Continuing our autumn theme sharing six very different positive outcomes following fertility struggles. Embrace fertility is very much about getting happy rather than getting pregnant so I will be sharing stories that include bumps and babies but that also include alternative happy beginnings, including adoption, childfree living and those still creating their families. I say beginnings rather than endings as unless you pop your clogs new things are always beginning and life is always changing. I am hoping many of you would like to contribute – we don’t need to stop at six!
Initially I was in denial. Surely this wasn’t happening to me. The years went by and various tests assured us nothing was wrong and that we just had to keep trying. It was a constant state of limbo and guilt. Wondering if this might be the month and beating myself up with reasons why it was my fault it hadn’t happened, I was too stressed, that large glass of wine….
I can’t describe the feeling of pain that I felt. It’s like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I remember burning my hand on the cooker on purpose to be able to give the pain a physical feeling. It’s not something that I advocate doing – it was stupid, but I didn’t know what to do with myself. If someone could have told me that in the end that it would turn out alright I could have waited patiently. But it was the not knowing and the feeling that my life was on pause which messed with my head.
Every time another person put up a scan picture on Facebook it felt like being knocked over by a bus.
As we approached our first NHS cycle of IVF I couldn’t believe that it really had come to this. I had to accept finally that I was infertile. I was scared and overwhelmed by not only the drugs and treatments but also how emotional the process is.
I assumed it would work. I told my husband that if it didn’t then I didn’t think we could stay together. It was cruel but it was how I felt at the time. If this didn’t work then there was surely no hope for us.
But instead of breaking up we clung onto each other.
Although we felt lost, devastated and in shock, looking back something fundamental changed in both of us and also our relationship because it hadn’t worked. We had to find the strength to fight for our family together. We remortgaged our house, changed clinic and went through another 3 rounds of IVF and a random ectopic pregnancy. We cried a lot and felt sad lots of the time. Most of our conversations surrounded IVF or the work that we had thrown ourselves into to use up all this spare time without a family. Failing had become something we expected to happen. I felt inadequate as a woman.
But our relationship had shifted and we were bound together in a way which I believe allowed us to get through the pain, survive it and fight it. We had to learn to be patient, to really listen to each other, love each other, allow each other to be upset and find ways to still laugh every day and create good experiences alongside the horrid ones. And for me, I had to be brave.
After our second failed attempt I knew that we needed to change our heads and find some way to get support. The NHS had offered us counselling but the first available appointment was not for 4 months. We needed something now. We went to a support group at the London Women’s Clinic led by the incredible Anya Sizer. This changed everything emotionally for us. We hadn’t really told anyone we were going through IVF and to suddenly have the freedom to speak face to face with a group of people who nodded and understood the same feelings was a step towards feeling less ashamed about it all. There were amazing, strong, brave, funny, beautiful human beings in the group, none of whom were inadequate. And the surprising thing was how much we laughed as well as cried in each session.
From stepping into the realms of therapy I later received counselling through the NHS which was fantastic and went to weekly acupuncture sessions, plus spent hours on various fertility websites (including this one!). I went to an amazing woman called Lucy in Dorset and had a slight out of body experience which opened up the world of hypnotherapy as something which really worked for my anxiety ridden brain. I followed this up with hypnotherapy sessions in London. I felt different and more able to cope whether or not the treatment was successful. It was incredible.
Vital to surviving was my husband who stood next to me throughout and managed to truly listen and try to understand what I was feeling without trying to fix everything. Also some key friends and family who had been, and still are, going through IVF too.
This is one of two parts. We had recently failed our third round of IVF and I was scheduled for a hysteroscopy to get rid of possible polyps. I was asked if I could be pregnant (which I grimly laughed at!) and was given a routine pregnancy test. Five minutes later the world went mad. It had come back positive. Everything was a blur. It couldn’t be possible. The nurse did another test in front of me. Two blue lines. A sight I had never seen before.
Something in me knew not to get too excited, even when the blood test result came back as a strong six week pregnancy.
Unfortunately a scan to check for the heartbeat showed no embryo and I was rushed to A&E with a suspected ectopic pregnancy. It was a scary experience but once I was through the other side, something had changed. I could get pregnant.
I approached our next round of IVF with a different head. It felt harder physically because I was on lots more drugs this time but I felt less anxious and allowed myself to believe that it might happen.
The day before the test I was suddenly convinced it hadn’t worked. I flew out of work and met my husband outside Southwark cathedral and wailed about how unfair it was and what would we do now. He says that he had a strong sense that it had worked and he just held me and let me cry.
The next day I went into work and sat next to a colleague. She turned to me and I could smell her breath really strongly. It wasn’t a horrible smell, but it clicked that around the time of my ectopic I had developed a super human sense of smell too. Could it really be possible?
We came home, both not daring to believe. Took the test and it was positive. Incredible.
The next 9 months wasn’t easy. The stakes just got higher and higher the closer we got to having the family we were desperate for. We held our breath through every stage. Getting to see the heartbeat. Making it to 12 weeks. Telling people. Getting to 20 weeks. Getting past 28 weeks. Even when I was lying on the hospital bed about to have a caesarean I still didn’t allow myself to actually believe it was really about to happen. But it did and we are so so so lucky to be the very proud parents of two non identical beautiful girls.
Suffice to say. I’m not bragging about them on Facebook! I will never forget the pain we went through to get here, or the pain that our friends are going through who are still on their journey to become parents.
That it does work. Not always and not for everyone unfortunately but if you are very very lucky it can.
You are also braver than you think you are.
Last Christmas was a really tough time. I was in recovery from the ectopic and we were heading into yet another year without a family. Sitting round the table with paper hats on pretending to be happy was not on the cards so instead we did volunteering for an old peoples charity (no children!) which was a brilliant distraction for a day.
I wish that someone could have told me that it would all be okay and to hang on in there. But infertility isn’t like that!
How does infertility affect your relationship? We would love to hear from you, leave a comment below or come and join the conversation within our fertility support community.
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