Saturday marks the beginning of National Infertility Awareness 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.
Warrnambool's Janelle Crawford likens infertility to being in limbo - a constant state of uncertainty of what the next month or IVF cycle holds.
"You're stuck in this chapter of trying to conceive while everybody else moves into the parenthood chapter," Ms Crawford said.
"But you're still in this limbo space of 'I don't have an answer. I don't have a guarantee of a baby. I don't even know if IVF is going to work'."
Ms Crawford and partner James have been trying to conceive for five-and-a half years.
"After that 12-month period (of trying to conceive naturally), I had a review with a gynecologist and I was told there wasn't anything that was standing out as an issue but that we would be considered for IVF.
"To me that didn't make sense to me - 'why would I go do IVF if you're telling me there's nothing wrong?'
She said while it didn't make sense to her for them to move to IVF at that time, she also didn't know why she couldn't conceive naturally.
"I didn't understand why is this so hard, when for other people it's so easeful or happens by accident," Ms Crawford said.
She went down a holistic path for two years, travelling to Melbourne for specialist appointments.
"We were at the three year point and I felt really burnt out," she said. "I was a really well version of myself. I had addressed quite a lot of my reproductive issues but I still wasn't pregnant and that's where I really hit a wall."
They had a 12-month break where they didn't talk about it, didn't look at things to try or attend appointments, they "just got on with our lives".
After trying ovulation induction, they began IVF at the end of last year with their first embryo transfer in February. Three out of their four embryos have been transferred but have not resulted in pregnancy.
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She said there was a common perception that if a couple did IVF, the end result was a baby.
"There's a lot of luck mixed in with science and no one can guarantee you a baby, no matter how much money you throw at it," Ms Crawford said. "It's not always going to equal a pregnancy or a live birth."
Ms Crawford said it was important for people to realise that while much of the population could fall pregnant, it's "not necessarily the pathway to parenthood for everybody".
She said it was also important to acknowledge that there were childless couples due to infertility.
"They end up with no baby and no family and have to move on and have to walk away for their own mental and physical well-being and for them as a couple."
Questions such as 'When are you expecting? When are you trying for a second? or 'You guys mustn't be trying hard enough' said as a joke weren't helpful.
"It just places more stigma that I'm doing something wrong," she said. "I'm falling behind. I'm failing myself, my family and my partner. It builds that stigma and then isolates that person more because the people around them are moving ahead."
She said family and friends could offer support, empathy and understanding just by being there and listening.
She said people suggested adoption or surrogacy without realising how complicated, difficult or expensive they were, assuming the couple wanted to go down that path.
"People throw these remarks at people going through challenges thinking it's a quick fix. I think we have to stop trying to fix people's challenges and emotional heartache and just really be there for them.
"Infertility is messy, she said. "It's not pretty and therefore we don't necessarily want to look at it. People want to put a bow on it and present you with a solution and there isn't a solution. There is no linear, quick fix to infertility."
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