I know it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind anyone’s smile. People fight battles every day that their nearest and dearest know nothing about. If you are lucky, and I am. You have a support network in your partner, family and friends that will get you through the worst time. Even so it can feel lonely under this label that we stand, I am infertile. Me.
My husband stands with me as a couple we are childless and he suffers the ups and downs every bit as much as I do but the reality is, it’s me.
When a stranger looks at me they know nothing of our struggle to be parents, often when we meet someone new one of the first questions we are asked now we are in our mid-thirties is how many children do we have? My 13 years of training for these questions kicks in and we delicately tell these strangers, none for us we love to travel…..are too selfish…. It just didn’t happen for us. After all the awkward spluttering’s that follow telling the truth are just not worth it.
The world is obsessed with owning who you are at the moment, hundreds of tell all stories often with photographs telling you to be proud of who you are. Go You! I totally agree with this, be who you are and apologise to no one for it. So why can’t I get there myself? Admittedly talking about infertility and our losses is difficult. When I first picked up a pen to write down how I was feeling it was for me, when I openly shared one of the miscarriages we had online I did it because it felt like the only way to get the pain out.
I didn’t realise I was giving a voice to others in pain. My blog was born.
I receive many messages from both people trying to support their friends or family members through a loss or infertility as well as from the couples going through it. There is no one size fits all but there is a common theme to what those people walking in our shoes are saying.
Please, please don’t tell me its ok, don’t tell me things happen for a reason. My time may not come.
I wanted to try to articulate my experience to try and help others to know if they can help or offer comfort, not just with words. Sometimes just by being there. If you haven’t been through this it is hard to understand the ache that comes with wanting a child you can’t have, or finally getting that dream and it being ripped from you.
I wanted to be a mother, I knew that from a young age. Some may say that’s because the world expects it of me. I was born in the 80’s and still very much felt the right thing to do was get married and have children. I didn’t want that in the conventional sense, I wanted to travel, I wanted an equal to do that with but I knew I wanted a family.
I read somewhere that infertility is like the death of a dream. This is perfectly true. I imaged my life with a child, with my husband. This perfect little person that was half me and half the love of my life.
When we first started to try for children, excited and optimistic the picture starts to build in my imagination. You discuss names, nursery ideas, looks, schooling, and family values etc. Pretty soon you have an image in your head of what that little person would be like. For most couples the longing is brief and very quickly they get their bundle of joy and start to live their dream, all be it slightly sleep deprived but what they planned all the same.
For couples like us, over time the dream builds into to a knot in our stomach, a screaming question that neither of you really dares to speak out loud.
“Why isn’t it happening for us?”
It takes time to accept that you may need help, the longing grows and grows and takes route inside. It twists and pulls at your confidence. It whispers lies that make you feel less than, it tells you the worst things you may already be thinking. I’m not good enough to do this, I am failing.
The first steps into your doctor are hard to take, for a woman testing for problems is an intrusive and long process. Starting with blood tests and followed with internals and scans and painful procedures to see if you can indeed carry a child. I remember once someone telling me, be thankful you haven’t had any children yet, you lose all dignity. If she only knew. I probably had to bare my private parts many more times than she ever did to get her children and there was no beautiful reward for me at the end.
For my husband the tests were less intrusive but equally as embarrassing, especially as the specimen room was right next to the break room while nurses discussed their weight watchers soup. Not. Fun.
Finally we were diagnosed. It was me. I had PCOS.
I always knew it was me in some ways it was a relief that I wasn’t crazy, we had the reason but we had no baby either. A glimmer of hope starts to return at this point as you weigh the options up and discuss treatment options. The doctor talks about the next steps and you start to think….. Finally this might happen.
First step for us was Chlomid, an angry hormonal infusion of crazy lady that helps you to ovulate regularly. We were given six cycles and told to baby dance….. a lot.
Infertility is a pain emotionally and I would guess there would be some people that would say, wow lots of sex poor you it sounds awful. Anyone that has struggled to conceive will tell you, eventually it sucks the romance out of it. There is nothing romantic about a frantic race to the finish line, the pressure to get there and then acrobatics to get your hips into the air or maybe even a hand stand because you read somewhere that may help. It’s not pretty and eventually it stops being fun.
