My fertility journey spans over 16 years. I like to call it my fertility journey not my infertility journey and my support group that came from this struggle is a fertility group not an infertility group. This mind set has been critical. When more people were pregnant in the group than not the name changed. My husband and I have been together for 34 years since the age of ten and eleven, so for a huge part of our lives we were trying not to fall pregnant. After five years of marriage the time felt right to start a family, we had bought the new house, got the dog and we started trying. For two years we tried totally ignorantly about when we should be doing what and all those good things and we fell pregnant with twins taking a cycle of clomid. At six weeks there were two perfect heart beats and then somewhere between then and ten weeks the ‘vanishing twin’ disappeared. This was devastating for us, my husband’s sisters are twins and so my mom in law was particularly excited. Telling them the news was awful. I never realized that I was on a fertility journey in those two years but a teaching colleague also fell pregnant at the same time as me and tried for as long as me and so I thought this was normal. I taught up to 11 days before I gave birth NATURALLY (forceps, pethadine, episiotomy, etc.) to my daughter Emma, a perfect 2.7 kilos of heavenly joy. It was a day that I relive every year. Unbelievable to be a mother for the first time!!! Well motherhood’s rough let me warn you, you have to be totally selfless and at 30 I wasn’t that. Being a control freak, A type personality I didn’t feel that I could cope with a two year age gap so when Emma was two I went off the pill and so began a journey that I’ll never forget and in fact am grateful for now. I was with the gynae that delivered Emma and he was amazing meeting me on Saturdays to trigger me, he scanned me for free and after I think it was two years I said I think I need to go to a fertility doctor. His response was mind blowing ‘oh I didn’t know there was money available? ‘ I wonder if I would still be there today.
Then I entered the whirls of fertility clinics and doctors. I started at the Linksfield Clinic where Vitalab started. After many tests I was told I needed to sort out my mind. They were right. Sorting out one’s mind is not something you can just replace so I went to a hypnotherapist as recommended by them and paid and left half way through the consultation as it was totally against my belief system. So what else could I do? I’d done a laparoscopy and nothing significant was found. I’d done bloods, a post coital test (joys!), timed cycles, HSG scan, which is still one of the worst things I’d ever experienced ( I even made a scrap booking booklet on the event I was so traumatized ). So I thought I’d do the famous stress course that Medfem offers. Here I met two of my most special friends. That for me was the best part of the course. Huge success rate after the course and nothing. Friends falling pregnant left right and centre. Emma was about five now crying for a sibling, developing an imaginary one and the pressure was on. Emma’s friends telling me Emma is lying. That she doesn’t have a brother etc. Pain, pain and more pain. So in 2007 I plucked up the hugest courage to do an IVF. I DON’T do needles or should I say I didn’t used to do needles. I was with a doctor at Medfem who first diagnosed me with PCOS so I went onto Glucophage and Eltroxin. So we have the miracle drugs sorted and for I think another six months nothing happens. So IVF here I come. I still have vivid memories of my purple toiletry bag full of drugs and as soon as I thought I was finished they’d fill it up again. It was a wonderful cycle in that I had no side effects. They got 15 eggs of which 12 fertilized and they put back two embryos. I waited the hardest, longest two weeks of my life and NOTHING!!!! I questioned God hugely on this. Why why why? I remember feeling very strongly God saying you’ve got to help others. I had worked at Tara Hospital befriending the out of town anorexic girls and they would ask me ‘have you ever had anorexia?’ and I would have to say no. I strongly believe you cannot council someone unless you have walked in those particular shoes. There is very little I have not done fertility wise. So Footprints in the Sand was started in May of 2007 and is still operating today. I started with four girls in my family room and well over 200 women have walked through my doors to date. I continued to pursue my fertility journey trying everything – no wheat , then no dairy, then no alcohol, then mega water, then reflexology, then the scio machine, then cranial physio, vitamins, minerals. I tried everything short of wrapping copper wire around my bed. I do have to mention my daughter was a headstand baby. You’ll do anything. This emotionally takes its toll and you can dangerously stop living in the process. I then went back to Vitalab where I did a second laparoscopy and a chocolate cyst was removed in a very unusual part of the uterus, the ovary was disconnected and endometriosis removed. I had also had stage 2 endometriosis removed during a previous laparoscopy at Medfem. This was 2009. Emma was nine and the loneliness of being an only child was incredibly difficult. It was a big year. I turned 40 in the September and didn’t want to take away from that celebration. So in the November I used all my courage to embark on my last IVF. I was becoming too old. I had had two operations that year, endless scans, bloods, been prodded and poked by different nurses and six doctors. I would have the brand new intralipid drip and we would do IVF GIFT this time. The word GIFT to me just meant this was a done deal. Like last time everything was amazing. 12 eggs of which 10 fertilized. Waited and Nothing!!!! That was complete closure for me. It was more than I could cope with anymore. That journey had been seven years so far since having Emma.
