After losing their first baby not long after birth, Brock and Katie spent years searching for answers to their heartbreaking loss and trying desperately to become parents.
Their journey wasn’t an easy one, but it does have a happy ending.
An IVF journey begins
Katie and Brock, from WA, married in 2015 and it wasn’t long after that they decided to start their family. Like most couples, they assumed it would be an easy step, but after months of trying without a positive pregnancy test, they sought help from a fertility clinic.
Tests showed that Katie wasn’t ovulating, and would need some help to get her body ovulating.
“It sounded simple enough so we weren’t overly concerned (perhaps more naive),” Katie told Mum’s Grapevine. “After several rounds and no luck as my body was rejecting the hormones we were told we would need IVF.
“We held off until the start of 2016 and began the IVF journey. The egg collection went well and in April 2016 we had our first transfer. Unfortunately, it was unsuccessful. With four more frozen embryos we headed back for another transfer in November 2016 and this time it worked, we were pregnant.”
While the couple was over the moon, Katie suffered bleeding throughout the first trimester caused by a subchronic hematoma, until she reached 15 weeks. They were told the pregnancy could go either way, but their little one held on. They found out they were having a little boy, and things settled down, with their 20 week scan showing everything was on track.
“At 22 weeks I had another ultrasound done just to be sure things were fine before we headed up north on a holiday. Again everything looked perfect so the next day we set off with my hubby’s parents for one last holiday before we became a family of three.
“We arrived in Kalbarri and unpacked for a few nights stay. Our first night was uneventful and the next day we spent it looking around, boating and enjoying the weather. At around 5pm we returned to our accommodation and my in-laws headed out to the local pub for some food and a drink. Brock and I stayed in as I was feeling a little tired.
“About half an hour later I went to the toilet and noticed what I thought was mucus. Since it was my first pregnancy I wasn’t sure so called the local nurse station who advised me to head down to be checked over. On arrival, the nurses took my back story and did my blood pressure and urine sample. My blood pressure was elevated and while my urine sample was fine my blood pressure was not decreasing so they decided to send me next door to the on call doctor.”
After listening to bub’s heartbeat, the doctor assured the worried couple that everything appeared fine, and suggested they return to their holiday accommodation to rest.
“With that we began to head back, only to pull up and my first contraction to start. Being my first baby and terrified I didn’t tell my husband straight away and tried to tell myself it was just a cramp, but then the second one hit. We quickly jumped back in the car and drove back down to the nurses station (thankfully it’s a small town and took about two minutes).
“Once there, the nurses started timing my contractions and called the doctor. There was some discussion around if I needed to be flown by the royal flying doctors back to Perth or taken in an ambulance to Geraldton. In the end an ambulance was chosen and I was given some medication to try and slow contractions which were now coming every two minutes.”
Katie and Brock had a two hour drive ahead of them, and just 10 minutes into the journey Katie’s water broke and she started bleeding. The ambulance picked up a midwife to help along the journey, but for Katie, the rest of the trip was a blur.
“There was pain, there was my silent hubby who didn’t say a single word and there was blood. I had never had a baby before but I knew things weren’t good. On arrival at the hospital the doctors were waiting for us in the car park (doesn’t this only happen in movies?) and were quick to get me upstairs to begin checks and monitoring. At this point they told us it was likely our son had already passed due to the blood loss. I however felt differently and sure enough they found his strong little heart beating away.
“The blood loss continued and due to my life being at risk we were told I was being taken to theatre and would potentially be needing a hysterectomy. I was also told my son would die before I woke up and asked if we wanted my hubby to hold him or a nurse until I woke. That was probably the easiest part of the hardest night of our lives, of course we wanted my husband to hold our son even if I couldn’t.
“I was given a minute to say goodbye to my husband and was whisked into theatre and put under. Several hours later I woke to find my son whom we later named Braxton was born alive and passed 45 minutes later. A small victory (not that it felt it at the time) was I hadn’t needed a hysterectomy and the bleeding was under control.
“It was determined I had suffered a placental abruption and pre term labour while later tests also showed severe inflammation and evidence of possible infection. What came first? I spent years searching for that answer and I’ll still never know.”
Katie and Brock spent the next few days in hospital with the son, completely shattered.
“I can’t even begin to describe the pain that we felt or how hard it was to walk out of that hospital without our son whom we had just left with a funeral director into a bright blue sky, sun shining and busy day. Just know it was simply that; indescribable.”
Searching for answers
After losing Braxton, Katie and Brock were told they’d need to wait two years before trying for another baby, and it was during this time they left no stone unturned searching for answers. Despite contacting some of the leading medical practitioners in the field of fertility and obstetrics, they never really got a clear picture of just what went wrong.
“During this time I also had several surgeries. After Braxton I continued to bleed for months until it was finally determined I had retained product (this is such an insensitive way to describe what was left from my pregnancy). I underwent a DNC which is generally a straight forward procedure and it was, well so we thought. Ultrasounds kept showing an area of ‘something’ in my uterus post DNC so I was booked in for a hysteroscopy where they look inside the uterus with a camera. What came next was one of the hardest days I’ve had since losing Braxton.
