Our fertility journey – from palpable grief to expecting miracles.
When I posted “I’m a Mum” across my social media recently, I know it was a big surprise to many of you.
In the thick of postpartum, I finally feel brave enough to share more publicly what we’ve endured on our fertility journey, as a bridge towards my own final healing, as well as to give others hope.
Our journey spans five years and is one filled with palpable grief, medical mystery, plot twists, COVID and a war in the Ukraine.
In this longer and personal blog post – written with the utmost candour, heart, and a sprinkle of tears (still they easily flow) – I walk you through how a “geriatric” “miscarrier” found the tenacity to carry on and expect miracles.
I know I can count on you to treat our story – and my vulnerability – with the utmost respect and compassion.
As a little girl, I played “office” with my dolls, instead of “Mum”. At 14, I became a devoted and hands-on Aunty and learned that Motherhood wasn’t something to enter into on a whim. From 16, I was very intent on being a kick ass highly respected lawyer (who happened to be female). Thankfully my soul mate, aka my husband and best friend, has always been supportive of the same. We wanted kids but weren’t in a hurry to have them.
A few years into my dream Executive GC role, two conversations with two senior women – a then General Counsel and a Big Law firm partner – left an indelible impression on me. In a nutshell, both counselled me not to leave Motherhood too late and “miss the boat”, as one had and the other almost did.
After years of not feeling ready and regular conversations about the same with my husband, one day in 2017 I did wake up and feel a shift in my thinking about having a baby.
I was ready.
But, the Universe had other plans.
In April 2017, I lost my period for six months – my hormonal system was shot. I was medically diagnosed with burnout. But that’s a separate story for another day.
It should have been no surprise when one of my allied health practitioners said that it would be a while before my body would be strong enough to have a baby. However, I found this setback immensely frustrating.
In July 2018 we embarked on Trimester Zero, which we actually practised for six months, out of precaution. Each of us had a litany of blood, genetic and other tests, including sperm motility checks – we were conscious that the focus is typically always on the female.
Together, on paper at least, we were good to go.
We were mentally prepared for the fact that it could take up to 12 months to fall pregnant. However, we fell pregnant straight away on an end of year vacation to Fiji.
When the positive symbol appeared on the at home pregnancy test, I looked up at my husband and my first response out loud was “Oh Oh”. How I would “do it all” crossed my mind as we googled our baby’s “due” date.
The next day I attended an all-day Executive meeting feeling very distracted. I’m 6 weeks pregnant, I kept thinking. That night I attended a gig at the Melbourne Comedy Festival with some girlfriends. It was a long working day, and I remember promising myself that I’d have to take better care of myself moving forward.
However, the next morning I woke up and saw red. I was having a miscarriage.
I got ready for work, put on a brave face, and carried on “as normal”.
I “carried on” for weeks like that, not taking a day off work; in fact, I worked harder. I even travelled interstate shortly thereafter to attend an executive offsite and to meet with a Global VP here from Headquarters for an important meeting. On my return, one of my best friends asked me “when are you going to grieve? You can’t just bury yourself in work”. That night, I gave myself permission (and space) to let the grief surface.
I had fallen pregnant so easily, we assumed it would happen again, and that this was just a (and unfortunately statistically common) hiccup.
But then, I didn’t fall pregnant for the entire remainder of 2019.
I recall a girlfriend mentioning undergoing IVF at this point to which my intuition screamed “No”. I’m not anti-IVF. I simply held this wildly romantic view of conception, and had said that if it got to IVF for us, then I’d take it as a sign that we weren’t meant to have kids.
After lengthy discussions, my husband and I were aligned that we would keep trying naturally for a bit longer.
The pandemic and ensuing lockdowns paled in comparison to the toll our fertility journey took on us in 2020.
The good news is that I fell pregnant naturally three (3) more times. The sad news is that they all ended in more miscarriages.
Early into pregnancy #2, I took my last work pre-pandemic trip to the Gold Coast to deliver a keynote on legal innovation at the Managing Partners Conference. A scan at eight weeks revealed that I was carrying an anembryonic sac (a medical phenomenon). It made Miscarriage #2 a strange one: I was still very emotional over losing an empty gestational sac.
