Danette: “Hi, I’m Danette, this is Ross.

We met about 5 years ago, we both come from a history of addiction, and we met in a rehab.

Where I was the counsellor, and Rosslyn was the patient. But it was nothing unethical.

And so, our love journey started from there.

I mean it’s quite late on in our lives that we met, and we didn’t anticipate falling in love the way that we did.

But it happened and it was amazing, and two and half years ago we got married and decided that it was time to start a family.

You know what, right in the beginning, when Ross and I got married two years ago, and we decided we wanted to start a family because we are quite old “oldish” – we are in our late 30’s -Our eggs were becoming prunes as Dr Gobetz would say 

You don’t know where to start.

There isn’t like a place, or a facility or a centre in South Africa that caters for the LGBTQ+ community in starting this.

In America and in the UK you can go to an actual centre and say look this is what I want to do and all that kind of stuff, and they just kind of start giving you advice on : go to this fertility clinic, then go and see these people , this is how it starts , this is the law around it and that kind of thing. There really isn’t anything like that in South Africa, so for us, our beginning was difficult. A lot of time spent on Google, and as we know Google is very bad, but you kind of start looking for testimonials and there aren’t many. A lot of people don’t share their road because it is such an emotional journey. We have nicknamed out journey “Hurry up and Wait”, because that’s really what a fertility journey is. So it was nice to be able to find a place like Vitalab, where you actually just, you felt very welcome first of all, very, very welcome. Second of all, you were able to kind of just speak your mind and feel accepted. We did start at another fertility centre first, and it was a very traumatic experience for us.

I have been clean for 10 years, Ross for 5 years so it was kind of like – “we’ve got this now” “We’ve got recovery down”, so it’s time to really just invite that family essence in our lives, and so it started.

Long road- long, long road, but I mean Kayton is just such a blessing – long emotional road.

I think that’s the beauty of Dr Gobetz, is he is such a straightshooter, you know he doesn’t give you false expectations, and when your expectations are slightly unrealistic, he will put you at ease and say you know you need to understand, that this is not going to be a quick thing, and you need to understand that it’s going to be a long journey, but we keep at it. We keep going.

Just the support that Dr Gobetz always offered, was amazing. He was there every single step of the way. And in terms of us feeling old, is because the older you get the more difficult it becomes, so that’s how in our heads, I know we are not old, we are quite young. But in fertility we are old. And it’s scary in a sense because we are hoping to have a second child and by the time we are ready to do that we will probably be close to our forties. But we are confident in what Vitalab does and we will probably be back, 110%

I mean we have become their PR, we are constantly referring people to them. We got close to a lot of people. Very, very close.

You felt like you are family, it wasn’t even two ways about it. Every single person from the time that walked out of that elevator, to reception, and to say I’m here , then you’re having long conversations with the receptionists, then you going straight to the sonar rooms , having long conversations with the sonar ladies,  and then you know you go to the nurses and sister Veli used to just look at us and think “oh this is going to be a half an hour”

We did Artificial Insemination

What was nice is that Dr Gobetz explained to us the different options ; and he said to us start with AI / IUI first, let’s see how that goes, let’s do it for about six cycles, and if still by that time we still don’t have any luck, then we move on to IVF. Because we didn’t have a fertility problem, it’s not like we were experiencing infertility. It was – we just don’t have the biologicals of a male to be able to do what we wanted to do. So, we had to go the route of first finding out if there is an infertility problem, which there wasn’t. There were complications, we had to terminate our first cycle, simply because Ross’s Estrogen and Progesterone levels were a bit weird. So, we had to manage that. Then we did our first insemination and shew that was … that’s why we called it, Hurry up and Wait. Because you hurry up to wait for a menstrual cycle, then you start growing the follicles, and then you wait. And then it’s time for the trigger injection, and you take the trigger injection, and you wait. And then its insemination, and then it’s those 2 weeks … and those two weeks are horrific. I think those are the worst weeks, waiting for that pregnancy test. “

Ross: “But I think on the second one we actually started losing hope, and I said to Nette, we have to keep going, because they said at least four, but I mean you’ve lost sort of momentum in things and just had to keep going, which was I think very disheartening for us , it was hard to even work, I mean we do work for ourselves, but even just to wake up, it started to become very emotional. And we find ourselves here, after so many tries, and counts of everything. But it happened, it eventually happened, we eventually got pregnant on the third insemination, and that day was… “

Danette: “I think we even phoned the reception, and we were like “Tamara, we know you can’t tell us, we know you can’t tell us, but is sister Velli there, is someone there, we’ve got the Ampath result, just tell us its a yes, we know it a yes but just confirm it for us, and she was like “guys I can’t do that, you know I can’t do that “

