infertility awareness

Kaitlyn & Aaron

Every single family I photograph holds a special place in my heart. The fact that these people trust me to capture precious memories at special times in their lives makes me feel like a part of your family. But the families that I have photographed for this Infertility Awareness Project have just nestled well deep in my heart. Their strength and courage to be vulnerable with me and tell me their story has blown my mind.

Something I’ve found is that every single couple have mentioned in some form or another “It’s really lonely, and it feels like we’re the only people in the world going through this” and it simultaneously true and untrue. Infertility takes on so many different forms, as do treatments, there may not be anyone going through the EXACT thing that you are going through, but so many families and couples are going through the same loss and heartache and longing to complete their family as you are.

I photographed Kaitlyn and Aaron and their beautiful pupper Pippa, (and their camera shy cats!) at their home.

Kaitlyn was gracious enough to have a chat about what infertility has meant to them and the next steps for her and Aaron to complete their family.

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We love each other's company and our fur-babies, but no - we would still like to welcome a child into our family. At the moment, we are still trying for a pregnancy of our own through fertility treatment, however we both feel that there is a limit on how long we can do this, both financially and emotionally. So whilst we do hope we will be successful (and soon!!), we also are open to the idea of adoption or foster care further down the track if this didn’t work out. 

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We have been trying for a baby since getting married in March 2016. We weren’t in a huge rush at this time, but after a while we realised something might not be right. I was experiencing a range of symptoms throughout this time but didn’t think much of them until they really started to impact on my day to day life. I approached multiple doctors, and received mixed results and not a lot of answers. I felt really lost and started to wonder if it was all in my head. Finally, I realised constant pain and sickness wasn't okay and I wasn't just going to put up with it and pushed for further investigation. This was 2 years after first seeking help, and a week after that I had surgery to remove endometriosis, a persistent and reasonable sized cyst, and a few other things. This was in July 2018, and the surgeon said we would have increased fertility for about 6 months after this time, and that getting pregnant would help prevent endometriosis growing back as quickly too. 

We were really hopeful, and much to our surprise we were pregnant that very same cycle. I can't really express how excited we were by this, it really felt like everything was falling into place and made me feel like pushing myself out of my comfort zone to get further investigation was so worth it. Because it had been so long to get there, we were literally over the moon and told our close family straight away, and our close friends a bit later on. However, because we also had gone through so much to get to where we were, I was so worried something would go wrong (I’m sure I would have been worried either way, because that’s the type of person I am, but I felt like I was just waiting for something to not be right). We had a few scares at first with some spotting but then everything started to progress really well, we saw and heard his heart beat so many times, all at a healthy range, we saw him grow and change from a little blob into a little person with his little arms and legs. And as things started to progress, so did our hope and my nerves started to die down a little. Our doctor was apprehensive about things at first because of the initial scares, however, after we had so many great scans, saw and heard lots of strong heart beats etc - he said things were looking much better. 

However, a few weeks after we had publically announced we were expecting, we went in for a routine scan and found out his heart had stopped beating a few days before and we unfortunately had lost him. There were no signs of anything being wrong, and after so much growth and improvement this really took us by surprise. We had finally started to feel a bit more relaxed and were letting ourselves get more excited. We were starting to look forward to the fun things rather than being so worried. We felt like we had made it through the worry and uncertainty of the first trimester and were ready to relax in the second. I kind of feel a bit cheated that we got through what is supposed to be the riskiest stage, only to lose him after this when we thought there was less risk or reason to worry. We were excited to shortly be finding out the sex, and finally committing to a few of the bigger purchases. We’d had our eye on a pram, and planned which cot we both liked. However, this wasn’t to be. 

Whilst our journey in reality begun much before this, in some ways it feels like it only really begun after we lost Teddy because ever since we have been striving to get what we lost back. 