“The procedure didn’t show retained product but what it did show was half my uterus was obliterated with adhesions. What caused this? Again something we will never know for sure but potentially the retained product itself and inflammation or the DNC to remove this. I began researching into this condition known as Ashermans Syndrome and to be honest the statistics aren’t great. I joined a Facebook page and found that the leading Ashermans Specialist for Australia was in Sydney. I organised a phone consult and then booked in for surgery.
“During surgery the doctor was able to successfully remove all the adhesions and completed PRP therapy which aids in the uterine lining regenerating. While I was cleared to try and conceive it was only a temporary fix and I still needed IVF. I flew back to Perth and commenced IVF. It was a long road and took 60 days to get to the stage where my uterine lining was thick enough to allow a transfer. That transfer was unsuccessful.”
An impossible pregnancy
Katie returned to Sydney months later to once again undergo the same procedure, this time with two lots of PRP carried out 48hrs apart to assist uterine regeneration. While the procedures worked and her lining grew perfectly, the two final embryos that were transferred were unsuccessful.
“At this point we had no embryos left which meant we would need to do a full cycle of IVF to continue and on top of that I was in pain on and off. We had really lost hope.
“I underwent a surgery here in Perth to try and identify what was causing this crippling pain. This procedure was carried out just 8 weeks after my last surgery in Sydney and in that time my uterine adhesions has returned. They were again cleared along with some endometriosis and I commenced medication for nerve pain; as this is what the doctors believed was causing me trouble.
“After all of this we decided to go to one last specialist who was a professor in the world of fertility and get his opinion. To say it wasn’t what we expected is putting it nicely. This professor told us that falling pregnant would be near impossible and even if we could, we shouldn’t try it as my life would be at risk. He told us to save for surrogacy and sent us off with a referral to see a high risk team to go through his concerns with us.
“Several months later I met with one of these high risk doctors whom little did I know would soon become one of the most important people in our world. She went through the risks which consisted of; uterine rupture, growth restriction, accreta, pre term labour and another placental abruption. She didn’t however tell us it wasn’t possible and instead suggested we do create some more embryos for storage just in case later down the track we did want to do surrogacy.
“A few months later I went for a HSG (the painful test where they flush your tubes). It had now been three years since I had this test done as our very first step into the world of fertility. I took painkillers and my husband took the day off to drive me to the appointment. Just like everything else before that, the appointment didn’t go great. It took the doctor an hour to get the catheter through my cervix due to adhesions and finally in doing so the dye injected showed both tubes blocked and half my uterus was again obliterated. By now I think we expected it though and with that we left and I focused on my new job that was starting the following week.”
Katie says starting her new job gave her something else to focus on and it was a much-needed break from the immense stress of trying to have a baby. And then, a miracle happened.
“Five weeks into my new job however I decided to take a pregnancy test. Why? Well I had decided to take an ovulation test post HSG and would you believe it I actually got a positive test for the first time in my life!! Fast forward a month later and I had decided to again test for ovulation only to find I was getting positive ovulation tests every day and this had been going on over a week. With all my challenges over the years I had learnt a bit about fertility and one of those things was ovulation tests detect pregnancy.
“I was annoyed at myself a little for even purchasing a pregnancy test and wasting money, but I still decided I may as well. On completing the test I went and got changed for the gym and returned to pick the test up and started walking to the bin as I turned it over. At this point everything froze. There in front of me was a positive and not a faint positive a STRONG positive. I grabbed one of the blood test forms I had on the fridge for hormones and drove down to the pathology centre where I had bloods taken (I added the pregnancy hormone HCG). I then went home and waited for my husband to finish work.
“I’ll never forget that day, that feeling and telling my husband who was just as shocked as I was. After the initial shock and excitement, we decided not to get to invested as we knew my chances of miscarriage were extremely high.”
The couple endured a nerve-wracking wait, to see if they would make it to the 12 week mark of pregnancy.
“That was just step one. We knew better than most that there is no safe zone in pregnancy. What we didn’t count on though was the support we would receive from early on and throughout our pregnancy from the high risk doctor I had only met several months before.
“As the months past and the pregnancy progressed we were monitored closely with weekly visits (sometimes more) to the high risk clinic. There were so many things that we were looking out for that could potentially go wrong, but they didn’t. Despite my anxiety the pregnancy progressed and at 36+2 a decision was made to deliver our daughter.
“Our daughter Tori was born on our fifth wedding anniversary on the 27th March 2020 and was 3.2kg of pure perfection. Three months later it all seems surreal. We still stare at her daily and can’t believe she’s here. That she held on against all the odds and was then born in the middle of a world pandemic, but she was and we can not wait to tell her.
“When she is older we will ensure she knows just how special she is to us and what a miracle she is. A miracle perhaps her older brother sent to us from above.”
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