Everybody has an untold story. This is mine.
For the last year I haven’t been talking about two big things going on in my life in this blog. I’ve written endless drafts of posts that remain unpublished. The first, my struggle with finding fulfilling work that pays, I wrote about here. Here is the second.
Coming out of the trying to conceive closet
In our modern world, it feels as if many formerly taboo things are now acceptable: white shoes after Labour day… sexting… hipsters…
Is confessing you’re trying to get pregnant the last taboo?
It makes sense. I mean, few of us feel comfortable telling the world let alone *gulp* your family that you are totally DOING it. I haven’t been open for pragmatic reasons with work in case it might have ‘ramifications’. But as my friends, family and now the entire internet knows, *waves* hey internet, HWSNBN and I are trying to having a baby.
And it isn’t going well.
I mean stuff’s happening, no sniggering at the back. We aren’t sitting there twiddling our metaphorical thumbs. But I’m not pregnant, not even a little bit, not at all.
Most of my friends got pregnant in month one or two. When we started trying I ‘expected ‘ it might take a while – three months, maybe even *GASP* four. But it’s been well over a year and counting now and I’m not pregnant. Which means I’m officially infertile. Never have I tried so hard to not achieve something and yet I have. Do we get a special badge? A secret handshake? A scarlet ‘I’ to pin to my clothing? (If I look as hot as Emma Stone then I’m game)
I get that when it comes to the infertility leagues over a year is nothing. But when it feels like everybody around you is getting pregnant as soon as a willy is waved in their direction. I can’t help but wonder – what’s wrong with me?
F– you body
What makes it hard is that for the past year my body has engaged in bi-monthly game of Psych. ‘You know what would really fuck her up, ‘ it whispers, ‘if we give her all of the pregnancy symptoms with none of the actual pregnancy. Wouldn’t that be funny? Psych!’
The first month we tried, my period regular as clockwork was late. I felt nauseous, there was a taste of sour metal in my mouth, my breasts killed. Torn between excitement and terror I wondered – was this it? When my period arrived a fortnight late, I cried in HWSNBN’s arms. But it was OK, it was the first month. I’d be pregnant soon, I knew it. Insert the foreshadowing laughter of doom.
Over a year later this has happened five months out of twelve with varying intensity of symptoms. Although I tried to not hope I couldn’t help myself. I imagined myself being pregnant. Holding the baby in my arms. Brushing my lips against their downy head.
And then when my period comes the despair cuts like a knife. I feel stupid and deluded. ‘Idiot, you really thought you were pregnant this time. As if this will ever happen for you.’ It doesn’t last, I have weeks where I am OK more than OK. But when my period arrives like a bloody malignant visitor for a day or two I feel so gutted as if infertility gods have scooped out my insides with a blunt spoon.
A new hope
The Dr’s have been less than helpful. The first time they tested HWSNBN, who was fine.
The second time they looked at my age and told me to ‘relax’ you’re still young ignoring my insistence that throwing up every other month wasn’t right. Only when I insisted did they refer me for blood tests which revealed that my progesterone levels were low.
Here’s the science bit. Progesterone is a key part of the luteal phase, the phrase after you ovulate and prepares the womb for the embryo to implant. If you don’t produce enough progesterone then there isn’t enough time for the embryo to grown and implant. Which explains all the impostor pregnancy symptoms because it seems I might able to get pregnant. That all those times where I thought I was pregnant, I might have been. The embryo just isn’t getting enough progesterone to stay.
Yep, after all those stupid jokes I made it seems it’s really true my womb is like the Sahara and just as welcoming.
I was told to wait until it’s been two years, the NHS cut off point for my age, and then we’ll refer you. So I took herbal remedies and ate a special diet and hoped, and hoped, and hoped. In the meantime at the advice of my acupuncturist I started tracking my cycle using my temperature. This reconfirmed the test results the length of my luteal phase which was only 7 days not long enough for the standard 10+ they recommended – supporting the fact that I had a progesterone deficiency.
Determined not to have to wait another year I took my charts to see a nurse not a Dr and she took one look at my charts and bloodwork and typed a referral letter to the fertility clinic immediately. I didn’t know whether to cry or kiss her but the relief of being heard was immense.
