I heard about Kerry and Michelle’s story through a mutual friend. Something about their story broke my heart and warmed it at the same time. I think sometimes we take for granted how easy the road to pregnancy for some of us are, without sparing a thought for those around us who might not be so lucky.
Kerry and Michelle are a wonderful couple from Cape Town going through a journey of a lifetime and I hope we can all spare them a thought and send amazing positive vibes their way. I find their strength and positivity so inspiring. This is their story as told by Kerry…
In September 2013 we decided that we would start trying for our first baby. We got started right away deciding that Kerry would be the one to carry the baby and we would find an anonymous donor at the Cape Fertility Clinic. We started off with saving for the procedure and taking all of the required vitamins, healthy dieting and no drinking or smoking to get Kerry’s body in tip top shape. We managed to get our first appointment with Dr Heylen at the Cape Fertility Clinic in late January 2014 after being bumped up the waiting list. The initial check up was perfect and we were all set for our first Artificial Insemination (AI) in early February. Unfortunately for the first time in her life, probably due to a lot of stress (we had a car accident that week), Kerry did not ovulate and the procedure was cancelled.
We started on Clomid which could only be found at Wynberg Pharmacy. It made Kerry very moody and caused terrible hot flushes- we were optimistic that all would go well the second time around. After four failed inseminations – all with two to three beautiful follicles and a perfect uterus lining, Dr Heylen was not happy and suggested surgery to see what was happening… The surgery (Laparoscopy & Hysteroscopy) was scheduled at Kingsbury Hospital in June 2014.
Dr Heylen is one of the very best fertility surgeons in Cape Town and he assured us that any problems he found, he would be able to fix and we would have our baby. He made us feel very confident… Unfortunately we found that Kerry’s Fallopian tubes were completely closed at the base. It was very likely that she was born with this, as there was no damage at all. This is something neither Dr Heylen or his staff had ever seen. It was pointless to fix and our best option would be IVF. We did an follow-up Hysteroscopy to see how severe the blockage was and where exactly it was located. This showed that there was 0% possibility of natural conception as all of the contrast fell out and nothing went into the Fallopian tubes. At this point we had put in about six months, R36 000 and many emotions – still no good news. We were understandably very desperate at this stage.
The IVF journey was not easy at all, we completely understand why Dr Heylen started us off on AI. The procedure cost about R42 000 and was a very painful and time-consuming process. It consisted of three painful and complicated injections daily, many vaginal scans checking the follicle growth and an extremely painful egg retrieval procedure (by far the worst part as it was very painful and Kerry could only take Panado). The egg retrieval went very well and we retrieved eight perfect eggs, seven fertilized and made it to a perfect five-day embryo. On day five we put back two of the perfect five-day embryos with the hopes of a twin or singleton pregnancy. The procedure was perfect and Dr Heylen confirmed that at most we would have was twins, but more likely a singleton. We asked what the odds of having triplets were with the two embryos and he said it was literally none, he had never seen it in the decades he has been a fertility doctor and the odds were radically against this ever happening.
The two week wait began again… This time slightly shortened as we were already five days in. On 27 July 2014 we did a sneaky home pregnancy test two days early, we promised we wouldn’t as we have done so many and each time we have been utterly devastated- but this time we came back with a positive result! We were over the moon, but still nervous in case it was a chemical pregnancy. On 29 July 2014 we did the blood test and got a BHCG of 167, quite high for this stage and from here we were already suspecting that we were going to have twins. The follow up test on 1 October 2014 gave us a result of 654, which was again quite high and showed all was going well.
All we had to do now was wait for the first scan at 5-6 weeks. The 2-week wait was agonizing as we couldn’t wait to see our baby and confirm if it was twins or not. This was also quite an adjustment period for us as we had expected some morning sickness and other pregnancy symptoms but not to such an severe extent. Kerry was sick every morning and evening and nauseous all day. She was losing weight rather than gaining and her belly and breasts were growing rapidly. The 6-week scan finally came and we got the extremely wonderful news that we were indeed expecting twins! Everything looked perfect – size, heartbeats and placement… we were so excited! We had confirmation that there were just two fetuses and everything was perfect as there was no chance they could split now.
