Being a Triplet Mum: The Persistant IVF Question…

“Oh! You’re having triplets! Wow.”


Then the inevitable question.

“So, did you do IVF?”

Of course there are many ways that people ask this question. Most are not subtle.

Or there is what I consider a more hideous variation of the question.

“Are they natural?”

I know what they mean, they’re simply asking if I had assisted reproductive technology. But it makes me feel that if admit I did IVF I’m saying, “No, my children are unnatural.”

My children aren’t unnatural.  The egg and sperm weren’t joined in the traditional manner, but at the end of the day it was a bonafide egg and an absolute au naturale sperm. Surely these two natural ingredients can create a natural child. Just because a scientist briefly helped in the union of said sperm and egg, doesn’t create synthetic people.

It’s strange that it bothers me. I can understand people being curious. I would be too.

Although I don’t think I would have asked a complete stranger two seconds after meeting her. I would have been worried that I was being rude. (And I think I would be right in that assumption.)

And as much as I’m getting used to the question and trying to find the best way to answer it, it does feel confronting. I need to find a good answer, because from what I’ve heard, I won’t stop being asked it after the kids are born.

I was always very open telling people that Toddler T was an IVF baby. To me, the journey through IVF and infertility is always connected with my pregnancies. People’s responses when hearing that Toddler T was an IVF baby were compassionate. Their words/unspoken body language changed as they recognised that this pregnancy/baby was a child who was long desired for and one that his parent’s were willing to go to considerable emotional, financial and physical effort in order to bring him up in a loving family.

I guess this illustrates why the IVF question now bothers me so much. People’s words or unspoken body language now express an entirely different sentiment. When I admit that they were IVF, all of a sudden there is a knowing look, a nod and a dismissal that this news is a little less exciting than it could have been.
A classic example was an old duck who worked, of all places, in a baby store. I was enquiring about triple strollers. Once she heard the I was having triplets, she started to fish for information beginning with the thinly veiled subtle approach.

“Triplets? Was that a surprise?”
“Yes, it certainly was.”
“But did you know you could have triplets?”
“No, I didn’t think I was going to have triplets.”

At which point she decides she needs more information and abandons the so called subtle approach.

“But did you do IVF?”
“Yes I did, but I never thought I would have triplets.”
Triumphant nod, as old duck has obtained the information that she sought.
“Yes, but you caused it to happen. Having three babies that is. They aren’t natural.”
“Well, when we did IVF we were hoping for one more child in our family.”
“But you didn’t put one egg in though. So that’s how this happens.”
“We only put two eggs in and one egg split, that’s why didn’t think we would have triplets.”
“Oh.” Body language changes to indicate that somehow the fact that we didn’t insert three eggs makes this somehow more acceptable.

I leave the store, (Without buying anything), feeling annoyed with myself that somehow I felt I should justify my choices to this complete stranger who obviously has no idea about IVF or infertility or multiples.

Let alone, the woman did not know that it’s impossible for a woman to get pregnant with triplets with IVF alone in Australia. In our country, you can’t legally use two embryos until you are over the age of 35 and at a decreased chance at achieving a multiple pregnancy. And two embryo’s are normally the maximum you may put in. I don’t think people understand that to have a triplet pregnancy in Australia there has been another factor rather than just IVF that has intervened.

I should note that there are many people, strangers and friends alike, that have heard the news and have celebrated it with us. They have talked about how it will be exciting (but busy!) to have three babies and what a blessing it will be. My church family particularly has been very supportive and right from the start been sensitive in the questions that are asked and celebrate the miracles that are growing within me.

I don’t mind so much people asking about conception if they know me well enough. I’m an open person. I don’t mind talking about IVF. And sometimes people are asking for personal reasons because they are contemplating/doing/have done IVF or know someone who is and want to hear about my experience. If a stranger was to say this to me when asking about IVF, I wouldn’t mind sharing my story one bit.

I need to remember also that most people aren’t meaning to be rude, they are merely curious.

However there are some factors that the curious public need to remember when they ask these personal questions to mother’s of multiples.

Firstly, just as a side, the parents who have conceived multiple babies ‘spontaneously’, get sick of this question also.

