♥ Stage 2 endometriosis
♥ Chemical pregnancies
♥ Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
♥ Genetic Disorder (Balanced Pericentric Inversion of Chromosome 8, aka inv8)
♥ Pregnancy PTSD
♥ Donor Egg IVF (DEIVF)
♥ Complete placenta previa
♥ Succenturiate lobe
♥ Planned caesarean at 37 weeks
♥ Placenta accreta (Surprise!)
♥ Postpartum haemorrhage
I always wanted to be a mother. I was the four-year-old who pretended to breastfeed her dolls, the seven-year-old who played with (and casually looked after) the neighbours’ toddler, the 11-year-old who dumped shampoo and talcum powder into her dolls’ tiny diapers, and the 14-year-old who showed her step-dad how to change her baby sister’s diaper.
When I was 10, I read a kids’ book on adoption and decided that I would adopt when I was a grown up. But I was also fascinated by pregnancy and childbirth, so this adoption daydream was in addition to, not in lieu of, the two biological children I planned on having.
The closer I got to the age where I could conceivably start trying, the more I began to secretly worry that I would have problems. I pooh-poohed the idea, reminding myself that I come from a highly fertile family: my paternal grandmother was the eldest of 12 and, even more relevant, my mother accidentally got pregnant with my little sister at 40, and delivered her by elective caesarean after an uneventful pregnancy at 41. Me, have problems conceiving? Pffft!
I was diagnosed with stage 2 endometriosis in April 2001. My endo was on my digestive system thankfully leaving my reproductive system alone. The official word was that I shouldn’t have problems conceiving but, given my medical history, to see a doctor after only six months of trying to conceive. Thereafter, I tri-cycled (taking three packs back-to-back before having a break) birth control for 11 years and my heavy and painful periods became a thing of the past.
After years of waiting for the right time, the recession hit and I lost my job and, with it, our health insurance. I watched longingly as friend after friend began having their first baby. By the time they were onto having their second or third children, those pregnancy announcements had become a source of anguish. I was 34, and wondering when it would be my turn.
Finally, in August 2012, I came off the pill but we didn’t start TTC in earnest for a few months. I started BBT charting in December 2012, but was sick around ovulation; and then BAM! I conceived in January 2013. Our first real month of trying, I was knocked up! I briefly wrote in my notes that it was a relief to learn I wasn’t infertile. (Famous last words…)
And then his light went out.
I’d been blogging elsewhere for years, but started On Fecund Thought just four days after I learned my pregnancy had ended silently. OFT began with chronicling the trauma and aftermath of a missed miscarriage: the physical pain, the bewildering grief of losing a much longed-for and already loved baby, the feelings of being betrayed by one’s body, and the battles with the envy gremlins that come out around other pregnant women (including my sisters-in-law)—and then the tentative steps into trying all over again.
That trying all over again was more difficult than I would have ever believed.
- Read this blog from the very beginning: posts on miscarriage start here.
Fertile But Fucked
Despite conceiving quickly the first time, in August 2013 I received some devastating news about my fertility: a diagnosis of Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) (FSH 12.3; E2 46; AMH 0.17; Antral Follicle Count 3+3). Next stop IVF!
We were set for starting a low stim protocol in October, but had to unexpectedly postpone our plans when I had to fly to London: we were on our way to our first ever RE appointment when I got the call that my grandmother was dying. That was a Tuesday, she died Friday, and I was on a plane by myself that Sunday night. Whilst in London, without my husband, I got the most devastating news of all: my pre-IVF bloodwork came back showing I have an abnormal karyotype: a balanced pericentric inversion of chromosome 8 (or “inv8”).
It is estimated that only 1-2% of the world population has an inverted chromosome—and the fact that there are 22 chromosomes (not including sex chromosomes) means there are only a handful of known cases of an inverted 8th chromosome. What this means is my chromosome is structurally unstable, so when my eggs shed half of their genes to make room for the sperm’s genes (a process called mitosis) they will recombine to create an even more structurally unstable embryo.
My analogy is: I am the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Yeah, I’m a building. But if you use me as a blueprint for constructing another building, you’ll end up with a pile of rubble.