And so I had total peace about having only one child, but God had other plans. In December of 2009 a friend suggested I meet with a Christian man, he came to my home and prayed over me. I had a complete warm sensation running down the right hand side of my body. I know this was a healing from God. The man’s words to me were “Your heart’s desire is to have a son, this will happen soon and the glory will go to God.” This was all I had ever wanted !!!!! We went on a wonderful holiday to the Seychelles and in the January I found out I was pregnant. The fertility clinics were the only places open at that time, so being at a fertility clinic and seeing that heartbeat made for a pleasant change. It was the best day of my life, instead of waiting there to be prodded or poked. I was seven weeks pregnant. I was 41 years old and had had no doctors intervention. I gave birth to Bradley Campbell James on the 23rd September 2010. I don’t find out the sex of my babies and so seeing those balls was a sight I will never forget. Our family was at long last complete. Bradley is a magnificent child and Emma was the most loving, kind and caring sister.
When Bradley was two he started at a playschool down the road and I was asked to do a grade three teaching locum, so that a teacher could go on honeymoon. I agreed to this as teaching is my passion, but not for longer than six weeks because Brad was still little and I wanted to be there for him. Three weeks into my teaching, a tragedy struck that would change my life forever. A teaching colleague and old school friend of mine, at the school that I was teaching at died in her husband’s arms at her dad’s funeral from a brain aneurism. Leaving behind a grade four and grade eleven daughter. It was a horrific time. The principal approached me and said I would be the only suitable replacement for these 60 girls as they knew me because my daughter was in this grade. As a huge leap of faith I stepped into my friend’s huge shoes of teaching grade six English. I am junior primary trained. I had to set exams and mark exams something I had never done before in my 20 years of teaching. Brad had to have grommets in and amongst all of this. I had to write reports etc. and the demands and stress of helping children mourn the death of their teacher was huge let alone all the school work, and my poor daughter had to be taught by me.
But the December holidays finally arrived, thank goodness. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted.
We have amazing friends who live in London and they took my husband and myself to Londolozi game reserve for two nights, total heaven on earth. On our small plane trip back the pilot tried to land to fetch other guests but there were elephants on the runway and we had to take off again very suddenly. All the women got out their vomit bags and waited to vomit, but thank God none of us actually did. We eventually got off the plane but continued to feel like death. That feeling never left me for the next three months. Yes, you guessed it I was 10 weeks pregnant. What an unbelievable shock after all we’d been through. We told both sets of parents on Christmas Day, it was incredibly special. I was now 44 years old. I felt my age throughout the pregnancy that was for sure, but I gave birth on the 1st August to the most unexpected gift Jessica Kate. I never thought my life could be so full. I now have a 14 year old, a four year old and a 14 month old at the ripe old age of 45. I wouldn’t swop my journey with anyone. I have a story to share that is so unique and so miraculous, I have grown so much as a person, I’ve met the most incredibly courageous people and I continue to learn that miracles do still happen each and every day.
Never give up, there are always options. Your path may have to change, and that adjustment is often the hardest part. Your ultimate goal is to have a baby, how you get there is unique and special to you, never compare yourself to anyone else.
Journal your journey because when you get to the finish line and look back you’ll be reminded of so much that went before and you’ll strangely enough be grateful.
May you be blessed with all that your heart desires, may your journey be short. Nomathembe – live in hope in the waiting.