The parents who have received assisted reproductive technology have most likely been on a huge journey emotionally. They desperately have wanted children and have been willing to go to a lot of time, effort and money to achieve this dream. You don’t know what each individual journey has consisted of before reaching this joyous pregnancy. Often before they have become pregnant there have been multiple miscarriages, failed IVF attempts, many, many failed attempts at using fertility medicine, operations – to sum it up, there has been heartache, pain, sense of failure and devastation, before one day there is a happy moment of a positive pregnancy test. And then there is a second moment during an ultrasound when two or more babies are found. Even despite any initial shock, parents who have been infertile are normally overjoyed and determined to provide the best possible life to the children they thought they never may have.

There are reasons why parents have carefully deliberated over (in consultation with doctors) before placing more than one egg in during an IVF cycle. Either they do not have the funds to keep repeating the process of IVF until they achieve a pregnancy, or there have been failed attempts so placing more than one embryo gives a better chance at achieving a pregnancy. Most people would probably be very surprised to find out how many people have placed multiple embryo’s in the woman’s uterus during an IVF cycle and then have had no babies, or only one baby.

In any case, any mother that has the miracle of life being formed within her needs to hear comments that are supportive and uplifting. Most pregnancies have an element of challenge as women have all types of auxiliary issues to deal with it – from physical challenges, hormonal fluctuations or tiredness. So please, by sympathetic when you ask questions to any pregnant woman, including mothers with twins, triplets or more. And if
you are really curious, bite your tongue, unless you are given an avenue to politely ask, “Are they IVF?”

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think mother’s of multiples are being over sensitive? Have you felt awkward being asked if your children were IVF? If you are a mother of multiples, do you have a good answer when strangers ask if your kids are IVF?

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"Sisters" – Baby Shower Speech – Part 2

This is the 2nd part of a speech my sister said at my baby shower. If you didn’t read Part One, it would make more sense if you read it first.
The years passed and I fell pregnant with my second but still no joy of babies for my sister.  I was so sure this baby would be another girl because my sister had always wanted a boy first and surely she would produce the first grandson/nephew.  To my surprise our little boy was born and I beat my sister to producing the first grandson as well.  Out of deference to my sister we did not use my Dad’s name, because we knew she wanted to use it as a 2nd name if she had a boy.

{Small side note from Caitlin: In the end, we didn’t use Dad’s first name, but rather his 2nd name for Toddler T’s middle name. And we didn’t use it for J Boy because we realised there was a tradition in the Accountant’s family of naming first born son’s after their father. So in the end, Katrina was able to use Dad’s name for the middle name of her fifth child.}

I remember crying my own tears over this terrible road of infertility my sister was experiencing.  Suddenly people started to think I was the older sister as I had the kids and she was still childless.  It just didn’t seem like a victory having people think I was the oldest anymore.
Eventually my sister and her husband gave up on their desire to fall pregnant and moved over to England to pursue travel and career.  After 6 months over there I can still remember the phone call from my sister – she was pregnant at last!  We were all so excited.  A few months later I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child and it was nice to experience pregnancy with my sister.  Especially considering my other two pregnancy’s I couldn’t really share with her because of the emotions of pain and hurt that my pregnancy’s evoked on her
She had a boy – I had a girl – A cousin for my kids at last!  Her little boy and my daughter are the best of friends (and foes) even now as two little 4 year olds going to kindy together.

Katrina with J Boy and his Pocket Rocket cousin as babies

The years continued to pass and soon I was in hospital having my 4th child and on the very same day my sister was a few doors up in the hospital going through the IVF procedure in the hope to have a sibling for J Boy.  9 months later my second nephew arrived!

