Saturday marks the beginning of National Infertility Week. Infertility affects one-in-six Australian couples and its causes are varied. Three south-west couples have shared their stories and some of the challenges in their bid to become parents, to help raise awareness for others in a similar situation.
"All you ever dream of is having a family but it's beyond your control."
These are the words of Warrnambool's Karly Hunt who has been on a 13-year journey trying to conceive with husband Bronson.
They have been doing IVF on and off for 12 of those years. Mrs Hunt said each unsuccessful cycle was devastating and they had to rebuild and pick themselves up each time to try again.
"We've been going through it a long time," Mrs Hunt said. "It's a tough road."
They have lived in Melbourne, Queensland and returned to Warrnambool two years ago, undergoing IVF at various clinics, trying to fulfil their dream of a family.
They have had a number of failed IVF attempts and Mrs Hunt had a miscarriage in 2019.
"We worked up the courage to do the cycle again in Bundaberg," she said. "We had one embryo out of that cycle and that one implanted but we lost it at six weeks.
"That broke me again. That caused havoc with me and hubby - we actually separated for four months.
"It's really tough on the relationship. You feel like a failure and it takes its toll."
She said the separation was due to the stress of it all but the time apart had made them ten times stronger. They changed their lifestyle and jobs, returning to the south-west in May 2019.
"It's tough," she said. "I myself feel like a failure. We've tried so many times and literally everything has been thrown at us. At the last cycle they threw everything at us. Mentally for the pair of us it's been a rough road. I was recently diagnosed with anxiety and depression."
She said she never thought she would be one of the increased number of women who struggled with fertility and what a long road it would be.
"I didn't know what I was in for," Mrs Hunt said. "I thought 'I'm young'. I never thought I'd have the issues that I've had.
"With the very first (IVF) cycle I had a pram on order. I went and bought a baby bag because the doctors would say to you 'you're young you shouldn't have any issues'. Four embryos later, nothing."
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Mrs Hunt put a Facebook post up in November to let their family and friends know that their 12-year IVF journey had come to an end.
In the post she said they had completed their very last cycle "only to receive heartache again". "I would never wish this on my worst enemy.
"The specialist suggests a donor but I don't have the options," it said. "Words cannot describe the heartache every time you get that call from the doctor to say the embryo didn't make it."
Shortly after, they received word there was the gift of a donor egg and donor sperm available, which keeps their dream of a family alive.
"That's the road we're on at the moment so hopefully we'll be successful this way," she said.
"It's our very last option because we can't keep going. I should have my own house by now but we don't because we've spent so much money on IVF. We would have spent over $100,000 to try and get our family."
She encouraged any couples going down the IVF route to do their research and have access to a psychologist to "get all the support - you need it".
"Make sure you know what you're getting into. Let your family know, make sure you've got good support, and if you've got a supportive employer let them know. Make sure you've got supports in place - counsellors or psychologists," she said.
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