As I woke up in critical care, without my baby, I felt relief, and gratitude.
I’d just spent the last five years of my life in a baby-making shit sandwich.
But now, here I was, alive and with two babies, and ready to put this chapter of my life behind me.
The prelude to my 30th birthday was spent in New York, where my sisters gifted me a Tiffany’s necklace. It was part of a whirlwind round the world trip, and it was amazing.
We had a house, and an investment property, we had good jobs, and an incredible naturopath. The scene was set for us to now create our magic family.
And so we started trying to have our first baby…. And…. Crickets.
This was not part of the plan.
I’m a successful marketing executive with a type A personality. Failing wasn’t something I was used to and as time went by, my desperation and despair grew.
Each month I’d be lying on the bathroom floor, crying, as I received confirmation that yet again I wasn’t pregnant, while it seemed that the entire world around me had decided they too would have children at the same time, with one big difference. They were successful and I was failing.
It was Valentine’s Day when we had our first appointment at the fertility clinic, and a year later, with five assisted reproductive treatments, a barrage of tests, and a sharps container by my bedside, we were still without a baby. In fact, we were at minus one.
I’d just had my first IVF cycle, and fell very ill with a complication from treatment called OHSS, and then suffered a miscarriage.
If you’d have asked me a year ago if I was at my lowest, I’d have said yes, but here I was, feeling like I’d sunk even lower.
I kept thinking to myself that I’d invested thousands of dollars and years into doing what others did so effortlessly, just to be rewarded with the heartache of losing a pregnancy.
It was then, in an effort to pull myself out of the claws of my quickly spiralling depression, that I developed a toolkit of sorts for dealing with the trauma infertility, IVF and miscarriage brought me. Self care and cultivating positive mental health became my number one priority.
Something had to give, and I realised that I needed to make myself a priority. I slowly began recognising myself again and uncovered reserves of inner strength that had been hiding within me, a renewed confidence and a sense of peace, that wherever I was, was exactly where I was meant to be in this world.
Another failed cycle followed, but then we fell pregnant with Chloe, who came to the world healthy and happy, and, because of my advancing maternal age and difficulty last time, were told to hot foot it back to the fertility clinic as soon as she turned one year old.
The strength I had first time around was still there, and little did I know it, but I would need to draw on every last ounce of it later down the track.
With embryos that didn’t seem to like the cold and often didn’t survive the thawing process, I was incredibly lucky to have fallen pregnant on my second frozen embryo transfer with my very last embryo. A result I attribute, in part, to the radical lifestyle and mindset changes I had made.
But, it felt too easy, and a little too good to be true.
And then, lying on the table for my 20 week ultrasound, the technician casually mentioned that my placenta had attached itself right in the centre of my cervix, a condition I would later discover was called placenta previa She mentioned that it would mean a Cesarean section, and that I should just go straight to the emergency department if I begin bleeding. Her casual tone didn’t match the serious nature of what she was saying.
The gravity of the situation hit home when I returned home and discovered that the statistics leaned toward, not if I bled, but when, and the internet was full of scaremongering articles with facts like the prospect of bleeding to death within 15 minutes of a bleed.
Yet again, I found myself staring at an unwanted situation I had no control over. It was time to pull out the toolkit.
“Everything is going to be ok,” I repeated to myself over and over again as I travelled to one of my obstetrician appointments, where I was told not to travel on my own, or more than 15 minutes from the hospital, ready myself for an imminent bleed, and was ferried down the hall, at 32 weeks, for steroid injections, to prepare ourselves for an early arrival. This was starting to feel real.
Aside from feeling the pressure of both a baby and placenta pushing down on my cervix constantly, I was asymptomatic, so it was hard to know how concerned to be. Was I being melodramatic?
I was constantly on high alert. I had to be. I felt like a ticking time bomb.
We scheduled the compulsory c-section (a natural birth would have meant certain death) at 38+1 weeks, the date when the most qualified team were on hand to attend the birth.
But then, at exactly 37 weeks, as I locked the doors to the house to visit a neighbour, at 2.57pm, I felt something warm between my legs, and I went to the toilet, to discover fresh blood.
It was showtime.
I called my neighbour and explained a change of plans, as I walked straight out of the door with my toddler, grabbed an emergency bag from my car boot, and across the road to her house. She was now going to be rushing me straight to the hospital. I walked straight across the road, guided Chloe inside her house where her parents were visiting, as my neighbour walked straight to her car.
And off we went, to the hospital, 15 minutes away.
We called the hospital on our way, as well as my husband. “Take your time,” I said “They’ll probably just keep me in for observation overnight while they prepare a team to help with her arrival,” while my husband hurriedly rushed off the building site, to travel and meet me, at peak hour, more than an hour away.
I later discovered that he had no hope of making the birth.
As we arrived at 3.12pm, the nurse was waiting for me in the corridor, and as it turned out, the walk from the carpark triggered contractions, which then sent gushes of blood out. Within minutes I was in a hospital gown, with hospital staff rushing around me and an anaesthetist clicking his fingers in my face asking me to focus while he rushed through his pre-op questions. And the next thing I knew, at 3.45pm, I was in an operating theatre.
