Emma Stevenson, 34, a reflexologist and DJ in Johannesburg tells us her story.
The first pregnancy
"I went off the pill when I was 28 because I wanted to give my body some time to normalise before I tried to fall pregnant. But, a few months later, we went to Greece on holiday and when I got back I found out I was pregnant. The last thing on my mind was falling pregnant, but my period was late and I peed on a stick and it confirmed we were going to have a baby.
The pregnancy progressed perfectly but at 34 weeks I was driving home from book club and was a victim of a smash and grab attack. 24 hours later I was lying in bed and my waters broke. I was booked into hospital for monitoring and, although he was born under 2kgs, Jamie was successfully delivered by Caesarean section.
Because he was so underweight and premature, he experienced some complications and he really became my focus for the next couple of years. I wasn’t ready to start thinking about another baby. Jamie grew into a gentle, sensitive and happy little boy.
No obvious reasons to worry about secondary infertility
After his birth, my cycle, which had always been long, settled into a regular 28-day cycle so I really had no reason to worry that anything had changed with my fertility. I had also started studying reflexology and felt really in tune with body. I decided to stay off the pill and use protection instead.
When Jamie turned 3 we decided it was time to try again, but after 6 months nothing had happened. I knew something was wrong because I’d fallen pregnant so easily the first time.
I went to see my gynaecologist who was willing to do investigations because I had already been trying for 6 months. A sperm analysis didn’t detect any problems while other tests monitored my ovulation and when this happened I was sent home to make a baby.
Discovering the many problems
My period came and went and we repeated the process but this time I was asked to do a post-coital test. This showed the sperm was dead and they suspected endometriosis. This came as a huge shock to me. I’d read about it as a possible cause of infertility but I didn’t think I had it; I didn’t have sore periods or other symptoms.
We decided to take a break and look into it more after the Christmas holidays. I had fallen pregnant the first time on holiday after all. In January, I had a laparoscopy on day eight of my cycle and this confirmed I had stage 3 endometriosis. They cleared it out and I was told I could start trying in a couple of months again.
Because I already had a child the idea that I was infertile didn’t really sink in. People constantly asked me when we were going to have another baby and I was honest and just told them we were trying. Besides, I thought I would have the operation to sort out the endometriosis and that would be the end of it all. I was so wrong.
After a post-coital test confirmed that my husband’s sperm was not surviving long enough for conception, we decided to try artificial insemination. Our first cycle worked and we were thrilled to hear I was pregnant. We went to our first scan filled with excitement – we had done it. Happiness quickly faded when my seven-week scan showed I had a blighted ovum.
I was devastated and for the first time the reality that I might never have another child hit home. ?Further tests shows that my egg quality was low and I now had to face the prospect that I was suffering from early menopause. The odds were stacking against me.
We did 3 more cycles of artificial insemination and, when they failed, we tried IVF. It was a big decision. It’s very expensive and at some level I felt I already had a child and perhaps another simply wasn’t meant to be.
Our first cycle of IVF worked but I miscarried at 8 weeks. I had heard the baby’s heartbeat so this really hit me hard. We decided to wait a bit and had IVF again 3 months later. The first cycle worked again but the first scan was a terrifying ordeal.
Finally pregnant again
I’m happy to say I’m 22 weeks pregnant with a little brother for Jamie. It’s been a really tough couple of years, but I’m glad I trusted my instincts and sought help as soon as I thought there was a problem."