May 9th to 15th 2016

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Juanita's story

For as long as I can remember, I have pictured myself as a mother. Before I even imagined my life as a career woman, a wife or a friend; I was a mum.  In my imaginary world I had a little girl (perhaps two) with dark brown eyes and chestnut hair that bounced about in loose ringlets. 

As I grew older I worked hard, loved my work and was proud of my career and looked around for Mr Right.  In my late 20s I found him and we were married.  Terry had been married before and had three school age children.  Part of what I adored about him was the way he managed his divorce and parented his children; he was a great Dad.  Thinking that phase of his life was over, he had had a vasectomy.  When our relationship was becoming really serious I told him that having children was something I didn’t think I could forego.  He didn’t flinch and agreed that having a family together would be wonderful.  He also assured me that the vasectomy could be reversed and he was willing to undergo that surgery in order to conceive. 

After we had been married a couple of years, I was nearing 30.  We decided to seek advice on how best to get pregnant.  All my tests came back good as gold and it was decided that if the vasectomy could be successfully reversed we could conceive naturally.  We were thrilled and had the surgery done.  It was only moderately successful, but good enough that we were sent away to try natural conception.  After almost 12 months of no luck, Terry’s semen was retested and it was found the reversal actually hadn’t worked and there wasn’t a single sperm in the semen.  We were so frustrated that we had wasted so much time and money, without success.  At least we still have IVF as a back-up we thought.

We were told that Public funding would take up to 3 years to come through for us so we decided to scrape the money together to pay privately – filled with hope that as I had no issues we’d only need to do it once!  We were wrong.  The first cycle was cancelled the day before egg collection.  As it was a clinical error we were refunded our money and embarked on our second cycle. 

The wait for that result was excruciating.  Every twinge, ache, mood swing or trip to the toilet filled me with anxiety.  Would there be bleeding? Am I feeling this because I’m pregnant or because of the drugs? I would get anxious about how worried I was and how I couldn’t relax. 

The result was negative and we were crushed.  I cried and cried and cried – mainly nuzzled into Terry’s chest, in bed, in the dark.  It’s so unfair.  We are good people, we would love a child, we would be great parents – and the big one – there’s nothing wrong with me, so why won’t this work?

We went through IVF another 3 times with two Frozen Embryo Transfers interspersed.  We had one positive result but the HCG level was low and even though we had been warned the pregnancy was precarious, we held out a smidgen of hope that it would take hold. But two days later the blood test showed it was no longer there.  It was devastating.  We had both allowed ourselves to imagine, just for a few minutes, that we were going to have a baby and now we weren’t. More tears.

The whole process was exhausting. The logistics alone were a nightmare.  Getting into the clinic for scans, getting home in time to inject, working Terry’s massive travel schedule to accommodate last minute treatment and trying to keep it reasonably private.

I was becoming a changed person.  My friends were too scared to tell me they were pregnant.  Some had 3 babies in the time we were trying to get pregnant.  I was starting to mistake Terry’s stoic support as a lack of caring – if he wasn’t crying floods of tears I started to question how invested he was.  After all, he had three children – he got cards on Fathers Day!!  I love having his children as part of our family, but they have a wonderful mother and I never attempted to carry that mantle.  I had a morbid fear of facing life as someone who wasn’t a parent, growing old without children of my own around me.  He never had to face that.  Mother’s Day was torture.  Baby showers were no go zones and I hated myself for that.  I love my friends and work hard at being a good friend to them, but I just couldn’t muster the courage or energy to sit through them.  My close friends were amazing and so supportive.  As therapy I baked.  I loved doing something I finally had control over ... but whatever I baked I ate.  My weight increased, my self esteem went in the opposite direction.  I carried this sadness in my gut, like a heavy rock I couldn’t shift.

We had a wonderful life, ate out, travelled and cherished our marriage.  But I remember sitting on a beach in Bali with a cocktail in hand, watching the sun set and all I could think was that I would swap it all to be in my living room in track pants with my own baby spewing down my front!!

By this point we were exhausted, financially stretched and almost at the point of contemplating giving up.  There is a kind of grief that comes with coming face to face with the very real possibility that I would never grow a baby inside me and it’s awful. 

Just as we were questioning how much more we could handle, the February Earthquakes hit Christchurch.  It completely destroyed our house.  In an instant we had nowhere to call home.  It was the house we’d bought to fill with children and live in forever.  I was done.  That was the last thing I could juggle.  We moved in with my parents and began the process of rebuilding our lives.  Further IVF was put on the backburner until we could pull ourselves together.  We found a house to rent and began our battle with the insurance company. 

It was all too much though.  After 3 years of constant IVF and now this, I simply couldn’t juggle it all.  I decided to resign from work.  It was a huge decision but we decided that I would take 6 months to regroup, work on the House claim and then we would make some big decisions.  It was bliss.  I cleared my head, lost weight, got fit and refocused.  I changed my mind set and decided that things would happen for us.  The specialist had said to me he still felt pregnancy for me was not a matter of “if”, but “when” and we just had to tough it out.  So that was my mantra – it’s WHEN not IF!

Then, a small glimmer of positivity.  Our public funding came through and we were told we could start another round of IVF straight away.  We were almost settled with the insurance company so decided to go ahead. 

It worked.  The initial blood test showed strong HCG levels and they continued to rise.  Then in November 2012 I gave birth to our daughter.  Hazel was healthy and the most wonderful baby.  The moment she was put on my chest the previous 5 years heartache disappeared.  The second I saw her lock eyes with her Daddy and the expression on his face, any doubts I had about his wanting another child melted away. 

She is now three years old.  She has deep brown eyes and beautiful chestnut hair that falls into perfect ringlets.  She is amazing.  She will be an only child.  We can’t face any more treatment but we are so content.

The pain and sadness of infertility has never completely left me.  The struggle to conceive combined with our insurance claim took all the fight out of me.  But it has made me so, so grateful for my marriage, my friends, family and my darling girl.  It has put things into much sharper perspective – as a parent I still consciously appreciate very single moment, even the bad days – because I’m all too aware they may never have come to be.