Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Book: Just Because – Love Loss Renewal

An extract from the book by Lisa Gallate

One Saturday, I met Ben through mutual friends at a party in a private suite at the Rosehill Races. 

I was immediately taken by this handsome, charming man and his gregarious nature as he offered me betting tips and flirted with me. His betting tips didn’t prove to be successful, but his charm was extremely successful, and although I had to leave the party early, I didn’t forget him. 

Some months later, our friends organised another race party at their apartment during Melbourne’s Spring Racing Season calendar. I was thrilled when I saw Ben arrive. We all had a wonderful day watching the races on a projector and placing our bets. We didn’t make any money, but were in great company, and the hospitality was fabulous. 

Ben and I started our relationship that day. It went from strength to strength, and we then decided to take the plunge and live together.

We both felt that becoming pregnant would happen easily and naturally, and that it wouldn’t be long before we could share the news with our family and friends that we were pregnant. Our optimism was short-lived.

After several months, we found out that getting pregnant is a lot harder than you might think. Over time, we tried to become more scientific about it, but we had no better luck. I became paranoid by the process, and would randomly take pregnancy tests, in the belief that the test could detect sufficient HCC (human chorionic gonadotropin) days before my period. Over many months, it became an agonising process. Any sense of romance was long gone.

I couldn’t think of anything else. Over time, I appreciated how desperate people can become in the quest to have a baby. I had joined their club.

We saw my doctor—a very humbling experience to express our desire to start our family, and how we had failed. He was extremely sympathetic and encouraged us to keep trying for a further four to six months, after which we would be referred to a fertility specialist. I left the appointment with information on infertility and hope in my heart that all was not lost.

Remarkably, a short time later, we fell pregnant. We were ecstatic! We decided that we wouldn’t share our news with anyone until we had reached the end of the first trimester at thirteen weeks. It was a wonderful secret to hold close to our hearts.

Some weeks later, we miscarried. It was the most emotionally agonising experience that had come from nowhere. The hardest thing of all was that our pregnancy had been our secret, so it made the miscarriage hard to share.

Miscarriage is such an awful phenomenon. Since the causes are still mostly unknown, it feels like a curse, and something that no one wants to talk about. I found it incredibly hard to talk about my experience to anyone. It was also the enormity of the loss, which had been made worse by the fact that we had been trying to conceive for nearly eighteen months.

When we fell pregnant for a second time we were thrilled. But this second time, we knew better than to think too far ahead. After confirming the pregnancy with my doctor, we decided that we would think no further than the twelve-week scan. Even so, that didn’t prepare us for when I again miscarried. We were both so disappointed and it was hard to hide. I was upset to my core. I felt I would never overcome the sense of emptiness and despair that I felt at that moment. It felt brutal. I still couldn’t share my grief with anyone.

Ben was very rational in thinking that there was either a reason for the miscarriage, or that it was just not meant to be. His stoic attitude didn’t fit with my emotional response, feeling that maybe I was being punished in some way, and that this was yet another lesson for me to learn about life, with all its machinations and cruelties. 

Our different reactions became another hurdle for us to overcome. After almost two years of trying to conceive, and two miscarriages, we were exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster when we had assumed it was the most natural and easiest thing to do. I had now felt the excitement of being pregnant twice, and I had allowed myself to daydream about the idea of one day holding my own baby. Instead, I had suffered the disappointment and emotional turmoil of two miscarriages. I had lost what I had for so long been striving for, and it had been taken away from me so unexpectedly. 

My doctor urged us to see a fertility specialist if we still wanted to try for a family. By medical standards, I would be an ‘old mother’, so I had to act fast. Although this thought horrified me, it motivated me to act. We attended our appointment with the fertility specialist at salubrious offices in the heart of Sydney. We both passed the tests. Thankfully, there was nothing unusual to be concerned about. Instead, the specialist thought that our challenge to conceive might just be explained by my age. 

As women’s fertility peaks at twenty-two years of age and then declines, it becomes an issue at thirty-three years of age when the chance of natural conception is only about 17% and then falls dramatically to about 11% from the age of thirty-eight. By forty years of age, it is about 7%. I wasn’t aware of these dire statistics, and of course, the fertility specialist could do nothing about my age.

I was sent home with my first fertility drug, Lucrin, to begin treatment. The drug was contained in vials that I had to insert into the equivalent of an Epi-Pen and inject into my stomach daily, for about three to four weeks, at the same time every day. Nine p.m. each night became the Lucrin Hour. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

Day thirty arrived.

I had the Lucrin blood test to again check if I had conceived naturally—no such luck!

The next stage was to start a second medication, FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) to stimulate the development of multiple eggs for in vitro fertilisation. I couldn’t help but feel like a chicken on her nest. 

Finally, at a designated time and date, I needed to give myself the trigger injection. This required me to play pharmacist and break up and mix certain medications. It was just a step too far for me, so Ben mixed them for me. 

We were now on a time frame and would be called into the clinic within the next thirty-six hours.

On day five, I received THE phone call that we had just one healthy embryo for transfer. 

After the transfer, we were sent home with the well wishes of our IVF team. I felt physically and emotionally exhausted by the whole process. I was so glad to go home for some rest and respite, in the hope that we might now be on our way to a healthy pregnancy and become parents.

I was incredibly excited to find out that I was pregnant, but the IVF didn’t mean that there was any less risk of another miscarriage. Because of the earlier miscarriages, and my age, my doctor recommended that we see our obstetrician.

Our pregnancy was confirmed with an ultrasound image. It was amazing to hear life inside me—to hear the heartbeat and see this little bean on the ultrasound.

I was so excited and hoped with all my heart that this pregnancy would be successful. Our little, but completely healthy, baby girl was born at thirty-nine weeks.

This is an edited extract from Just Because by Lisa Gallate (Published by Fair Play Publishing, March 2023, RRP $26.99)

Buy the book here.