Age at interview: 44
Infertility diagnosis: No
Contributing factors to fertility problems: problems with male partner’s sperm, menstrual cycle irregularities
Age at diagnosis: 30
Fertility treatments: IVF and ICSI
Background: Chelsey is a stay-at-home parent. She lives with her husband and four children in a metropolitan city and is from a white Australian background.
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Early attempts at conceiving and concerns about infertility
We’d been trying naturally, obviously, and we weren’t having much success, and we happened to go and visit my mother-in-law, who is another country, and she told me that my hubby had mumps as a teenager. So that did set off some alarm bells, so I did a little bit of research on my own and we did find out, or I could see that he had sperm, it was just a matter of, ‘Why aren’t we getting pregnant then?’
So we kept trying. Hubby was resisting to go and get tested. So that in itself was quite stressful. He kept saying we - he didn’t want to have IVF, which was quite distressing because I was already 30 and knew that this type of process would take some time. So I felt very isolated, very frustrated and it took him quite some years to actually accept that we did have a problem, because we weren’t falling pregnant naturally.
Fertility testing and starting ICSI and IVF
So finally, he agreed to go and we found out that yes we did have problems on his side, and on my side the doctor said that there was no point in investigating me because we’d have to have IVF and ICSI, which was a bit frustrating, because I would have liked to have known if I had contributed - or my side contributed to some of these problems as well, because I was trying to be as healthy as I could be, and it felt in that way, it felt that control was taken out of my hands. So I was doing everything I could to help. I was getting some acupuncture and Chinese medicine and just trying to keep myself relaxed while working in quite a stressful job.
So we finally started having IVF and I found out on my first round of hormone treatment that I’d only produced three or four eggs. I think it was three this time, which was quite devastating when I’d realised that other women who go through this got seven, eight eggs and they were actually able to freeze some embryos. In my case, that was unlikely and whether or not they were actually going to be healthy. So that was quite sad. So my husband decided, because we’d only got the three embryos, or eggs rather, not to continue that treatment and to stop it there.
The morning where I injected myself with, I can’t remember what it’s called now, the hormone to naturally release the eggs, I was crying. I was a mess. I felt very isolated, very misunderstood, no support, and I was just questioning whether or not having children was ever, ever going to happen for us. So that took quite some time to emotionally recover from. Even though we decided to keep going and I didn’t miss a cycle, I kept going and I said to the doctor, “I’d prefer not to go on the pill.” I think because with the cycle that I was having I had to go on the pill first so that the timing was right, and I felt that maybe having the pill was stopping me ovulating as well. So he agreed with that.
Second cycle of IVF and first pregnancy loss
So I continued on the next cycle straight away and we were lucky enough to get four eggs. After the 24 hours we had two embryos, so I went in to get them placed inside, and they - when you were looking at them on the screen, I could see that there was only a couple of cells, so I was very nervous about this. I had a good feeling that maybe we weren’t going to have success again.
So I went and had the blood tests a few days later. I was very careful those couple of days. I didn’t want to do anything just in case I dislodged something. Anyway, it did show up that I was pregnant, and within a couple of days I actually started feeling very ill, very toxic inside, but I felt very, very ill and very sick, so I thought things weren’t going right. That was quite isolating again, very devastated really because I thought things aren’t going right, this isn’t a normal feeling of morning sickness that people describe.
At the six-week ultrasound there was signs of a developing baby. I could see the shape of a little jellybean, and the sac, but yet these feelings felt, like I was feeling quite ill still and there was no heartbeat, which again was a bit, my heart just dropped. So doctor said, “Let’s scan you again next week.” So I went back in on the seventh week and actually there was still no heartbeat and the formation of what was possibly the baby was no longer there, so I was left - all you could see was the blighted ovum.
So of course, that was very devastating, and I was thinking what could I do more, what could I do better, like eat better, relax more, do more, like just all these thoughts going around in my head. Again, that took some time to get over emotionally, but I still thought, ‘No, I’m on this rollercoaster now, I need to just keep chugging forward.’ So even though we went into the next round of IVF, I was still mourning the loss of the previous pregnancy and wondering if this was ever going to happen.
Third IVF cycle and a successful pregnancy
The third time we went, another hormone treatment, because of course we were only getting the two embryos, I got four eggs again, even though the hormones had increased and increased and increased, and the doctor said, “This time if this level of hormone doesn’t work, that we’d have to swap you over to another treatment plan, different types of hormones,” which in itself is nerve-racking, because you don’t know what side-effects you’re going to get.
