I love this man, but I can only have a baby with my ex
Bianca Dye's agonising quest to become a mum has delivered an ultimatum no woman in love wants to face.
The Brisbane breakfast radio presenter's last chance at biological motherhood is to have a baby with her ex-partner, whom she hasn't spoken to in years after an acrimonious split.
Understandably, her current partner - Jay Sandtner, a father of four she met online in late 2017 and "fell head over heels for" - isn't thrilled at the prospect, but as their own attempts to conceive have failed, he is "trying to be open to it".
Dye, a month shy of her 46th birthday, has had three miscarriages and six rounds of costly and traumatic IVF treatments in the past eight years.
Like up to 10 per cent of Australian women, she suffers endometriosis, a painful condition in which tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside it, making pregnancy difficult.
She also battles anxiety but has, until now, remained bravely optimistic that she and Sandtner would one day have a baby of their own.
In late June, Dye learnt that the last of her 13 eggs - which she'd had frozen at age 40 in 2013 after realising her then relationship was on the rocks - had not survived.
"I was shattered, I used to think, 'wow, I've got 13 eggs!', but that's how shit the odds are," she says in the characteristic, unfiltered frankness that has endeared her to 97.3FM listeners.
Dye's eggs were defrosted in two batches. Of the first, in January this year, only one was viable yet it "took immediately". Tragically, Dye miscarried almost 10 weeks later.
Of the second batch, defrosted a little more than three weeks ago when she and Sandtner
were ready to try again, two looked promising.
"I was so excited, but as I was getting into the car to go to The Wesley (private hospital, in Toowong) for the transfer, the fertility clinic rang and said neither egg lasted through the defrosting. I was gutted, they were all the eggs I had. I was done."
Desperately sad but even more desperate to become a mother, Dye dared to consider another, final but fraught, option.
At the time that she'd frozen her eggs, she and her then-partner, whom she declines to publicly name, had frozen two embryos, with her eggs and his sperm.
They remain stored at Monash IVF in Sydney.
"To be a biological mum, my only chance is those embryos," Dye says.
"I want to get them tested, to see if they're viable, so I need to get in touch with my ex.
"We were together for five years and both worked at a radio station in Wollongong (86km south of Sydney).
"But in 2014 I knew it just wasn't working out, we were not meant to be together, it was time
"I know he'll probably see this story, but hopefully he'll be happy for that - he knows I've lived my (adult) life in the media.
"Besides, by speaking out, if I can educate women that they don't have forever then, bloody hell, that's great. If they say, 'shit, I don't want to be like Bianca Dye', then that's a legacy I'm OK with."
This is not the first time Dye has gone public with her plight to become a mother, however, she has never before revealed the depths of depression and self-loathing that followed her miscarriage earlier this year.
Dye's weight ballooned, by almost 20kg and four dress sizes, as she tried to eat and drink away her misery.
"When the doctor said, 'I'm so sorry, there's no heartbeat', it was like someone ripped my own heart out,'' she says.
"I was like, 'I knew it! I don't deserve this', and you start hating yourself - I was devastated, and had to have a couple of weeks off work.
"I know there are women worse off - Brisbane reached out and listeners contacted me to say they'd had five miscarriages or had stillborn children - but I couldn't cope and started eating and drinking to numb the pain."
Dye admits to downing up to two bottles of wine a night, and dialling out for pizza, after dinner. "I'm happy to expose this," she says, "because there is such an epidemic of women in Brisbane who are silent alcoholics in the suburbs. It's so easy - you have a stressful day and go home and forget about life - but be careful to pick your poison."
On Monday, Dye began a three-month detox, setting a deadline of October 19, when she is due to present at the Australian Commercial Radio Awards, held in Brisbane.
"If I don't have a date to work towards I will definitely go off track. I want to feel good about myself again and get fit," she says.
"I'll walk up a flight of stairs now at 90kg - my ideal weight is 70kg - and Jay will say, 'You sound like you've got asthma'."
Dye, a statuesque 177cm, is annoyed at how much her self-esteem is dependent upon
"God, I feel like a hypocrite," she says, referring to her 2009 nude photo shoot in a women's magazine to promote positive body image.
