Marisa's motherhood story - Battling the odds to become a mother
Facing IVF, an Incompetent Cervix and loss.
My journey into motherhood was not easy. When I turned 30 I thought it was the right time to start a family with my husband. After a year of trying, nothing happened. It wasn’t until we had fertility testing that we found out we had 0% chance of falling pregnant naturally without the help of IVF. It felt like a bomb had hit us. Nothing about the life we had planned for felt certain anymore.
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We went into our first cycle naively thinking that it would work straight up. We create an embryo, it’s transferred and BAM you were pregnant! I was wrong. It wouldn’t be until 2 years later and our fifth cycle that we actually had our first positive pregnancy test.
Unfortunately, our excitement was short lived when the 10 week scan showed that our little bubba’s heart stopped beating. My heart crushed into a billion pieces watching that lifeless little baby on the ultrasound screen. We were back to square one.
IVF was breaking me emotionally, physically and mentally.
We had been on the roller coaster for more than 2 years and the needles, tablets, sprays, appointments, procedures, blood tests, internals, failed cycles were taking a toll on my body, my mind and my spirit. I made the decision to take a year off teaching and to make falling pregnant and having a baby my new fulltime job.
The new year brought with it a new clinic, new fertility specialist and new mindset. And in that first cycle there, we were pregnant again. Everything was going well albeit a few small scares, but we got to that 12 week scan and at 16 weeks along we told everyone we were finally expecting our miracle. Life was good. Once you hit that second trimester you are pretty much in the safe zone, right?
I was almost 18 weeks pregnant when I woke feeling unusual, I had tightenings that were coming and going all day and just put it down to Braxton Hicks. But when I felt a pop and a gush of water down below, my heart sunk.
Our fears were confirmed at the hospital that I was going into labour and my baby would not survive. I don't think the whole magnitude of what was happening hit me in that moment. My body just went into shock and I just felt numb. Our little miracle was coming too soon.
After 6 hours of horrible pain, our sweet baby boy was born. The amazing midwife who stayed with us through the night, wrapped him in a delicate handmade blanket and I handed him to me gently.
I looked down at him for the first time and in that moment the fear I had felt about seeing him so small and fragile had melted away. His button nose and mouth were so tiny but perfect in every way. He looked just like my husband. We named him Gabriel after the Archangel.
As I gazed at him the only words I could hear myself say over and over was “I’m sorry”. I felt so guilty that my body had betrayed us all. I still feel that way today, 5 years on. The guilt never goes away and although the pain dulls it never completely goes. Part of my heart and spirit will forever feel broken.
In the weeks that followed I discovered that my PROM (Premature Rupture of Membrane) was due to what the specialist called an ‘Incompetent Cervix”. Basically, my cervix was weak, it opened up allowing bacteria to enter my uterus causing an infection that caused my water to break.
I was completely shocked that not only did we have the hurdle of IVF to jump but we also had to deal with the fact that my body cannot hold a pregnancy to term. What were the odds really?
I felt like the universe was telling me I wasn’t deserving of a baby.
I felt so alone. I didn’t know anyone in real life who had been in my situation. So, like most people do, I turned to the internet and thankfully was pointed to a Facebook group for woman in Australia who have all experienced the trauma of dealing with an incompetent cervix. Finally, I didn’t feel alone. In actual fact 1 in 100 pregnancies are affected by it.
Within this group are women who had lost multiple babies, some none but had to endure months on bedrest in hospital, some babies held on for as long as they could and were born premature and spent months and months in NICU with worried parents not knowing if they would even take their babies home and sadly, some didn’t.
Although every IC story is different, there was one thing that stood out and that was the tenacity of us mothers to not give up. To fight for the rights of our babies, to be the voices of our children who deserve the chance to live, to be our own advocates.
Most obstetrician are not well versed in this condition unfortunately. Therefore, the group would discuss the best practice when dealing with IC. I gained so much knowledge. For myself, I knew that when we fell pregnant again, I would want every single possible measure taken to hold that baby in.
Thankfully my amazing and knowledgeable OB had a plan already. And 4 months and another IVF cycle later, we were pregnant again. And as fate would have it, this baby’s due date was exactly on the one-year anniversary of Gabriel’s birth.
This pregnancy was nothing but normal. I had to go under general anesthetic at 14 weeks to have a cervical stitch placed. I had regular swabs to check for infections, courses of antibiotics to stop infection forming and multiple scans to measure how long my cervix was. Technically, everything went well. But emotionally and mentally, it was horrible.
We kept our pregnancy a secret for a loooong time. I was too scared to have any type of bond with the baby just in case it would end badly again. I counted down the actual minutes to every scan or OB visit so I could get reassurance everything was still on track.
I spent almost all my pregnancy on bedrest, not strict, but I was too scared to stay on my feet too long, I never ventured too far from home. I developed terrible anxiety. If I had to go somewhere, I would work out the fastest route to hospital.
On June 20th and on my scheduled c-section date, my wonderful rainbow baby, Raffael came into the world. Our hopes, dreams and future were wrapped up in this one little bald, blond headed baby. To say the least, he was our everything. We beat IC!
When Raffael was 7 months old, we made the decision that we would try for another baby once he turned one. We didn’t know how long it would take so we thought we should start early.
To prepare for this and for another tough pregnancy, we consulted with an amazing OB/GYN in Melbourne who had developed a method of placing a cervical stitch so high up on the cervix it had to be done laparoscopically. He was the only Dr in Australia who could do this procedure and it was so effective I would not need to be on bedrest and actually enjoy a normal pregnancy.
The down side is that it is permanent and I would never be able to give birth naturally. The pros definitely outweighed the cons so I had the procedure. And after Raffael turned 1 we went through another cycle of IVF and thankfully were pregnant again.
My new robo cervix was amazing and I had a fantastic, normal pregnancy with my daughter, Ariana. She ended up being the 109th baby born full term in Australia with this amazing method of treating incompetent cervix. My husband and I are eternally grateful for the team of amazing doctors that played a part in creating our family.
Five years on from Gabriel’s loss, there isn’t a day where I don’t think of him and wonder what he would have looked like now. Would he have had the blonde hair/ blue eyes of his brother or the curly brown hair/ brown eyes like his sister? What would his personality he like? His interests? His favourite food? But what I do know is that without him, I wouldn’t have known about my condition and my two children would have never been born. And for that I am grateful he existed and he will forever be loved and never forgotten.
I am a primary school teacher by trade and like any teacher, I like routine and order. I find those traits follow me through all aspects in my life, especially with my babies. I am very crafty and arty. I love making and creating things and buying handmade. I love party planning and enjoy going all out for my kid’s parties.
Hood: Taylors Hill
Children: 4 (2 in my heart, 2 in my arms)
Motherhood in 5 words: Heartbreaking, joyful, rewarding, hardwork and amazing.
Fav family friendly place: Pauline Gandell Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum.
Coffee order: A LARGE latte.
Biz: I Heart Letters
I specialise in making personalised scrabble frames, chalkboard milestone posters and other décor items.
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