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In this episode, I chat to Fiona about her experience with two boys under two. Together with her wife, Hayley, she embarked on IVF to conceive their first son with donor sperm. Fiona is honest about the challenges of social infertility, the long wait times and the importance of a positive mindset throughout the experience. Her pregnancy was challenging due to debilitating pubic symphysis but with support from her private obstetrician she had a really positive induced birth. Her breastfeeding journey was complicated by her baby’s tongue tie and she admits that at four months - after weeks of feeding, pumping and top-up formula feeds - she felt it best to prioritise her mental health and wean him. Fiona also takes us through Hayley’s pregnancy and birth and discusses what it was like to be the birth support parent.

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“When I met Hayley I was already considering having a baby on my own. I’m 39 now so when we first met I was very open with her about my desire to start a family. Once we started dating I took a step back but Hayley really took the reins and started booking appointments for me.

“The IVF journey always takes a lot longer than you think. From the very first appointment it can take nine months to a year till you even start your first cycle. I always encourage people to jump on board and make that first appointment ASAP so you can get the ball rolling.

“We both knew from the beginning that we both wanted to carry a baby but I’m seven years older than Hayley so my age was definitely a factor. We went with an anonymous Australian donor and both the boys are from the same donor.

“I did two IUI’s which were both unsuccessful, which is when I went into full IVF. On my first egg collection I only got four eggs which I was disappointed about and we only got one viable embryo from that and it didn’t take. I was really deflated – physically and emotionally. My acupuncturist advised me to take a month off for my mental state. I knew stress and anxiety negatively impacted the IVF journey so I really worked hard on my mindset and acceptance that what would be would be. On the next round I got five eggs and one viable embryo and that ended up being Hunter.

“We chose a private obstetrician and we both had an incredible experience with her at the Sydney Adventist Hospital (SAN). My pregnancy wasn’t fun; I got quite bad pregnancy sickness and I got pubic symphysis and my physiotherapist told me the only exercise I could do was gentle swimming. It got to the point where it was really hard to walk, I couldn’t bear weight on one leg, rolling over in bed was tricky…it was awful.

“I surrendered to the weight gain. I don’t put pressure on myself now and when I had Hunter I felt uncomfortable but I gave myself a good 12 weeks after birth to recover before I started gentle movement with a trainer. I was doing it more for my mental health than anything.

“Hayley and I did a birth preparation day with a doula and she encouraged us to talk to each other about the birth day and she asked me to be open about how I wanted to be supported. I asked Hayley to not show me fear. I was also adamant that I didn’t want to have a forceps delivery. I decided to have an induction because all my sisters have birthed very quickly and we live 50 minutes from the hospital and it was becoming a stress for me. The induction was great because it eliminated that fear.

“I went in the night before and they put me in the birthing suite and Hayley got to stay with me. They applied the cervical gel and I got a bit of sleep over night and the next morning my OB broke my waters and then I had the syntocinon drip and I think I had about four contractions and knew I couldn’t do it so I asked for an epidural.

“I quietly laboured and dozed and the epidural wore off enough for me to feel pressure and contractions. At about 3:30pm they told me I could start pushing and I had two midwives, a student midwife and my OB and there was so much beautiful female energy in the room. He was born within about thirty minutes and I honestly put about 200% into every push.

“My obstetrician asked me to reach down and he was in my hands. He was on me and he was so beautiful and nothing could have ever prepared me for that moment. I intended to breastfeed but a tongue tie was picked up when I was in hospital but I was told that it wasn’t an issue. He was feeding every hour on the hour and was losing weight and he was upset and my nipples were just gone, they were broken and it was so painful. It took three weeks for a midwife to tell me that it was actually quite a severe tongue tie and it was really disappointing because I felt like my breastfeeding journey would have been completely different if it was fixed at the beginning. My supply was really affected so I was feeding and pumping and topping up with formula and it was a lot.

“Once the tongue tie was cut he fed well straight away. I got to the four-month mark but it was just so intense doing to feed, pump, top-up and my mental health was suffering. It was hard to give it up but he was a hungry boy. When it’s working it’s such a beautiful thing but when it’s not working it’s so stressful.

“We always knew we wanted to have our children close together and there’s the unknown with IVf and you really don’t know how long it’s going to take. Hayley went straight to IVF because we had a limited amount of sperm and Hayley got quite a few eggs and she got about eight embryos. The first one didn’t take but the second one did so she’s still got some in the freezer.

“She basically said she didn’t give me enough credit when I was complaining about pregnancy pain. I’ve loved being Spencer’s mum without carrying him, it’s so unique and joyful and I get to enjoy him without the overwhelm of the responsibility of being the birth mum.

“Hayley was diagnosed with gestational diabetes which she found quite tricky and he was a big bub but he came three weeks early. She had planned to be induced but she went into labour in the middle of the night and by 6:30am we got to hospital. She had an epidural and then slept for a few hours. At about 3pm she started pushing and she did so well and pushed for about an-hour-and-a-half. Once our OB was in the room Hayley responded really well to her guidance because she trusted her and I’ll never forget when she reached down and lifted Spencer onto her chest.”

Topics Discussed

Donor sperm, Epidural, Induction, IVF, Private obstetrician, pubic symphysis, Same sex couple, social infertilty, Tongue-tie, Two Vaginal Births

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