ZM radio host Jay Reeve and his wife Anna, a model and global alopecia ambassador, longed for a baby, even before their fairytale December wedding.
It has taken gruelling IVF treatment, two embryo transfers, thousands of dollars, and almost two years of disappointment and heartbreak, but Jay and Anna are delighted to announce they are pregnant – and it’s not just one baby, it’s identical twins!
“We’re beyond excited,” says Jay (30), with a wide grin.
“Finally. After everything we’ve been through, to know we’ve got two little ones on the way is just incredible.”
Sharing their fertility struggles for the first time, Jay, a former secondary school teacher, and Anna (27) say that while they know they are blessed, the journey to conceive has left them physically and emotionally exhausted.
Anna, who has alopecia universalis, an autoimmune condition that has left her bald since the age of seven, and Jay both have fertility issues. Anna most likely has endometriosis, and Jay has extremely poor sperm motility, or inactive sperm. The combined conditions (although Anna’s alopecia has no effect on fertility, say doctors) meant Anna and Jay had almost zero chance of conceiving naturally, a devastating blow for the couple.
“Jay was born to be a dad,” says Anna. “Children love him and he’s wanted kids for years. To find out we needed so much help to conceive was horrible.
“I couldn’t understand why; we were so young. I just cried for so long, and I couldn’t stop. It didn’t seem fair.”
Now, 13 weeks along, Anna still can’t quite believe she’s pregnant, despite her growing bump.
Ever since they met in 2010, long after Jay first admired her in a magazine, Anna had a gut feeling that she and Jay would not fall pregnant easily.
Jay’s tests showed he only had nine percent motility.
“I had lots of sperm, which made me feel quite good, until they told me that only two percent actually moved forward.
“And it wasn’t even forwards, more like sideways,” Jay says. The rest just sat there wriggling their tails. So, basically I had parliament in my scrotum. A lot of people doing nothing!”
The couple were told they would have to move from Clomiphene, the fertility drug they were taking, to a form of IVF called ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection), in which the sperm is implanted directly into the egg.
“With normal IVF, the egg’s taken out, the sperm’s taken out, and they’re left in a dish to get together,’ Anna explains.
“Jay’s sperm wouldn’t even do that, so we had to have ICSI.”
“They are incredibly lazy little guys,” he explains with a mix of humour and directness.
“It’s the weirdest thing for a man. You spend your whole life worrying about getting a girl pregnant, so there is just this assumption that when you want children, you’ll have them. But no."
“Flynny (Paul Flynn, Jay’s ZM co-host) is a sniper. I bet he’s had sex three times in his life and he has three kids. He can just brush past his wife and get her pregnant. I assumed it would be that easy for me.”
While Anna, who is now working at an Auckland public relations firm, in-between visiting schools to talk about her battle with alopecia, began the daily injections before having 21 eggs harvested – an immensely painful procedure – Jay could only look on, wracked with guilt.
“It was so emasculating,” he says frankly. “It’s the one job we’ve got – to have good swimmers – and I couldn’t even do that."
“Anna put her body through absolute hell because I couldn’t do what I was supposed to do,” he says, as Anna grips his hand reassuringly.
Although initial signs were positive, almost two weeks after their first embryo was implanted, and a day before a blood test would have confirmed it, Anna had a bleed.
“I really thought that I was pregnant,” Anna says quietly, as Jay comforts her.
“I just lost it. I couldn’t speak, I just cried.”
“I’d never seen her like that,” says Jay, who has Anna’s name tattooed on his ring finger. “She was grieving for a baby. “
With the first failed attempt happening just before their wedding in December last year, the pair took a break and instead settled into life as newlyweds.
“We were trying for a baby before we got married because we knew we wanted kids young,” Anna says. “But I needed time to get my head around the process of another implant and the possibility of another failure.”
Instead, they bought a house and renovated, and Anna started a new job. But, as more of their friends became pregnant, the hole in their lives seemed to widen.