When I fell pregnant with my 5th child
People started to marvel…
“I don’t know how you do it!” they would say.  I would always look them in the eye and tell them that being a mum was the best job in the world and I don’t have 5 babies.  I have all different ages and really it is quite manageable!  You see I have  9, 6, 4, 2 year olds and a baby,
They are all different ages and stages…
My sister and her husband started to tease us…  They have never been keen on vans and they would giggle at us and say WE WILL NEVER BUY A VAN>
To tease them back I taught my nephews to love driving with us in the tarago and I even taught them to say Tarago amongst their first words dad, mum, bub, twargo!
We all seemed to settle in to life knowing that I would have the larger family full of kids and my sister would have the nice neat smaller family. 
After another round of IVF in hope for their final child – hopefully even a little girl and some disappointments along the way February this year my sister finally had success – she was pregnant again!  The big surprise was that this time there was not one but two babies!  How exciting twins!
Another early scan brought the biggest surprise of all….
Not one, not two but 3 little babies inside.  (2 identical and 1 fraternal!)   My sister was having triplets.
After all those years of teasing and vowing to never own a van, after all those years of me being the one with the most kids, after all those years of infertility and pain….
I can now say with a giggle and a grin….
How do you do it with 5 children – 5 years and under?
I did 5 one at a time and had a chance to adapt with each new addition…
I have one child for every age group….
After all those years of competing, teasing and bickering I can now most sincerely say….
You are a legend sister dear!  I say it with a giggle and a good luck too….
Sister you have won!

{Another side note from Caitlin: The Accountant is still resistant to becoming a van owner. Despite the fact that we do not have room to put a pram inside our current 7 seater car that we had bought when we thought we were having twins!}

My sister and my best friend.
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Triplet Pregnancy Journal – Weeks 1-4

Week 1
I start a new round of medications for another try at IVF. Last month we had a failed attempt. I am desperately hoping that this time will not fail, as we cannot afford to do another cycle.
Week 2
The deed is done. Another visit to the surgicentre for the embryo transfer the morning of The Accountant’s last day of work for Eden Farms. A long wait for a quick procedure. As per normal. We had a good talk to the scientist before going in and starting the procedure. He said we had two embryo’s. One had four cells, one had two cells. He also explained that because we were one of those first couples where he had frozen unfertilised eggs, ours had been slow frozen. Since then he’s discovered that they get higher pregnancy rates if they fast freeze the eggs (occytes). He indicated that a lot of couples with slow frozen occytes need to try many times before they achieve a pregnancy. I had a sinking feeling when he was explaining this. I knew we were running out of funds to come back again. I felt even more depressed when I went home and googled and discovered that the ideal embryos to place in a transfer normally had between 6-8 cells. I was very glad that we had placed two eggs in, because this would increase our chances of having at least one child. I also took heart in the fact that the scientists had said that even though they only had a few cells, they were very good looking embryos and had no fragmentation. Also, he took ages to come out with the eggs. He must have had another look at them on the way, because he said the two cell embryo had increased to a three cell. It was good to know that the cells were multiplying.
Week 3
Waiting, waiting, waiting. Excruciating. Staying away from google. It messes with my mind. Putting my faith, trust and confidence in God. The Accountant, as always is positive. Bought a 7 seater car. If we do end up with twins, at least we’ll be able to transport them.
Week 4
Did a pregnancy test. It was Positive!!! Oh Happy Day!
Started bleeding. Nerves have returned. Requesting lots of prayer and trusting that God will keep the little life that has started safe.
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Another Pregnancy! With Triplets!

I tell you, I’ve never experienced anything so brain numbing as hearing a doctor declare there is a third baby present in your womb during a routine ultra-sound! You should try it sometime. Although, I can’t give you any tips on making it happen, because that, I certainly did not plan!

We had decided that we would like to try for a third child. For awhile, I wasn’t so sure, I mean, I’m not ancient or anything, but I am getting on the older end of parenting newborns, two kids were already keeping me pretty busy but it wasn’t insane. I would like to have a little girl, but I didn’t think it was worthwhile getting pregnant for that reason alone, because there is no way of guaranteeing we would add the fairer sex to our household.

The more I prayed about it though, the more I felt we should at least try for another child. I realised that if we didn’t try, I would always wonder if we had completed our family, because somehow for me it didn’t feel quite ‘complete’. Little did I know…

So, back to the doctor’s office for us. That’s the way to make babies, right? We had only fertilised one egg with Trent, but we had frozen 17 unfertilised eggs. Because of ethical, moral and religious reasons, we had decided that whatever eggs we fertilised, (ie. became embryos) we would use. So when we heard that we could store unfertilised eggs, even though it was ‘new’ technology in Australia, we quickly decided that was the best option for us. That way we could make our mind up about future children when we were ready, rather then being already committed.

