Blog about having premature ovarian failure and trying donor IVF with my sister's eggs

Hello HRT my old friend

One of the great things about being pregnant was that I didn’t have to take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as my placenta magically produced oestrogen which was otherwise lacking in my body as my ovaries stopped making it when I was in my mid thirties – hence my premature ovarian failure.

While I was pregnant I asked my IVF doctor and my obstetrician when I would need to begin HRT after I had my baby. Both said I should wait around six months and then go back on it.

Well given the state of my poor old head, we’ve had to bring that date forward somewhat.

I restarted it about five days ago after my psychiatrist contacted my endocrinologist to confirm it with her. And I’m already feeling better. It’s amazing what a difference HRT makes – without it a girl can feel so anxious, withdrawn and down.

Upping my oestrogen means any remaining breast milk is drying up but breastfeeding my wee babe was already out of the question since I began on the antidepressant Pristiq last week.

So my mood is gradually lifting and I’m slowly feeling a little better. It can only improve I hope.

Apparently anxiety is a symptom of depression. I’ve been anxious for years now and my doctor says it’s possible I could have benefitted from antidepressants a long time ago.

First I was anxious and upset about having premature ovarian failure which I was diagnosed with about six years back with no follow up support or counselling.

Then I was anxious due to the biological effect of my premature ovarian failure ie: not having any oestrogen actually made me anxious and gave me insomnia. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helped alleviate some of this but only after about three years of living on my nerves without it.

Then, my husband and I moved from the UK to a new country  (Australia) without jobs and minimal social connections. We made our way on our own but it was tough going while trying to come to terms with premature ovarian failure and the ensuing infertility. It was our own doing but sometimes I think you bite off more than you can chew!

Then we tried IVF as a doctor believed he could get my ovaries working. When nothing happened it was devastating and very anxiety inducing. Once again that doctor offered no follow up counselling or support.

We began working through our infertility and accepted we would be childless until three of my beautiful friends came forward to offer us their eggs. While this was amazing, it was still a very anxious time trying to work out how and whether to proceed with these kind, kind offers.

Then my darling sister offered and we decided to move forward and try. But that whole process was also very stressful as I wanted to give her room to back out at any time and the thought of that happening was terrifying. Then I felt anxious putting her through the physical ordeal of egg donation, as well as splitting her family while she travelled from NZ to Australia to undergo the treatment.

Getting pregnant the first time as a result of her donation was massively exciting but also very nerve-wracking. When that pregnancy ended in miscarriage we were devastated. But somehow we got back on the horse and tried a second embryo transfer with no luck, before I fell pregnant again on our third attempt with our beautiful daughter.

All through the pregnancy we lived on tenterhooks. Would I miscarry like I did the first time? What if the baby had something wrong with it? When I began bleeding early on it was horrendously anxiety invoking but luckily that stopped and we now have our gorgeous girl.

All the while I was working in a job with a psycho boss who demanded far more than I could deliver and played with my emotions in ways that disgust me when I think back to it.

So anxiety has been my constant companion for a long time and is it any wonder that everything just mounted up and landed me in a big heap now?

The great thing is that I’m finally getting treatment for a depression that may have been lurking for a long time as a result of our trials – and hopefully anxiety will be a toxic shadow I can discard forever.

This morning I fed my daughter her last meal of breast milk which I expressed yesterday.

This is because today I began a new antidepressant called Pristiq which is too potent to continue breastfeeding on.

I feel really sad as I hoped to breastfeed her for as long as possible. But the paediatrician assures me that formula is fine and apparently the only slightly negative thing that has been proven is that cognitive development can be a tiny bit slower with formula-fed babes.

I have to keep expressing for a few days to avoid getting mastitis and because it will have traces of the drug in it, it cannot be used at all.

But as one of the nurses says: “Look in the cot and see what you’ve got” – which is a lovely little baby.

Pristiq will hopefully suit me better than the drug I tried last week, which was Zoloft – a breastfeeding-friendly medication. Zoloft made me feel sleepy, gave me headaches, a tight jaw and blurry vision, which wasn’t great. After four days my doctor took me off it saying it wasn’t suited to me.

Fingers crossed that giving up breastfeeding will be worth it and that this medication will work.

Since having our little girl, I feel guilty about just about everything.

I feel guilty to be feeling so down when I have such a beautiful little girl to hold and cherish – finally after all these years. Having tried for so long, I know I am one of the lucky ones to have finally conceived and got through a pregnancy to have our daughter so how selfish is it that I now feel like this?

