A young couple in love, newlyweds with the naive expectation to fall pregnant after the first time trying. A honeymoon baby; what a dream. It can’t be that hard right?
Fast forward through a challenging 2 years and the reality of infertility had crept up on us. We were knocking at the door of IVF, begging for a blessing. Myself aged 24 and my husband 27, I never imagined this would be our only path. The path that led us to that point had collected some sharp rocks, the ones you inevitably stub your toe on. Endometriosis, PCOS and a low sperm count were the leading factors.
We knocked on that IVF door hard and made the decision to commit and travel from Mackay to Brisbane to a new doctor which I am so incredibly glad we did. After our first round of ICSI IVF we got the news we’d been longing for so long; we were pregnant!
Falling pregnant was the greatest blessing of all. I felt as if I could never be lonely and I dreamt of what our future would look like. Like most, we felt anxious until we passed the 12 week mark. As each week passed by, excitement overwhelmed us and we believed we were well and truly in the “safe zone” until one day our world fell apart.
On the afternoon of the 28th of March 2020 I had some spotting and we immediately went to the hospital to be examined, which was when we discovered that there was a fragile 5mm of cervix left. We planned to have a rescue cervical stitch put in the very next morning, but heartbreakingly I went into labour before that could happen.
On the 29th of March 2020 we gave birth to our beautiful little boy Lennox at 21.4 weeks gestation. Lennox was born too premature to survive and passed away after his birth as he laid on my chest. Our hearts broke and our innocence vanished as we held our lifeless baby boy.
Although our hearts were filled with love for Lennox, we knew our world would never be the same, we would never be the same. I was a new mum which I was so proud of but I wasn’t celebrated in the way I nor Lennox or Hayden deserved. I love nothing more than sharing all of the beautiful details of my sweet Lennox and forever keeping his memory and legacy alive.
There was such a distinct timeline in my life from that point on. There was the ‘before’ Lennox’s birth and the ‘after’. The after brought with it such a profound emptiness. I was no longer pregnant but yet I didn’t have my baby in my arms like I should have, that emptiness made them physically ache.
The ‘after’ also brought with it a different version of myself. One that I simultaneously hated but was also grateful for. I couldn’t comprehend the way my life had changed and how that was shaping me as a person. So many if not most of my views and beliefs changed, I saw and felt things from such deeper perspectives. That has been one of the many gifts Lennox has given me. I am forever changed by Lennox’s passing, some days the waves of grief crush me but on others I am able to make it through knowing that he is always with me.
The decision to try and conceive again came with a lot of guilt and mixed emotions. I didn’t feel like there was ever going to be a “right time”. I wanted to wait until Lennox’s due date passed before we tried again which was what we did. We tried the first month naturally not expecting to fall which didn’t happen.
We had one frozen embryo from the IVF cycle Lennox was conceived with and made our way back to Brisbane in the September of 2020 to have a frozen embryo transfer. I knew that it was a 50:50 chance of falling pregnant but I hoped so dearly that this embryo would be successful with it being the last one from Lennox’s cycle.
When it didn’t it felt like I spiralled uncontrollably into a dark hole. I had sudden strong intrusive suicidal thoughts, I wanted to give up and stop fighting so hard to make it through each day. I grieved the embryo that failed as if I’d lost another connection to Lennox.
The next month we chose to try again, we started the process of doing another full round of ICSI IVF. My first day of injections fell on my birthday, I spent most of the day crying. It was meant to be my first birthday as a mum. We flew to Brisbane the day before egg retrieval which was Hayden’s birthday and few days after I’d also just finished at my job of 7 years and was in the process of starting my own business. Crazy times!
The 2 week wait brought a crippling amount of anxiety with it and a new sense of guilt. I felt guilt towards wanting to be pregnant again but also not wanting to be pregnant again. My emotions left me constantly overwhelmed and torn between two worlds.
On the 11th of November 2020 I got the call, I was pregnant again.
Being pregnant again after loss was far from enjoyable. I wasn’t naive to what could happen and what risks I faced. The panic attacks intensified, I felt on edge constantly and genuinely scared to do anything. At 7 weeks gestation I had a small amount off spotting and was diagnosed with a subchoronic haemotoma after spending the day in ED.
The anxiety and paranoia from that point increased to an unmanageable volume despite medication and therapy. I became so fatigued from the lack of sleep from the nightmares, panic attacks during my sleep and the constant state of debilitating anxiety.
Despite my efforts of being proactive in caring for my mental health I just couldn’t seem to find any reprieve from the levels of distress that were consuming me which also affected how I connected with my baby during my pregnancy.
We chose to find out through the NIPT test what the gender of our sweet baby was and were so excited when we found out we were having a little girl. This wasn’t a huge surprise after the signs we'd felt Lennox was sending us before and during the pregnancy.
Being pregnant again was so incredibly triggering and it only heightened as I began to have changes during my pregnancy. From 18 weeks gestation my cervix had shortened to 2.8cm and despite persistent efforts of advocating to receive a cervical stitch my requests were dismissed. Each fortnightly scan from then on showed slight changes.
