I can remember the exact moment when Kim and I decided we were ready to have kids. We’d talked about it vaguely but we decided for real on a trip to Europe in 2014. We were in a hotel room in Rome. I can’t remember the conversation but we agreed that we had a stable enough life, we were both earning enough and that it was time that we spread these amazing genes around a bit.
We had talked about timings when we thought we had control over these things. We wanted to have two kids done and dusted by the time Kim turned 35. Ideally we wanted to get pregnant around November/December so that Kim would be at her most pregnantest during winter months.
It’s funny how life does not give a fuck about your plans. It’s actually been not even a year since we started talking about this whole infertility thing but my god it feels like forever. In that time we’ve been through four IVF rounds, failing at a variety of stages; we’ve had more emotional trauma in these last few months than I think I’ve had in my life. I’m pretty sure that from a personal perspective, 2017 was the worst year of my life. For my Twitter Secret Santa I got a key ring that says “This year is going to be fucking amazing” and frankly I would settle for “not a complete disaster”.
When we talked about writing our story, we did so because we couldn’t find anything that mimicked where we were. There was certainly very little in New Zealand literature about infertility, and the stories we could find would end with “and now we’re holding our beautiful baby in our arms and everything is wonderful”. While those stories could provide a glimmer of hope, they’re also difficult to read. We struggled to find complete warts and all stories, and so we thought “bugger it, we’ll write it”. So we have been. And then throughout that something magical happened, where we’d tried to help people, people started helping us. We found fora that we could get comfort – Kim on Facebook, me on Reddit. Other people talked to us about our journey, people who had been through it, and others who hadn’t but wanted to be there for us. People talk about Twitter being a festering pit of vipers and it can be awful but it can also be amazing and I’ve been able to experience the amazing side of it lately.
I can’t tell you the number of people who have got in touch with me saying “I don’t know you but I’ve become so invested in your story and I hope it works out for the best for you” which is amazing. Complete strangers have watched our little soap opera unfold and have started rooting for us (pun intended).
In early December we got the first positive pregnancy test in nearly four years of trying to have a child. It was a blood test, and we then did a home test because we’d never had a positive home test before. Of course in true Cormack fashion this couldn’t just be a smooth story of positive test to wonderful pregnancy; as I’ve covered when we got the call we were told that the HCG levels were lowish. HCG is a hormone that the body only creates when it’s pregnant. It forms the placenta. It’s pretty important. It’s supposed to double every 48 hours. So we went back and did another blood test four days later, the HCG levels had tripled, not quadrupled. It was looking for all money like we were heading for Miscarriage town. So we had to do another blood test. This one smashed it, well more than doubled every 48 hours. But given the sluggish start we needed to go back for one more blood test. What’s one more needle aye Kim? You’ve already had like 50 billion. So we did and that result put us in “healthy range”.
The next step was a scan. This was yet another dildo-cam as I call them. Kim has been through so many of those now too that they’re old hat. This was a biggy. Because while the HCG levels were screaming pregnancy, your body can play a very nasty trick on you. You can have what’s called a “blighted ovum”, where a pregnancy sac forms and the body thinks it’s pregnant but there’s nothing growing in the sac. Grim. The other problem can be if it’s “small” – i.e. not the size it should be.
So this scan would tell us if there was even anything growing. We were so anxious. Again, in our style we couldn’t have a straight forward scan, so we went in and the wonderful Dr Murray started the scan, he couldn’t get a proper view. He said that Kim had a fullish bladder and could she please go empty that so he could see. He said this in relative monotone.
While Kim was out of the room I said to him “It’s a blighted ovum isn’t it?”. He said he wasn’t ready to call it, genuinely, he wasn’t just saying that but it could go either way. Kim comes back and the scan begins again. Suddenly there’s a pulsing light on the screen and it’s a heartbeat. So there’s something there. It’s a pretty exciting moment. Dr Murray said he could see the “foetal pole” which is a new and disgusting term in a process filled with many disgusting things. The next step was to measure it, and we didn’t want to let our fans down so we had to be difficult about that too. Because of Kim’s two uteri, the sac was in an odd place, and so he wasn’t able to measure it properly. This meant we couldn’t get a read on whether it was proceeding as it should or if it was going south. We stopped the scan and he said we’d have to come back in a week for another one. Christ almighty.
