This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. There’s a bit of an overload of national somethingorother weeks so it can be difficult to identify the good ones in amongst them. This is definitely one of the good ones.
Infertility affects 1 in 6 couples in the UK. That’s a lot of people who are affected, but it’s a topic that isn’t widely discussed. Infertility can be a very lonely and isolating road. When you’re on it you think you’re the only one. All you can see around you are pregnant ladies or people pushing little ones around in pushchairs. Each one you pass is like a slap across the face. They got pregnant so why can’t I?
As with a lot of things in the social media focused, image conscious world we live in, appearances can be deceptive. The pregnant lady may have suffered many losses before she got to where she is today. The baby in the pram may be adopted. You just don’t know by looking who is affected or has been affected by infertility. To anyone who doesn’t know me, if they saw me out with my baby they would probably think I grew her in my tummy.
Everyone who is touched by infertility deals with it differently. For some there will be a happy ending, exactly as they planned it to be. For some the happy ending will be a different one to the one they had envisaged. For others there won’t be a happy ending at all. Some will be open with friends and family about what they’re going through. Others won’t because they don’t feel that they can.
For some people there will be a reason why they can’t conceive naturally. There was a reason for us and I’m very grateful that there was. It gave us closure and helped us to move on. Some people don’t have that. It must be very hard being told there’s no medical reason why you aren’t getting pregnant. I would imagine that makes it much more difficult to cope with if it continues to not happen. You could get pregnant, you’ve just not.
The human race exists because women get pregnant and procreate. I felt like a complete and utter failure when I didn’t get pregnant. My body had let me down massively and it took a long time for me to forgive it. In the time that we’d been trying, my sister had 2 children and 6 of my best friends had 10 kids between them. There were 3 heartbreaking miscarriages in amongst that, but 12 babies were born to the people I love the most. I was over the moon for them and loved being involved with their babies, but my heart broke a little bit each time too.
I spent a lot of time worrying it was never going to happen for my husband and I. And it didn’t. I have never been pregnant. I’ve never taken a pregnancy test that’s been positive. I’ve been on hand when someone else did theirs, but I’ve never experienced it. When I was going through it, not getting pregnant was devastating. I’d always wanted to be a mum and thinking that that might not happen led to some pretty dark days.
Our reason for not getting pregnant meant our only hope was treatment. I think I always knew it was a route we weren’t meant to go down, but when you’re told there may be a chance it would work, it’s very hard not to get swept up in that. I remember thinking that it was what everyone would expect us to do. If you can’t get pregnant naturally, you take all the help that is offered to you. Don’t you?
By the time we got to the treatment point, age was not on my side. I was rapidly approaching 40 which meant we would have a limited number of attempts at IVF. My chances of it working were about 15%. That isn’t very high. And even if it did happen, my age meant the pregnancy would come with more risk. I knew I wasn’t strong enough to cope with miscarriage. I’d seen how it devastated my best friends. Treatment felt like we were just opening ourselves up to yet more heartache and pain. I truly take my hat off to anyone who has IVF.
We did have an initial appointment and that was enough for us to know that it just wasn’t the way we wanted to go. It felt like we were on a conveyor belt and that we’d be the ones to get thrown off because we were too much of a risk. Seeing my husband’s face when the consultant started my internal exam confirmed to me this wasn’t the way we were meant to become parents. And then not being able to find my knickers when the exam was over was the final straw. At least we had a laugh about that bit.
We are very, very lucky because there was a happy ending for us. Adoption had been on our radar for a long time so when things didn’t happen naturally, we found out more about it. Having the medical tests were the end of that road for us rather than the start. It felt like we needed to do it to move on. We started the adoption process at the end of 2012, were approved in 2013 and brought our eldest daughter home in 2014. Our youngest came home last October. They are a complete blessing to us and our family. I know now that I was never meant to get pregnant because I was always meant to be their mum. We had to go through what we did so that we were ready for them at the right time.
Help and support
If you’re struggling with infertility, there are a lot of resources online that offer help and support. I found Fertility Friends extremely good. It covers every topic you can think of from IVF to donor egg to adoption and a lot more in between. The Fertility Foundation offers advice and support about fertility treatment. If you want to find out more about adoption in the UK, First4Adoption is an excellent place to start. There are also a lots of accounts on social media about fertility and infertility so have a look there too. There are a lot of honest accounts on Instagram in particular around the subject.
I’m the 1 in 6 and I’m glad that I was because it all makes sense now that we have our girls.