Ester’s Story

I always wanted a big family. I grew up the oldest of six and having a big family of my own was always “part of the plan”. As much as it was “part of the plan”, there was always this sense that I had, hovering in my subconscious, that it wouldn’t be so straight forward.

I got married when I was 20 and in spite of the fact that I was newly married and moving to a new country, away from all of my family and friends, my husband and I decided to start trying for kids straight away. The same sense that I had always had, took the form of a conviction that time was not on my side.

We started getting anxious a few months into our marriage when my period came right on schedule every month. We kept hearing relax, take it easy, you’re young, give it more time. Wait six months, wait a year… every time the word wait and time were mentioned, my heart started racing and I felt sick to my stomach.

A little over a year after we got married, we visited a fertility clinic. Not long after that I was booked in for a laproscope and hysteroscope to see what could be preventing me from conceiving. I remember waking up after the surgery, in agony and praying that they had found something wrong, fixed it and now everything would be ok. The doctor informed us that I had endometriosis and a polyp in my uterus, both of which, he had dealt with. Thank G-d. We could start our family now.

Six excruciating months of waiting later we were back at the fertility clinic. Next came the timed cycles. This consists of hormones, injections, early morning scans and the prescheduled, time critical, incredibly romantic, Doctor ordered home sessions with the husband.

I hated every second. I hated the intrusiveness of it all. I hated the hormones that turned me into an emotional wreck. I hated the injections that made me feel like a human pin cushion and turned me black and blue. I hated the waiting every month and the eventual disappointment. I hated hearing about friends and family who were pregnant and I hated that they were scared to tell me their happy news.

After six months, I had had enough. I was physically and emotionally drained. I felt like I had been sucked dry. We were advised to take a break. Relax, don’t think about it and you never know what might happen. Relax?? I don’t do relaxed and the likelihood of my not thinking about it would only have been possible with the aid of a full frontal lobotomy. Those instances where it just happened because the couple were relaxing, in my mind was like the stuff of fairytales and myths. Those kind of miracles only happened to other people, definitely not people like us. But I knew we needed the break and commenced another six months of waiting and hoping and praying and frustration.

When we decided to go back for treatment, it was with the understanding that I was not going back unless it was for IVF. I wasn’t interested in playing around anymore. We made the appointment. I went for the required blood tests and arrived for the meeting determined to convince the doctor that we were there for IVF. He had my blood results in front of him and before I could get a word in, he delivered the news that I had been dreading, but waiting for all along. My hormone levels that represented reproductive age, was reflective of someone much older than myself. There was no time to waste, we were going straight onto an IVF program. Even though the end result of our appointment was the one we were hoping for, I was still devastated with the news and that we were approaching IVF not by choice but as a necessity.

We were very lucky. The program we were put on was pretty average, there were no hiccups along the way and I conceived the first try.

We were ecstatic. I relished the feeling of finally being pregnant, in spite of the heart burn and putting on 20 kilos. Nine months later, we welcomed our beautiful Bchor (first born boy).

My gynie advised me to go on the pill after he was born. He said he suggested this to all his patients, even those who struggled to conceive, as a lot of the time a pregnancy would heal whatever had prevented conception previously. I refused. After all that we had been through, this was not even an option in my mind. And I was still set on a big family.

Our son was about a year old when we realised we would need to take a more proactive approach than just waiting and hoping. But I wasn’t as stressed this time around. We had a beautiful child and we had frozen embryos. All we would need to do was an IVF cycle with our frozen embryos and it wouldn’t be long before I was getting fat again.

I remember exactly where I was when I got the phone call from the Doctor, as my husband was too scared to deliver the news himself, to say that none of our frozen embryos had survived the freezing process. We were right back to where we had started, except that I was that much older, my hormone levels were that much lower and I now had a child at home who was not coping with not seeing his Mummy most mornings because of scans.

Needless to say, we were not as lucky the second time around. We had one failed cycle after another. Each cycle was harder than the last. Medicine doses were increased to compensate for my body’s lack of response, we grew more desperate with each failure and as my son got older, he started asking questions about why all of his friends were getting brothers or sisters and he wasn’t.

I grew more and more despondent. I believe in positive thinking, so with each cycle, I was absolutely convinced that this was the one that would work. I would invest every ounce of my guts and emotions into it. When it would fail, I was completely crushed. With each cycle that failed, my husband would try to convince me to take a break from the unrelenting emotional roller coaster. I would agree for about a day before my determination to have another child would kick in and I would be right back at the clinic the next month.

