I’d had heavy and painful periods since I was 16 so, at 19 when I was referred to a gynaecologist and had a laparoscopy, I wasn’t surprised to hear I had advanced endometriosis.
At my follow-up appointment my doctor informed me that if I wanted to have children, I had better think about having them early.
At this point, my boyfriend and I were in a serious relationship and our plans and vision for the future was marriage and four children. It was, two and a half years into our relationship, that I fell pregnant.
At first it was a complete shock. I took the six positive pregnancy tests I had taken into my GP on Christmas Eve, enclosed in a ziplock bag expecting her to tell me that I wasn’t pregnant at all and the tests were faulty. Instead, after a short chat about options, she clapped her hands together and said “so we’re having a baby”.
My partner and I we were so excited but scared at the same time. We had just started our own business and were still living in a garage under my father-in-law’s house. After the first horrific three months of morning sickness the rest of the pregnancy went perfectly and by the six-month mark we were happily renting our own townhouse.
In August 2005 after a complicated birth we welcomed our first daughter; she was perfect! I quickly had her in an amazing sleeping routine and I found I slipped into motherhood easily.
A year later my husband and I were married and it was time to extend our family. At 23 after another easy pregnancy, I gave birth to a son. Our family was growing and this was a very happy time for us; our business was growing as well and we had just built and moved into our first home.
Shortly after, we became pregnant again and, at 24, along came our third child, another beautiful baby girl.
While we were growing our family we were aware of a dear friend who was fighting a long battle to start her own. Over five years she’d had continuous rounds of IVF with several miscarriages. With each child that I was having I could see the growing sadness and frustration in her and her husband, unable to have the child they so desperately wanted.
I watched them go through treatments and IVF and felt a strong urge to help, so I approached my friend and offered to carry her baby. Surrogacy laws in Queensland hadn’t been passed at that stage, so what I had proposed was technically illegal. We discussed traveling to different states but in the end we decided to wait until the laws had passed in Queensland.
While we were waiting my husband and I decided to go ahead and donate my eggs to see if my friend could conceive. We had an absolutely amazing fertility doctor/gynaecologist and I harvested my eggs three times for her and her husband, each time with his sperm and my eggs but after 3 cycles of IVF she still hadn’t conceived.
I wanted to do more and, as soon as altruistic surrogacy (no financial gain) became legal in June 2010, my husband and I made the decision to offer my body to carry a baby.
The four of us went through counselling together and decided it was best not to use my own egg, but a donor instead. In August 2010 two embryos were placed inside me. We fell pregnant on the first cycle. I felt fantastic, over the moon for them, that their dream of becoming parents was going to come true.
Very early on in this pregnancy it was thought that I was carrying twins as my hormone levels were absurdly high. So it turned out to be, that I was the carrier of two little babies for my dear friend. For the first three months I was so sick, even hospitalised with morning sickness, but the babies were healthy.
But the twins took their toll on my body and I went into early labour at 28 weeks. I felt like I was failing as a friend and I was angry at myself for not being able to hold on to the babies longer. I was admitted into hospital for three weeks away from my family and it was so hard. But in the end it was worth it as I was able to hold onto the twins until 33 weeks .
The baby girls were born via emergency caesarean – my first caesarean- and, along with my husband and my friend in the operating theatre, we welcomed them together. The feeling was amazing and the look on my friend’s face when she saw her babies for the first time was overwhelming; it was all I had wanted for her from the start and I will never forget it.
And so I became the first legal altruistic surrogate of twins in Queensland.
I am always asked if It was hard giving the babies away. To me, I never gave the babies away, they weren’t mine to begin with; from the start of the pregnancy we’d always known the outcome. Yes, I had developed a bond with the babies but it was more a bond that an aunt would have with her niece or nephew. I loved them dearly but my job was to carry them and bring them into the world safely. Once I had achieved this and was able to see my friend holding her babies my role was fulfilled.
As I was leaving hospital after giving birth and recovering from my caesarean, I was given the most amazing news: my friend had fallen pregnant with her own baby … on her own, naturally! The joy was overwhelming! She was to be a mum of three baby girls all under a year old!
At the same time, I was having post-natal complications. I developed a uterine infection and was admitted to hospital, again away from my husband and three children. The pain was awful. I didn’t stop bleeding. After weeks of antibiotics I still wasn’t getting better so I went back to see my own gynaecologist/ fertility doctor. He booked me for a laparoscopy the next day and subsequently discovered left-over placenta and scar tissue inside my uterus. He tidied up as best as he could, he advised me if I wanted to achieve our dream of having four children, I should do it sooner rather than later.
My husband and I had always wanted four children, my god mother had always told me “you will know when you are done having children” I wasn’t done, so we didn’t hesitate and so conceived our fourth baby using IUI, a girl, who was born again via emergency caesarean section after a complicated pregnancy in 2012.
Unfortunately my complications resurfaced after her birth. I developed mastitis along with fevers and heavy bleeding. I developed another uterine infection and had a blood clot inside my uterus. I had three laparoscopies in three weeks, specialists were consulted and it was decided I was to have a hysterectomy and I was only 27.
My baby girl was only 5 weeks old at this point and I was so sick I had to stop breastfeeding her. During my hysterectomy my husband was told I was lucky to still be here as it was a matter of days before septicaemia would have taken hold and taken my life. Three days after my hysterectomy everything looked good and I was discharged. I was thrilled to be going home and to be able to start being a mother to my kids and newborn baby again.
It wasn’t until I got home and that night that I felt like something was still horribly wrong. It felt like my whole body was shutting down and I had no control over it; the feeling was the scariest thing I have ever felt in my entire life; I was convinced I was dying. I went straight to emergency and was diagnosed now with Peritonitis, a life-threatening infection of the internal stomach and organs. I was so sick, specialists were called in from interstate and the entire “war chest” of antibiotics was used. At first I wasn’t responding and the doctors told my husband that I may not make it home to him and my children. It was a terrifying emotional roller coaster. Our business was collapsing as my husband tried to balance it and being a full time single dad with a newborn.
Our friends and family were amazing support to my husband and kids throughout the difficult time. I had three more laparoscopies and at this point, I felt like I was failure as a mother and wife. After three weeks and several different antibiotics I finally started responding and the doctors were hopeful that I would fully recover.
I had been in hospital for three months and my baby girl was now 14 weeks old. I was thrilled to be heading home to my family who I hadn’t really seen in three months. As we were driving away from the hospital my son said “Mum, are you living with us again”? And for the next few months when we would drive past the hospital one of the kids would pipe up and say ” hey look! Mum used to live there!”. That broke my heart.
It took me a while to get back into the swing of motherhood again and a full year to start functioning properly .
If I had my time over, I would do it all again in a heartbeat. The babies I have and the babies I carried mean the world to me.
My children are all fit and healthy and I am so thankful I am here to see them grow and to spend time with them. My experience has brought my husband and I even closer and given us a deeper connection and appreciation for each other.
My IVF journey has taught me to appreciate everything that I have and that love, given and received is everywhere.
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