From IVF to Sperm Donors – What I Wish I’d Known Before Starting Fertility Treatment: From a Woman Who Has Been Through It ALL

Capsule x Fertility Associates

Embarking on fertility treatment is a big step – and while it’s a joyous, hopeful time, it can also be a minefield of information. Here, Capsule catches up with a woman who has been through it all, and imparts some hard-won wisdom. 

When Courtney Alden answers the phone, she first apologises for missing an earlier call. 

“So sorry – I had to put the baby down,” she says. It’s a simple sentence, but one that brims with joy for the now mother-of-two, who welcomed her son William seven months ago.

It’s not hyperbole to say that Courtney went to the absolute ends of the earth to have William following relationship breakdowns and a life-or-death surgery that nearly rendered her infertile. 

Her fertility story began just six months after her daughter Amy, now 13, was born. Courtney needed to have emergency bowel surgery which saved her life – but meant that conceiving  a baby naturally was out of the question. 

“My husband at the time and I knew we’d need help, so we started looking into IVF,” she says. 

“But then my marriage ended and we divorced, so baby plans were placed on the backburner. However, then I met my ex-partner, and we headed down the fertility road together. It was supposed to be a fresh start, you know? We had all the tests done at Fertility Associates and we started the first round of IVF. 

“I was scared as hell. The unknown is a terrifying thing. And then that didn’t work so we did a second.” 

But Courtney’s all-consuming desire to have her second child took a toll on her relationship, she says, and she and her partner split. 

“I was so baby-focussed,  IVF and other stresses in our lives caused that relationship to end,  also because I was quite tunnel-visioned, baby wise” 

Now single, but still determined to give Amy a sibling, Courtney then decided to go it alone. 

“I’m very thankful to my stubborn nature,” she says with a laugh. “I didn’t give up – I just couldn’t. I went through two rounds of IVF with donor sperm – and this time, I was excited, and I really looked forward to them.” 

On her last cycle with her clinic sperm donor – whom Amy helped pick – Courtney had her best result ever, with five embryos being frozen – and on her very first thawed transfer, she had her first positive pregnancy test in 12 years. 

“And now I have William,” she says through tears. 

Courtney is now just enjoying spending time with Amy and William. And one day soon, William may even meet the man who helped bring him into the world. 

“I talk with my sperm donor – we’ve exchanged photos, family histories, that kind of thing,” she explains. “He’s seen videos of William and he may even meet him in January, which scares the crap out of me, but is really exciting at the same time!”  

Uniquely qualified to offer support in pretty much all areas of fertility treatment, having conceived a child naturally, been through IVF, different protocols, freeze- all, had embryos frozen and used a sperm donor, Courtney says her biggest piece of advice for other hopeful parents is to try keep going – but keep an open mind. 

“Your cycles might not go smoothly. It might not work the first time. I struggled at times – my sister got pregnant with twins when we first got rejected for going on the waiting list, I hated her. I loved her, of course, but I wish I knew how to deal with other people’s pregnancies. I got into some dark places – I mean, I asked for one of her babies if they weren’t identical. I feel terrible & embarrassed about it now. If I had been prepared for that, I wouldn’t have behaved in such a way – but it did let me get my frustration out!”     

When asked what she wished she knew before she embarked on her journey, Courtney pauses. 

“I am so totally different now from when I was in my marriage – I was very, for want of another word, controlled. I wasn’t my own person. But I do wish back then that there was more online information – and more stories like this! Now, there’s so much information for women these days.”

“But, here are some of the things I wish I knew before I started my fertility journey: 

  1. How important your friends and family will be: Dealing with infertility is tough – there’s no way around that. I was open with my friends and family about it all, and that turned out to be invaluable – especially because I have a needle phobia, and my cousin did every single shot for me! That reminds me….
  2. Numbing cream! Emla Numbing Cream. That is all. Best creation, ever! Especially for people with phobias.
  3. Time: I had two years of waiting on the donor sperm list before I was at the top of the list. Be prepared physically and emotionally – and practically – that it might take a little longer than you’d like. 
  4. How having a baby can consume you: You need to keep an eye on your mental health when you’re trying to have a baby. I wish I knew to be more prepared for those emotional moments – and that I was allowed to feel them! I had panic attacks before my tests, theatre,  & appointments– it’s overwhelming. Having a support system to talk things through with – especially someone who has been through the same thing – would have been incredible. I had my partner for the first two cycles, but he was a man, you know – they don’t get it! Have a look for support groups on Facebook, and Fertility Associates have some great resources too. 
  5. No question is a dumb question: I wish I asked more questions, especially in the beginning. But looking back, I’ve learnt SO much, and I’m really proud of myself & everything I have overcome.
  6. Pathway to a Child:  I wish I had this book earlier! It has so much information in it – trust me, get a copy, because I still go back and read over pages now.

For more information, visit fertilityassociates.co.nz

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