Two new moms reflect on their less-than-straightforward road to conception.
Last year, Vanessa and I attended our first antenatal class. We arrived, greeted those already there and took our seats. As the room filled up, we noticed that the chairs on either side of us remained empty – curious to say the least.
Trying not to take it personally of course, our immediate thought was that perhaps in a sea of straightness, there might have been an unconscious aversion to our pregnant swell of otherness.
In the history of our relationship, Vanessa and I have been incredibly lucky in that we have never felt marginalised, so this was something new – a sobering reality perhaps to help us prepare for a world not yet entirely at ease with the idea of two moms and what it could mean for our new family in the years to come.
When it came time to introduce ourselves around the class, each parent-to-be took a turn – names, what they do for a living, gender of their baby or whether they were having a surprise, due date and where they were delivering. As an actress and often outspoken speaker-of-her-mind, Vanessa (though frustrated by this unwitting segregation), felt compelled not to rock the boat so followed suit with a simple introduction.
Then it was my turn. Now, neither of us are man-hating, overly politicised, bra-burning women and I am naturally quiet and compliant, but I wasn’t about to spend the next seven weeks in a class feeding this enormous white elephant sitting comfortably on a gym ball in the room.
So I took a deep breath, braced my quivering hands and said: “Hi, my name is Terri, I am a mom-to-be but I’m clearly not carrying and it took four men to get us pregnant.” Vanessa giggled and squeezed my hand. As warm laughter filled the room, our first class began.
When you marry the person you love more than anything else in the world, you don’t make those life-changing nuptials in order to have children and a family; you do it because you want to spend the rest of your life with that person – travel, love, see, create and grow old together.
Children and the possibility of having them is a conversation on a lazy Sunday morning after a heavy night while nursing a hangover, over a delicious cup of tea that your beautiful wife has made for you (with an extra teaspoon of love).
Needless to say the hangover has sworn you off booze for eternity and the idea of settling into a tequila-free parental role is just so very alluring. So you put your tea down, close the curtains, take your wife’s hand, snuggle down in bed together and… pick up your phone to Google sperm donors.
We met across a crowded room in June 2007. A mutual friend pointed towards me across a crowded room and whispered to Vanessa (who was incidentally sworn off women at the time): “If you ever decide to go back to women, that’s your girl.”
A little later in the evening the friend added to the intrigue by adding to me (fresh off the boat from two years in London and limited romantic engagement with boy, girl or otherwise, but open to possibility): “Join us, we’re all heading upstairs and I can’t promise Vanessa won’t flirt with you.” Touché.
Now, just over six years, a break-up, make-up and a wedding later, we’re having a baby.
The road to baby was by no means straightforward and even less so thanks to our gynae at the time who sadly didn’t pick up several fibroids around Vanessa’s uterus – definitely the barrier to our 18-month intrauterine insemination (IUI) rollercoaster of trying to conceive as naturally as possible.
IUI uses a catheter to place a number of washed sperm directly into the uterus. Fibroids aside though, what were we thinking?
Perhaps knowing ours would be an assisted conception we should have saved time, energy (and money) and gone straight to the baby-making specialists but somehow, through the heartache, the unexpected false start was a necessary and important part of our journey.
Following the discovery of my fibroids by Dr Merwyn Jacobson at Vitalab, he suggested I push Ctrl, Alt, Delete and reboot my system.
He said we should move forward as if we were starting our baby-making process from scratch. Not once did I feel like a faceless number in a sad waiting room of the vast infertile.
I knew I was absolutely safe in the kind and capable hands of three experienced men and their awesome team. The plan was this:
Step 1: Myomectomy (fibroid removal). Sensitive to my anxiety, Dr Stephan Volschenk held my hand through the entire process.
Step 2: Two or more IUI attempts - fail and fail.
Step 3: In vitro fertilisation (IVF), where the egg is fertilised outside the body. Oh, the hormones, the bloating and the heavy aches. And a couple of weeks later, when I was finally trolleyed off to have my eggs harvested by Dr Lawrence Gobetz, I came out with a smiley sticker on my hand that said: “17 eggs, well done”.
Two healthy blastocysts were transferred a couple of days later and then another dreaded two-week wait. Four days before the scheduled blood test I had a showing.
I was devastated and convinced that was it – another negative and shop closed for business. Maybe Terri would have more luck. Terri, trying to contain her rising panic, phoned the Vitalab sister, Joy who said best to come in two days later to have the blood test.
It was a bit early but enough time had passed to get an accurate result. The hour-long wait from blood test to destiny was agony and when Joy eventually walked us into her office, Terri swears she heard her whisper: “Don’t worry, it’s good news.”
LOOKING BACK ...
Our daughter Iza was born on 18 November 2013. Sometimes we still can’t believe we fell pregnant and that our near-two-year journey to this wondrous place is real.
But then we look down at our beautiful girl and it’s hard not to drown in tears. We have a lot to be grateful for – particularly the four men who got “us” pregnant (three wonderful doctors at Vitalab and a strong anonymous donor who enjoys music, soccer and cooking).
Now the rest is up to us. We cannot wait to spend our lives with this very special little person who has chosen us to be her parents.