We know a new pregnancy will never replace Teddy, but we made a place in our heart and our homes for him. We still have the things we bought him, the plans for the nursery, the dreams and hopes. In some ways this is motivating, but in others it is terrifying because we might do all of these treatments and procedures, and then have the same thing happen. 

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At the moment we are trying to take it easy, and are doing a range of different treatments/medication protocols etc each cycle, and monitoring where we are at with things. We’re finding that for us, it is a fine line between wanting to do everything we can to make it happen, but not wanting this to take over our lives (although its hard for it not to), we are also conscious of trying to keep me as healthy and well as possible throughout the process. We have a plan where if each option doesn’t work, we will go onto the next, however we are seeing some really positive things happen and just taking each day/cycle as it comes.

We are also trying to make sure we do the right things for ourselves emotionally. Physically, I'd happily go through any amount of pain to try and achieve this, however I know that emotionally after our loss we are still fragile. For me at least, this is the first time I have experienced grief in a way that I can't make sense of, and I'm slowly learning that this isn't a linear process emotionally. There are a lot of ups and downs emotionally in an infertility journey as it is, and the emotional roller coaster is only further enhanced by the other emotional stuff in the background.

I'm a big champion for being pro-active with mental health, so trying to do what we can to look after ourselves in that department too. We both deal with things in a different way, and there are certainly times where things are harder than others. Teddy's due date was close to my birthday, and that was a really tough thing for us. We also find different times of the cycle come with different emotions, there's the hope and nerves that my body will or won’t do what it's supposed to in the follicular phase (the time when the body is preparing to ovulate) along with the medication, scans etc, and then there is always a lot of hope and for me, symptom spotting and more injections/medication in the dreaded Two Week Wait (the time between ovulation, and when you can take a pregnancy test). Sometimes at the end of that two week window, when we have just found out a cycle has not been successful, it’s really tough to be around friends who are pregnant, or see pregnancy/baby related things around, because it’s not only a reminder of what we are struggling to achieve, but also a reminder of what we lost and don’t have. Sometimes its hard to realise that had we not lost Teddy, there would be a new little person in our lives right now and things would look very different. So what is happening in our life right now really can depend on where we are at in this cycle and emotionally (as much as it sucks that my menstrual cycle has that much control over things!) at the moment in life we are taking each week as it comes, letting ourselves feel what we need to feel, being as pro-active as we can to make things happen, and looking after ourselves. 

Aside from fertility stuff, amongst everything that has happened we recently moved house, and Aaron has also gotten into stand-up comedy, and he is doing really well with it, so that gives him something else to focus on and gives us both a lot of joy! For me, I have recently started a new job after previously driving to and from Hobart every week for work, so outside of all the doctor’s appointments, medication, scans and procedures, I’m just enjoying having time back at home with the fur-babies and Aaron and enjoying getting stuff done around the house and relaxing.

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We would like to be parents - in whatever form that takes. Currently our goal is our own pregnancy, and whilst I am trying to manifest positivity, and say that these cycles WILL work, if they don’t, we will continue with this journey for a while. If that wasn’t successful, we would probably take a break before deciding if we want to try IVF again, or adopt, foster etc.

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I’m currently photographing families who have in the past, or are currently going through fertility treatments. click on the link below to learn more about the project and to have your family be a part of it

Rachael and Lucas

Rachel and Lucas are so wonderful, they were one of the first couples I spoke to when I started on this project, and just like the Griffins, I knew that they had experienced loss and miscarriages, but I had no idea of the extent.

I’m realising a have no idea about a lot of things when it comes to fertility treatments. I had no idea what a blighted ovum was (it’s a pregnancy where a sac and plecenta grow, but a baby does not.) I’ve been on a pretty steep learning curve, speaking with these families about cycles, and IVF, PCOS, IUI, OI… there’s so many different routes which can be taken, but the overwhelming common thread I have found within every single family I’ve spoken to has been the courage they all possess.

They get up and keep on keeping on, even when it’s tough, or they have bad news. This applies to Rachael and Lucas, after 3 miscarriages they still face each day with bravery.