In the meantime, he said we should look for a midwife or an obstetrician. In Wellington there are two obstetricians who do it privately and one was going away for our due date and the other was full. FULL. I was amazed that people are out there booking these people earlier than the 7 weeks pregnant we were. This happened with midwifes too. We struggled! Apparently people are out there, pissing on a stick at 5 weeks and then booking midwifes. Which is fine for you, but difficult for us! So you can go on waiting lists, but that is fucking horrendous too because what you’re waiting for is for someone to suffer a miscarriage. Ugh.
We managed to find a midwife and she’s perfect for us. Doesn’t put up with bullshit, has a great sense of humour though and is very keen to get the hospital involved given Kim’s condition. We’re stoked.
So then we get to yesterday where we have our scan. We’re in the waiting room and Dr Murray comes out to greet us, he asks Kim if she has an empty bladder again (“Do you need to take a waz?”), she says that she’ll go do that. He sits me down on the couch and asks me how I’m doing and if things have been smooth sailing. I said that Kim was completely confident going into this scan but that I was anxious as hell because I needed that measurement to be good to feel comfortable. Dr Murray said that he was “Switzerland” so I took that to mean he wasn’t sure. Which was not the comforting words I wanted.
So we piled back into his office and had a brief chat before we started the scan. This time it was super apparent. There was definite growth of a foetus. He said with a smile on his face that this was definitely in the good zone. We had to get a video of it, as I’m filming he hits a button on the scanny-doo-dah and suddenly we can hear the heartbeat. The heartbeat of our child. The human that we, Dr Murray, the amazing team at Fertility Associates, the grim room with the brown couch and science had created. Ba-boom-ba-boom. It got me. Not much gets me. I haven’t cried in 25 odd years. This sure gave me a lump in the throat. We’d tried so hard and there was the heartbeat of a human being that, all things going well, will turn into an adult and live its life and have its own stories to tell.
This was our graduation from Fertility Associates. This was the end of our infertility journey. And so it also marks the end of this series of blog posts. Because like I said, all the posts we read ended with “and now we have a beautiful baby”, and we started out writing for people who were struggling and suffering and we never want to forget them, because we were them for so long and it’s so awful.
I might still blog on our adventures periodically, but I’ll be sure to mark them appropriately so that if you have come to read this infertility series you can avoid them. Because that’s what I’d do. I’ll also heap all of these blog posts together in once place so you can read each one if you like. I’m not sure if Kim will do a wrap-up post. That’s up to her.
I’m on Twitter, where I’ll continue to tweet out the things that amuse me (like when Kim told me that my feet stunk but….that she liked the smell?). You can find me here: https://twitter.com/david_cormack.
Also if you want to get in touch with us to talk to us about the infertility we’re more than happy to talk about any aspect; please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re going through this struggle yourself there are places you can go to talk with people also struggling so that when those baby shower invitations come in you can scream about them to people who truly understand. There are lots of groups on Facebook, both locally (i.e. Kim’s a member of a New Zealand group and an international group). Also the infertility subreddit is really good, that can be found here: https://www.reddit.com/r/infertility/.
If you’re friends with people who are struggling and you have questions you can also ask us if you want – just email us. It’s shit. One thing, please don’t point to our story and say “this couple got through it, so you might too!” because, while we know that comes from a nice place and you’re just trying to give hope, each case is very different and just because one couple was successful doesn’t mean that anyone else will be. The best thing you can say is “this is fucking shit but you have my support and if you need to talk or hang out or anything then please let me know”.
So thank you for all your lovely comments, your tweets of support, your Facebook messages, your comments on our reddit posts. You have been amazing. Your support has got us both through some dark times. I’m glad we wrote this story. I hope that it provides comfort to others going through it and understanding to people who are close to those going through it.