I also feel guilty that I am splitting up my family and making this so tough on my husband, who goes to work, comes to visit, feeds the baby, then drives home, walks the dog and makes his own dinner and lunch for the next day before he falls into bed and begins the whole cycle again the next day of spending half his life in the car with no respite and support for himself.

I also feel guilty that I am in hospital getting all this help when there are other mums and dads out there who need the help just as much as me.

I feel guilty for making my family and friends worry about me being in hospital in a far away country where they can’t visit me.

Guilt is a horrible feeling and dwelling on these things just makes me feel worse. But I know other mums with postnatal depression feel the same and that it is just the depression making us feel like this. When I am better the guilt will be gone and I’ll be able to feel grateful rather than guilty.

One of my sisters has a son who is five days older than my daughter. The son’s father – my brother in law – believes that all you have to do to have a calm happy baby is to be relaxed. Apparently if you are relaxed your baby will be too.

I would like to see him spend four hours with my daughter and see how relaxed he is after that.

The poor wee girl has both reflux and colic which means that every meal time is torture for her. After feeding she turns bright red and writhes in pain while literally turning herself inside out crying. We have tried everything to help her get the wind up, and she is currently on something called losec which is meant to reduce the acid in her tummy so it doesn’t hurt her so much when she is digesting her food.

The nurses and doctors tell me she will eventually grow out of it but they admit that it makes it very tough for the baby and its parents and carers in the meantime.

On a typical day, it takes her about 2.5 hours to go finally to sleep – poor wee tyke. I comfort myself though as there are many other babies here in the hospital similarly and worse afflicted.

It is heartbreaking and so tiring for both parents and babies as trying to settle an hysterical baby for that length of time means constant rocking, wheeling, singing, jiggling etc etc. And the cycle is endless as babies are usually fed every four hours. Some babies just spend the first three months of their lives in their parents’ arms until they grow out of it. The parents spend that time mostly sleep deprived and going out of their minds.

This is definitely something that has contributed to my PND as I hardly got any sleep before I came into hospital. We certainly have had no lovely ‘huggies commercial’ moments where we look deeply and lovingly into each others eyes as we bond tenderly. But I know these moments will come soon and it will all be worth it – I just want my baby to be able to sleep peacefully and without pain.

Some breastfeeding women have litres of milk literally frothing at their nipples with which to feed their babies but their babies aren’t very good at latching on and sucking. Others have nipples red raw and bleeding from nursing their little ones. I have apparently perfect nipples for breastfeeding and have thus far nursed my daughter with no pain, grazing or bleeding.

But my milk supply is seriously limited and it’s most likely down to the fact I have gone through early menopause. Bummer. So to begin with each feed consisted of me breastfeeding my daughter for about an hour and then topping up with about 70 ml formula. The whole process of feeding, topping up and settling her back to sleep would take about 3-4 hours by which time it was time to feed the poor tyke again – arrghhh.

Suffice to say we were both exhausted and crying for most of the day.

Since coming into the hospital, things have improved as I am now expressing all my breastmilk and then feeding it to her in a bottle. This has radically cut down the length of feeding time so the poor babe can get back to sleep much faster to regain her energy for her next feed.  It has also cut down the amount of formula I am topping her up to because we now know how much we are feeding her. She therefore has more then halved the number of explosive pooey nappies she was having because we were overfeeding her – poor wee thing.

But my breastmilk may still not be best for my baby. This is because it does not contain the usual levels of hormones that other mum’s breastmilk has, as my oestrogen level in particular is so depleted no that I no longer have the placenta supplying my body with it (or my ovaries which went to sleep years ago). My paediatrician suggested that if this is making me feel like crap it may well be making my baby feel like crap too.

So I’m currently weaning her off my milk which I’m finding a sad process as it was the one thing I seemed to be able to do well even though I couldn’t seem to supply her with enough milk.

So while we may be able to trick our post menopausal bodies into nourishing and carrying a baby, the boobs are not so easily coerced.

At least I am getting a little more rest and my daughter is feeling a little more comfortable now we are on a new feeding regime in hospital. It is certainly one of the things that has contributed to my postnatal depression.

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a business trip away as the room I am staying in is like a hotel room as it has a big double bed, a tv, and small table and chairs and an ensuite.

But there are small differences, like the sound of babies crying, hand sanitizers on the walls and a little emergency button I can push if I need help from a nurse.

My daughter and I spend the days together in our room but at night she goes with the nurses who look after and feed her overnight while I sleep.