Doing IVF for a frozen cycle was less complicated than doing it ‘from scratch’. For starters all the daily needles weren’t needed – Hurrah! There was still plenty of meds to be consumed, plenty of doctor’s appointments and other unpleasantaries. All of course worthwhile for the end product, of course.

Although the end product wasn’t at all what we were expecting! Because I am over 35 years of age, (as in, I am 35 years of age), and my fertility rates are officially in decline, we had the option of placing two embryo’s in the womb instead of one. (In Australia, you cannot legally use two embryo’s until you are over 35. That’s why we don’t have octo-mum’s.) We weren’t going to, but with a failed IVF cycle, and the scientists advising us that our chances with frozen embryo’s were less then with the fresh eggs, and knowing our funds were limited, we eventually decided to place two.

One month before becoming pregnant with the triplets. The morning the day this photo was taken I had an IVF embryo transferral. It turned out to be a failed cycle – compared to the next cycle which would produce triplets!

One of those embryo’s decided to split, becoming two humans!

So that is how I am 14 weeks pregnant with triplets. 2 identical and 1 fraternal. My brain isn’t numb anymore, (unless I think about if for too long…) It took a good 1 1/2 weeks to get used to the idea. It’s amazing how you just transfer into planning mode. I’ve given up trying to work out how I’ll do everything and have reached the conclusion that I’ll make it up as I go along. (You know, kind of like parenting any child…)

And if you need proof, here’s a pretty cool little video of all three from my ultrasound at 12 weeks and 4 days.

UPDATE: If you want to learn about how my triplet pregnancy progressed, click on the links below to read the journal I wrote while I was pregnant.

Weeks 1-4 Triplet Pregnancy Journal

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Toddler's T's Pregnancy – An IVF Success Story

I’ve decided to graduate “The Baby” to the status of “Toddler”. It’s inevitable once they hit 18 months that they start losing their “babyness”. It’s sad in many ways to see your baby disappear, but exciting to watch your child continue to develop and gain increased independence.

I’m continuing my gestational posts with my reflections on my pregnancy with Toddler T.

9 months pregnant. Saying goodnight to J Boy, 9 hours later Toddler T arrived!

Once J Boy was born, we knew we wanted another family member for him to grow up with. Of course with our history to date, we knew that the sibling scenario wasn’t a certain thing. We never did anything to prevent a pregnancy, we had agreed that if it happened earlier then we would have planned, it would be a blessing, and better then the alternative. (Proved to be sound reasoning) After almost three years we knew we were dealing with secondary infertility and considering the amount of time it took to get pregnant the first time around before it happened naturally, we weren’t liking our chances.

We went back to our fertility doctor who confirmed our fears, and also helpfully noted that our chances of conceiving were getting slimmer due to my age. Ouch. Prior comments (Before J was born) on my age by him were to say that I was still young and it was good I hadn’t left things too late. Because we had already unsuccessfully tried every fertility treatment available, apart from IVF, the now audible tick of my biological clock helped us decide to proceed straight to IVF treatments this time.

And so began the medications, the daily doses of needles, the internal ultrasounds, (yick), and the ever present feeling of nerves, anticipation and dread.

I was feeling like a human pin cushion after all the needles

Finally the day came for the egg collection. I had to go under general anesthetic for the doctor to harvest the eggs. It turned out they had harvested 18 eggs. It was a mammoth collection. I was very tender and sore and couldn’t walk for the rest of the day and spent the day in the recliner at home watching the Academy Awards live. (Something I’d never done before or since!) 3 days later we were in for a much quicker and far less painful procedure, the embryo transfer. It was such a wierd feeling watching the scientist walk into the room with a cathater, and know that a new life, even thought it was smaller than a full stop, was within it.

Little did I know that while I was in day surgery for this procedure, my pregnant sister had gone into labor with her 4th child. I think we were pregnant together for an hour before my charming little neice was born.

With my new neice and J Boy, Toddler T safe inside multiplying cells!

The two week wait was very anxious for me. The Accountant had no qualms whatsoever and was positive that it was successful. We had been away in Bundaberg for a week, and I had to delay the blood test by a day until we got home. The extra day was agony, and I was tempted to do a home pregnancy test, but I was a good girl and did what I was told and came into the doctor’s office for a blood test. Another nervous 20 minute wait until the nurse beckoned us to come and look at the test with the positive symbol! Hooray! It had worked!