Being in lockdown during this period made grieving (and hiding my grief) in and around my work schedule, easier. Instead of taking time off, I swapped video conferences for phone calls for several days to hide my tired and sombre looking eyes.
Two losses in, I started searching for answers as to why this was happening to us. The late Walter Makichen’s book, Spirit Babies resonated with me, as did a Zoom session with the late author’s protégé Nancy Mae. Using their techniques, we began communicating with our future baby.
In April 2020, pregnancy #3 occurred.
I decided to see an obstetrician a little earlier than the usual 8-week scan mark, given my past history.
With onerous COVID restrictions, I attended the first scan solo, under slept and riddled with anxiety. My eyes remained tightly shut until I was asked repeatedly to open them: “Look, there’s a heartbeat”, said the sonographer. Tears poured down my face; I had grown accustomed to expecting the worst.
In the car afterwards, my husband and I exchanged a look but didn’t need to utter the words. We were both thinking the same thing: could we really be third time lucky?
One week rolled into the (anxiety filled) next and I was grateful for spending the first trimester working remotely. Our rainbow baby was 10 weeks!
And then about 9pm on a Saturday night in August, I went to the bathroom, and saw red. Not again, please. Not again, I pleaded through a stream of tears. Dr Google confirmed that this could be normal. I’m not religious, but I started praying that night.
My prayers were not answered the following day. On advice from a close friend, we enlisted the help of Mammas Midwives to assess the situation, but also to bash down medical doors for us for an urgent scan and visit to what would be Obstetrician #3. In crazy timing, our car was in for an urgent service, so we had a friend play Uber for us. The scans confirmed the worst. The foetus had stopped growing at 6 weeks, 4 days. My body had just been holding onto it.
I felt cursed, fragile, empty and chose sleep as my way of checking out from the living nightmare. At midnight, I woke up in a ball of sweat, feeling very off, fainting repeatedly. “Call Jan (the private midwife from earlier that day)” I said to my husband in a haze. “Something’s happening to me”. “Her cervix is going into shock. Call an ambulance”, directed Jan.
The next thing I remember is three paramedics in our bedroom checking all my vitals. Out of caution, I was transferred to the emergency department for overnight monitoring. It was the first time in my life I’d ridden in an ambulance and had to do so solo due to COVID restrictions. My husband met me at the hospital only permitted to visit for two hours.
Miscarriage #3 was the first loss that had me take personal leave from work – an entire week. I did not reveal why or what happened, but that I had been in emergency. It was the most traumatic miscarriage, on so many levels, yet. I was a couch potato all week feeling intensely listless, numb and sombre.
Why is this happening, I’d howl.
Because I wasn’t sure how much more of this – how many more miscarriages – I could withstand.
Then little by little, the fog and negativity cleared and my warrior like mindset resumed her reign.
In December 2020, I had conceived again. Turns out I was very early on into pregnancy #4 when I resigned from my GC role.
But this soul didn’t stay either.
Miscarriage #4 happened at the 9-week mark (again, the foetus had not grown past 6.5 weeks), the same week we were moving into our newly renovated home which took 15 months starting – complete with “baby’s room”. It was a bittersweet moment. (We were also entering into Year 2 of lockdowns).
Meanwhile, on the professional front, I’d birthed my own business, Anna Lozynski Advisory.
My fertility homeopath began encouraging us to start looking at IVF more seriously. Accepting that I was at IVF point was very confronting for me. Such were my stress levels about it, that I enlisted a mindfulness-based coach for several months to help me work through my fears. Right before I started my first round of IVF in May 2021, I attended my first trapeze class with the aim of embodying the feeling of physically surrendering and letting go in response to being in a new and frightening circumstance.
We extensively researched IVF doctors, and I’m still not sure we chose the right one with the benefit of hindsight. Our fertility status was a mystery, as we had no issues falling pregnant, and later would “defy statistics” when it came to our fertilisation rate.