If I had tried to have a baby in my early twenties, I would have had a high chance of having a baby with Recombinant 8 Syndrome. Such a child would be severely mentally and physically disabled. Recombinant 8 Syndrome is marked by facial deformities, low IQ, bones that fuse, and multiple heart surgeries in a short lifetime—such children usually don’t live past the age of six.
Trying for a baby in my 30s meant I would be more likely to miscarry repeatedly. (Indeed, I believe I had two chemical pregnancies after my miscarriage.) My inv8 almost certainly meant that Bean was recombinant and probably caused my diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).
- Posts on infertility start here.
Moving on to Donor Eggs
We pondered what the best way to proceed would be: IVF with my eggs, or with donor eggs? Financially, we had one shot, but could I really bypass IVF with my own eggs without any regrets? The answer—thanks to this flow chart—was yes. Five short weeks after learning about my genetic disorder, we decided to go the donor egg route. We were matched with our donor, “Nellie” (Nice Egg Lady), a few days later. I began the mock cycle in November 2013 and began the real cycle on January 2, 2014.
After much blood, sweat, and plenty of tears, on February 26, 2014—exactly a year to the day I learned Bean had died—we transferred two fully hatched, chromosomally normal embryos, a boy and a girl. Although both embryos implanted, only the girl made it.
- Posts on DEIVF start here.
The first trimester passed with a little anxiety but, apart from three and a half weeks of mild nausea, was uneventful.
During my anatomy scan, I learned that I had complete placenta previa and a succenturiate lobe, which would mean I would need a caesarean instead of the midwife-led birth I had my heart set on. And for the rest of my pregnancy, I would be on strict pelvic rest and limited activity. Thankfully, my elevated Inhibin levels, which often indicate IUGR, didn’t affect the baby’s growth.
My third trimester was a little short, but marked by breathlessness, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and cravings for ice cold water, orange juice, and milk. I drank 5-6 litres (up to 200 oz) of liquids a day!
- Posts on pregnancy start here.
Baby V came into the world via planned caesarean at 37+1. Her Apgar scores were 8 and 9.
As for me, I haemmorrhaged and lost 3.6 litres (a few ounces shy of a gallon) of blood. I was told that had I delivered in a more rural setting I would have died. Out of respect to my squeamish or pregnant readers who prefer not read a horror story (with a happy ending!), that’s all I’ll say here.
But you can read the full story here:
These days my posts are few and far between, although I write when I can. There is so much to say, but I try to live the experience. This motherhood gig is the toughest and most rewarding of my life.
- Posts on motherhood start here.
When the time came to add to our family, we had 8 PGS-tested embryos on ice. We had five failed FET cycles: two negative, two cancelled, and one chemical pregnancy. Sixth time lucky though! On February 26, 2018—exactly four years to the day that we transferred the the embryo that became our daughter—we transferred two embryos, a boy and a girl, and got pregnant. Our twins, A and Z, were born full term in October. Incredibly, I was pregnant with them for two days longer than I was with their big sister, and I managed to keep my uterus! Not that I plan on using it again—my Ob/Gyn said that my uterus was stretched so thin she would advise against getting pregnant again!
- Posts on secondary infertility start here.
Despite all the pain, I have so much to be grateful for:
… the infertility and loss community which is a source of inspiration, filled with shining stories of strength.
… that I am able to express myself through writing.
… that my writing has been an outstretched hand for others.
… to have an explanation for my miscarriage.
… to have an explanation for my DOR.
… that I live so close to one of the best RE clinics in the US for donor eggs.
… that our donor produced a record number of mature eggs.
… that I got pregnant on our first DEIVF cycle.
… that I have a compassionate and competent OB.
… my incredible friends and family, all of whom fully support our decision to use donor eggs.
… that our journey has brought my husband and I closer than ever before.
… to have carried my firstborn to 37w1d…
… and to have carried her twin brother and sister to 37w3d…
… and to have had a beautiful, healing belly birth…
… and most importantly: that I am a mom to three little kids who are everything I would have wanted in a child: healthy, happy, intelligent, empathic, goofy, affectionate, creative, curious, and, most importantly, finally here.
Donor eggs: the greatest gift of my life.