Sensitive Mothers — we go through a lot to become a Mum.
Being a woman is both beautiful, and challenging, and our bodies go through so much to bring little humans into the world. We tend not to share heartbreak when it comes to taboo topics, and even though the world is changing, it’s not fast enough. Mother’s Day should celebrate all the things women go through — every challenge, hurdle, and win. Let’s talk more, please.
Here are some stats you may not know which occurs in Australia each year:
- Almost one in twenty babies was born through IVF.
- One in five pregnancies ends via miscarriage before week 20.
- Up to one in three Australian women have experienced birth trauma and one in 10 women emerge from childbirth with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Postnatal depression affects about one in every seven women who give birth in Australia each year.
- Endometriosis is a chronic menstrual health disorder that affects at least one in 9 girls and women in Australia.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition, present in 12–21% of women of reproductive age. Up to 70% of women with PCOS remain undiagnosed.
For those who are still trying to be a Mum, and it hasn’t happened yet, meet Leah, Mum to three beautiful kids, Eva, August and Rosie. Her first two were IVF, and the third was a nice surprise. For two long years, Leah tried to conceive their firstborn naturally and was faced with a negative result month-on-month.
She felt the guilt. The guilt of avoiding catching up with friends who were pregnant or already had babies. Every time she saw a pregnant woman in the street she wondered why them and not her. Over those two years, she went through ovulation tests, acupuncture, cycle tracking, googling, and a negative result after every cycle. One small thing to mention — When Leah was 20 she was diagnosed with Endometriosis and has had six painful surgeries since then. We all know endo can make it difficult to conceive, but for Leah, her life completely revolved around it.
When we asked about the hardest part of not falling pregnant, Leah hated how trying to fall pregnant naturally meant there was no plan. You have zero control of the outcome and you have to trust your body to plan your future. The build-up over time and the over analysing makes you think about pregnancy and babies every single day.
In January 2015 Leah and her husband Colin decided to face the inevitable and look into IVF. When meeting with their specialist, they felt Leah and Col were in with a good chance, but Leah was terrified of getting disappointed, again. Before starting the process Leah had to undergo one more lap surgery to clear her endo and although this was more stress on the body, it meant she had a stronger chance of falling pregnant. (Side note: if you have medically diagnosed endo, you’re eligible for more medicare rebates on your IVF fees).
The first part of IVF is about stimulating the ovaries to make more eggs. Leah had to jab a needle into her belly every morning, followed by blood tests every second day. Yep, it’s a process. The worst part for Leah was the side effects — it was like having a hangover, without alcohol and good memories. The headaches, exhaustion, and nausea is one thing, but trying to hide it from everyone around you is another. Leah had no shame in doing IVF, but the thought of telling people it wasn’t successful was always in the back of her mind.
Right in the middle of Leah’s cycle, she injected a trigger shot into her pincushion belly to tell her ovaries it was game time. She remembers climbing into the hospital bed and seeing her specialist, three nurses and Colin, then her memory fades. The procedure involved sticking a giant needle into her ovaries to see how many eggs they could retrieve. Poor Leah had to get knocked completely out as she was crying and moaning (don’t blame her). AND GOOD NEWS, they got 13 eggs.
Once the scientists jumped into the lab, they were able to make five strong-looking embryos. So, next up was the transfer. Just like a pap smear, the plantation was done in ten minutes. And well, we all know what happens next: Leah had little Eva growing in her tummy.
We asked Leah how she felt when she saw the positive result, and she felt excited and relieved. She’d seen SO many people go through rounds and rounds of IVF, with no luck. She had glandular at 15 and spent most of year ten at home. She’s experienced chronic tonsillitis, a gallbladder removal, anxiety and depression throughout her life, and now she felt her body knew what it was supposed to do — grow a baby.
Baby number two:
Almost three years to the day after, Leah started talking about IVF again. They tried to fall pregnant naturally again, but nothing. This time around was different though. Leah already had a baby, but she wanted Eva to have a best friend — a life partner in crime. There was a different type of guilt, especially sitting in the waiting room waiting to be called in, whilst holding a baby around women who still don’t have one.
Leah didn’t have to do the lead-up injections again — just prep with a bunch of tests and a frozen transfer once her hormone levels were in tip-top shape. The procedure was quick. They took Leah through the thawing process and ID checks, before showing a little embryo on the screen wriggling around. With her legs up on stirrups, the embryo is guided up the cervical opening using a catheter. Then once it was in, she was on her merry way, followed by a long waiting game.
And well, we already know the outcome — August was growing inside Leah’s belly. Two from two, what a miracle.
“It’s so f*cked that we have to go through this, and it’s unfair but make sure you FEEL it. Go through the motions, and also feel grateful if you’re in a position to be able to afford the IVF process. And look after yourself — exercise, practice yoga, surround yourself with supportive people.”
For Leah, IVF was the hardest thing she’s ever gone through, but she says it was worth it. Getting two from two is incredible, and there’s not a day that goes by where she doesn’t realise how lucky she is. Hopefully, her story gives you hope. Hope that you have a chance, or just support knowing there are other women out there who have been through a lot to become a Mum.