for me in life. I often think about becoming a fertility or maternal counsellor because I want to help women that are struggling and just need someone to talk to who understands how they’re feeling.
We broke the news to everyone at Jasper's first birthday. “We’re going back to South Africa!” Craig had just got a new job so we decided I would go with my Mum and Jasper. We flew business class both ways and stayed at the same hotel as last time. I had another two embryos transferred and the day before we flew home, we went out for lunch. That afternoon, I didn't feel well. I had food poisoning! I was so sick, it was awful. The hospital couldn't do anything except put me on a drip for hydration. I could hardly eat or drink and lived off plain rice and stewed apple. I came home thinking my body was wrecked and there was no way the embryos could have survived that. Mum told me not to give up but I had no inkling of being pregnant.
When we got home, Craig was so excited because he hadn’t seen us for three weeks. I asked him not to get his hopes up because I didn't think it worked. I did a pregnancy test and rested it on the bench while I organised our stuff, put Jasper to bed and when I went back to check. There was a second line!
We went to our GP and although there was a lower hormone level than when I was pregnant with Jasper, the ultrasound confirmed one of the embryos had taken. I had a trouble free pregnancy. No preeclampsia, just some headaches, ligament pain and a bit of morning sickness. I carried a lot bigger than I did with Jasper.
Time was ticking and when forty weeks came around, I went in for a growth scan. Our baby was measuring between 9 and 9.5 pounds and I was feeling some pain from my first c-section. My obstetrician was worried about going over forty weeks so we agreed to have an elective caesar and we were booked in to have our baby the next day! I hardly slept that night.
Having an elective c-section was so different to the emergency c-section. Everything was so settled and after about forty minutes they were ready to do my spinal block but Craig went to get something to eat and no one could find him! He ended up going back to the room and was sitting, wondering where I was. They quickly got him prepped for theatre.
In my mind, every pregnancy I lost were boys and I thought the same for this one but it was a little girl! She was 9.5 pounds and there was such a big difference between her and Jasper. She latched straight away and had all of my colostrum in three hours but my milk hadn't come in so we had to top her up. She had really bad jaundice and we were back in hospital when she was three weeks old with bronchiolitis but she’s our number two miracle.
Our journey is something I cherish and I look forward to showing them their baby books when they are older. The first page has baby pictures of the donor and it reads “You first began as a seed in another mummy's tummy before you grew in your mummy’s tummy.” To me, that tells them that we wanted them so badly, this is what we did to have them. I would never deny them their story or their heritage. I look forward to taking them back to South Africa to show them where they came from and where it all started. At the moment, they’re too little to understand.
When I was pregnant with Jasper, it took me a long time to really accepted that he was a donor but I’m discovering and investigating that the genetic makeup of the mother carrying the donor eggs is being passed through the DNA and blood. There's been quite a few times I’ve seen me in them. It’s amazing.
Knowledge is power. I wish I hadn’t just taken my first fertility doctors word. If I got a second opinion, I wouldn’t have spent nine years of failed treatment, over $100,000 of IVF and absolute heartbreak. We had to sell our house and rented for seven years to get our dream. I was on the edge and ready to accept I wasn't going to have my own baby but I did that one more thing and now I have my two miracles. Get a second opinion and don't give up.
Megan's story originally appeared on September Baby and has been republished with full permission.
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