The struggle to conceive

Author: Gemma Lander

This is a blog post that I have started numerous times, it is something I have been wanting to share for a while but have not quite had the guts to face. It’s one of the last great taboo subjects, the one we sway away from… the struggle to have a child.

When I married my husband in August 2014 we decided to start a family pretty much straight away, the product of IVF myself I knew things could take time and that the path wasn’t always easy, but buoyed by all the years of being taught the importance of contraception and all the shock pregnancy stories drummed into you as a teenager I decided it couldn’t be that hard and it would happen in good time. I just didn’t count on ‘good time’ being 2 years, 10months, numerous tests, hospital visits, an operation and countless emotional breakdowns later.

For the first 6 months we enjoyed being a married couple, no checking of cycles, no watching what we ate, I never honestly expected it to happen straight away. Then the next 6 months passed and still we didn’t worry, there was so much else happening in our lives we could focus on. However in this time the baby announcements started appearing and we started to question ‘if everyone else is having babies then why aren’t we?’  I had read an article in a magazine that suggested if you had been trying for a baby for over a year without success then you should seek medical advice. So 18months after getting married we found ourselves in the most awkward situation I have ever faced, explaining to a total stranger (who seemed completely disinterested) that we were struggling to have a baby. Saying those little words out loud ‘we have been trying for a baby but…’ opens up a whole can of emotional worms that you never knew existed. Up until that point it was waiting to see what happened, now it was suddenly a problem with an outcome I feared would never happen. This was also the start of the most condescending sentence but annoyingly true sentence I will ever hear in my life… ‘don’t worry just try and relax.’

After that doctor’s visit started operation ‘let’s make a baby’! I scoured the internet for vitamins to make you pregnant, healthy living advice, the best sex positions to conceive, anything that might shed some light on this seemingly impossible task.  I downloaded a cycle tracking app, bought ovulation sticks that made me insane as according to them I never ovulated and there is nothing more soul destroying than peeing on a stick at work in the middle of the day, to basically be told your body is failing to perform the most basic of tasks.  

The hospital visits soon started a few months later, we met with a specialist fertility nurse, my husband sent off samples, I went for blood tests. We sat in the same waiting room as expectant parents, them with faces of nervous excitement, us trying to make ourselves as small as possible in the corner so we wouldn’t see anyone we knew. Chris was told he pretty much had super sperm, if his sperm was to sit a test it would be getting an A+ this was amazing news but it made me feel like I was to blame, if his sperm was so amazing the fault couldn’t be with him. It was at this time the feelings of resentment started, it’s hard not to scream and shout at people when they announce their happy news. The forced smile on our faces becoming well practised. So many jibes about when we would start a family were brushed off with, I am focusing on building The White Emporium, we have a cat or we don’t have time for a baby! All those Facebook posts, the cute kid pics, the baby announcements and the baby arrival countdowns are soul destroying when it’s the one thing you want most in the world.

2 years and 4 months since starting our journey we were offered some hope in the form of an operation, due to my horrific periods and being violently sick every month (which for me just reminded me of what a failure my body was) it was suggested I might have endometriosis. I have never been so happy to be told there could be something wrong with me, now I would never wish this diagnosis on anyone but this is how warped your brain becomes that you actually wish for a problem so that there can be a solution. As I walked down to the operating theatre, I was excited, I hoped I had endometriosis and they would simply burn it away, the consultant made it sound so simple that all our problems would be over.

When I woke up in recovery there was the consultant with a smile on his face telling me that there was nothing wrong, everything was clear, my tubes and ovaries were all endometriosis free, he had found nothing. Nothing! This news should have filled me with elation but it didn’t, nothing wasn’t an answer, nothing was just limbo. A month later we were told there was nothing left medically for them to investigate and we might want to start looking into IVF. This one little meeting with a fertility nurse and my whole world fell apart, whilst waiting in the large communal reception I had seen an ex with his new partner, I don’t know why they were there, we didn’t speak apart from to say hi and I just presumed they were waiting for a scan like all those other happy smiley people. Distraught and emotionally drained by this whole experience my crying was uncontrollable. We were taken to the quiet room away from everyone and I felt like our whole world, all our dreams and plans had crumpled around us. I just couldn’t stop thinking how I had failed everyone, especially my husband, that the most natural thing in the world was an impossibility to us.

We had started to tell other people of our troubles, we needed support and it avoided more awkward conversations, I received lots of unhelpful advice and more calls to relax, whilst all the time I am screaming inside ‘how can I relax when I am surrounded by children & have you had to sit in a room with complete strangers sharing the most intimate details of your sex life with an old lady sitting taking notes in the corner?.’

So that was it, our IVF path laid out in front of us. I ditched the Cycle App and started researching IVF. We heard horror stories, success stories and took hope from friends who had been down this path and had babies at the end of it. We went and looked round one of the clinics, the staff were lovely and it looked more like a hotel than a hospital. That was our path and where we were heading and I took contentment in knowing we had a plan. IVF is mentally and physically demanding, you need to be available to go to the clinic on a days’ notice and you have no idea how the drugs will make you feel so I quit my demanding, consuming full time job and went part time. The main reason behind this was to grow The White Emporium but in the back of our minds it was also to allow me the time for this gruelling marathon we were leading up to.

We were emotionally drained and slowly cut ourselves off from people, we kept our dearest friends close but couldn’t bare others happiness, all the time we were in limbo, just waiting for our last hospital appointment and that golden letter for IVF referral.

Then it happened! I don’t know why of all the times that one time worked, but in June, 2 months before our IVF referral date and 2 years 10 months after starting our journey we conceived! Those first 3 precious months before the scan we lived in a dream we could barely comprehend, we didn’t dare tell anyone, we didn’t want to make plans, we took every day slowly terrified that something would take this growing baby away from us. That feeling never leaves you, with less than a month to our due date I still feel a little like we cheated the system that we have dodged a bullet, that this little baby is a miracle that I can never take for granted. I refuse to listen to all the ‘I told you so’s’ who believe all I needed to do was relax, yes we conceived on holiday (we had been on holiday many time before) but I was still mad at the world and still thought about having a baby every day.

Image Credit: Cat Lane Photography

So why am I sharing this story with you? I know many people have been through journeys more horrific than ours. But to us it was some of the hardest moments of our lives, constant baby updates and the ease of which some people seem to conceive still strike a nerve, sometimes I find myself telling complete strangers about how long it has taken, that I should justify our happiness. Having a baby isn’t always a simple task, the couple sat next to you may be smiling at your happy news but inside they are crying. For those that are trying, never give up hope and don’t feel you are alone, we met so many wonderful, supportive people along the way, our mental stability is so fragile that sometimes I think if I didn’t have people to talk to I would have driven myself insane. So keep trying, keep talking and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves, life has a tendency to work in the strangest of ways.

Image Credit: Cat Lane Photography

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