Mahina Wahine.  In tribute to Women's Month, Papa Ola Lokahi presents a series of authentic stories that are profound and personal, intimate and inspiring.  *   

He ula o Kahoolawe compress

It started with a yes. Yes, let’s have a baby. That was August of 2015. It’s now March 2019.

That yes started me on a fertility journey and along the way I found me.

How did it all begin?

Well my best friend, baby daddy, donor, Peter asked me one night, “let’s have a baby?” I said “YES!” A week passed and I confirmed my decision to him and with a parting embrace left New Zealand.

We went our separate ways. I returned home and began the process of looking into assisted reproductive technology, otherwise known as fertility treatments. I faced some barriers:  First, I was unmarried; second, Peter lived in New Zealand; and third, health insurance plans have some terms. Financially, fertility treatments can start at $10,000 and be upward of $50,000. I considered embarking on this journey in New Zealand and contacted a clinic there.

In October 2016, we officially began our fertility journey with a clinic in Hawaii. We were not immediately blessed with pregnancy. Challenges such as sperm quality and quantity, as well as egg health, were major factors in succeeding. After four intrauterine inseminations (IUI)--three are required per the health plan before in vitro fertilization (IVF) is approved for single or same sex couples--and two embryo transfers, we were finally pregnant in December 2017.

Peter and I along with our collective families were overjoyed with the news. We kept the news to a few and as I began my second trimester, shared the news publicly. On March 29, I was admitted to hospital, 21 weeks pregnant. Benjamin Peter, our son, was impatient. Born on March 31, 2018, he lived for 26 minutes on my bosom in my hands.

Did your son's death deter me from moving forward with your journey?

No. If anything his death became a driver. At this point, I came into a space of needing to have my own family. Now, I know pregnancy is possible. You see I come from a line of strong and very determined women. I tried again in October 2018, but that resulted in no pregnancy. As of now, I’m waiting on Peter to get to Hawaii.  You see, I am out of sperm. But that’s another story.

What impact has this had?

I should mention that during this time, my mom was diagnosed with stomach cancer in July 2015 while I was studying in New Zealand. In 2016, my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. My mom died in June 2017, my sister in March 2018, and then, my son.

No one is ever prepared for death. To lose three generations in a 9-month span took a toll on me. The grief was compounded.

Through the fertility journey, I became familiar with my body, my emotions, my feelings. All these sensations were heightened for more than 2 years. I learned to manage my emotions, including my grief. At my lowest, I found myself crying daily. A year later, I am stronger, in a better space.

Once off hormones, I knew my true self again. It truly was a struggle. I felt bad for my immediate family and Peter. He got the worst of me.

The journey is not an easy one nor is it for everyone. The toll was emotional, mental, physical and spiritual. I struggled at all levels. Along the way, I met women who shared their stories. Some had positive pregnancy results but were unable to sustain a pregnancy past the first trimester.  Others had stillbirths.  Yet, others are still trying. In the end, we all agree: it’s worth every sacrifice to have a baby. I believe that for some women it completes them.

My greatest lesson was the words Peter shared with me after our son died, “Benjamin Peter is our love, life, and light.”

 

~ Donna-Marie Palakiko, wahine, mother, daughter, sister, lover 

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