I agreed to take part in a study to help others with PCOS so had bloods done regularly. I was convinced that this was going to work I had a feeling. So month one, cycle one, we did everything right. The date of my scheduled monthly was approaching, my crazy brain convinced me I was experiencing every pregnancy symptom going, and I went to the bathroom a 100 times a day just to see if it was game over. I was two days late. Out came the pregnancy test.
I did it alone as at this point I didn’t want to disappoint my husband who kept telling me that he would be happy with or without children he just wanted me.
I sat in the bathroom what felt like an hour with a flashing test, my hands and feet cold with anticipation……. Then -: NOT PREGNANT. Game over for yet another month, almost 6 years of this at this point. The disappointment hits you like a blow to the stomach, fresh tears fill my eyes and I allow myself a brief moment of self-pity. Sadly I am by now a seasoned trier, so I know I must dust myself down and prepare to try again.
On we continued until month five. Month five was different. I didn’t seem to have as many side effects except a feeling of total exhaustion. I put that down to what we were putting ourselves through, we promised to take a break from everything if it didn’t work this month. Again I was waiting with the pregnancy test flashing in my hand, prepared for another negative…. Flash…flash…flash…PREGNANT! I dropped the test, immediately dug out the remaining two under our sink…. PREGNANT….. PREGNANT!! I couldn’t believe it. My heartbeat hammered in my chest, I felt a little dizzy. I sat back on the toilet.
I was terrified, I cried, I wondered how I would tell my husband. We had been here before and it had ended so badly that I decided to wait until my hospital appointment and blood tests. They were all confirmed, I told my husband that night. He was cautious and had a wait and see type attitude which annoyed me at first, but deep down I understood why.
A couple of weeks passed and we were booked in for an early scan, again I decided to go it alone. Looking back now I just think I was nuts but at the time it felt like it was my issue to deal with because it was me that was defective. I was convinced that my period was on her way.
At the scan, they found the sac but no heartbeat. Could be completely normal they said with the timing so they took some blood from me and arranged another scan for a week later. There was no need.
The cramps started through the night a few days later, the bleeding started soon after.
I don’t think I can fully explain the complete emptiness that follows a miscarriage. The helplessness that you feel watching the life leave your body. In the middle of the night while everyone else around me slept. I lay on my bathroom floor in our small home and wept. I remember quietly singing twinkle twinkle little star to myself quietly as I sobbed. As if it would make the passing easier.
The next day, it was confirmed that the baby was no more. My body was doing its job well however. For once. I could go home and rest, they could help me but I didn’t want that. I wanted to do it alone, I think sometimes that was my way of punishing myself. Dealing with that pain.
Once the physical pain is passed, you are left with the “what ifs”. What if I had rested more? What if we had been to the hospital sooner? What if I had eaten differently? What if, What if What it.
The following weeks, I was told “It’s just not your time”, “Its mother’s nature’s way of weeding out the defective” “At least you know you can get pregnant” “At least it was early, it wasn’t a proper baby”
My young and polite head nodded along with these statements, while my heart screamed at them…. “HOW IS THAT HELPFUL!!!” While all well-meaning, I just wanted someone to acknowledge the life I had in me for however brief a moment, to tell me how sorry they were.
Looking back at this one moment, sadly there have been other since, I have come to learn that there isn’t anything anyone can say to make this better. The worst thing to do to me is to make it seem less than, not as bad. My heart was broken, my husband didn’t know what to do and through all of our losses I think sadly he has been overlooked. People feel terrible for you and just don’t know what to say. I want to say to anyone dealing with this now, “I’m so sorry” is enough. That’s it.
A dream of a life we haven’t ever gotten to live has gone with each loss we have experienced. The pain I don’t think will ever go, we just learn to live with it. It’s important to me to find a voice to share my story in the hopes that others never have to feel like I did, less than, a failure, like it was our fault, like we had to make it easier for others so they didn’t feel uncomfortable.
Our rainbow babies will be with us always, they have shaped who we are now. I think we would have made pretty great parents. But I will always grieve the life that we didn’t live too. Maybe one day we may still get that dream, you just never know.