So we continued with this one, and as I said, got four eggs and we did get two embryos, and on the day of the transfer, I could see in the microscope on the TV up on the wall that one of the eggs had split quite a few more times than the other. It was probably more about five or six cells. So I took a photo of that, praying and crossing my fingers that this might be our baby.
So I actually, when we got those two implanted I thought, ‘Look, maybe I need to just keep my mind off things and keep active,’ because my body wanted to be moving. So I did, I went and did some light gardening and I continued that, trying to just keep my mindset positive for those next couple of weeks when we got the blood test, and it came back positive. So that was great, and then we went and had our six-week scan and again, was positive. We had the heartbeat, and everything looked really good.
So we were so happy and so pleased, and yet we were still so nervous, and we couldn’t really relax and couldn’t really enjoy the pregnancy until we had this baby in our arms. Both hubby and I were very nervous to the point where he didn’t want me getting ready for the baby just in case something had happened, and you know, throughout the whole pregnancy even when I was heavily pregnant, I actually finished painting the room the night I went into labour because we were so nervous about losing bubs. But we did, we had a healthy boy which was great. He is actually a child that didn’t eat and didn’t sleep, and the next 18 months was filled with just trying to keep him well fed and not grouchy, refluxy and a lack of sleep.
Conceiving a second child without IVF
When I started thinking about having another child, I couldn’t actually raise the topic with my husband straight away. I’d just finished breastfeeding my first child and I knew in my heart that he wouldn’t want to go down IVF again.
So when it came to my second child and trying to start discussing that with my husband, I turned to a girlfriend and we were talking about it, and she was sort of my release in a way, and actually, I was very lucky and did fall pregnant naturally with my second child, which was a great shock, and I felt like he really wanted to be here for a reason, to show me that there was light at the end of the tunnel.
Multiple miscarriages and losing hope of having a third child
After the 12 months with him, like after he was born for the first 12 months, I didn’t go on contraception. I really felt deep inside my family wasn’t complete and I really wanted to go for a third child, so I just looked after myself, just thought, ‘Well, if I could get pregnant with my second child, I’ll see how I go with a third.’
So off we went, and I ended up having three miscarriages in the space of about two years. Each of those miscarriages was devastating. It took me back to the first time and the feelings of being isolated and lonely. My husband just didn’t get it. He didn’t understand physically and emotionally how a woman grieves and just so desperately wants a child, and every month when the cycle comes around, or you heavily bleed and lose, just how devastating that is.
The third miscarriage was probably the worst. I was about the 12-week mark and I bled out at home in the shower. My husband didn’t cope well with that and it was a long, long night, but I felt there was no point in going to the hospital. I was more comfortable being at home and it meant that I could have control of how I managed the little baby that had formed. So that in itself was empowering how I did that. I did a lot of research on that, a lot of tears shed of course, and I ended up making my decision how to remember this child. It was only little, very tissue paper.
So then from there I felt like all was lost. I was now reaching closer to 40 and didn’t particularly want to get much older, so I felt a lot of pressure, time was against me, and struggling to come to terms with, ‘Maybe this is it, maybe I will continue my life feeling that my family was incomplete.’
Conceiving twins without IVF
Luckily enough though, I did fall pregnant and I rushed to a doctor and asked for some progesterone suppositories to help with the HCG levels, because I felt that maybe that was part of the problem previously, and given my age, and I had talked to a doctor about it, whether or not I should start on a low dose of aspirin, which she had also agreed to. And luckily enough, at the seven-week mark, I went and had a scan and I was pregnant with twins, which was fantastic news, and my pregnancy continued, although like the other two, I was very nervous, I was anxious all the time until I had these little bubs in my arms, and luckily that’s what happened.
Find out more about Chelsey’s experiences in the following short films:
Experiences of Fertility Testing
Experiences of Fertility Treatment
Experiences of Complementary and Alternative Medicines and Therapies and Lifestyle Changes
Difficulties Conceiving, Becoming Pregnant, and Maintaining a Pregnancy during Fertility Treatment
Infertility, Fertility Treatment, and Partner Relationships
Thoughts and Feelings about Infertility and Fertility Treatment