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

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.

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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.

Four-Seasons-Trees

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.

Having no eggs with which to conceive a child made me doubt my body and ability to carry a baby (I thought that perhaps I’m not meant to have a baby if my eggs are used up?) – but this pregnancy has changed all that.

My pregnancy has been fabulous with no afflictions (yet). My skin has been clear, my back straight and strong, my abdominal muscles elastic and still holding up without the need for support pants, the skin on my belly is stretch-mark-free and I have no varicose veins.

Even being long in the tooth for a first time mother (I’m 42) has not caused me to crumble under the physical strain of pregnancy.

The only complication is that my baby is lying sideways and showing no inclination to move its head down like all good, compliant babies should (!) but as I’m having a c-section, it doesn’t matter.

This makes me feel a little smug when I hear about much younger and more fertile women struggling with pregnancy aches and pains. I know – it sounds like a bad case of schadenfreude but I’m so pleased that FINALLY,  I can do something well in the reproductive area!

But it’s also good news for all those other infertiles out there who may have the same worries about pregnancy, should they conceive. Just because you may not have good eggs, or for whatever other reason may find trouble conceiving – it doesn’t mean you’ll have a troubled pregnancy – isn’t that great news?

Sixteen days to go

Laura and Daisy in sunset at Port Albert

Walking our dog Daisy - I'm big but still mobile

“Oh my God – you look great! You must be due very soon!,” said my hairdresser yesterday. And she’d be right as there are only 16 days until our baby arrives by c-section – unless he/she decides to come early.

At 36 weeks, the only ailment I have is really sore feet – my heels are swollen, hot and bruised. When I get up every morning I hobble around on them like how I imagine the little mermaid walked when she traded in her tongue for feet.

I’ve been so lucky this pregnancy – many women suffer from bad backs, bad skin, varicose veins (in your bum and your legs!), stretch marks and other delights. But I’ve just got bigger and bigger – and I haven’t even started waddling yet. It’s sounds like I’m gloating but it’s just so nice to be able to do being pregnant well – especially when it was so hard for us to fall pregnant.

But much more exciting is feeling and seeing our baby move in my belly. It literally looks like my stomach is having a mini earthquake when the babe gets going – my belly rolls, dips and jerks. The thought that there is a little being in there moving spontaneously around is just amazing.

I wish everyone had the chance to feel these sensations – it is such a privilege.

My current manager of four years is very tough and I am now finding myself having to protect my pregnancy from her.

In the past she refused to give me time off work as sick leave to do IVF, comparing it to plastic surgery.

And since I’ve been pregnant, she has given me no extra support or help. Even as my pregnancy has progressed and I have got bigger and more tired, she has shown me no leniency.

Up until two weeks ago, I was working 12 and 13-hour days to get all my work done. This is because the team of five that I manage has, over the past year, inherited several projects but we have been given no extra resourcing. I have pushed back to protect my team but she hasn’t listened to me. The projects we have inherited are very public, both within the organisation and outside, so we do not have the option of not doing them.

When I told my obstetrician I was working such long hours two weeks ago, he instructed me to tell her that I would only be working seven hours a day from now until my maternity leave begins in January. Today she said something about it that has left me feeling so upset and heartsick. She said she would be docking my salary accordingly as I am no longer working a full day.

I looked at her incredulously and said that that would be very unfair, given that I have never worked less than a ten-hour day for her and that over the four years, my overtime worked equates to literally hundreds of hours. I said I would be very upset if she went ahead with her plan.

I have now come home feeling so broken hearted. I have tried to protect my team over the years, as well as myself. I have built up the function that I manage in our organisation from nothing to a fully fledged, professional and operating department. I have supported her and been loyal to her and this is what I get in the end. Our team has barely been holding it together and now that I am going on maternity leave, two have resigned saying that they no longer want to work there given the intense work levels.

The most upsetting thing for me is that she doesn’t respect or support this very precious pregnancy. How dare she?  I can feel an anger brewing that is going to replace this sorrow very shortly.

Can I ask what others have done in this situation? I know that many other women reduce their hours in the latter stages of their pregnancy and would like to know how their workplaces have handled it and if anyone knows of any legal, if not moral obligations of employers towards their pregnant employees.

“Right, now the boys are gone, let’s talk about having babies!” said my workmate at the end of a work Christmas dinner after the men had left.

There were just three of us left at the table, all in our late 30s and early 40s, with me being the only one pregnant.

I had earlier said to another dinner guest that I was 42. One of the remaining women, called Faith, overheard and said she was pleased to hear I was 42 and pregnant, as she was 41 and was hoping to try for a baby soon.

Faith said that she and her husband are going to try to conceive in the New Year. She has already had her tests which show she has great egg reserve and quality.

I told Faith and Zoe the story about how we conceived our baby. They were both so interested to hear it and got quite emotional about the sweetness of it.

I said I was pleased to hear that Faith’s eggs sounded so viable, as this is half the battle for women trying to conceive in their 40s.  And I would not be surprised if she conceives quickly as Faith is very voluptuous and sexy and looks like someone who is going to fall pregnant easily. The other woman at the table, Zoe, said that her dog gets very ‘excited’ every time he is around Faith and that Faith is the only person who has ever had that effect on him! I’m not sure that that this is something that Faith is very proud of but surely it is some kind of proof that she has all the right hormones buzzing around in her body, creating all the right smells!

Some readers will take umbrage at the above assertion, but I do believe that some women just look like they are going to have babies easily because of their roundness, and I’m going to back this up by the somewhat dubious fact that I read somewhere that women with high levels of oestrogen tend to be more voluptuous and fertile.

Whatever the case, Faith looks like she is going to conceive easily and most interestingly, she believes that she will. She said she has always known she would have babies easily.  I found this fascinating to hear, as I have never just believed that I would fall pregnant easily. I remember when I was 12 and had just begun menstruating, thinking that I may not be able to get pregnant easily. Goodness knows why as I had regular periods and was hale, healthy and hearty in every other way. But I just knew in my heart that I may have problems – I never just assumed I would make babies easily.

My husband says he is the same; he somehow knew he may have problems (which he did- he has low sperm count).

So I wonder if people who are infertile, know instinctively that they are? I would love to hear from other infertiles about this.

And I will let you know if Faith conceives quickly in the New Year or not!