Age at interview: 47
Infertility diagnosis: No
Contributing factors to fertility problems: Age
Age at diagnosis: 43
Fertility treatments: IVF
Background: Ingrid is a full-time student. A single parent, she lives with her school-aged child in a metropolitan city. Ingrid has European heritage.
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Having a first child at age 38
So my fertility journey, if you like, I fell pregnant with my child – I only have one child – and I didn't...I essentially wasn't even sure about having children, but my then partner convinced me that it was a good thing to do and finally, we decided, "Yes, that's the path that we're going to go down.” So I successfully fell pregnant when I was 38, actually almost 39, and which is obviously a mature age pregnancy, if you like to call it that. There were no problems and the rest of the pregnancy went very smoothly. In my mind, it was almost a perfect pregnancy, so I thought, "Wow, I can do this again."
Struggling to have a second child and seeking help
So I did decide to breastfeed my daughter for around about almost 15 months, and obviously when you're breastfeeding, it's almost like a contraceptive. So even though our sex, if you like, was unprotected, I wasn't falling pregnant, but I just thought, ‘It was easy enough to fall pregnant the first time around, let's go again,’ and my GP was saying, "Look, you're more fertile generally speaking after you've had a child.” Before I had my daughter, I had five miscarriages. So we were very lucky to have her in the first place. Then I had another one after she was born and that was, I guess, quite...I don't know, it’s disappointing, stressful.
There's a lot of anxiety and looking back my partner at the time wasn't involved. He wanted a child, but didn't really understand everything that goes with it: the parenting and the amount of time that...and particularly as a first-time mum.
So multiple miscarriages, I wasn't sure if I liked my GP anymore, so instead of going to that GP for a referral to a fertility specialist, I actually just phoned the IVF clinic myself and booked in and then did it the other way around. They contacted the GP and then the GP sent them a referral. I should've just gone to the GP in the first place so I didn't waste everybody's time.
So the fertility specialist, I really loved. She was possibly...she specialised in particular with older pregnancies and with multiple miscarriages. The clinic, she wasn't a standalone fertility specialist. The clinic that she worked out of – or she works out of a few – but when I called, they recommended her specifically because they obviously listened to my concerns in terms of my age, multiple miscarriages. Also, it was very convenient that they're located five minutes' walk from my front door.
So from there, I went through three cycles, all of which involved...on the first day of my period, phoned up, met the nurse, went to the pharmacy there, picked up the drugs, if you like, so essentially, I was self-injecting. The drug was called GONAL-F [Follitropin alfa] which is a pretty common drug and yeah, so then I would just phone them up like most – I wouldn't say all – but most women going through IVF, just phone on the trigger day and then they organised for you to go into the clinic for your day procedure.
So the first, they were able to collect five eggs, so I was quite hopeful, but unfortunately, none of them survived to the transfer date. The second cycle, I did approximately three to four months later. So that only produced one egg. Sorry, not produced; they were able to collect one egg, even though my fertility specialist thought that she could see approximately three to four. So I went in with one and it was a bit depressing. They kept saying, "Well, it only takes one, maybe." I thought, "Yeah, well it's still only one, isn't it? It has to be super egg and some super sperm going with it." So that was obviously disappointing.
Then I just needed...I just personally needed some head space with it all because the two cycles, I wasn't in the right frame of mind to go straight into another cycle. So we gave it another shot.. So with that cycle, they thought there were about five eggs again and there wasn't, and none of them made it through. Now, with the second cycle, that one egg did...I received a phone call a couple of days later from my specialist and she said, "It looks promising, that one egg," and this is where some of my subsequent disappointment and just feeling down about the whole process came from, is that one egg was going really well. On day three, I was due to go in for the embryo transfer, and just as I was at the front door at home the phone rang, and the fertility specialist said, "You can't come in. It didn't make it. Overnight, it didn't make it." So that was quite depressing for me and that's why I delayed going in...didn't go into my next cycle straight away. I just needed some personal head space, I guess, if you want to call it that.
