I lost my own Mum suddenly when I was six years old from a cerebral aneurysm when she was only 32. I don't know if that experience played a part or if it's purely genetics, but I grew up being a natural nurturer with a strong desire to be a mum myself and a deep knowing that I would one day be. That was never even an "unknown" for me. It was a natural part of my make-up. Of course, I could not have predicted the path I would later take to get there.
My ex husband and I decided to try and start a family as soon as we were married. We'd been together for eight years and were the first in our group of friends to get married and the first to start trying. We were in such a good head-space and it was an exciting time as we embarked on cutting back on the social drinking, cleaning up our health after one last fun summer of indulging and aimed to create the perfect environment physically to bring new life into our world. We started seeing a well regarded naturopath who specialised in fertility and after an initial three month detox, embarked on a year of fertility enhancing herbs, tinctures, diets...you name it, we gave it a go on their valued advice. It wasn't cheap, but it was all in the name of creation of our family and we wanted to give our future child the best start in life.
After about 18 months, with no sniff of a pregnancy we decided we should go and get some investigative tests done. They came up inconclusive and we both appeared to be in great reproductive health. I was 35 by that stage and so the specialist I saw recommended we try assisted fertility treatment. We only knew one other couple in a different state who had been through it at that stage but they were older than us. It took awhile to get our heads around the fact that we might need some assistance and our egos took a bit of a knock initially, especially mine. After all, I knew part of my destiny was to be a mum, I knew it in my bones so was more than a little perturbed that the universe was not delivering on my destiny!
I had a love/hate relationship with IVF. We had so many varied experiences during our IVFs over the last 10 years that left me at times in awe of the science behind it and respecting the nurses that I had such a close and constant relationship with since they are the ones who manage most of the day to day processes.
Then there was the loathing and begrudging of the off-handed clinical nature of some of the doctors we encountered, the understanding that they were all so busy but still not excusing some of their interactions that could have been handled better. I remember a time where my ex husband and I had been sitting for two hours in the waiting room for our specialist appointment with him, he arrived, opened our file and said "Now remind me what's going on with you guys...".
We felt the least he could have done was kept us waiting a further five minutes and done us the favour of quickly reading up on where we were at so we felt like less of a number and more cared for. Then there was the feelings of dread and anxiety that went with every cycle, the indignity that I had to learn to accept and become accustomed to as I lay spread-eagled on tables in stirrups.
There were the nerves that came with having multiple people in the procedure room, sometimes medical students, some being the embryologists who are technically scientists and not doctors… not that I'm 100% sure that mattered in the end as I adjusted to my new lack of privacy I never quite got used to feeling like a human pin cushion but somehow found the endurance and strength to become an expert at self administering injections - sometimes three a day, and front up to regular blood tests and multiple ultrasounds.
My ex husband and I completed seven IVF cycles in just over two years... It was a lot but we were desperate to get the results we yearned for. That desperation drove us forward probably too fast as it became a little all too consuming. We decided that I should give up work at one stage to try and alleviate stress but in hindsight I wish I had kept working in some capacity to maintain a bit more purpose when things weren't going our way.
The attempts were hard on both of us - physically for me in particular with all the drugs and medical appointments to keep up with, and ultimately it was our doctors who said I needed to give my poor body a break after number seven. It's a lot to go through. I was exhausted and felt awful as all the hormones change your body shape, feeling bloated, swollen, retaining fluids etc, you're often too tired to keep up your usual level of fitness and at certain times I would avoid it in the second half of my cycle fearing it may affect embryo implantation etc.
Mentally it took its toll on both of us, clearly, as our marriage fell apart not long after we took that break. It's really difficult on both sides. I think every person and couple handle things differently. There are so many ups and downs, the monthly grief to process when you're not pregnant AGAIN, the many mini breaks and holidays you go on to perk yourselves up, the baby showers you may avoid attending or attend and then cope with the well-meaning looks of pity from friends and even strangers, the anxious two week waits, the sadness, the anger, the disappointment, the envy of others, the guilt over feeling that envy... the list goes on. It's really harrowing. I wish that back then I had someone like me, an independent support person who truly understood and empathised and knew what it was like but could offer some help working through it all.
In 2013, having moved on with things and having dealt with all the trials and tribulations that go with broken marriages, selling the family home, buying a new one, enrolling in some further study to change careers and re-building my future, I decided it was a year for challenging myself, regaining perspective, giving back and paying it forward and I signed up with one of my best kiwi friends from home, Carol, for an 800km charity bike ride in Thailand cycling from Bangkok to Khao Lak fundraising for some homes for at risk children. The Australian run charity is called Hands Across The Water and was initially set up to help out the many children who were left homeless and family-less after the 2004 Tsunami. It was on that leap of faith bike ride, along with 45 or so other amazing like minded strangers that I met Dan, who is now my husband. It was instantly a meeting of the minds and sense of humour, of which we share a fairly twisted one. We hit it off! It seems "love in lycra" is a thing. Haha. We both had been married before with no kids in tow and of course we spoke in depth about our desire to have a family one day but we certainly didn't have any unrealistic expectations or pressure from each other to conceive going forward. In fact inscribed on my wedding band in Dan's handwriting are his words that he said to me when we first started our relationship and I told him the road to creating that family could be rocky. It reads: "I just love you and we'll work out the rest". And that we have.
Dan and I did three further fertility treatments before little Zoe came along on number four. It was a whole different experience to the first time around in my old life. I had learnt so many hard lessons along the way and developed some great strategies for working through it all, had a renewed purpose and passion with our charity involvement and with my business that I was launching and I already felt like I was enough no matter what the end result of our treatment was.
Due to us having fertility treatment, we knew the exact dates of the two week wait etc and I was naughty (as, I can tell you, most women are who have been through a long fertility journey) and tested a day earlier than planned using a home pregnancy test. When it immediately showed up two bright pink lines, my reaction was much more blasé than I could have ever predicted. I was so used to seeing negative results over the years that my initial reaction was: "Ha! Well there you go!" and I promptly went outside to hang my wet washing while the news slowly sunk in. I then went back inside and used two more tests just to be sure and when each came back instantly positive I think I wandered round the house in a state of shock and didn't really know what to do with myself. I then waited til Dan got home to surprise him with the news and that's when I got more excited and of course a few tears flowed. It had been an incredibly long journey to get to that point filled with every single emotion under the sun and more than a little adversity and a fair few life upheavals along the way.
I was surprised by how exhausted I felt in the first trimester and combined with the trepidation and hesitant excitement waiting to get to the 13 week scan safely, we both kept life pretty low key for those first three months only confiding with family and a few close friends about the pregnancy. After taking so long to get to that point physically, mentally, emotionally and financially, we were not willing to risk anything. As excited as we were, truth be told we never relaxed til we held our little angel in the operating room the day she was born and looked at her, along with our doctors in awe and respect and looked at each other with massive grins and love brimming over. But generally I feel really blessed and lucky to have sailed through the pregnancy with ease, despite being a "geriatric" Mum at the age of 43 according to some medical professionals! As one of my close girlfriends reminded me: "I think you've had enough challenging moments over the last 10 years, so just roll with it and embrace it, or have you forgotten that?" The truth is that once I was holding our little bundle of joy in my arms, the struggles it had taken to get her weren't so much gone but they had just paled in comparison to the result of her finally being here and oh so worth it!
Out of her own personal experience and an awareness of the lack of support in the fertility space, Miranda's passion evolved for helping others in the same situation. She armed herself with a Cert IV in Life Coaching and developed her own programs specifically to help other women not just survive but thrive through the challenges of their fertility journeys. Head to her website for more information.