“We thought we would wait longer to try again, but as Jay pointed out, we’d had bad luck, and it could take six more embryos until it worked,” Anna says.
“Basically I said, let’s work as a team, but do it my way,” Jay jokes.
Mentally tougher, Anna began a second round of IVF, implanting one embryo. Though she didn’t want to hope against hope, with three days before her blood test, Anna bought a pregnancy test.
“There was a faint line,” she says. “But I wasn’t sure.”
The pair flew out to Queenstown the next day, so Anna took a second pregnancy test in the airport bathroom. This time, the line was darker.
“Even before we were trying for a baby, because I’m such a cheese ball, I bought a baby onesie and had ‘Baby Reevesy’ printed on it,” Anna says with an embarrassed smile.
“I wanted it ready for the moment I found out, so I could give it to Jay. I wrapped it up and carried it everywhere we went – the Maldives, Australia, Bali – just in case.”
It was in a Queenstown hotel room that Anna finally gave Jay her present, still wrapped in year-old Christmas paper.
“I thought, I could be totally ruining this by pre-empting a blood test, but I couldn’t help it. I was so relieved,” she says.
“I was just pumped. Beyond happy,” Jay adds.
“I had been gunning for it for so long. And I was happy for Anna, because she finally had a tiny amount of payoff after putting herself through so much for us to have a family. I’m so proud of her.”
But they didn’t anticipate what awaited them at the six-week scan.
“The doctor moved the wand around and said, ‘Oh,’” Anna recalls. “I was like, that didn’t sound like a bad ‘Oh’, that was more like a surprised ‘Oh!’ Then she said we need to talk about there being two of them. Jay just went nuts!”
“I’ve wanted twins my entire life,” he says. “When they only put one embryo in, I was kind of gutted. So for this to happen is a complete freak of nature.”
“He wasn’t very manly, actually,” Anna teases. “He squealed and clapped like a little girl. I was just surprised. I was asking, are they both okay? Are they separate?”
“I ask that every time we go in,” Jay adds. “I know they can’t attach again, but I don’t trust the little buggers.”
Expecting identical twins means that Anna’s pregnancy is high risk, and after enduring morning sickness that had her vomiting up to 20 times a day, she’s only just starting to plan for her and Jay’s new arrivals.
“Now I’m thinking, my God, how on earth am I going to take care of twins?” she says.
“It was pouring with rain the other day, and I was trying to work out how I am going to get two babies out of the car in the rain? How do you get your handbag? How do you hold an umbrella to keep them dry?”
“Anna worries a lot,” Jay points out. “I’m more like, yeah, it’ll be sweet as. We balance each other out. We’ll be fine!”
Although the crippling morning sickness has started to pass, Anna is still extremely tired. Whether or not it’s because of her condition, she’s not sure.
“Doctor’s don’t actually know too much about alopecia, but plenty of people with it have healthy babies,” she says.
“Our children will have the same chance of getting it as Anna did, though,” Jay says. “But we’ll deal with that when, and if, it happens.”
Although going through fertility treatment wasn’t fun, Anna and Jay know how blessed they are with their astounding results. Anna’s instinct is telling her she’s having girls, so she and Jay are starting to buy clothes and toys for their March arrivals, and excitement among those closest to them is growing by the day.
“Both of our families have been amazing,” says Jay.
“But when these babies come, that’ll be the start of our own family. We can’t wait.”
Photos: Todd Eyre • Stylist: Sonia Greenslade • Hair and Make-up: Luisa Petch • Anna wears blue jumpsuit by Miss crab, necklaces by Diva. Jay wears t-shirt and cardi @ edit. pants @ smith&caughey’s. Anna wears white singlet @country road, shorts @ Smith & caughey’s. Jay wears t-shirt @ witchery, jacket @ country Road, pants by commune. Anna wears witchery orange dress, orange/natural bracelet @ rjc. jay wears shirt & shorts @ smith & caughey’s.