Pausing IVF following unusual blood test results
After the third cycle, I was ready to go into a fourth cycle and when I had my regular bloods done, because as other IVF patients, in their experience, have probably mentioned a thousand times how many bloods you have to do all of the time. So you just get used to putting your arm out and saying, "Yeah, just the take the blood, off you go." You get very used to it. It's nothing. Well, not nothing, but just there's no point in complaining because it has to be done.
All of a sudden, I receive a phone call saying that I need to present to my GP. I was like, "What's that about?" and instead of my...my bloods had been fine for years and certainly, I had a record every three months or whatever. It's not like I hadn't had my full blood or an FBE [full blood examination] done with other things that whatever my specialist thought she wanted to check out. Everything was fine.
This time, however, instead of my red blood count or my haem being somewhere in the vicinity of about 115 to 130, 135, which is the general range that they look at, to my understanding, it was 83, which my GP said, "Okay, if it's 83, I have to refer you to the blood cancer unit." Imagine my excitement. So that was in January 2020, and I haven't gone back for another cycle,. I'm still at the blood cancer unit as someone that they're monitoring.
Stopping IVF after a relationship breakdown
My bloods have come back to a normal level. However, in the meantime, I turn 48 in October and I am very aware that time is not on my side. In the meantime, in March last year, my partner after 19 years decided to leave, but he didn't really communicate that to me and six months later, he woke up one morning and then claims that he leased a property that day, and he moved out that day. Now, in my entire life, even though I own my property now, I have leased lots of properties. Not once have I put in an application and moved the same day.
So after that, I discovered that there had been various things that clearly, he had been moving out of the house. For how long, I don't know, but obviously he was doing just small things.
Anyway, that is, in a broad sense, the journey that I've been through. After my...it wasn't really a diagnosis at the blood cancer unit. It was more so they could see why...they were trying to investigate, if you like, why my bloods were so much out of whack. They still haven't got an answer for me and now they just want to see me every three months, and my bloods – as I've mentioned earlier – have gone back to normal. But I mentioned that obviously my partner left, but I've had to relook at the last few years.
Reflections about IVF and whether to continue independently
Looking back, I think that it's not just reflecting on myself that I may have been experiencing slight amounts of anxiety and depression through the process, which I believe now, most definitely I think did contribute to either miscarriages or the fertility treatment possibly not going as well, not just my age.
Having said that, obviously I don't have a current partner anymore and I just can't see me returning to IVF, plus after you turn 45, Medicare doesn't help you out anymore. Instead of paying about 5 or $6,000, I would be paying between 10, 11, $12,000 per cycle, and as a single mum, that's going to be a bit of a challenge to do that [laughter], and for potentially that 1% chance that I fall pregnant at my age, or 1 to 3 % or whatever it is, I don't think it's financially viable. Friends have told me, "Just get a dog! Just give it up!" [laughter]
Support during IVF journey
At the same time, I think I was trying to be positive. I started a secret infertility or infant loss group on Facebook and I've actually become – still from that group – became friends and still am friends with a couple of ladies outside of Facebook, which is really good for just general support and we generally outside of just having problems with falling pregnant, we had common interests and so on. And I identified that I did need that support that I wasn't getting outside of counselling, which I was offered counselling which came as part and parcel with the IVF journey through the clinic, and then I pursued counselling...my GP saw that I was really struggling there for a little bit through the IVF journey, and so, when the IVF counselling ran my GP put together a mental health plan just for up to 10 sessions, I could see a local counselling psychologist. So I did that and that was really helpful, but…
You get to the point where you think you've got nothing more to say, and so I needed females in my life who understood the journey so I built my own support network.
Find out more about Ingrid’s experiences in the following short films:
Wanting to Become a Parent
Solo Parenthood by Choice
Experiences of Health Practitioners and Health Services
Difficulties Conceiving, Becoming Pregnant, and Maintaining a Pregnancy during Fertility Treatment
Infertility, Fertility Treatment, and Partner Relationships
Advice for Family and Friends of Someone Experiencing Infertility and Fertility Treatment