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Is your Family Complete?

No... only fur children so far.

(but aren’t they gorgeous?!)

How did your journey begin?

I was diagnosed at age 11 with PCOS, Endometriosis and 1 ovary. I was told not to put hope even in IVF working.

In 2015 I fell pregnant but it turned out to be a blighted ovum.

In 2016 I fell pregnant again, but the heartbeat was to slow and weak and then stopped a week after seeing it.

After this Lucas and I got every test under the sun done to figure out why but everything came back within normal range. no answers.

In 2018 I had a chemical pregnancy, found out on my birthday and lost it over the mothers day weekend.

After this we saw a pattern and tried some new meds to help but have yet to fall pregnant again yet. 

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What is happening in your life right now?

We met with Tas Ivf at the end of May to get the ball rolling on IUI before going to IVF

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What is in the future for your family?

Hopefully IUI will work otherwise we will start doing IVF in Hobart.

Even if I fall pregnant and it sticks it's going to be a high risk pregnancy with high chances of a premature birth.

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I’m currently photographing families who have in the past, or are currently going through fertility treatments. click on the link below to learn more about the project and to have your family be a part of it

The Griffin Family

I was lucky enough to photograph Caitlin, Andrew, Sofia and Avery at Hollybank Forest. It was a place I’ve been wanting to photograph a family for awhile and when Caitlin came to me and suggested it for their family portraits I was so excited to head out there.

I’ve known the Griffins for a few years now, we met through mutual friends, and my Dad actually photographed Caitlin and Andrew before they were married. So I had known of their fertility struggles, but it wasn’t until I photographed their family that I learnt the full extent of what they went through.

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Is your Family Complete?

I’m super blessed to have 2 beautiful healthy daughters, Sofia who is almost 4 and Avery is 17 months old. 

Avery was the completing piece of our family! 

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How did your journey begin?

Almost 5 months into our marriage we experienced our first miscarriage - we hoped and prayed it would be the only one we would experience but unfortunately it wasn't. 

2 months later we fell pregnant again instead of excitement it was a time of fear and worry as the day we found out I had been experiencing excruciating pain for 3 days. The diagnosis was bleak, an ectopic pregnancy was not the news we wanted and I spent 2 long weeks in hospital awaiting surgery but on the day of surgery we recieved a miracle and our precious baby was right where she should be. What followed this miracle was 9 long months of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, countless hospital trips (in the end every second day I was in receiving  intravenous fluids and medication) 7 hours of induced labour and our first child Sofia Mae was here! 

We started trying for a second child 6 weeks after Sofia was born. 

6 months passed nothing. 

12 months passed nothing. 

13 months passed a miscarriage. 

14 months passed another miscarriage. 

16 months passed when I found out I was  3 weeks pregnant. I was terrified, I desperately didn't want to go through another loss but this much wanted baby was not to be and at 10 weeks I started bleeding, 3 days later a surgery was needed. 

It was devestating. 

We started fertility drugs a month later  when that failed after a few rounds we decided to have a break.

A month later and shortly before Sofia's second birthday we found out I was pregnant again and instead of fear or dread all I felt was sick, fast forward another horrendous 9 months of Hyperemesis Gravidarum and a 55 minute labour our sweet baby Avery was born. Perfect. Healthy. HERE.

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What is happening in your life right now?

Sofia is about to turn 4, she goes to early learning and is as sharp as a tack.

 Avery will be 2 at the end of the year, she has inherited her mother's attitude and definitely my craziness. 

Last year I experienced a massive health scare and I seriously mean MASSIVE. 

I am currently studying and Andrew is smashing goals at his workplace. 

What is in the future for your family?

Hopefully some pretty amazing doors to be opened!  (top secret) 

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For the month of May I’ll be photographing families who have in the past, or are currently going through fertility treatments. click on the link below to learn more about the project and to have your family be a part of it