Throughout IVF, I made a conscious decision to disconnect my “lawyer brain” – not reading one word of fine print, not researching too much, not asking too many questions. To keep my mindset top of its game, I literally had to take it injection by injection, appointment by appointment, scan by scan, to avoid spiralling and to stay very present.
Every morning at 8.46am during each IVF cycle, we played “All for you” by Janet Jackson while I injected myself, wincing and holding back tears, and saying my affirmations. I was closely monitored which meant more hospital and clinic visits than usual. It was all consuming. My husband attended every appointment with me – even though due to COVID restrictions he could only be in the waiting room – ready with a big hug.
Round one (May 2021) – the warmup round as it’s known – didn’t yield any viable embryos.
Round two (June 2021) yielded one. “It only takes one”, chimed everyone at the IVF clinic as well as our friends who had successful IVF outcomes.
In July 2021, in between lockdowns, we travelled to the Whitsunday Islands for an IVF break. We watched the Disney film, Soul during that trip. That movie did indeed speak to my soul – I wept deeply through all of it.
That month the embryo transfer itself wasn’t textbook – those precious cells got stuck in the transfer tube. The nurse’s reassurance felt strained – my intuition screamed at me on that procedure table: it’s damaged now; it’s not going to stick. And “stick” properly it didn’t. I experienced a chemical pregnancy (number #5 on our journey). Behold Miscarriage #5.
Going into IVF, we agreed to a limit of three rounds. Yet, in October 2021, I stretched that limit to four. Desperation has a powerful effect on decision making. The doctor used different drugs, which almost broke me: I went from feeling OK in rounds 1-3 to uncontrollably emotional 24/7 in this final round. I remember spending our birthday and wedding anniversary at home, having a fancy take away dinner (thanks to lockdown), but not tasting any of it. The cumulative weight of the losses, of the whole unrelenting journey, and a New Year around the corner, was sucking my essence completely dry – what was there to celebrate exactly.
Then slowly the emotional dust settled once again. Agreeing that we didn’t want to give up, we secured an appointment with a new IVF doctor to consider egg donorship. Boy did I dread having to regurgitate our fertility history at those initial consults. “I’m glad you’re going down the donorship path, as otherwise I’d put you in my too hard basket of patients”, she said. Thanks for the reassurance Doc.
With border closures, we needed the donor eggs to come to us – we couldn’t travel to the eggs which pre-pandemic was the typical path. This of course limited our options. To complicate matters further, Australia has one of the strictest legislative regimes in the world, making the creation of partnerships with donor egg banks overseas an incredibly protracted process. And there is no egg bank located in Australia.
This is also why we shied away from surrogacy – an offering which again is not as well established and accessible in Australia (as it is in the USA, for example). It was also important to me to be pregnant and carry as well as birth our child.
We settled on an egg bank from the Ukraine, given my Polish background (and no, Poland was not an option – there’s still a huge stigma about IVF there, let alone egg donorship).
In moments of positivity, I’d laugh-cry about the fact that our days were filled with procuring biomaterials all whilst building our respective businesses. We’d review donor health profiles written in broken English, analyse genetic test results, and try not to make selections on pure aesthetics – the gravity of it all was not lost on us. To think we found IVF slow, expensive and providing for a false sense of control. It would take three months from the time we chose our egg donor for her oocytes to arrive into the country. It was the strangest supply agreement I’d reviewed to date.
And then, the Universe delivered another plot twist: a war beginning in the Ukraine.
One evening we received the phone call we had been dreading: Our IVF clinic here in Victoria had made a decision to indefinitely suspend its egg donorship program with the Ukraine due to the war. Additionally, our chosen egg donor was uncontactable, likely because she had fled.
In one short phone call – which was delivered poorly – our only viable option was rug pulled. For an extra kick in the guts, the IVF clinic couldn’t advise us about any alternative egg banks. They might as well as have said “You’re on your own kiddos”. (For context, each donor bank is independently owned, and there’s no central website with all the options available either, let alone the ones that have relationships with any IVF facilities in Australia).
