Lets help Fiona be a big sister!
Lets help Fiona be a big sister!
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Alison MacLean is organizing this fundraiser.
We first began our journey to conceive four years ago. We knew it may not be easy as I grew up with irregular cycles, polyps, anxiety and depression and had been on birth control since age 11.
A gynecologist and an ultrasound confirmed I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and prescribed letrozole (to help me ovulate) so we set to work on improving our diet and health to have the best possible outcome.
After four months, I was pregnant in February 2018. However, it was a tough road from the start. I was working six days a week as a mental health therapist for a women and children’s hospital with very high-risk youth. I stopped taking my anti-depressants when I became pregnant, which I regret to this day. I became very emotionally unwell.
At just five weeks, I started bleeding. Terrified, I went to the ER at the local hospital and waited, hysterical. I was forced to do an ultrasound alone, due to an old hospital policy. The doctor was able to see a flicker of a heart beat somehow as it was too soon to hear one. When I was 11 weeks, I was working at a school, went to the bathroom and noticed I was bleeding everywhere. The guidance counsellor drove me to the hospital. When I arrived, I felt dismissed; I was told if you miscarry, you miscarry there’s nothing to be done. I was fully expecting this. Somehow miraculously, they found a heart beat again.
By this time, it was May 2018 and I wasn’t functioning well. My doctor put me off work and referred me to a reproductive psychiatrist. I was also referred to a high risk OBGYN. I learned I had a subchorionic hematoma and it would likely resolve on its own and was not harmful to my pregnancy. Sure enough, by my 20 week ultrasound it was gone.
Bam. I woke up August 19th at my parents’ home in PEI a puddle; the bed was soaked. The local hospital confirmed I was leaking amniotic fluid. I was transported back to Halifax by ambulance and was admitted to the hospital there. Never once did I think my son wouldn’t survive. I was worried about challenges of prematurity and his later development but had no idea what was coming. Soon I went into labour and he was here. That blissful ignorance is something I’ll never feel again. Things quickly deteriorated.
It was a surreal time. We held him and cherished every minute. We got to see his blood pressure improve when we did skin to skin. Both our parents got to meet him and we baptized him and we are very grateful. We gave him a bath and took pictures that we will cherish forever. We slept beside him and held him until the end. We were broken. The despair of losing a child is unlike any other. We leaned on each other and relied on our family to make it through each day.
I knew in the moment we lost our son, I wanted another baby. We mourned for Finn and honoured him as best we could, but the desire to have a baby to hold and raise was so strong it propelled us forward, despite our agonizing grief. We were devastated our baby was stolen from us. I was angry, hurt and confused but mostly terrified that it could happen again. We were told we couldn’t prevent it but it was no more likely to happen again to us than to anyone else.
We were soon cleared to try again and through some miracle on Christmas morning 2018, I put a positive pregnancy test in my husband’s present. It was the most amazing, heaven sent gift we could ask for. It somehow made the worst Christmas ever without our baby, more bearable with hope for the future. We know our little boy Finn blessed us as he is our angel.
I was extremely nervous and very cautious in my 2nd pregnancy. Fortunately, I had a high-risk doctor who saw me biweekly. Momma bear came out and fear of a similar outcome diminished my concern of what others may think of me if I advocated strongly for myself. At 36 weeks to the day I went into labour so fast we didn’t make it to the women and children’s hospital but had her at community hospital across the street. Within an hour our daughter Fiona was born, named to honour her big brother Finn.
We are so blessed to have her and she’s still the light of our lives. Just after she turned one we decided we wanted to give her a younger sibling. She is such a sweet, lively and caring little girl and we know she would be an amazing big sister. We’ve been trying ever since, but the medications that worked before didn’t work this time.
Fortunately, I was able to get into a fertility clinic in May 2021. An HSG dye test confirmed my tubes were clear and a ultrasound called sono-hystogram showed my uterus looked good. However, we were shocked to learn the result of the Sperm Functional Analysis Test. The results showed that it would be very hard for us to get pregnant on our own even with medication. IVF with a special procedure called ICSI was recommended where the sperm is injected into the egg to help with fertilization. This was shocking as this had never been an issue before. I have since learned secondary infertility is more common than I thought and just because things worked once does not guarantee it will again.
During this time, we continued to try naturally of course but to no avail. We took out a line of credit and our parents loaned us some money. Our province has no fertility coverage. That summer, I started volunteering with Fertility Matters Canada. Through support groups and committee meetings and the power of instagram I have met dozens of amazing women who have harrowing stories of infertility and loss and have made life long connections through a bond that can only be made brought by the devastation of this terrible journey. We call it the worst club with the best members. Even those already in my life have shared stories of infertility and loss and I’ve learned just how many are affected by these challenges.
I was on the team to help promote our first ever annual Fertility Matters 6K run. I am currently lobbying electoral candidates in Ontario for their upcoming election to help advocate for better fertility coverage. I also volunteered with a group called East Coast Miracles who had successfully lobbied for some fertility coverage in other provinces. During the Nova Scotia election last summer, I contacted local candidates and spread the word on social media. It felt good to contribute to a cause that could help so many people. It paid off; the candidate that had agreed to provide a tax credit for those who required IVF was voted in. If this is approved it won’t be available for several more months and IVF will still need to be paid for upfront in full.
So, we went ahead started IVF in October and hoped it would work for us. Knowing I had PCOS, I expected to get a lot of eggs and I did, 18! However, by day two after fertilization, the lab said they noticed significant fragmentation on most of the embryos and suspected it was due to poor egg quality. This meant that we would get far fewer embryos survive than expected, and may not get any. The doctor was surprised with this for my age. We ended up with only three embryos on day 5 and transferred one. We hoped to share happy news at Christmas. However, two weeks later my beta was zero.
Despite the outcome and discussion my egg quality, the doctor was confident in the next transfer just a week later as I had a better quality embryo and was told a frozen would work better than a fresh transfer.
I was doing all the right things: trying to keep calm, taking off work for fear of covid affecting my cycle, maintaining my diet and doing yoga, meditation and acupuncture. Still, I dreaded the outcome, I had so much fear. There was more riding on this. Test day came and I fantasized that I could put that positive test in my husband’s birthday present January 31st. But, that is not what happened. Negative again.
Now we have one embryo left. I am tempted to jump into another frozen transfer but am scared. We are going to do some tests and bloodwork, but they may not show anything. We are getting second opinions and will put everything we have into this last transfer. If this doesn’t work we’re back to square one. We’ll have to start again and we’ve spent what resources we have on our first round of IVF.
The financial, emotional and physical toll of this journey is huge. I feel guilty every day for the time and energy devoted to this and away from the child we do have. We are so fortunate and so grateful to have our beautiful child. So many have been trying for much longer and have yet to have their take home baby.
We have so many wonderful people in our lives that have done so much for us and it is hard to ask for help from others who are just trying to live their own lives and realize their own goals. We have mixed feelings about asking for help especially in such trying times. We don’t expect anything out of this and if nothing else, are happy to share our story to reduce stigma that infertility can bring.
Having the opportunity for another round of IVF would be a precious gift. The chance to have the family you dream of is invaluable. Out biggest hope is give Fiona the chance to be an amazing big sister!
Alison, Justin, Fiona and Finn xoxo
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Alison MacLean is organizing this fundraiser.