Jacqui Cooper: The ups and downs of IVF

Olympic skier Jacqui Cooper’s children were conceived via IVF. She shares what fertility treatment was like – and her big tip for other couples going through it.

Olympic aerial skier Jacqui Cooper’s three children were conceived through IVF. She shares what it was like to go through fertility treatment, and her advice for other couples.

Like a lot of women, I chose to put off having a baby for a career.

I chose my career, which was a sporting career at the time, over settling down and having a family – stupidly thinking: “I’m fit, I’m an Olympian, I don’t drink or smoke and I eat healthy food and I’m active”. So I just didn’t think about it.

Yet when my husband, Mario, and I decided to start trying for a family when I was 37 after I’d finished competing, I found out I actually had six fertility issues. Most people have one and they need IVF and I presented with six so I definitely needed help.

The journey begins

The issues ranged from advanced maternal age to polycystic ovarian syndrome, and one of my fallopian tubes was ruptured.

I wasn’t defeated though. I had thought after doing all the tests they would tell me I couldn’t have children, so even though they said I only had a 4 per cent chance, I thought, “this can happen”.

It was a bit like saying to a 16-year-old girl from bayside Melbourne that you’ve got a 4 per cent chance of being a skiing world champion one day. I thought, “I’ll take that”.

I was also lucky I had a fertility clinic, City Fertility in Melbourne, which rallied around me. They matched my drive and goal and commitment to having a baby and they did everything they could and I did everything I could.

I’d describe IVF as consuming. It consumes your time, mind and your heart.

All you do is think about it and you see babies on the street and hear about people getting pregnant.

Then there are the injections, internal ultrasounds, blood tests and check-ups, so you have to stay put and not travel.

Because it’s consuming it can make it unhealthy mindfully because you’re not spending your time or your days with things that you can control.

My whole IVF process took us three to four years.

After about my fourth cycle I decided I couldn’t just sit around any more. I needed to be active, and feel fresh and engaged.

I needed to be busy, and I stopped putting things on hold and made IVF live with me rather than me live with it.

Baby joy at last

I had my daughter, Madeline, in September 2012 and my twins, Grace and Thomas, in January 2015.

My No.1 tip for women going through IVF would be make sure you find an expert and shop around to find an IVF centre that works for you and your partner.

It’s a little bit like a mortgage. People think you have to stay with the bank because that’s who your mortgage is with, but feel free to move to a different centre.

I think there’s been a lot more discussion about fertility in recent years but IVF can be difficult because people don’t like to talk about it.

I think we need to celebrate science and how far we’ve come.

Frozen Hope by Jacqui Cooper

Jacqui Cooper has just released a new book, Frozen Hope, My IVF Journey about her story. Published by Nero.