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Myself and my wife Stacy started our fertility journey in 2014.
We knew that the process for us to have a child wouldn’t be easy, but it is something that both of us wanted more than ever. We had our first appointment in 2014 with the Fertility Clinic, this was followed closely by an appointment with a Genetic Specialist. We were also put on the Donor Sperm waiting list. I have a hereditary condition called Stickler Syndrome. This syndrome has a 50% chance of being passed down to my children and can cause retinal detachments, blindness and other complications. We were told that we were able to get Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This is where an embryo is tested for Stickler Syndrome and only the non-affected embryos are kept. This was exciting news for us as our plan was for my eggs to be harvested, fertilized, and then transferred to Stacy who would carry the pregnancy. Something that was really important for both of us when we started to discuss having a child was that we were both able to be part of the process. With my eggs, a donor sperm and Stacy carrying the pregnancy meant this could happen.
In 2015 we were given some amazing news. Due to my Stickler Syndrome we qualified for public funding! This was amazing as we had found out that without funding, the treatments could cost over $25,000! Time flew by, and by July 2016 we were undergoing mandatory PGD counselling, clinic appointments and a drug education session in Christchurch. In August 2016 I had to start hormone injections which Stacy had to do for me due to my fear of needles! The injections were to stimulate my ovaries to produce eggs that could be harvested and then fertilized. The clinic wanted as many as possible, and they had to be a good size in order to be used. I didn’t react well to the injections. I felt sick, dizzy, moody and had a lot of pain in my ovaries. A scan detected that my body had reacted (almost too well) to the injections and that both of my ovaries were FULL of eggs, hence the pain! We were sent down to Christchurch as I was deemed ‘ready for harvest’. At this stage I felt like I was carrying two bags of marbles in my ovaries! I was prescribed some pain relief in Christchurch and unfortunately I became very unwell that night. I was vomiting, had blurred vision, profuse sweating and I couldn’t stand. Stacy stayed by my side all night, and called the emergency doctor who said I could be transferred to hospital if I wished. I decided I would rather stay where I was (on the toilet floor!), and see it through. By morning I was very tired, but OK. The doctor said it could have been a reaction to the medications, but was not sure. Because I was so unwell my egg collection was postponed until later in the week. The procedure went well and the doctors were able to harvest 23 eggs, 14 of which fertilized into embryos with donor sperm. The embryos then went through PGD to test for Stickler Syndrome, 9 of which came back clear of the condition. This meant we had 9 chances to get pregnant!
My job was over and it was now over to Stacy. She was given a round of medications to ‘prime’ her body for pregnancy and in October 2016 we were back in Christchurch having an embryo transfer. This went well, but unfortunately Stacy’s blood test came back negative. We were lucky that we still had 8 embryos left, but it was still a sense of loss for both of us, especially as we were so close to being pregnant after two years of treatments and waiting. We decided to try again straight away and went back to Christchurch for another embryo transfer. It is a two week wait for the blood test, which feels like the longest two weeks ever! After a week, we couldn’t help ourselves and did an at-home pregnancy test. I sat there and stared at the pregnancy test, waiting for those two lines to appear...and they did! I let out a scream and showed Stacy. There were tears, but also fear that this wasn’t happening and that it was all a dream and the blood test would come back negative. A week later the call from the clinic confirmed that we were indeed pregnant! We had a scare at 5 weeks, with Stacy experiencing some bleeding and discomfort. This was extremely stressful and we were so scared we were going to lose our baby. Thankfully the bleeding stopped and it was put down to ‘implantation bleeding’. We are now almost 12 weeks pregnant and have been able to see our baby’s heartbeat which was the most amazing experience.
What a crazy two years, from start to finish. Fertility treatment is a definite test on any relationship. There is so much information to take in, the medications mess with your emotional state, the procedures are nerve-wracking but the main thing is you can feel quite isolated. Only our immediate family knew what we were going through. My family was overseas which was hard, but it was great to have Stacy’s parents living close by. I think it is really important to talk about what you are going through, how you are feeling and reach out to others who are going through a similar journey. I hope that our story can provide hope and courage to other lesbian couples who dream of having a child.
Jess and Stacy have since had their daughter. Jess mentions they wouldn't have had her without the miracle of fertility treatment.