January 2016. Two girls become part of a small group of friends that connected on Twitter over the same TV show. Yes, we are that kind of nerd; the kind that spends too much time online talking about their favourite episodes.
Anyway, back to the story.
Kait and I formed a friendship that didn’t just connect back to the show we were watching but quickly extended into our day to day life. Before we knew it we were sharing just about every aspect of our lives with each other. We would literally spend every waking moment talking on the phone or via video chat or texting. And it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s spent more than fifteen minutes on the internet that, of course, one thing led to another and our friendship turned into something more.
Yes, we are also “those” people.
And that’s where things get interesting. Did I mention that Kait hadn’t even figured out until that point that she was into girls? Did I mention that we lived on opposite sides of the world? Because that part kind of matters.
I lived in the UK at the time but am originally from the Netherlands. Kait was in Australia. So, what on Earth do you do when you’ve fallen in love with someone on the other side of the world? Well, that’s a very good question because we had absolutely no idea. After a year of trying to figure things out, from opposites sides of the globe, I eventually jumped on a plane and flew to Melbourne. If we were going to make this thing work, we first had to meet in person to figure out for sure if a relationship was what we wanted.
I arrived in Melbourne for the first time in March 2017. Kait was waiting for me at the airport. Let me tell you, after having seen someone on a video screen almost every day for months on end, there isn’t much that can prepare you for seeing them in person for the first time. What followed were three weeks of spending time together, learning about each other and trying to figure out if this – us- was something that could even work. When it came time to fly back to London, the intense breaking of our hearts confirmed what we already knew; we loved each other more than anything and we had to find a way to make this work. We just didn’t know how.
I flew back to the UK at the end of March and in June, Kait came to stay with me for nine weeks. In those nine weeks we got a real taste of life together. Kait got to know my son from my first marriage, Maxwell, and we travelled around the UK, spent time with my family in the Netherlands and in between we did all the same mundane stuff any other couple does. Nine weeks went by in the blink of an eye and when it came time to say goodbye again, we both almost fell apart. There aren’t any words to describe the agony of having to separate at the airport without knowing when we’d see each other again. Going back to video calls and texting… It turned out it would be almost six months. Six months of separation, six months of misunderstandings because text message isn’t the same as an actual voice, six months of counting down the days, six months of “I miss you.”
Christmas 2017 I spent with Kait in Australia and on Christmas Eve she gave me a card that said, “Find the sparkle on the tree and a question you will see.” On the tree was a bauble, inside it a ring and a little metal tag with the words “Marry me?” I answered without hesitation. “Yes”.
Each goodbye was hard but the Christmas one was different. I was saying goodbye to my fiancée and from there on out we had to find a way of being together. We started the process of the Australian Prospective Marriage Visa (an option only available to us because Australia voted “Yes” to marriage equality) which eventually leads to an application for a Partner Visa. The process was intense, (I don’t think there is a single aspect of our lives that Immigration doesn’t know) and expensive. From Christmas 2017 it was another 6 months before we saw each other again. In that time period we lodged our visa and hoped for a fast processing time. We managed to spend most of June, July, and August 2018 together in both Australia and the UK. And then we had the opportunity for me to try and get a long-term tourist visa. Once granted, it would mean I could wait out the processing of our Marriage Visa in Australia and we’d finally be together. Bearing in mind that at that point it had been around three months since we lodged the visa and the average processing time was 12-18 months, it would most likely be a while. A long-term tourist visa meant I would not be able to work once I arrived, but we’d cope. Being together was all that mattered. We secured the tourist visa and suddenly realized… this was it. I was coming to Australia to live. The whole long distance thing and not seeing each other for months on end was over.
I landed in Melbourne on the 28th September 2018. We were over the moon. We were finally together. Not even four weeks later I received an email from Immigration informing me they were ready to grant my Marriage Visa. Total processing time was just short of 5 months instead of the 12-18 we had expected. Since it was lodged offshore, I had to be outside of Australia to receive the grant so we quickly arranged a holiday to New Zealand. Within hours of arriving in Christchurch, I received the email we had been so desperate for. Visa granted.
We got married on the 24th of March 2019. March 24 was the day I left Australia after coming here to meet Kait for the first time. Two years since our first “goodbye” we said, “I do”. Everything we had fought to overcome up until that point, was finally behind us. We had made it.
The next thing we wanted to achieve was having children. Kait had started her solo IVF journey in 2009. By the time we met she had done seven full egg collections, fourteen transfers in total and one round of donor eggs. Two miscarriages and a whole lot of negatives later, she still didn’t have the dream she’d been chasing for over a decade. Having to accept that she was most likely never going to get pregnant or give birth was hard. Infertility is something that can – and often does- break a person’s heart and soul. The only thing Kait ever wanted was to have children. When we met, way before we were even in any sort of relationship and we were still just friends, I flippantly offered “I’d donate my eggs to you.” Little did we know what the future had in store for us.
So here we were, almost ten years since Kait started IVF. We saw the doctor who had supported her through all her cycles. I did a full fertility screen and tests came back favourable. I’d gotten pregnant easily with Maxwell so it wasn’t quite unexpected. We signed up with the clinic for IUI and the long wait to reach the top of the list for donor sperm began. It was during this wait that a friend suggested we use a known donor and after originally dismissing the idea, we began seriously considering it. Pretty quickly we found a donor we were both comfortable with and in December of 2019, we had our first attempt at a no-frills home insemination.
Two weeks later we found I was pregnant.
Ten years almost to the day of Kait’s first transfer we found out we were going to have a baby.
Ten years of IVF and the casual comment, “I’d donate my eggs to you” and I was now carrying our baby.
Arlen David was born in August, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and Victoria’s second lockdown.
He spent the first couple of days of his life in special care nursery on a CPAP machine. For the first 36 hours of his life, we could only touch him through a hole in the humidicrib. And then, late in the afternoon the day after he was born, one of the nurses said she was able to get him out of the humicrib with all of his wires but only one of us would be able to hold him. I didn’t even hesitate. With the same determination that I felt she asked me to marry her, I insisted Kait was the first one to hold our son.
Ten years of waiting. Ten years of hope and dreams and seeing them shattered with every negative or miscarriage. It all led to this moment.
I won’t ever forget the smile on her face. The road to motherhood wasn’t easy for her and the road for us to motherhood together was one that knew so many obstacles and heartbreaking choices. From more than 10,000 miles apart on opposite sides of the world to walking out of the hospital and taking our baby home.
We really had made it.
Kait and Christel xx
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