PIN­NING YOUR HOPES

After hav­ing one baby nat­u­rally, most par­ents be­lieve the path to child num­ber two will be smooth, but this isn’t al­ways the case. JAI BRE­IT­NAUER speaks to three cou­ples who are still hop­ing to grow their fam­i­lies

Little Treasures - - NEWS -

When try­ing for an­other baby hits a snag

When high school sweet­hearts Elle and Tom John­son* de­cided to try for chil­dren, they didn’t ex­pect any prob­lems and na­ture didn’t dis­ap­point. They fell preg­nant al­most im­me­di­ately with daugh­ter Willa, now ap­proach­ing five. “I wanted a two-and-a-half to three-year age gap and, be­cause Willa had been so easy, we waited un­til we were bang on the dates to start try­ing again,” says Elle. “I fell preg­nant eas­ily that sec­ond time too, but mis­car­ried at six weeks.” Elle ad­mits she and Tom weren’t too wor­ried after that first mis­car­riage, and car­ried on try­ing. They fell preg­nant again within weeks, and again mis­car­ried at seven weeks. “We spoke to our GP, who re­as­sured us they wouldn’t be con­cerned un­til we’d had three preg­nancy losses in a row,” says Elle. “We de­cided to have a break, let my body re­cover. Five months later we started try­ing again and fell preg­nant straight away.” As this was their third preg­nancy after two mis­car­riages there was some trep­i­da­tion, but Elle had the morn­ing sick­ness she ex­pe­ri­enced with Willa and other preg­nancy symp­toms. At 12 weeks, they told close friends and fam­ily, and even Willa who was ex­cited to be a big sis­ter. “But at my scan to­ward the end of my 12th week, there was no heart­beat,” says Elle who noted the em­bryo was com­plete, and they dated its growth to 12 weeks. “That one was re­ally hard, and we be­gan to think some­thing was se­ri­ously wrong. I also felt a sense of grief that the fam­ily I had planned wouldn’t hap­pen. We were al­ready up to a four-year age gap and we weren’t preg­nant yet.” Elle was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal at her re­quest, and they did some tests on her and the em­bryo.

She and Tom were then re­ferred to the Fer­til­ity Plus re­cur­rent preg­nancy loss clinic for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “We were told that while the baby we had just lost was fine – it was just bad luck – I did in fact have a chro­mo­so­mal ab­nor­mal­ity. Two of my chro­mo­somes were the wrong way round.” This con­di­tion, called a bal­anced translo­ca­tion, ex­plained the first two early mis­car­riages, and they were of­fered pub­liclyfunded IVF PGD, where the em­bryos are screened for vi­a­bil­ity. Elle and Tom suf­fered an­other nat­u­ral preg­nancy loss in March this year, be­fore be­ing of­fered the IVF in June. They man­aged to pro­duce seven em­bryos, but when biop­sied, none were suit­able for trans­fer. “That news was quite scary,” says Elle. “Is that how bad our chances of a sec­ond child are? Our re­al­ity is that it’s go­ing to be very hard to fall preg­nant again.” Elle and Tom are con­sid­er­ing whether to go ahead with an­other at­tempt at IVF PGD. They ad­mit the process of try­ing for an­other child has been very con­sum­ing, tak­ing its toll phys­i­cally and emo­tion­ally. “Your whole life seems on hold, and al­though we’ve coped well so far, you don’t know when you might break,” says Elle. “We feel the need to put a time­frame on it, to have a mo­ment where we can move on. But equally, we are des­per­ate to have an­other child. Willa is amaz­ing and very ful­fill­ing, but our fam­ily doesn’t yet feel com­plete.” Elle and Tom have ben­e­fited from coun­selling at Fer­til­ity Plus, an im­por­tant ser­vice that helps cou­ples gain some per­spec­tive. “It’s re­ally quite un­ex­pected for these cou­ples to find they are strug­gling to con­ceive a sec­ond time,” says Fer­til­ity Plus Coun­sel­lor Me­gan Downer. “They suf­fer feel­ings of shock and dis­be­lief that it’s hap­pen­ing to them, and a loss of con­trol. After all, the first time they were just able to get preg­nant.” Me­gan says many cou­ples talk about the loss of their dream fam­ily as the imag­ined age-gap be­gins to widen. “Both the age gap and the size of the fam­ily planned can be af­fected by de­layed fer­til­ity. We try and help cou­ples re­gain some per­spec­tive by ex­plor­ing their dream and ad­just­ing to their new nor­mal.” Me­gan also notes that many cou­ples feel guilty that they are at Fer­til­ity Plus at all, bear­ing in mind they have a child al­ready, and she is keen to stress this guilt is mis­placed. “Some friends and fam­ily who, mean­ing to be help­ful, say things like ‘You should feel grate­ful you have one child’, which can make the cou­ple feel like their feel­ings aren’t valid. But this is a non-judg­men­tal place where cou­ples can openly dis­cuss their ex­pe­ri­ences and ex­press their frus­tra­tion and sad­ness. Ev­ery­one’s ex­pe­ri­ence is unique.”

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