Another long three week wait for the final follow up scan with Dr Heylen at nine weeks was too much to handle and Michelle moved the appointment from Monday 6 October to Friday 3 October. It was at this appointment that everything changed and the pregnancy went from happy and exiting to absolutely terrifying. Dr Heylen told us that one of the embryo’s must have split shortly after implantation and as they are so small it was missed on the first scan. We now had triplets, two identical (Monochorionic-Diamniotic) and one fraternal. There was a brief moment of excitement where we were thinking ‘Wow! we have three babies!!’ but that was over as soon as Dr Heylen started talking.
He explained that identical Monochorionic-Diamniotic twins by themselves is very complicated and dangerous as they share a placenta and they can get a condition called Twin To Twin Transfer Syndrome. This is life threatening, and can come without warning at any stage of the pregnancy. If they get this condition it will usually result in the death of one or both babies. When we add another baby into the uterus it greatly increases the risks of this happening, as well as many other possible complications. This brought us to tears and we felt devastated. We were immediately referred to the Fetal Assessment Center where we were to see their best doctor, Dr Shannon Morris. We spoke to the secretary and made an appointment and were told not to Google anything as it only makes it worse. So, naturally, we Googled the hell out of the subject and were feeling optimistic that we would be able to make it to the 32 – 34 weeks with our three babies.
We had an 11-week scan and chat with Dr Shannon on 14 October 2014 to discuss our options. This was very exciting for us as we saw all three of our beautiful babies and they all looked perfect. Dr Shannon on the other hand was not happy. One of the twins was a bit smaller and their placenta was at the top making any procedures on them very complicated. She explained that the risk of them getting TTTS was high and if they did get this condition (which could start at any time) there is only one doctor in Cape Town that can do the procedure to try and fix it and the success rates for us would be almost 0%. If we were to have any chance we would need to go to Belgium and even then this would be highly complicated with very low success rates. Google was not our friend as there were lots of options and treatments listed for TTTS, but none available to us. We left feeling completely broken. We were likely going to go from having twins, to having triplets to now only having one or no baby. It was very confusing and painful.
We had another agonizing two week wait to see their progress at the 13-week scan. Morning sickness was quite extreme and at this stage Kerry was already in maternity clothes. The growth was phenomenal. On 27 October 2014 we had the fright of our lives when Kerry awoke with heavy bleeding. We rushed to Christiaan Barnard Hospital and spent all night in the emergency unit. The bleeding stopped but the nurse kept us in a private ward just in case. We had to wait until morning to see our Gynecologist, Dr Elmarie Basson. She had many births that day and was only able to see us at around 5pm. We were discharged and waited at home in bed until we could see the doctor. The scan showed that Kerry’s cervix was long and closed and all three babies had heartbeats. There was no obvious cause for the bleeding and everything looked fine. She gave us the same advice as both of our other doctors, which was not very reassuring. However, we did get the amazing news that we were having a boy and two girls.
31 October 2014 finally came along with the 13-week scan to test everything on the babies. Our boy was doing very well, but very sadly we had to say goodbye to our girls. It was buy far the worst thing we have ever been through and hope we never have to go through that again. We did still have our little boy and we needed to stay positive for him.
As there was a risk of losing our son after losing the girls Kerry was admitted over night to Christiaan Barnard Hospital for observation. Again she had a bleed and we were terrified we were going to lose our son too. Morning eventually came and another follow up scan showed – he was doing very well and we were okay to go home. We had a follow up scan scheduled in seven days and in the meantime Kerry was put on bed rest, bed to bathroom and back only, for the whole week.
This one week wait was by far the longest. When we finally got to see our little boy was doing well we were ecstatic! The doctor said everything looks perfect and every day that passes is one day better for us.
The rest of the pregnancy will still be risky and involve moderate bed rest for at least another week, taking it very easy for five weeks, but the worst is over. Our main risk is the girls causing labor to start, but after the two weeks it is unlikely. By 20 weeks they will have reabsorbed and cause no risk to the remainder of the pregnancy.
So we are taking it each day at a time, having lots of scans and taking it easy so we should get all the way to 37 – 40 weeks and have one happy healthy baby boy in April or May. We chose to acknowledge our girls rather than move on with the pregnancy only mentioning our son, as it didn’t feel right. We named the girls after Michelle’s mom and dad (Heather and George (Georgina) and will keep them in our hearts forever.