"I am not comfortable in my skin right now - I'm a bloody fat frump head - but I am really trying to stop equating my worth with my size."
The daughter of a rock singer and former model, Dye is no introvert.
Ambitious and disarmingly self-deprecating, her life - like her on-air persona - is an open book, and anything but bland.
Born in Melbourne, on August 24, 1973, she is the only child of Issi (Israel) and Annie Dye (nee Thiemeyer), who later became an English and drama teacher.
Issi is one of Australia's original cabaret stars and, at 72, still does tribute shows to the likes of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.
Dye's parents split when she was two, and her father was awarded primary custody, which was "unheard of in the '70s".
"Dad was a good rocker but an awful cook and I ate burnt sausages all the time," she laughs.
"He was mates with (fellow entertainers) Normie Rowe, Johnny Young and Don Lane, and we used to go to Don's house for parties, but none of my friends at school would believe me."
Dye, who often spent weekends at her mother's house, attended Mount Scopus Memorial College, an elite Jewish school in Melbourne. (Alumni include fashion designer Peter Alexander, business tycoon Solomon Lew and Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.)
Dye's ancestors are Polish Jews - her surname is short for Dyzenhaus and was changed by deed poll in 1969 by her father who wanted "a showbiz name".
During World War II her paternal grandmother Edith Wrobel was interned at Auschwitz concentration camp, where her mother and sister were murdered by the Nazis. Benjamin Dyzenhaus, a doctor, was also imprisoned there, and the couple miraculously escaped, later marrying and immigrating to Melbourne.
"Theirs is an amazing story," says Dye, "I guess I come from a long line of survivors."
Dye spent her childhood "living out of a duffel bag", being shuffled between homes, including
her grandparents', when her father was travelling for work.
At age 12, she relocated to acreage at Nerang, on the Gold Coast, with her newly married father and stepmother Janis. She attended Nerang
High School in Years 8 and 9 but, at 15, ran away from home.
"Dad had just had my baby sister Alexandra (now 31 and an Apple store manager in London; brother Ben, 27, works in visual merchandising for Adidas in Melbourne) and I wasn't getting any attention and, being a typical teenager, started shouting that I hated them and was going to leave.
"They thought I was bluffing, but then Dad got a call from Mum in Melbourne to say I'd caught the bus down and was on her doorstep."
Dye relished her final years of school, at Brighton Secondary College, graduating as dux
"Everyone thought I'd be this troubled kid, but I studied my butt off - my radio colleagues (Bob Gallagher and Mike Van Acker) still don't believe it."
After travelling throughout Europe, America and Israel, 20-year-old Dye enrolled in a journalism degree at RMIT but deferred - to join the circus.
"Dad was mates with (promoter) Michael Edgley, who needed a ring master for his Great Moscow Circus, and I said, 'why can't a woman do it?', so I went for an audition at Carrara (on the Gold Coast) and got the job, which lasted eight months."
Shortly after, a friend asked Dye, who has inherited her father's talent for singing, to fill in as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator at Grundy's Entertainment Centre. She sang Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, and the gig led to others.
But it was while at Robina Town Centre as a spruiker at age 22, standing outside shops with a microphone and trying to draw customers, that the idea of radio dawned.
"I was being a larrikin, and because I've got the gift of the gab, I was entertaining myself and cracking myself up. Someone walked past and said, 'have you thought about being in radio?'."
Through her father, Dye was introduced to Rod Brice, then at 4GGG (later 92.5 Gold FM)
and now a group program director at Southern Cross Broadcasting.
However, she is quick to dismiss any notion of nepotism. "Radio isn't an industry you can stay in if you don't have what it takes. You come unstuck really fast. I started at the bottom, doing voice-overs and being a bikini girl doing (station) promotions."
Dye's demo tapes were repeatedly rejected but, at 24, she was offered a job in Hervey Bay, a then sleepy town on Queensland's Fraser Coast.
The move north proved a turning point.