Emotionally being infertile sucks. Who knew?
Before I found out about the progesterone for the long year of trying and failing I’ve felt there was something wrong with me. Not biologically, although there may very well be. But emotionally. Not being able to get pregnant makes me feel sad, stupid and ashamed, deeply fucking ashamed. Because this simple natural thing that everybody else seems to be doing so effortlessly I am failing at.
What makes it’s harder is that I am of an age where everybody seems to be getting sprogged up. Some days all these babies and pregnant women make me feel so happy and hopeful. One day that will be me, I tell myself. On those good days, and there are many of them; I can parcel out my pain, shoving into the closet at the back of my mind. I can say with only the tiniest twinge: ‘I am so happy for you’ because I am.
Other days it only seems to confirm my wrongness. I feel like Maleficient at a christening peering in cribs jealously. Except not gorgeous like Angelina Jolie but ugly deep within. I want a baby. What’s wrong with me? I deserve it as much as them (as if deserve comes into it at all). I tell myself that these feelings of grief, of anger, of envy are why I can’t have a baby. That I’m so filled with poison that nothing could grow within me.
Logically I know it’s silly. Many people struggle to conceive, I’m not alone. The reason I can’t conceive is not because of my feelings, or that I am not so secretly and awful human being but because of a hormone imbalance (and possibly other undiagnosed problems. I expect them now like lightning bolts from above).
And I know I am lucky in comparison to many of my friends who have struggled with miscarriages, still births, losing a child. I am lucky but comparing myself to others, telling myself I have no right to my pain when others have it much worse, doesn’t help.
I also know many women who I love and admire who have either through choice or chance not become mothers. I don’t think they are stupid or should feel ashamed. Why do I feel that way about myself? As if this one thing that I cannot (currently) do sums up my measure as a person. But still the feeling persists.
I love HWSNBN so much. And we can control many things. The effort we put into our relationship. Where we live. What jobs we do.
But we have no control over whether we will be able to have a baby naturally. It could happen next month, it could take years and let’s face it, it could never happen for me. For us.
No matter how hard we try. No matter how much we love each other and believe we would be good parents. No matter how desperately we want a child.
And it’s that I think that keeps people from admitting they are trying to have a baby. The possibility of coming so close and never getting anywhere. And the question, the raised eyebrow, the hints – all well-intentioned and coming from a place of love. Yet still they flay you, until you feel like you are bleeding from a thousand papercuts. The world feels fecund while your womb remains a barren wasteland.
Let me be clear, we aren’t giving up. Even if the hormone therapy doesn’t work we are very privileged to live in country where IVF is available on the NHS. Furthermore, there are hundreds of children who need a good home and parents who will love them.
I will be a mother even if it doesn’t happen how I envisioned. But oh god, this infertility rollercoaster is not for the fainthearted. It hurts. How it hurts…
Coming clean about my infertility
Why am I writing about my struggles to conceive?
Because this is a huge part of my life and I am not willing to hide it anymore.
Because I am compelled to write, to open a vein and bleed onto the computer screen just as I have written in journals and on scraps of paper. Words help.
Because my infertility has felt shameful for too long and I know the answer isn’t secrecy but showing that vulnerable side of me to the world.
Because I ask my clients daily to make themselves vulnerable and I am not doing the same.
Because I have been helped so much by brave women talking openly about how hard this process can be. Including my best friend whose courage and honesty always inspires me.
It feels like there is a massive pressure on women, in particular, to pretend that our lives are effortless and easy. But trying to expand our family is hard, it takes effort and I am sick of lying and pretending that it isn’t hard and it doesn’t hurt. It does.
If anybody else is out there, whatever your story, please get in touch. I would really appreciate someone to talk to about this.
It’s got easier recently. I let go of my expectations that this might happen for me, it may not.
Turning towards these feelings helped – I can’t even describe how much. Finding a medical professional who took me seriously helped. Realising that even though I want children that they aren’t a destination and they won’t solve anything or make me happy helped. But if I know anything about feelings is that there will be times when I will be devastated I cannot move from grief.
Stay tuned for further, probably incredibly self-indulgent updates. If this is oversharey I’m sorry, please skip these posts and I promise be back to my old self soon.