Pregnancy & Birth

Pregnant fiancées: ‘We’re having each other’s baby!’

The pair are thrilled to be experiencing this double blessing together

By Kasia Jillings
Melanie and Leah have sons on the way.
Pregnant with each other's babies, due just six days apart and both expecting sons, engaged couple Leah Kerr and Melanie Arthur's life has the makings of a riveting TV series – one in particular, in fact.
But for the expectant mothers, it's real life and a dream come true at that.
"Before this, I've only had the experience of being pregnant myself, but being pregnant and being able touch Melanie's bump – knowing that's our baby – is amazing," enthuses Leah, 37, who just like her fiancée, is in her third trimester and due in November. "We feel really connected to both babies."
Talking to the Weekly on a rare day off from their busy secretary jobs at Nelson Hospital, Leah and Melanie excitedly share their unique story, telling they're the happiest they've ever been.
The Tasman couple first met nine years ago while their now teenage daughters attended the same theatre class. As their daughters became best friends, so too did Melanie and Leah, never imagining how different life would one day look.
By 2021, they had both left their heterosexual marriages and realised they were head over heels for each other.
"It was a bit messy – I didn't expect to fall in love with my best friend," admits Melanie, 40. "That was about two years ago, and it's been a whirlwind since."
Leah, who left her marriage some months before Melanie, shares, "I had feelings for her but never acted on them because she was married at the time and, I believed, not into women. But it got to a point when I realised I had fallen in love with her."
Adds Melanie, "We just didn't know how true love would feel until we found it."
Both women have a daughter and son each from their previous marriages, but Leah still felt her family wasn't complete.
"I absolutely loved being a stay-at-home mum and always wanted more children," she says. "I just didn't know what that was going to look like."
She broached the topic with Melanie, who was excited at the possibility of having a baby together, but the pair agonised over the logistics of how to make it work and when the timing would be right.
"It was quite a hard decision for me, but I really wanted the experience with Leah because I knew it would be totally different being with someone you're completely in love with, so I was all in," says Melanie.
Leah adds, "It did take a lot to get here. There were a lot of tears from both sides. We had counselling to help us come to the decision of what to do. I didn't want to push Melanie to have children and whatever we decided, we wanted to make sure no one felt pressured into it."
Melanie (left) and Leah after their egg implantations.
After much discussion, they decided to follow their feelings and go for it, opting to use a sperm donor and IVF clinic Fertility Associates Christchurch.
Then Leah saw a rare opportunity for them to truly share the experience and proposed they both try to conceive using each other's eggs.
"The decision of actually having two babies wasn't that hard," tells Leah. "I brought up the idea of swapping our eggs over and carrying each other's babies so physically we're involved in both babies. It also means we're both allowed to be on the birth certificate, which is quite a rarity."
Continues Melanie, "It has been quite a lengthy process. You think once you make the decision it will be bang, bang, bang, but we had to find a sperm donor, do all the testing, have counselling together and with the donor, then the sperm is in quarantine for three months. We weren't necessarily aware of all that."
After learning the clinic had an approximate four-year wait for a sperm donor, the pair decided to find their own online and, following a few misses with disingenuous people, they clicked with a donor who had already been screened by their clinic.
Despite Leah, Melanie and the donor all carrying genetic markers for four separate conditions, they were thrilled testing showed no matches, giving them the green light to finally start IVF at the end of 2022.
"Not one condition matched, so we feel very lucky and the donor we have chosen seems really lovely and genuine," says Leah.
Next came daily hormone injections for IVF and the egg retrieval procedure – a particularly scary experience for Melanie, who readily admits to having a lower pain threshold than her beloved.
"I remember being on the table," she recalls. "They had to inject a huge needle to get the eggs. I found it excruciating and one of my ovaries was hiding, so it was a bit harder. Once it was over, I got up crying and worried that I didn't get enough eggs for Leah."
Melanie ended up with six fertilised eggs and Leah nine.
Then on February 28 this year, Leah was inseminated with one fertilised egg and Melanie on March 7.
Before they even had a chance to have the official routine pregnancy blood test at 10 days post-insemination, both were certain they were pregnant.
"I started vomiting before the 10-day wait was up," says Leah, who like her two previous pregnancies has hyperemesis gravidarum, a pregnancy condition that causes severe nausea and morning sickness that lasts much longer than normal and sometimes continues for the whole pregnancy.
"About eight days after the egg was put in, Melanie also started to feel nauseous, which is the first time she's had morning sickness," says Leah. "It was very early but we did at-home pregnancy tests and boom, yes, we were pregnant.
"We were ecstatic. We feel very lucky to be having two babies, but the nerves started kicking in too. It's real and we're both pregnant within six days of each other."
Both are expecting boys – a bit of a surprise as they initially had a feeling two daughters were on the way – and have already picked out names for their sons.
The news was initially met with mixed reactions from friends and family, and confusion from some over their decision to swap eggs, but now the majority of their loved ones are supportive and excited about the impending arrivals.
Although, Melanie and Leah laugh as they explain, friends couldn't help but compare them to the Three series Double Parked.
Intrigued, the duo sat down to watch the show, which sees main characters, lesbian couple Steph and Nat (played by Antonia Prebble and Madeleine Sami), unexpectedly pregnant at the same time.
"When it comes to how we cope, we do seem to take it in turns when one of us is struggling," says Leah. "There's
lots of hugs and no judgement."
Like their TV counterparts, the duo agrees sharing the process gives them a rare insight into the other's experience, but they're desperately hoping their births won't also mimic the show's plot and see them in labour at the same time.
Melanie jokes, "I'll probably have a Caesarean, so what if they're stitching me up and her waters break and they need the bed?!"
For Leah, it's an emotional prospect. Turning to Melanie, she admits, "I had a big cry during that episode because I really want to be at the birth of your baby and you at mine."
At this stage, Melanie will most likely have a scheduled C-section that was medically recommended after her previous children were born this way. Leah has had two natural births, including a home birth with her son. This time, she is taking blood thinner medication to treat deep vein thrombosis and has two herniated discs in her back, so is planning for a hospital birth unless her history of quick labours forces an unexpected home birth.
Asked what they talk about when imagining the future, both Leah and Melanie reflect on their parenting journeys to date, how different their four children are and what their sons' personalities will be.
  • undefined: Kasia Jillings

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