Just do it, and then suddenly, Aunty Colleen phoned and she said, “guys this is it” and it was amazing, I mean we both burst into tears after that. And I mean we’ve given up and we’ve heard infertility journeys, you know when people get to that ceiling push where they say ” we just can’t do this anymore” either they can’t afford it, or you know it’s just too emotional, this is the last cycle , come what may if it happens, and we have reached that point only on the third attempt, our third insemination cycle, and it happened. I think it’s really because we started calming down, we were like well it’s going to happen if it happens, kind of stop worrying about what you are eating, how you are eating it, what your lifestyle is like, is this good, is this bad, you’re just overthinking it. I think it also had to do with a lot of hope, losing hope, you sort of just let yourself go. And a lot was going on at the time with work, which was very stressful, so I think that also played a role, but yeah then things just kind of fell into place. Funny enough on the last cycle, Ross had two follicles available, which is not something that we’ve had before, so we had double the chance ” oh my gosh twins”.

Oh, we did, we prayed long and hard and asked Dr Gobetz many times, please can we have twins, please make it happen, do your crystal ball, prayer rug, whatever it is.

And what’s that big sign board there?

“We cater for the needy not the greedy.”

And now in hindsight,

The Lord knew we only needed one.

We take our hats off to parents with twins and triplets, or even just single parents, single mother.

If I would’ve had the experience of having Kayton in my addiction, it’s just you can’t compare it, it would’ve saved me in an instant, but I wasn’t ready then. It solidifies all your past experiences. Being a mother is just.

All of that just goes away, it’s a whole new thing.

But she’s not going to get tuck money for the rest of her life.

A lot of people don’t really tell you that you know you just get that banner of “fertility treatment is very expensive”.

But I mean it is expensive, it’s not your normal treatment, but there was a cycle where Ross’s follicles grew really, really quickly, and we couldn’t get the specimen from Cape Town to Joburg quick enough and phoned Dr Gobetz, and we said we don’t know what to do, we don’t have the cashflow to purchase from the sperm bank downstairs, and he just said just pay us at the end of the month.

Everyone in the rooms, in the centre, they were just so happy to help, to assist, just saying guys there is something bigger at heart here, so we understand, sort it out at the end of the month. And that was just for us it was like we are sitting with our backs against the wall, it’s going to come to an end, the cycle is not going to happen, and it did. Because everyone is in it together. Because once you stop you must start all over again, which you must go through the process, is it going to take, isn’t it, if you leave a gap Dr Gobetz said you’ll have to try again. Yeah, it’s just stop start, stop start.

Ross: “You did all the injections in my thighs. It was a lot, it was a lot to take in and eventually your body is like this is enough, when my legs just kept bleeding, you go onto the next leg, and you had to alternate, then eventually the stomach, but yeah, your body does take toll, but it is one of those things, it was worth it.

It was medication every day, but luckily, we had started the folic acid an vitamin B and preg omega at about 6-7 months before Kayton, being conceived yeah. So that made a whole big difference I must say.”

Danette: “I think it was important for us as you say, as we started with the journey to make sure that Ross’s oven was well looked after. Because you become desperate, this is not like a normal situation where a heterosexual couple , oh we will go at it again next month, it’s right here, it costs a lot of money , we are so desperate for it, we are not getting any younger, and you just want it to work, so you try and drink cranberry juice, and you go onto Google and Google says eat this and you’re like oef lets eat that, and we really just wanted to make sure that Ross’s oven was well looked after, and the medication you don’t realize the amount of medication that you are going to be taking, or Ross is going to be taking until we are in it, but sister Velli was amazing in saying you know keep going, this is how to do it better, don’t inject here, try and do this try and do that and it did get to the end , where shame I’d inject Ross and she’s bleed and bleed, and I think that was also one of the things that I just can’t do that to her anymore, I can’t bear to see Ross go through that , she can’t bear to go through it anymore.

When we got that positive pregnancy test, it was like all of that was superfluous, it was just gone , well we went through that, it’s over now

Ross: “I think what made it difficult for us in terms of us being a gay couple as opposed to, I can’t say normal, because we are just as much normal; in a man and a woman relationship, is the fact that we had to know every step of the way. So, everything that we did, we scoped it, from A to Z. Whereas, a man and a woman, they would just you know, pot luck and we’re pregnant. Let’s wait the whole 9 months. Ours was every third, every week, every two weeks, we just had to know the process. And it was nerve wrecking, because then you’re thinking of Downs Syndrome, because those are the things that could happen because of our age. And I must say that pregnancy throughout was very, very stressful. I don’t think I had a happy pregnancy. I think the happiest was when Kayton would move, then I’m like she’s fine.”