Deja Vu – we were back to square one.
In a rage of tears, I turned to Facebook of all places. There I found the Egg Donor Angels groups and saw that the (Australian) founder of the page had her mobile listed. To this kind stranger, I opened up about our fertility journey and she gave me a crash course about egg donorship banks around the world, and what to look out for.
Lawyer mode kicked into high gear, and determined to find a solution for us, in the space of 12 hours I became an egg donor bank expert, firing off emails left, right and centre all around the globe. During one phone call with an alternative Ukranian egg bank, air raid sirens kept cutting the line. I’m not kidding.
A new egg bank also meant a new IVF doctor – located interstate (in NSW). It also meant a new egg donor to select. At least this alternative egg bank had evacuated its oocytes to Slovakia.
Meanwhile, in March 2022, we escaped up north – me to Olivia Newton John’s health retreat Gaia while my husband went on a boys’ trip nearby. We met in Byron Bay afterwards. Each morning at our local café we were greeted with the words “Expect Miracles”. It gave me goosebumps while I waited for my almond chai latte.
On that trip there was a loud voice in my head telling me to throw caution to the wind.
And in the most epic plot twist, I fell pregnant. Naturally, and with all of our own DNA!
Pregnancy #6 felt distinctively different. Despite my heightened fears and anxiety, I carried and nurtured our miracle baby with ease and grace. My intuition was to keep our special news all very sacred. Just in case.
I intend to write more about my pregnancy, as well as my epic labour, separately.
“Magic happens when you do not give up, even though you want to. The Universe always falls in love with a stubborn heart”. – Unknown.
Today, when I reflect on the last five years of climbing the fertility version of Mt Everest, here’s a summary of what inspired me to persevere.
- Leaning in, albeit selectively. We shared our fertility rollercoaster with a very small circle of friends, whom we trusted and that we knew could hold space for us (because not every friend can). While we hold strong bonds with our parents, we shielded them from what we were going through, but opened up to our respective older sisters. Whether it was a positive reframe, a different perspective, crying together, or having that small circle be our cheerleaders and manifest the vision alongside us – it all helped to keep our eye on the prize.
- Keeping the personal separate from the professional. In a way, work was my solace. I was effective and could solve the most complex of problems in the workplace – a formula that didn’t translate to our fertility journey. Also, I was conscious not to burden my boss, my team, my peers with the heaviness of what was going on for me. And then there was my imprinting from when I was a baby lawyer – not all vulnerabilities are equal and could be career limiting, and though shalt not discuss family planning in the workplace, especially as a female.
- Healing mind, body, and spirit. I turned to a plethora of healers and underwent a huge amount of self-work and development seeing intuitives, a Shaman, clairvoyants, an angel healer, reiki practitioners, a past life regression therapist, a fertility homeopath. I chanted, meditated daily, turned to astrology, had Gestalt Therapy, acupuncture, chiro, womb massages, counselling, practised the Byron Katie method, had kinesiology, hypnosis, TRTP, and NLP. I did inner child work, feminine energy work, shadow work, family constellation work, and so much more. I empowered myself with a “wellth” of information and was hyper diligent about my nutrition and selfcare.
- Trusting in God, the divine, the Universe, nature – that which is beyond us. But also, trusting my intuition in a way that I’d never had before – “she” was my ultimate cheerleader when the fertility chips were down. “She” kept reminding me that nothing worthwhile is ever easy; to find optimism. To keep going with my trademark laser sharp focus willing can’t to can, to not lose faith as well as to exhaust all options.
They say rough roads lead to heights of greatness. Now that I’m on the other side, and fully able to breathe again, our journey is beginning to make sense: The harsh lessons, the massive life changes, the fight, the against the odds resilience, the divine timing, the personal self-growth. That this is the extraordinary way it was meant to be.
Our son-shine is pure magic.
I am beyond grateful that I didn’t give up, and for having a stubborn heart.
Above all, I am beyond grateful that I get to be our miracle baby’s Mum.
– Anna X