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Episode 220

Ellen

In this week’s bonus episode I chat to Ellen, a solo mum who navigated four years of IVF to conceive her daughter, Lola. She takes us through ten rounds of IVF, her experience with Gestational Diabetes and the end of her pregnancy where she was faced with two options: and induction at 38weeks or a cesarean at 39weeks. After much thought and soul searching, she opted for a planned cesarean because it gave her more time to allow labour to commence naturally. And it did! Her joyful birth was everything she dreamed of. However, her postpartum experience was challenging and she admits that the pain, struggle and vulnerability was confronting, especially in regards to breastfeeding. Ellen’s story really clarifies the lengths some women go to conceive their babies and the importance of listening to the intuitive voice within.

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“I started considering motherhood in my early thirties but started taking it seriously when I’d had a few relationships that, upon reflection, I was only in because I wanted to have a baby. I felt like I was dating to find a father for my future child.”

After discussing her options with her gynecologist a few years prior, at 34 she was referred to a fertility specialist who performed a few tests and investigations. All her levels came back golden and sparkling; everything looked great. While she was given the option to freeze her eggs she decided to go again with finding a sperm donor.

“In the beginning I was very particular; you get profiles of the donors and read about their interested and background as well as a full medical screening. But by the end of the IVF journey I wasn’t quite so discerning. I had to do two rounds of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) to start with and after they were unsuccessful I couldn’t use that sperm donor anymore.

“I was shocked that it hadn’t worked, my tests had shown that all my levels were great, I was 34 and healthy, I don’t want to say that I was smug but I looked back and had this feeling that I was proud that I’d got to it early enough and I really presumed it would be smooth sailing.”

Ellen’s fertility specialist wanted to go straight to Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSY) and when she went into her egg collection, the team were happy with the amount of follicles. However, none of her eggs were mature enough.

“I was absolutely devastated.  I was diagnosed with idiopathic infertility at that stage and from there we commenced other types of cycles on different medication regimes. In the end I did two IUI cycles, six ICSY cycles and two natural cycles, all with different protocols. An early miscarriage on one of the cycles was upsetting but it also gave me hope that I could conceive and that propelled me forward.

“It’s hard to accept that you don’t have a lot of control over it and I don’t think you’re ever prepared for how hard IVF can be. The cycle with the worst results was the one where I ate cleanly, avoided plastics, did acupuncture, exercise, lost a bit of weight. It was a slap in the face, that it was so out of my control and that I just didn’t know what the right path was. When you’re on IVF long enough, the people close to you get compassion fatigue…as I went along further, I felt like there was a bit of pressure on me to put it behind me and move onto a different dream. Enthusiasm drops away and I understand why so I started sharing less about it.

“The round that Lola was conceived on; I had the most successful round and I hadn’t done anything different. I ended up with eight fertilised eggs and five viable embryos and Lola is number 1 of them. That was my last attempt; I’d made a very clear decision on that. I felt the four embryos left were like a bit of insurance so when they transferred the embryo I really felt like I could relax.”

After a Gestational Diabetes diagnosis Ellen started a strict diet and controlled it without needing to go on insulin. Gestational Diabetes tends to result in big babies and this was one of the main reasons why Ellen’s OB encouraged her to choose between an induction and a cesarean.

“There were some stats around fresh embryo transfer and stillbirth, not huge but something to add to the picture. I was also at an advanced age and it was looking as though she’d be a big baby. My OB let me know that it was my choice but that it would be wise to consider either an induction or cesarean.

“I found it much harder than I anticipated, I did a lot of thinking and soul searching about it, and I think at the end of the day, so much of the process to conceive Lola was so unnatural, it’s all constructed, and for me that’s why, much to my surprise, I deeply wanted to have a natural birth. I would never have predicted that. On the flipside, all I wanted was a safe delivery, so after much thought I chose to have a caesar at 39 weeks. The reason I chose a caesar was because I could push it out a bit in the hope that she would come on her own.”

And she did! Ellen woke with cramps at 3am and spent the morning dozing, so happy that she was close to meeting her baby. When the sun came up she sent her mum and her sister (who is a midwife) a message and they joined her later that morning to support her through labour.

“At about 2pm things progressed and the contractions intensified and by 5pm I told them I was ready to go to hospital. We drove there and my OB came in shortly after and examined me and I was 8cm. It was amazing! Even thinking about it is so wonderful, I feel so fortunate that I got what I wanted. My mebrances hadn’t completely ruptured, so she broke them and things progressed quite quickly and I pushed for about thirty minutes, on my knees, hanging on to the top of the bed. It happened all so easily.

“Unfortunately after the best birth I could have imagined, things all went south. I had a vaginal hematoma that declared itself in the hour after birth, I was holding her and I hadn’t had any major tearing so I was quite surprised at how much pain I was in, it became excruciating and I couldn’t sit, I had to lie on my side; it was the hematoma filling up. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t really hold Lola and I felt like everyone could understand that something was wrong because I’d handled the birth really well. The OB got home and came straight back and felt the hematoma; it was obvious that I had to go to the theatre and have an epidural so they could drain the hematoma and stitch it.”

After the trauma of surgery and being separated from Lola, Ellend spent five nights in hospital and really appreciated the kindness and support of the midwives and lactation consultants. Lola had fed from bottles over the first few days because she was hypoglycemic (a result of GD). Subsequently, she didn’t attach easily and Ellen suffered with low supply.

“I felt like the entire first three months were about feeding her. I would breastfeed, express and then top her up with formula so I was also sterilising bottles. Deciding to go to formula fullime was a really great decision for us.”

Topics Discussed

Gestational Diabetes (GD), Solo parenthood, Vaginal hematoma, Low breastmilk supply, Sperm donor, IVF

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by ECO. Modern Essentials – a Gold Coast-based wellness brand specialising in 100% pure essential oils and blends to support your overall health and wellbeing. ECO.’s entire product range is bottled in Australia, certified Vegan and Cruelty-free. They are committed to minimising their environmental impact by shipping all orders plastic-free, offering a recycling program and planting trees to help offset carbon emissions. From creating a relaxing atmosphere in your home, helping your little ones go to sleep or making your own natural skincare and cleaning products, ECO. offers a variety of pure essential oils and purpose blends for all your needs. You can save 20% off sitewide. Simply use the code ABS at checkout.

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