After a short stint on 4MB presenting Love Songs After Dark, she was brought back to the Gold Coast for The Night Mix Across Australia with Bianca Dye, and its success led to a job in Sydney, with a fledgling station called Nova.
She presented mornings on Nova 96.9FM for nearly eight years before moving into the drive slot with Tim Blackwell, which didn't rate as well as expected. "We were both taken off, and I was put back on mornings, but I was desperate to do breakfast, anywhere in the country, but they said they didn't have anything, so I quit.
"People thought I was crazy to leave a top-rating capital city station."
Dye spent "a year in radio wasteland", doing occasional freelance work. "I just had to keep believing in myself, and I prayed that my wings would show up, to help me fly again."
They did - Dye now has a pair of wings tattooed on her left wrist with the words "breathe, believe" - and in 2009 she landed that coveted breakfast gig, in Wollongong.
Here, she would meet the man who holds her last hope of biological motherhood.
"I didn't really care about having kids for so long, I was all about my career," says Dye, who was back at Gold FM in late 2016 when the tap on the shoulder came to move to Brisbane after the shock departure of Robin Bailey (now in the competitive breakfast slot at Triple M).
At the end of a "very sensitive" 2017 - in which she also dated "some serious knobs" - Dye met Sandtner on dating app Bumble.
Her IVF journey had already been well publicised, and she was worried he'd be scared off, "so Jay agreed not to Google me until he'd gotten to know me, even though I told him upfront that I wanted a baby".
Dye's passion for parenthood kicked in years earlier, at age 37, when she miscarried after
falling pregnant naturally, to her then-partner in Wollongong.
"I was shocked at how devastated I was, and I knew then that it really mattered to me, so my doctor put me on the IVF train, which is bloody hard and costs a fortune.''
At Monash IVF in Queensland, out-of-pocket costs for an initial cycle are about $5500, with subsequent cycles $5000 (based on private health insurance and Medicare). Egg freezing is about $10,300, excluding medication and hospital fees.
"I don't want to turn people off IVF, but I had mood swings, and there were nights sitting on the couch where I felt like ants were crawling inside my body - I was a mental case for weeks - because of the meds and hormones I needed to inject myself with.
"I look at these women in their 30s who are pumping out babies with ease and I think, 'oh, why not me?' "
Sandtner, a 44-year-old car broker, has three adult sons, Zac, Josh and Jake, from his only marriage, and a five-year-old daughter Madison with a former long-term partner with whom he shares custody.
For Dye, welcoming Madi into her life - and the Auchenflower home she shares with Sandtner - only amplified her longing for a child of her own.
"There are so many days I wish Madi was mine, in that sense," she says.
"We all have so much fun together, and I love our little family. Jay gets me, and when I get anxious and overwhelmed he grabs me, pulls me really tight and makes me do this breathing exercise. He's the one."
Dye doesn't deny the impact and complexities of potentially giving birth to another man's child.
"Jay was totally against it at first. Although I'm bringing up Madi with him, it's different because it's only 50 per cent of the time, but if he and I had a baby with my ex's embryo, it would be full time - my baby with Jay.
"And would my ex want to meet the baby? I imagine he probably would, but then what about custody issues?"
Dye does not want to consider surrogacy (which is illegal in Queensland) and shudders at cases such as that of Modern Family actress Sofia Vergara, who in 2017 in California won a prolonged legal stoush with her ex-lover over embryos they'd frozen together and which he wanted to implant in a surrogate.
She is also extremely nervous about contacting her ex, in case he says no.
"He would have to sign off on the deal, as we have shared custody of those embryos. It's such a big thing to bring up, but I have to talk to him sooner rather than later because my womb isn't getting any younger.
"If his answer is no or tests show the embryos aren't any good, then I'll have to buy donor
Last year, Tania Zaetta, host of former TV game show Who Dares Wins, gave birth to twins
at age 48 after sourcing an anonymous egg donor in Greece.
"I would rather my child have my DNA, as we all would, that's human nature," Dye says.
"Part of me just wants to forget about the whole thing, and wake up childless at 50 and go, 'oh, well', but I can't. I want this too much.
"I don't want to be that person who walks away without giving it everything I've got."