By Melissa Meehan
For the majority of our formative years, women are told how not to get pregnant.
But the reality is, society never tells us how hard getting and staying pregnant can be in the first place.
Chirnside Park resident Ally De Iulio is a perfect example of this.
She was 27 when she and her husband Simon decided to try for a family.
They got pregnant after about three months of trying. Everything was going fine.
Until she miscarried. They tried again. She had another miscarriage.
Then another. Then another.
Doctors didn’t say much at the start, but they did wonder what was happening by her fourth miscarriage.
She tried again, got pregnant but at her first ultrasound at eight weeks they couldn’t find a heartbeat. They waited for her to miscarriage naturally. She didn’t. And at 10 weeks had a D&C.
It was then the doctors agreed some testing needed to occur.
They did a full chromosome test, so they could fully analyse Ally and her husband. It took three months to come back.
But it found Ally has reciprocal balanced translocation. In simple terms it’s a chromosome complication.
To go through the emotional rollercoaster of getting pregnant and then losing the baby each time was understandably disheartening for Ally and Simon.
Initially the gynaecologist at Box Hill said that IVF wasn’t an option for the couple.
“So that’s when it really hit me,” she said.
“I thought how many miscarriages I can go through.”
They went and saw a genetic counsellor, who was able to explain that IVF was an option.
“So we went for it”.
IVF JOURNEY BEGINS
It’s an expensive, physically and emotionally gruelling process.
But Simon said he couldn’t watch Ally go through the pain of another natural miscarriage or pregnancy.
The toll on her mental health was too much to bear.
The couple had discussed early in their relationship that if they couldn’t have children that would be okay.
That they would travel and find other things to do.
But once the option was taken away from Ally – it all changed.
The first round of IVF, Ally took time off work and the couple kept it to themselves.
She can’t remember how many eggs she retrieved.
But each egg required genetic screening, an expensive step that isn’t usually required during the IVF process.
But they had one egg that was classified as a normal, which they were pretty excited about.
And so they organised the transfer, and it fell on the day of her birthday.
“I thought that’s really exciting and they said just come in at the time we told you. We won’t call unless something goes wrong,” she said.
At 7am on her birthday, Ally got a phone call.
The egg didn’t survive.
Still understandably emotional, Ally says she didn’t deal very well with the news and went into hiding for a short while.
A few months later they decided to try again. But the genetic testing found that none of them were normal.
Disheartened, they decided to give it another go.
“I was getting to the point of thinking how many times do we go through this,” she said.
“It was an emotional rollercoaster, not to mention the financial cost.”
But it was third time lucky.
They had two eggs come back as normal.
Ally didn’t hold too much hope. But they transferred the egg.
And she was pregnant in August.
FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS
Despite all of her heartbreak in the past, once she was pregnant – Ally felt strangely confident that she wouldn’t miscarry again.
She knew that the eggs had no chromosome issues and was sure that was the reason for her past miscarriages.
She gave birth to their son Isaac on April 27, 2017.
He’s now four.
It wasn’t an easy birth, but holding him in her arms was what she had longed for so many times.
It was already an emotional time for them, after Simon’s dad had passed away when she was 38 weeks pregnant.
His funeral was on the day she was to be induced.
Not long after Isaac was born, Simon developed a back issue and dealt with the pain for two years and needed surgery.
The pair decided not to use the second embryo until he had surgery and recovered.
But the universe had other plans.
In between Isaac’s arrival and Simon’s surgery, Ally started to feel increasingly tired.
She would come home from work and fall asleep around 7pm.
They did a pregnancy test and it was positive.
LIVING ON THE EDGE
“It was a really interesting feeling,” she said.
“It was kind of nothing, it wasn’t happy or sad… just a strange kind of emptiness.
“I thought I know how this ends.”
Simon had the same feeling.
They decided to let it play out and were prepared for the worst.
But Wynter wasn’t going anywhere.
It was a very different pregnancy compared to that she experience with Isaac.
Ally had a lot of anxiety.
Every time she went to the toilet she expected to see blood.
She expected something bad to happen.
“I kind of lived every day on the edge.”
By the time she reached half way, Ally allowed herself to enjoy the pregnancy.
But tragedy struck the family again…
Just days before she was due to give birth, Simon’s niece Jocelyn passed away.
She was 12.
And while sick with a terminal illness, her death was unexpected.
Ally went into labour three days later.
Wynter, their beautiful daughter, wars born.
There were some complications that ended with Ally haemorrhaging and becoming quite unwell after the birth.
She was so sick she couldn’t even hold Wynter.
After all that, Ally and Simon have one embryo left, and the storage runs out in June next year.
“We have to make a decision, but I don’t know if I could carry another baby. I don’t know if my body could do it,” she said.
“But it’s nice to have the option.”
What are chromosomal translocations?
Balanced reciprocal translocations are caused by a two-way exchange of genetic material between two chromosomes. As there is no net loss or gain of genetic material this exchange usually has no effect on the phenotype of the carrier.
However, carriers of balanced translocations are at risk of passing on an unbalanced form of the chromosomal rearrangement at conception, resulting in genetic material being lost and/or gained. This can lead to sub-fertility, recurrent miscarriages, or more rarely the birth of a child with an intellectual disability and congenital malformations.