I have recently written an article for http://www.littlebud.com – a website dedicated to breaking the silence around infertility and to help those who are on their own journey to parenthood. Below is my story as featured on their site:
Our inability to conceive naturally to this day remains unexplained. We are lucky that our one and only fertility treatment was a success and blessed us with our son Charlie who is now 19 months old.
Our story is fairly straightforward in comparison to many others. We haven’t experienced failed fertility treatments or loss. This is our story. Everybody has different experiences, and whether it is one year, two years, ten years, several failed fertility treatments or one succesful one; each story tells of it’s own heartache, it’s own ups and downs. But one thing unites us all and that is the desperate desire to become parents, and the difficulty understanding why it should be that it cannot happen naturally.
When my husband and I first started trying for a baby we thought that it would be easy. I was 25, healthy and active, I don’t smoke, rarely drink, I exercise and I eat well. My husband was 41, he too is a non-smoker, occasional drinker and fairly active. When he was in his early 30’s my husband suffered from testicular cancer. This resulted in him requiring radiotherapy treatment and the removal of one testicle. He has since been given the all clear from cancer.
After roughly 12 months of trying to conceive, doubt began to creep in.
After 18 months we underwent tests which showed that my husbands sperm count was extremely low and had lower than average motility. Although never confirmed, we always felt that this was the reason we were never able to conceive naturally.
For another 6 months we kept plodding along, but every month that passed the more impossible it seemed that we would conceive naturally, and it began to take its toll on our relationship. In moments of privacy with my husband, the pressure would become so intense that we ended up not being able to do the thing you need to do in order to get pregnant. Intimate moments would end with me laid with my back to my husband, sobbing my heart out. Our bed became a symbol of our inability to conceive and I resented it. Eventually I went to a hypnotherapist in the hope that she would help me to relax, and aside from the hypnosis it was therapeutic to have someone to talk to who was so removed from the situation.
After 2 years of trying to conceive we were referred for IVF treatment. Our GP was going to refer us to the local hospital but after doing our research we knew the clinic where we wanted to receive treatment. Although it was in a different health authority our request was granted. It is worth researching different clinics and their performance ratings because you are entitled to choose where you receive treatment (something that I only found out from talking to my hypnotherapist).
Our long protocol treatment on Menopur began in June 2014 and it was decided that we would received ICSI treatment. Once I was on the stimulant drugs we were in and out of the clinic for regular follicle growth scans. It wasn’t quite the romantic process of creating a child that we had in mind; there were a lot more people involved and it became such a standard procedure that when the cleaners walk by I almost dropped my knickers for them to have a good old gander as well. It was the same process each time: nip out of work for an hour, go to the clinic, be called in to the scan room, pull the privacy curtain across, step out of my knickers, place them on the chair and try to hide them beneath my neatly folded jeans. Then position myself on the bed waiting for the nurse to come back in so that I could be reacquainted with the lubricated probe while they poked and prodded my ovaries.
The process was mentally and physically draining, and no matter what pressure I felt under to continue work as “normal”, I was firm in telling them what I would and wouldn’t do. Keeping stress to a minimum was key for me, and I had to be un-characteristically firm.
The night before egg collection we booked in to a hotel across from the clinic. My husband was given the option to produce his sperm sample at the clinic, or he could produce a sample elsewhere as long as it was just an hour before egg collection. We decided that the pressure for him to do this at the clinic would be too much, so we decided that a hotel stay would help us both to relax.
Sixteen eggs were collected, four made it to blastocyst and I had a day five transfer of a single blastocyst. I was signed off work by my GP so that I could remain as relaxed as possible during the two week wait of being PUPO (Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise). On 20th August 2014 we had our first ever positive pregnanct test. I was blessed with a happy and healthy pregnancy, and our gorgeous son Charlie was born just one day overdue on 26th April 2015.
Now that I look back on the years we were trying to conceive unsuccessfully, I can say for certain that what I found hardest to deal with was the lack of control. With most other things in life you get out what you put in; not the case here. We were doing all that we could to give ourselves the best chance but it was totally out of our hands. Especially during fertility treatment I felt like a passive participant in the process of making my child.
Also it was the not knowing whether we would ever have a child; if I could have somehow known that in a year or two we would fall pregnant then I wouldn’t have felt that same sense of urgency. In the end it felt like I was in a rush to get pregnant to see if I actually could get pregnant at all.
If I could give advice to anybody going through a similar experience, it would be to first and foremost allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. You are entitled to feel angry, sad, resentful, think “why me”, to feel jealous of others who have what you want.
Secondly, look after yourself and your partner to reduce the stress; and I don’t mean in the same sense as that annoying cliché “just relax, it will happen”. Be firm, be selfish, look out for yourselves.
And the last bit of advice is if you feel comfortable, talk about what you are going through. I joined Instagram when I was just about to start fertility treatment. I soon found many many other ladies going through a similar thing at the same time as me. I documented my experience, I made friends and I felt like I had support and I wasn’t alone. As it turned out, through this process of trying to start a family, we were blessed with much more than a child; we created friendships, experiences and memories, as well as a heartfelt appreciation of what science can trully do.