Please tell us about your own infertility journey
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 taught up to 11 days before I gave birth 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.
7 years, 2 failed IVFs, countless tests, timed cycles, laparoscopies, HSG x-rays, etc. later I had made total peace about having only one child, but God had other plans.
I fell pregnant unexpectedly at 41-years old and gave birth to Bradley Campbell James on the 23rd September 2010. When Bradley was two and I was 44 years old we had another unexpected pregnancy and I gave birth on the 1st August to the most unexpected gift Jessica Kate.
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.
Read Kirsten’s full personal story here.
When did you start Footprints in the Sand support group?
I started the group in 2007 through my own struggle. I had just had a failed IVF and I felt led to help others. I had worked previously with anorexics at Tara Hospital and whenever they asked me if I had had anorexia I always had to say no. I believe you can only council others if you’ve been in their exact position. The group started with four people in my lounge and to date I’d say over 200 have walked through my doors. The most important part is that over 100 babies have been born to women in this group.
What is your favourite part of running the support group?
The fun part about this group is you never know who’s going to walk throughout the door and what their journey has been until they start sharing. Obviously the best part is when girls fall pregnant who’ve been struggling. Especially girls that have been battling for over nine years. A girl in the group has just fallen pregnant after 12 years, so never give up.
Now that you’ve managed to build your family, do you find it difficult to stay in touch with the feelings of your support group members?
I don’t find it difficult to stay in touch with girls in the group now that I have my three children. I’ve asked God to never take away that actual physical pain that I get when girls are suffering along their fertility journey. I want to empathize with them wholeheartedly.
What part of your own infertility journey did you find the most difficult?
The most difficult part of my journey changed as time went on. To start with I thought the HSG scan was hectic, then the laparoscopy became the next most hectic thing; then the injections especially the stomach ones; timed sex; my daughter crying for a sibling every night; her having to go to a counsellor for her to get over her imaginary sibling; a husband who worked non-stop and couldn’t accompany me even to embryo transfers; 52 of my friends having babies in the time I waited for my second; ‘fertiles’ hurtful comments; failed cycles; the two week wait and obviously the dreaded period. I still hate it. So as you see pretty much every part of the journey was hell. I had a blissful childhood, I often feel that if a person had quite a difficult childhood they cope better with the fertility journey compared to someone like myself who had never known severe physical pain or hardship.
How did you stay positive during your struggle to conceive?
Staying positive on the journey is not always easy. Have a standard sentence that you answer people with when they question you on your infertility and you don’t feel like explaining the ins and outs to them of your life. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Avoid people who bring you down. God for me has always been my greatest strength and hope. He is the creator of babies after all. Never lose hope. Many girls find medication necessary. There is a time and a place for it. This journey isn’t for sissies. Many girls attend sessions of counselling to get them through.
What words of advice would you offer couples who are struggling to conceive?
My advice to couples is to try and get onto the same page. Realize you need to be in this together. Your wife will change often dramatically when on the medication, but it’s good preparation for when she’s pregnant, she’ll be even wilder. Love each other, support each other. Spoil each other, go away at the drop of a hat because when babe comes you won’t have a chance to do anything. Keep the flame alive, share your feelings constantly, your fears and concerns.
There is a lack of infertility support groups in South Africa. What advice would you give someone who wants to start a support group in their area?
If contemplating starting a support group you need to be available to your girls 24/7 when they are going through treatments and you need to message them daily. You need to know exactly what their history is and what their future plans are, no one wants to be treated like a sausage in a factory. A huge amount of time and effort needs to be made to build deep relationships with girls in your group. You need to contact them daily too when IVFs have failed. Running the fertility support group for the past seven and a half years has been the greatest thing that I have ever done. The joy I receive when a baby is conceived and then finally born is the greatest joy. As great as when I fell pregnant with all of my children. You need to be known by all the fertility doctors and you need to develop a good relationship with them. Please feel free to join Footprints in the Sand in Johannesburg in 2015. Kirsten 0722498790.