It never occurred to me having a baby would be the result of science and emotional melt-downs. Like everyone, I never thought I’d struggle to conceive. But after 3.5 years of trying for a baby (and ‘trying’ is the perfect description of infertility) having a baby naturally is not possible for me. After years of appointments, each following the same simple structure of taking my blood, tinkering with my muff, a shrug of the shoulders and another appointment scheduled so far in the future that it disappeared into a diary black hole, I was finally transferred for IVF on the NHS (thank you NHS!).
Despite being told by medical professionals that I wasn’t ‘fat or hairy enough’ to have PCOS (unbelievably true), it was confirmed at my first IVF scan with the nurse stating that I had ‘a textbook case of polycystic ovaries’. Before IVF, I had tried everything I could think of to get up the duff: traditional Chinese herbs (yuck), fertility yoga, fertility massages, stopped long distance running, stopped eating gluten, dairy, sugar, soy and processed foods, stopped drinking alcohol (yawn, what a bore) and generally became a health nut. My crazy cycles regulated to 28 days and my digestive issues disappeared, but what didn’t appear was that illusive second line. No matter how much progress I made, having a baby naturally was always just out of my reach. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Even though I’m so incredibly lucky to be pregnant now (via IVF), infertility has become such a part of who I am that I’ll never get over it. I’m making progress with my mindset, but given that I still hate people who fall pregnant on their honeymoon, I have some way to go. For me, the most difficult part of infertility is not knowing if it will ever work out. Do I keep hoping, or does hope prolong the pain? What I would say to anyone else suffering is that everyone gets their baby in the end, one way or another. The route may be different to what you envisioned and with timescales that mess up your life plan, but a family is a family, no matter how we come by it. Be brave and in the words of my Grandma ‘Chin up, duck’.
What have I learned? To never give up hope of getting pregnant, as painful as hope can be at times when it feels misguided. I knew that IVF could work, I’d seen the statistics, but I never thought that it would work for me. In the 3.5 years of tests, drugs and alternative therapies nothing else had the desired result. I assumed IVF would be no different, but I was wrong. I was one of the incredibly lucky ones for which IVF worked first try and I was able to welcome my son, Tom, in to the world in August 2018.
Pregnancy after infertility is a funny thing. I wanted to enjoy every moment of this miraculous state that I’d desperately desired for many years, to not let infertility impact on my experience of being pregnant. But I found that impossible. I was riddled with anxiety. I had lost trust in my body’s abilities. If my body couldn’t GET me pregnant, could it definitely KEEP me pregnant? It took until around 6 months before my husband an I talked about ‘when’ the baby comes and not ‘if’. That is what infertility does to people, it messes with their faith in life.
I could no longer identify as being ‘infertile’, as pregnancy is the exact opposite state of being. I understood that my successful IVF and subsequent pregnancy could unintentionally but unavoidably cause pain to others who were still struggling, something I was desperate to avoid. It felt like I was one of the lucky ones who had made it to shore when others were still lost at sea. And I experienced ‘success guilt’.
But I also did not want to engage in ‘bump chat’ with my pregnant friends. Although we were in the same place it was as if the paths we had taken to get there meant that we had nothing in common. I could not relate to their pregnancies and didn’t want them to relate to mine.
So for those who fall pregnant after a long struggle, if you find yourself in a bubble of anxiety, spending months stuck using the conditional tense and avoiding your pregnant friends, know that you are not alone.