We hadn’t told my parents we were doing the test, so we swung into their house on the way home to show them the results. Of course, as you can see in the photos below, they were estatic to hear that another grandchild was on the way!

Mum was trying to work out what it meant, Dad knew straight away.

A happy moment, even though Dad is hugging me so tight it’s squashing my nose.

 I had written a letter to several people who have supported me in prayer over this time with very specific prayer requests according to what happens during the IVF process. It was such a good feeling writing and telling them of our success once we hit the 12 week mark.

Here’s the letter:

Alex and I would like to sincerely thank all of you who have remembered us in your prayers over the last several months. We thought it was definitely time to give you an update of what has been a very eventful period in our lives!
I shouldn’t delay any longer, but tell you straight away, that Praise the Lord I am pregnant! We had a scan last Friday and were so blessed to see our 11 week old baby’s heart beating and everything right on target. What a great God we serve! This whole journey has definitely had His fingerprints over it every step of the way.
My body responded very well to all the IVF medications. So well, that when we harvested the eggs, I had 18. This is well and truly an above average number of eggs to harvest.  All these eggs were described as ‘perfect’, they were all of the highest quality possible, also an unusual phenomenon. As planned, we only fertilized 1 egg. Before the egg was implanted, the scientist came to speak to us about the egg. She told us that “all our stars were lined up as we couldn’t hope for a better result”. At that comment, both Alex and I looked at each other, and we both knew that the other was giving acknowledgement to the one who made the stars for our good results, rather than simple astrology!
The scientist said that we had beat all odds by fertlising only one egg and having the cells divide perfectly. She said that if she could ask for anything else for that embryo, she wouldn’t be able to, it was so perfect. During the procedure, she once again told the doctor how perfect the embryo was at which point the nurses told us that the scientist “has been drooling over this embryo”.
That same day that I became pregnant, my sister K gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.  After us being both pregnant with C and J at the same time, it’s a nice thought that for a few hours we were also pregnant together again!
Then came the nervous, (well for me, Alex was always confident),  two week wait, but the pregnancy test came up a clear positive. There was no need to be nervous, since everthing has been the fulfilling a prophecy that I received just prior to beginning taking the meds.  A prophetic lady (who doesn’t know me, so she had no idea of my circumstances) had told me that she saw a picture of me hopping around in a field and being nervous, waiting for an explosion, because this had been my experience in the past. She went on to say that I was to forget the past because at this time there were “no landmines” and she could see a picture of me running  freely through a beautiful field of flowers and not having to worry about what may happen, but rather enjoy the moment.
Well, me being me, I have occasionally succumb to nerves, but it was a beautiful image that stayed with me, and when I did start to worry, I kept praying that there would be no landmines.
Another answer to prayer has been in the areas of finances, as the medical bills were putting a huge strain on our budget. God is good, and we received two cheques of $5000 which has both covered the cost of the procedure and assisted us in being able to go to China as we planned. We had a fabulous family holiday there. (Although maybe next time we go overseas with a two year old, we might ask for intercessory support for that too before we leave!) I also had no morning sickness during our time away, which of course is also a huge blessing.
Our baby’s due date is November 17, so over the next 6 months, if you think of us, please continue to send up prayers for our precious child’s safe arrival. We look forward to sharing with you all the joyous occasion of it’s birth towards the end of the year!!!
Thank you so much for those who have been supporting us in prayer, we know without a doubt that our extraordinary results have been the result of much prayer and intercession. We are also aware very much of other women who are out there and who have been praying fervently, and are still awaiting their miracles. In all our own excitement, we are also thinking of those who are still in the midst of their own struggles and we pray that our very big God will also fulfill the desires of their heart.
With all our love,
A, C, J and the Perfect Baby!

I had a straight forward pregnancy and Toddler T surprised us all by coming 15 days early. (That’s when you regret that you haven’t properly packed your hospital bag.) Once he was on his way, there was no delaying, he was out in 2 1/2 hours which was intense, but there’s always that sweet moment when you gather your newborn baby in your arms for his first cuddle.

First moments with son number 2.

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