Danette: “I think when everything is so controlled, because this is a very controlled journey, you learn a lot and you’re constantly going through each process.

So, the first process is let’s get the Menopur going, let’s get the follicle growing, you see the follicle grow and you start to understand where that follicle grows. What happens next? Ok now it’s time for the trigger injection, then you understand what’s happening in that process.

So, a lot of the journey that should be exciting, and looking forward to having this and in terms of being mothers, it was overthrown by the medicine behind it, and the biological processes behind it.”

Implantation, and then its the zygote, and then from the zygote its this and then its that , you kind of like : where are we at in this? How can we prevent something from going wrong?

And then when Ross did fall pregnant, it was the same thing, you know you fall pregnant , you’ve got to wait two weeks again, oh sorry it was 48 hours for the next test, then you’ve got to wait 5 weeks to go for your next scan, and in that time , Google, and Dr Gobetz used to say to us don’t do that to yourself, but you do, you sit on Google a lot, and this could happen and you could have a silent miscarriage , and you could have a this and a that and you’re so desperate to keep this going, this is your dream. You want to keep it going for as long as you can. It’s like we’re making ourselves sick. And then Ross did , our gynaecologist did say that Ross had developed gestational diabetes from all the artificial hormones that we used during fertility. Which we’d never heard of so, we don’t know any better. Suddenly there was this concern that the baby will be growing too big, and she didn’t, she was born a little tiny thing, 2.4kgs. And we didn’t even need to go through that, but we did it anyways. Like I said, Hurry Up and Wait.

The advice that we would give other couples is: it’s not hard, in terms of getting the process started. Find a wonderful fertility clinic, go straight there. In other words go to Vitalab because they are the best. But go and see a doctor, go through the whole process and what needs to happen and just keep going. At every point there is legalities that not many people know about, you know it was very important for us to be able to both be on the birth certificate because we have gone through this journey together, our intention is to have a child together, whether one is carrying or the other one is carrying it, it’s our child together, and we couldn’t find any legal assistance with this. So, lucky enough the legislation changed in South Africa recently, funny enough in February 2022, where both of us could be on the birth certificate without having to go to the high court to get that sorted out in the high court.

But there really isn’t any kind of go between in terms of legality, but Vitalab did offer us that. They said to us there is a lawyer that is available here if you guys needed to chat to them, we just book an appointment and sort it out. That was kind of like WOW, this is a full-on encompassing offer, very wholistic approach to what we are going through.

More advice I would give is: when people say it’s an emotional journey, it’s an emotional journey. There’s loss that you go through, without even realising it. You set yourself up as a couple for: “this is going to be the cycle” the hope is there, the love is there, the being together. “This is going to be our dream come true” and then it dies in the end. And it’s a case of just understanding that it’s a process, keep going. Just keep going. We’ve come from a history of a lot of stigma against us, and we know what that feels like. We know what it feels like when people come and look at you and not really understand that this is just love, it’s just acceptance, we don’t need to have a label, we don’t need to suddenly become gay activists, we don’t need to do anything of the sort. Just treat us like normal, and we’ll be fine.

The perseverance that we found in that process of stigma, you just use in this journey when things get tough. We’ve also had friends who’ve fallen pregnant on the first go, and you kind of sit and you look at them and you’re like “how did you get that right?”

But you just keep going and keep going and the trade-off is phenomenal. The trade-off is phenomenal. It’ s a love that you will never ever experience. They say that being partof the LGBTQ+ family is about love and it’s about acceptance- have a kid and then you truly understand what that means. Because you fight it every day- but this- you can’t fight it – it’s just there, it’s amazing.

One of things that I experienced- which is not part of the fertility journey, but after the fertility journey, and what I think a lot of couples don’t realise can happen is when Kayton was born, I as the partner found it very difficult to connect with Kayton in the first three days. Because as much as it is an emotional thing, it’s also a reality thing – and the reality is : this is my child , and I’ve gone through the process of “baking” this baby with Ross, but from a maternal aspect she didn’t come from me if that makes sense. And it was very tough. It was very difficult, I thought I’d never be able to experience that connection with my daughter, that I’d never be able to connect with her, that there will always be this barrier – a biological barrier. And we had long conversations about it, it was very difficult in the hospital for me. But eventually, that all falls away, and you have this moment of connection and the only thing I do want to say is right at the end of the fertility journey, those times will come – as a partner, but it will go away. Keep going at it.”

