You know when it’s time to buy a new sofa? You think about it for a while, make the decision, then you go out and buy it. Pretty simple.
I also thought it would work like that with starting a family. Think about it for a while, make the decision, get pregnant. Boom.
Except for a lot of us it doesn’t work out like that, does it?
Me and my husband started thinking about trying to conceive in late 2017. Newly married, but aware of time being against us (I was 38, he was 37) we knew we needed to get going pretty quickly. So, I quit smoking in January 2018 and we started trying the next month.
What followed was a gruelling cycle of pregnancy and loss. Three times we went through this in a year, until our most recent miscarriage in May 2019. During that time, we went on a journey to the highest peaks and the lowest troughs. Hugely hopeful when we got pregnant, and utterly devastated when (yet again) it went wrong.
Assuming the same pattern would continue, I expected to get pregnant again pretty quickly. So, after the D&C for my third miscarriage, I was surprised when it took 3 months for my period to return.
And when it finally did return…nothing happened. No positive pregnancy tests. No peaks and troughs. Just a lot of waiting, interspersed with the monthly disappointment of bleeding.
And for the past nine months, this has been our life. Waiting for the pregnancy that doesn’t come.
Every time we’ve been through a loss before, I’ve told myself ‘next time, it will work’. And although it didn’t, we were lucky because at least by getting pregnant, we were keeping the whole process moving. There was always the chance that the next pregnancy would be different.
But 3 months ago, we were diagnosed with male factor infertility (MF infertility), a new hurdle to add to our expanding fertility assault course. And not being able to get pregnant at all has brought with it an entirely different kind of heartache that I didn’t comprehend before.
Now, I have less expectations. Because I no longer assume I’m going to get pregnant every cycle, sex during the fertile period seems less important. What’s the point? It probably won’t work anyway.
I’m at the stage where I’m conscious of time passing by and I worry. I’m turning 41 next month, so I know my chances of conceiving are rapidly diminishing. My mind has gone into protection mode, thinking about pregnancy and the possibility of having a child less. I try telling myself that having a baby is not so very important, that there’s more to life than just this. And I can buy into that for short periods of time. But inevitably, the yearning takes over again.
So, in a little over a week we have our next appointment with the reproductive medicine department at our local hospital. We were seen twice in November, once when me and my husband were tested, and then again, when we were given our MF infertility diagnosis.
After that last appointment, I was sent away to lose weight. Lowering my BMI will make me eligible for NHS-funded IVF with ICSI. I won’t lie, I’d hoped that before getting to that stage, losing weight might be enough to get pregnant naturally. But that hasn’t happened. So now, I’m almost at target weight and we’re hopeful to start treatment soon after our appointment.
But, in these last days of waiting, I’ve noticed the panic begin to set in. I’m viewing this as our last chance at a biological child. We are only eligible for one cycle of IVF and although I’m incredibly grateful for that one chance, if this doesn’t work, that’s it. We probably can’t afford to try again privately.
I’m starting to get scared about the physical side of the treatment too. There are questions running through my mind almost constantly. Will the medication give me side effects? Given I already have a lot of pain during ovulation, what will it feel like when multiple follicles are growing simultaneously? Will my lining thicken up enough? And will my ‘average’ ovarian reserve be up to the task? Will treatment begin quickly, or will I have another long wait to contend with? There are so many unknowns and a distinct lack of answers.
But there are also so many women who’ve been there before. And many of them welcome their healthy, full-term child at the end of it. There’s no reason why it won’t happen for us. I didn’t think IVF would be where we’d end up, but I’m choosing to believe – because I have to – that it will work.