We are in a hospital that specialises in looking after women with postnatal depression. I’ll probably be here for a few weeks at least while the team of psychiatrists, specialists and nurses help me get better.

It all happened rather fast; one day I was estatic at the birth of my baby and the next I was freaking out that I couldn’t look after my baby, that I’d accidentally hurt her and that my husband and her both might die. I was so anxious that I could hardly lift her and I spent all my days crying inconsolably.

After a week, my lactation consultant asked me to go in to see her and when she did; said she wanted to bring me back to hospital as she was so worried about me.

So here we are a week later. I’m feeling much better but still have a very long way to go before I begin to feel halfway normal again.

There are myriad reasons for why I have ended up with PND and I’ll explore them gradually over coming posts.

Meanwhile our beautiful baby is thriving and growing more gorgeous every day.

Welcoming our daughter

Our daughter conceived with my sister's donor eggs arrived safe and well on February 13 - much to the delight of my husband and I, after six years' trying to conceive

Our dear daughter is now 11 days old. She is absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way. She hasn’t even inherited my one-eared deafness which I mentioned in my last post, which I inherited from my own aunty.

She arrived safely via c-section on 13 February and every day since then has been wonderful but hectic – hence my tardiness posting this news.

We still can hardly believe she is here. I forget all the time that she was conceived with my sister’s eggs as she is very much my husband’s and my baby. But that doesn’t mean that we won’t tell her about her genetic heritage – we are being open about this with everyone we know well and will tell her of her special conception and birth story from as soon as she can understand.

Thank you to everyone for your love and support leading up to this – I just hope that everyone else in hope and need of donor IVF is as lucky as we are.

Our beautiful baby, conceived with its aunty's eggs, arrives by c-section tomorrow, and I can't wait to see who he or she looks like and to welcome it with open arms into our family.

Tomorrow we will have our long-awaited-for baby and I keep trying to imagine who it will look like – my sister, my husband or me?

Of course we won’t be able to see who it looks like until it is much bigger.  And some people will tell us that it looks like itself and that we shouldn’t try to make it look like anyone else.

But I’ve always loved making genetic links between family members. It’s something to do with a sense of belonging or clan, and understanding where someone comes from.

For instance – much to my mother’s consternation – two of her four grandchildren have her eyebrows which stick straight out rather than lie flat on her brow. They are very distinctive and obviously very dominant! (thank goodness I inherited eyebrows from my father which lie down flat and have a lovely shape, if I do say so myself).

And my aunty is deaf in one ear, as am I although no one else has this special feature in our family.

So given this baby is conceived from my sister’s eggs, what will she/he be like?  Is there a chance it too will be deaf in one ear like its genetic aunty (me) who is actually its mother?

Will it have my sister’s beautiful freckles and green eyes or will it have my colouring which is darker hair with blue eyes and white skin prone to moles?  Will it be tall and gangly like its Dad, with curly brown/red hair? Or will it be a throw back to someone else distantly related?

If we had conceived our baby with help from someone unrelated, I would still be having these thoughts. Traits are fascinating and are a unique part of everyone and something to be noted/proud of/mulled over/celebrated.

Whatever, this baby has been born out of much love and is/will be truly treasured – and even if it inherits its grandmother’s unfortunate eyebrows (sorry Mum!) it will be beautifully fair of face in our eyes.


Waiting for a baby can seem interminable but it only takes a year - sometimes less - for things to change completely

Waiting to conceive a baby can be unbearably long, lonely and painful but things can turn around so quickly.

In just a year, we have undergone donor IVF with my wonderful sister from New Zealand; conceived, miscarried, had a negative transfer, conceived again and are now awaiting the arrival of our first baby in five days’ time.

Conception and pregnancy followed six years of grief, uncertainty and personal growth, all of which began with my diagnosis of premature ovarian failure at 35.

I grieved then for my young womanhood (going into premature menopause made me feel like an unattractive old crone), my periods (truly!), the children we would never have; our first IVF cycle that yielded zilch eggs and for the life we’d had before my diagnosis.

More recently, we grieved for the little baby we lost last year to miscarriage – it felt like our hearts had been ripped out.

But all the grieving and uncertainty helped us to become more thoughtful, empathetic and kind. It made us rethink what being a beautiful, sexy woman or man really means (it doesn’t mean you have to be fertile) and what life would be like childfree (books called Silent Sorority and Sweet Grapes were particularly helpful).

So what a journey it’s been!  It has been truly remarkable for which we are very thankful.

If it can happen for us, it can happen for others too.  I can’t wait to read about other people’s success stories – I know they are out there, or about to begin.