Olivia was born at 4.14pm, less one and a half hours after I had first noticed a bleed.
“Well, that was a little bit crazy,” I thought as they stitched me up, but I knew something was wrong as I heard my obstetrician running through a number of options aloud. “Ok, let’s try this, then,” she said to the anaesthetist. “No, a Bakri Balloon won’t work.”
And then, she turned to me and said “Robyn, I’ve been manually trying to contract your uterus for 30 minutes and we’ve tried everything, but it won’t stop contracting and you’re losing too much blood. I need to call the Head of Obstetrics and prepare you for a hysterectomy.”
“Ok. Do what you need to do,” I replied. The anaesthetist looked at me and asked if I knew what I was consenting to, but I felt calm and felt at peace with my lack of ability to control the situation. I surrendered and placed my trust in my medical team.
I later woke up in the high demand unit and my husband and gorgeous second baby was brought to me.
My husband had arrived at the hospital, expecting to gown up, and been ambushed with a baby and a barrage of forms, and admitted to the maternity ward as her primary carer.
Olivia later had breathing difficulties and then spent five nights in the special care unit, while I was confined to a bed, and later quarantined for a suspected infection and prevented from seeing her.
My heart ached, but my mind remained strong, as I waited patiently until we could be united, once more.
These were all the skills I had learned while I was in the darkest depths of hopelessness while I was in the thick of IVF treatments. Skills that unbeknownst to me, would come to serve me time and time again.
Life is messy. For everyone. Sometimes it can feel like we are the only one on the planet swirling around these dark moments, but the truth is, through differing scenarios, we are all handed our fair share of heartache in life. We all experience longing and events that take a lifetime to achieve. We all suffer through the angst of moments we cannot control.
There is no magic bullet to getting through these moments, but the antidote is in developing a strong mind, and this takes work, not just in the bad times, but the good. It requires constant self love, self acceptance and the ability to stop, for a minute, each day to listen to how we are feeling.
I remember when Olivia was first brought to my room, and I had the chance to hold her, and be with her, just like she was a normal baby. I had called the special care nursery, and they told me that as we spoke, she was being wheeled to my bedroom. A flood of tears welled in my eyes. Tears of happiness, as I raced to my door, to see my perfect baby being brought to me, and close the chapter of my rocky fertility journey.
About today’s podcast…..
Oh man, I’m writing to you today with a little bit of a personal email.
My latest podcast eposide is [finally] out – part of that is because it’s been a crazy month getting everything set up.
I’ve had a little bit of a lump in my throat and stalled BIG TIME about whether I was ready to do this. The anniversary of Liv’s birth is coming up, and aside from mentioning it here and there, I haven’t shared her placenta previa birth story yet, and now, while we are getting closer, I’m feeling a little bit teary that I won’t have a baby anymore, and reliving a bit of her disaster birth.
But I’ve pushed on, and here we are with February’s podcast ep, which is kind of a behind the scenes look at my last 12 months, and a glimpse into what is to come.
I’m saying goodbye to Modern Day Missus.
I’m not saying goodbye to you.
I’m just moving house.
Check out the podcast for all the nitty gritty, but having Olivia sparked a bit of a mid-life crisis for me and a huge “what do I want to be when I grow up?” moment.
I’ve been spinning a lot of plates in these parts and not doing a particularly good job of it.
And it’s taken me months to realise that yes, I need to let go and simplify.
So, here I’ve been on a journey to declutter my life!
I’ve resigned from my busy marketing role.
I’ve had more than 15 years experience in business and branding, and I have been freelancing in marketing/blogging/design/website stuff as well, so my plan was to move into that and consult/become a business coach from home.
But there was something holding me back.
And it’s you.
I can’t leave you hanging.
Because infertility sucks.
As you may know, I’ve tested the water twice over the last 6 months.
Once with an ecourse.
I loved the content, but I felt there was a need for more connection and personal support.
And now with a group coaching program.
I’ve spoken now with many of you on the phone or Skype.
Many of you have been in tears.
My own journey has come flooding back to me.
We really do need SO much more emotional support and guidance to get through this sh*t storm, don’t we?
Some of you have found the courage and seen value to invest in yourselves and I feel like this program is great value (the cost of a few nights out, cheaper than a therapist, the brains of experts and the support of a fellow warrior), and that we are going to change lives with this. Truly, I do.
Some of you aren’t quite there yet, and that’s ok too.
I feel a responsibility to help wake up the world and change this industry.
So, while I will still be doing business coaching on request for amazing wellness businesses, I can’t let go of my obligation/passion/drive to help women overcome the emotional trauma of infertility.
I want to help you find your confidence, tap into the inner strength that is hiding inside, and ultimately get the result you know you deserve.
So, bear with me as we move everything across to our new home and get settled in.
Oh, and Hi, I’m Robyn. A fellow fertility warrior, passionate fertility coach, voice behind the Fertility Warriors Podcast, and the woman who wants to help make this journey a little softer for anyone struggling to conceive.