I’ve always wanted children. I would have started trying earlier, but life didn’t work out that way and I watched as my friends all had their babies. When, in 2011, my husband Matt felt ready for a family, I was delighted, but also a bit concerned that we might struggle – I so wanted a baby.
A month later I found myself doing multiple pregnancy tests just to confirm what I couldn’t believe – I’d fallen pregnant straight away! Eight months later our much-loved daughter Fleur was born. Apart from a fair bit of sickness, the pregnancy had been plain sailing.
Because of childcare costs, we decided to wait until Fleur was three to have another child. In that time my friends all had their second children and I have to admit to feeling a bit envious.
Getting pregnant isn’t always plain sailing
After Fleur, I didn’t consider that we might have any difficulties, but time went on and I found myself saying things like “it’s quite normal for it to take a while, isn’t it?” And “I know the first time we were just really lucky…”
Time continued to run away and, aware that I was nearing 40, I saw my GP, who referred me to Liverpool Women’s Hospital. After an unfortunate delay with my referral I was crestfallen – time was of the essence and I was beginning to really struggle with my feelings.
Matt and I eventually underwent tests at the fertility clinic. When the consultant gave us our results, I was sure that he was going to tell us something terrible, but he was very relaxed about it all. When I asked if he thought I had polycystic ovaries, as I had many of the symptoms, he waved our file and told me that there were no indicators of anything untoward.
Although still very sad, I felt relieved. He told us to try for another six months and if nothing happened, to come back and discuss IVF (in vitro fertilisation).
I tried everything, fertility sticks, acupuncture, but I just wasn’t getting pregnant. My period had never been regular but it had gone all over the place, sometimes up to 10 weeks, which was cruel because it gave me false hope of pregnancy. I became so upset that before every pregnancy test I had to ask Matt to take Fleur out of the way, so that I could go and lie down when the inevitable negative result appeared.
Miscarriage and the aftermath
Then, one month, the unbelievable happened. I had a positive test. We were both overjoyed and as we went off for a weekend on our own, I waved goodbye to Fleur feeling that soon we’d have our 12-week scan and I’d be able to tell her she was going to be a big sister.
During the holiday, I began to spot. I’d had the same during my first pregnancy and knew I had ectopic cells, which cause harmless bleeding, but on our return I went to the Women’s Hospital. They couldn’t confirm what was wrong.
I had my 12-week scan a few days later. When they told me there was no heartbeat, I was unprepared and shocked. I remember hearing this horrific noise and then realising it was me. I’d struggled so hard mentally month after month, I didn’t know how I’d cope without a sibling for Fleur.
The consultant was amazing. She grabbed my hand and told me that this didn’t mean I wouldn’t have another baby. It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Polycystic ovary syndrome
In the weeks after, I longed to be pregnant and found it frustrating that my body still thought I was carrying a baby, which meant we couldn’t start trying again. I found myself completely clouded by the thought that I might never have another child. The fear and sadness were always there. I pushed myself through the days for Fleur.
After months with no sign of pregnancy, we decided it was time for IVF and signed up. The conversation made me chilled to the bone. The statistics were very much against us.
I was at the wrong stage in my cycle for treatment, so Matt asked if we could try anything else – he’d read about chlomid, which stimulates the release of eggs. We were told that there was no harm in trying, but it wasn’t the usual route for unknown infertility.
We left the hospital with a pack of chlomid and as soon as I began my period, I went back for a scan. With one look at the screen, the sonographer told me I had extremely polycystic ovaries. I was stunned. I’d asked that question all those months ago!
I felt angry and completely let down. All those months of negative tests I’d had since then! I left feeling that my chances of having a baby were slipping even further away, which was affirmed when my second scan showed that it didn’t look like the chlomid was working.
Joyous unexpected pregnancy
After treatment finished and it came time to do the pregnancy test, I could hardly breathe – or comprehend the positive result that appeared. We laughed and cried. I went on to have what felt like a very precarious pregnancy. I really felt that this was my last chance.
Anya was born in March 2018.
I never forget how lucky I am to have both my girls. And that’s the cruelty of infertility. It’s just down to chance.
Supporting couples through infertility
There’s not enough mental health support offered for people going through it. Well-meaning people tried to comfort me with the wrong words. “If you just relax, you’ll get pregnant” is possibly the worst. As someone pointed out to me, women in terrible situations, in war torn countries even, get pregnant.
In what other situation would you suggest to someone who’s in incredible pain that their emotional upset is the cause of not having what they want most in the world?
I admire people who say they’ve realised how strong they are as a result of infertility. I wasn’t. I didn’t have it in me. But I am grateful for the other people who did it for me. Matt, who reassured me, the friend who wiped away my tears with her bare hands, the nurse who hugged me, the doctor who grasped my hand. My mum and dad. Those who just listened.
Throughout our journey and now, I feel guilty for my emotions. I knew I already had one child when others had none. I even had it pointed out– “but you have Fleur, isn’t that enough?”
My answer? I wanted a sibling for her. That was my drive. That was my upset. For her.
And now? I’m acutely aware that in the end, I experienced the moments I yearned for. I got to tell Fleur she was going to be a big sister, I watched when she first cradled Anya in her arms. I have two children. And I know other people don’t.
I will never forget what the pain of infertility felt like. I so desperately wish other people didn’t have to feel it and I hope just sharing my story might help someone in some small way.
At the very least, I hope that if needed, I could hold someone else’s hand, like so many people did mine.
No one should have to deal with miscarriage or infertility alone. If you’re facing either, you can find out more about SPACE and the support the group offers by clicking here.
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