We arrived at our seventh IVF cycle. It was a disaster from the get go. My body wouldn’t respond to the medicines, doses kept having to be reassessed and increased. The quantity and quality of eggs that were retrieved from my ovaries was poor to say the least. We ended up with two borderline ok embryos.  We decided to go ahead anyways. With all of this behind us, we found it hard to stay positive.

We got the shock of our lives when not only did my blood test come back positive, but when we found ourselves looking at not one, but two wriggling beans on the screen –at the scan a few weeks later. I remember the nurse looking on and saying, “now look what you’ve gone and done!”

We were overjoyed, overwhelmed, but overjoyed.

Our gorgeous boy/girl twins were born on fifth night Chanukkah, our very own miracles. My son, who had felt so left out before, was now the envy of all of his friends, who would go and ask their parents why they also couldn’t get a brother and a sister at the same time.

I’m not going to say it was all sunshine and roses, there were times when we considered dropping those cute little bundles off on the doctor’s door step. We survived the first year, mostly in a haze of exhaustion and noise induced hearing loss from crying babies, but we survived.

In all honesty we felt very blessed and we were content. After all we had been through trying to conceive the twins, I had decided that I would never put myself and my family through that kind of ordeal again.

My father in law had been sick for most of our married life but he got progressively worse after the twins were born. He passed away when they were 18 months old. I feel so blessed, not only for the time that I had with him but that our children had the opportunity to know such an amazing man, share a special bond with him and in spite of their short time with him, maintain beautiful memories of him.

A month after he passed away, I found out I was pregnant. The unthinkable had happened. I had conceived naturally. To say we were surprised would be a gross understatement. We did numerous pregnancy tests, blood tests and insisted that the doctor scan me just to be sure. After eight years of marriage, we had finally achieved a pregnancy without any assistance.

We went to the 12 week scan with my gynie feeling very proud of ourselves. I lay down for the scan, my excitement at seeing our beautiful surprise barely contained. It didn’t take me long to realise my husband and my gynie weren’t sharing my excitement. After what felt like forever, the doctor turned to me and broke the news that there was no heartbeat.

I was numb. How could this be happening? Instead of celebrating a new life on the way, I was being admitted for a D&C. Why had we been given a gift, we weren’t in the least bit expecting, only to have it snatched so cruelly away?

Whereas before falling pregnant, we hadn’t even been thinking about another child, now, we were locked on the idea.

The one positive to come out of the experience, was the knowledge that I could actually fall pregnant naturally. If it had happened once, surely it would happen again.

But my body never went back to normal after the miscarriage. Each month, it seemed my period came earlier and lasted for longer, until the number of clean days I had was down to just a few per month. Even though I had sworn to myself I would never go back for treatment, I needed to know what was going on. The news was not good. My troublesome hormones had pretty much thrown in the towel. At the age of 29, I was informed that there was no way I would conceive naturally and even IVF was a stretch and probably wouldn’t be successful. If we wanted to extend our family, the time to give it any kind of chance of happening, was now or never. I couldn’t get my head around it. We needed to start treatment straight away, which we did, but my heart wasn’t in it and my body refused to respond.

It was coming up to my father in laws first yartzheit, and as a family, we were fulfilling his desire to be buried in Israel and moving his body to Jerusalem. My husband and I decided to go to Israel for the reburial and deal with everything else when we got back.

We arrived in Israel. We went to Tzfat, we went to the Kottel, Chevron and Kever Rochel and I experienced a mind shift. I decided I wasn’t ready to give up on myself. I was going to have another baby and it was not going to be with outside assistance. I stood at these holy places and I demanded a miracle. I poured my heart out to Hashem. I said I know it’s impossible but I don’t care. I demand a miracle.

When we got back from Israel, we were supposed to go to the doctor on the second day of my period. My period never came.

The Malka Ella Fertility Fund played such an integral role in our fertility journey. They were always there for us with whatever we needed, providing endless support and encouragement. The existence of our beautiful family is all down to this wonderful organisation. After my fourth child, I decided to leave my business and spend more time with my family. This coincided with the lead up to the 2014 Malka Ella function. Suzanne asked me to get involved and the rest is history…