So yesterday was our sign off at the fertility clinic. After 2 and a half years under their care, they solemnly look up from our paperwork and explain that no amount of medication or lifestyle changes are likely to make any difference, and our only hope of becoming pregnant is through IVF. In this post, I describe how infertility feels for me, particularly in the early stages.
I had written the following post for a newspaper, but through various redrafts, it was feeling too personal and less like me.
So I’ve sat on the draft I was happy with for months, not sure what to do with it.
Following yesterdays hospital appointment, I felt it was the right time to revisit it and share.
It’s a deeply personal post, and I appreciate there are so many differing opinions, but this is how I feel about infertility:
In my early twenties, when everyone would ask when my husband and I were going to have children, I would reply ‘not yet’. Because it was something I took very seriously. And am actually more than a little scared of pregnancy and child birth, but that’s another story.
Finally, when we bought our first house, and were planning what to do with each room, a sudden rush of maternal instinct kicked in. I wanted to fill our house with children, and Matt felt the same.
We were all in, one hundred percent ready.
It also tied in perfectly to an article I had read, which said the best age to start having children was 29. I was 26, had just bought my first house with my partner, and we were engaged to be married when I was 28.
We planned to start a family straight after getting married.
Infertility is a strange grief, even though you haven’t physically lost something, it feels like you have.
You’ve lost the dream of that first kick, of bonding with your baby, and not being able to take your eyes off each other as they feed.
Of watching your child develop and grow, and seeing both yourself and your partner in them, as a perfect unique mix.
Of knowing you’ll always have family, right up until your last breath. And feel a sense of legacy in your final moments, like your life has meant something.
Who better to turn to during this time than your friends and family?
Talking about it isn’t easy. Because my parents didn’t have any fertility issues, and my friends are in the middle of pregnancies and having young children themselves.
So it feels like no one understands. And you’re frightened to bring it up, because you don’t want to offend or upset anyone.
You also don’t want to bring the mood down, while everyone else is talking excitedly of pregnancies and babies.
You feel isolated, upset, hopeless and guilty about it, all at the same time.
I’ve also found people don’t know how to talk about infertility, it makes them nervous.
They’ve had the perfectly planned life that you wanted, and find it difficult to empathise, after all you’re not dying are you? And there’s always adoption right?
They’re totally wrapped up in their happy family bubble, and they LOVE to talk about it. It’s their whole world. As it should be.
So they find themselves not knowing what to say to you. And you suddenly feel like a difficult friend to have.
Not because you aren’t happy for them, or want their baby, you don’t!
You want your own experience, and a coping mechanism is to try and forget about the infertility, and to focus on the other good things in your life.
But when you see that announcement, your world comes crashing down. And you remember that it’s normal for pregnancy to be a wonderfully happy time, it just isn’t for you, and probably never will be.
Because even though there are alternatives, our chances of IVF succeeding is just 20%, and adoption is by no means simple with most cases in the UK being forced adoption, through social services.
It isn’t all bad though. Looking back over the past 3 years, amongst all the sorrow and heartache you carry around every day, we’ve also had a pretty awesome time.
We’ve been on amazing holidays and have been totally indulgent, and selfish with our time. Which has been purposeful.
I want to make sure we’re making the most of our time together, so that I can look back with no regrets, within our control.
My family have by no means had an easy time over the years, but they worked hard to make sure my sister and I did. We’ve been so lucky growing up with both parents, and not having any real worries about our future.
In hindsight that can make you a little arrogant or ignorant to people around you.
I definitely feel as a young woman I wasn’t as rounded and compassionate as I am now, and I feel a big part of that was having to deal with being diagnosed as infertile.
There is a LOT of waiting around for the diagnosis. It took 2 years for us to be diagnosed, all the while we knew something was wrong, but didn’t know how to feel about it.
It’s also something we’ve had to go through together, so it’s not just my body and my feelings, it’s both of ours. And it affects our whole life, and the plans we had made together.
So I feel I’ve become a better person and a better partner as a result. Infertility can not only make you feel terrible, it can also put a huge pressure on your relationship. We certainly have felt this pressure, but were determined not to let it beat us.
My hope is, that firstly I feel better for it. That it helps me process all the complicated feelings surrounding infertility.
I also hope that other people who are going through a similar thing, find comfort in the fact that somebody understands how they feel.
And finally I hope that it helps explain how it feels to the friends and family of infertile couples, who may be struggling to understand, or know what to say.
Because it is hard to talk about, and the first instinct is to do the eternal optimist response of ‘well the hospitals can work wonders nowadays’ or ‘there’s always adoption’ or ‘stop stressing and it will just happen, I know someone who did that’.
Although these will be said with best of intentions, having had all these said to me. It can make you feel even more closed off and misunderstood, because if they only knew how heartbroken and hopeless you felt about it. Not all the time, but certainly in the early days of investigations and diagnosis.
You just need to know that they are there for you, and understand how you feel. Because we all can understand the feeling of sorrow, hopelessness and isolation, even if you can’t really empathise with the cause.
I'm Lisa and this is the Lovely Appetite blog. I’m always experimenting with recipes, hunting through cookbooks for inspiration or trying out new places to eat. Please browse the site and enjoy reading about my findings.