On the 23rd of March 2021 I joined in on a pregnancy after loss support group and spoke with relief that I was 2 days away from being 24 weeks gestation which meant if anything were to happen our baby would be viable. The next day I had a routine 24 week ultrasound, on the same day I first experienced changes in Lennox’s pregnancy and also in the same ultrasound room that we had our last one with Lennox where my 5mm cervix was discovered.
Hayden was able to attend this ultrasound appointment which was exciting. The ultrasound was going well, baby looked happy and healthy so we moved onto the trans-vaginal part of the ultrasound. As soon as the probe was inserted everything changed. I was staring at the screen frozen with fear; my cervix had funnelled and it looked as if there were nothing left. Measurements showed that I had 5mm left, again.
A few hours later I transferred to Townsville University Hospital and was put on bed rest. Bed rest came with a whirlwind of emotions, I felt safe being in a hospital but equally traumatised from the triggering sounds surrounding me. Bed rest also meant that we would be away from Lennox on his 1st birthday and unable to join in on the birthday celebrations we had planned. I began having two or more panic attacks daily that left me feeling absolutely depleted.
On the 8th of April 2021 at 11:30pm I was half an hour away from reaching the goal I had set off making it to 26 weeks and I had just experienced my 1st contraction. After a few hours in a birth suite my contractions were successfully stopped and I went back to the comfort of my home in a hospital room.
That morning I woke up and began organising myself and things as if I knew what was about to unfold that day. At 10:30am on the 9th of April the “tightenings” began again. The intensity increased and after a short time I was back in the birth suite to be assessed. My cervix was 2cm dilated and baby girl was in a transverse position which meant an emergency caesarean was the safest option.
The emergency caesarean prep was overwhelming and has left an everlasting image that often gives me flashbacks. It felt like everything moved in fast forward whilst I was stuck in slow motion. From the heavy conversations with the medical team and the various medications being injected in to me I struggled to grasp a hold of the reality that was awaiting us. Outside of the operating room we decided on the name for our little girl; “Waverly Lenni Matsen”.
On the 9th of April Waverly was born at 2:40pm weighing 860g at 26 weeks gestation. As soon as she entered the world she zoomed past me on a trolley by the NICU team so they could attend to her. We briefly saw her for 30 seconds before she was moved to the NICU but knew that we would meet her properly once I left recovery.
After leaving recovery Waverly wasn’t stable enough for us to go and see her so instead we went back to my room. As the afternoon went on we were getting updates in person by one of her doctors about her condition. It started of with what you’d expect for a 26 week old premature baby but as the afternoon rolled into the evening the tone of the conversations became a lot more serious.
The treating consultant neonatologist was now giving the updates and with them were new consent forms to be signed for the life saving intervention Waverly was requiring. It went from blood, plasma, platelet transfusions to advanced intubation support and other forms of medication to support her critical respiratory distress. I remember him saying each time “she is very unwell”.
It was a long 6 hours before we got to meet Waverly. I think I was in so much shock I didn’t know what or how to feel. Looking at Waverly you couldn’t see all of her because of the various leads, tubes coming off of her. Nonetheless she was beautiful and she was here and our NICU journey had just begun.
The next day I was so excited to go and visit her, we had the most beautiful NICU nurse that day and she explained everything to us in the most gentle way. I wasn’t allowed to hold Waverly for 2 weeks whilst she had lines in her umbilical cord but I was allowed to touch her foot which was such a beautiful moment I’ll never forget.
Whilst there was very little I could actually do for Waverly I threw myself deep into the world of pumping to express breastmilk for her which I had been working at since being in recovery after my c-section. I went on to have a 4 month long relationship with a breast pump which I was incredibly thrilled to end, the sound of a pump still to this day sends shivers threw me!
There isn’t anything that could have prepared me for the life of NICU in many different aspects and it is quite difficult to sum it up into words even after 2 years. The amount of intervention Waverly needed to survive was many things from terrifying, incredible and traumatising. She fought so incredibly hard each and everyday and still does now.
We spent a total of 4.5 months in hospital which has left an enormous amount of anxiety and PTSD that still has the ability to consume me at times. The relationships I made in the NICU in those 4.5 months are some of the purest I have to this day. Many of those nurses helped shape me into the mum I am today. They held me at my lowest, celebrated with me at our triumphs and made the four walls of Cot 7 my home away from home. They will always be Waverly’s chosen Aunties.
The last few years has expectedly thrown many mental health battles my way. Some took me by surprise and some I guess I was almost expecting after what we’ve been through. My expectations aside I knew that I needed help, I needed someone I could talk to that would be able to support me and alongside my journey of healing.
Through Gidget Foundation Australia I found exactly that, words will never be enough to encapsulate my gratitude for Gidget Foundation Australia and the clinician that has supported me through my darkest times and still continues to support me now.
I have found my greatest support connecting with those that have been through similar to what I have or those that are able to simply listen. Becoming a Gidget Angel is truly such an honour, I hope I can provide support to anyone in need, just like I have received.