Ross: “I felt bad when people would say yeah Kayton looks like me, because it would hurt her obviously, so it’s like well as long as she doesn’t look like the donor, then you know that’s the only way to ease it, I think. It does get easier.”

Danette: “As young kids you grow up with this fairytale of you know you’re going to marry your prince charming, and with prince charming you’re going to have kids and they are going to look like the both of you , and as life gets – you grow older and your prince charming becomes the princess , so I’m going to marry my princess and you want to have kids together, the reality is – they are not going to look like both of you , unless you take the option of doing different eggs , like if I was to use my egg and then implant it in Ross, but we wanted to try and go as natural as possible in the first go. It’s a social norm that just bugs you in the end. That’s why we also tried to find a donor that looks like both of us, so it was a whole other character thing.

But that whole donor process is hectic as well. That is just something that you don’t really anticipate, because you’re like ok let’s go through the list, we will find someone quickly because we just need the biologicals, but when you start reading them , and you’re like oh my gosh, you need to take not only the eyes and the ears and the nose into consideration, it’s family health history, because now you kind of have a bit of an option, what yiu want to allow in the genetic pool. And that became quite intense. Even though the looks and that were great, move on because the history is bad. And we didn’t want to sit with long term problems in the end. And you had to choose 4 donors at a time, which also made it difficult, and then that one only does that procedure like ICSI and then you must find another one – and there’s not many options out there that you want the child to look like.

I mean the South African sperm donor pool is very low for Caucasians, and that was something that we wanted to do, we wanted to be able to build a family that our children look like us , and you can’t really find a lot of donors , we went from bank to bank to bank to bank and eventually found that Cape Town is full of them, whereas Joburg is not as lenient to that kind of thing. I think there is two or three in Joburg, and their pool is very small.

It is anonymous donors and we sought legal advice about this. Dr Gobetz also told us, if you have a live donor, it’s not a problem, the andrologists do what they need to do and everything is fine, but he would recommend having a frozen donor because you’ve got more control over what happens in the moment. So they thaw the sperm first and then they can see what’s cracking there, whereas if it’s a live donor, you kind of have to go through all the tests first.

So, the South African law states that if you have an anonymous donor, they cannot at any point do a paternity test and claim rights over the child. If you have a known donor, at any point, doesn’t matter what contract you have in place, they can approach the High Court for the paternity test and they can take paternal rights. So, by having an anonymous donor, through the sperm bank, the donor banks, it means that even if our child had a degenerative disease of some sort, you couldn’t – can’t even approach the high court to say listen can we have a kidney, can we have bone marrow, it’s completely anonymous. The only thing that you do get is you get a little toddler picture, to kind of see the genetics of the child, the donor. But more than that, that’s all you get. We were lucky to know that our donor that we chose in Cape Town has 12 straws available and had been on ice for 12 years already.

And this is also something we learned is that in our first insemination, we got from a place in Cape Town – it’s not like you can return it if it’s really bad. You are purchasing something that you’re hoping will be good, and Dr Yossi said to us, because he did our first insemination, he said, look guys this is only 800 000 sperm count, it’s not very high, normally you want over a million, and we are like but flip, we’ve just purchased this from this place, what do we do now? Marelee phoned us and said ” look guys the best thing to do is when you’re purchasing sperm, tell them not to send it on dry ice. So don’t dry ship it, wet ship it with liquid nitrogen, because the thawing of it, if it’sthat way, doesn’t damage the sperm in any way.

So, we said ok its fine we will do that, the second round we ended up using sperm from Vitalab, so we didn’t have any issues with that. And the one that was successful, we had it wet shipped- 6.1 million.

6.1 million in a straw! So that was kind of like wow, alright, we had two follicles, we’ve got a fighting chance with this amount of sperm going on there, and it worked.

People need to be able to ask questions, and there isn’t a place to do that. And that was what was so nice about Dr Gobetz specifically, because he gave us his number, and he said guys, don’t message me and tell me what you’ve had for lunch, but, if you have a question, I’ll answer it, I’ll get to answering it, and he always did. And we could always pick up the phone and phone sister Veli and say sister Veli this is what’s happening, this is what we are experiencing, is this normal is this fine? Should we do something else? And always ready to take the call, always ready to answer the questions and that puts your mind at ease. Because this is such a medical journey, and there’s a lot of biologicals involved. I mean we haven’t spent 7 years in a university studying all these things and understanding how all these processes work and how everything is all interconnected. So, to pick up the phone and say, ” very concerned about this ” and to have someone on the other end saying guys it’s going to be OK, that was really awesome.

Danette and Rosslyn