I am super lucky that life has been very kind to me so far, however we have been going through a fertility struggle for the last 3 years. I have watched many friends get pregnant around me, even though they started ‘trying’ after me and feel that I am constantly surrounded by bumps….not only at work but in my personal life too. I love baby bumps and am naturally drawn to them, being a midwife it has always fascinated me that a human can grow a whole new life from scratch. Our bodies are simply amazing.
I assumed getting pregnant was going to be easy and have wanted to be a mum since my mid 20’s. I am always surrounded by pregnant women at work and never thought I would ever be in a situation where I was unable to conceive myself. When we started ‘trying” I naturally assumed I would fall pregnant straight away. However this was not the case. It has been difficult for me to get my head round not conceiving as I have always got things when I want them…..some would say I have been spoilt! I am obsessed with my life being perfect and our journey of fertility so far has been far from perfect. We were desperate to start our own family, and have felt like our dream has been slowly slipping away. Being a midwife, I have always felt like it is a woman’s right to have a baby and have been keen to experience getting pregnant, growing a baby and giving birth myself so I am able to empathise with my patients better. I felt like my woman’s rights had been taken away from me and it was out of my control. Not being in control of something has never really been an issue I have had to deal with before.
It has been particularly emotional seeing friends and family members having babies during this time. Trying to understand and rationalise the feelings of excitement and jealousy has been difficult. I have never been a jealous person but I felt like they all had something I want, but that I couldn’t have. I continually thought ‘when would it be my turn’ or ‘it must be my turn next’. Although I have always been genuinely excited and supportive of friends and family members I couldn’t help myself from feeling a little jealous. I got upset and cross with myself for feeling this way, although I am sure it is a perfectly normal emotion to feel in my situation.
You never really hear other people talk about the struggles they faced or how long it took to conceive. It just seemed like an endless amount of pregnancy announcements. From an external view it all seemed so easy, and for most of my friends it seemed to happen quickly. Why hadn’t that happened for us?
They say ‘trying for a baby’ should be an enjoyable experience, but after months of waiting and disappointment it becomes more of a process than fun! After several blood-tests, countless ovulation tests, months of cycle charting, hundreds of pounds spent on acupuncture and many sad days when the dreaded period came, I eventually got referred to a consultant after 2 and a half years of trying to conceive. This was the summer of 2017. Everyone around me kept telling me ‘it will happen’ and to ‘be patient and stop thinking about it’. But when you want something so much it is very difficult to switch off and stop thinking about it! Especially when you have read many books and know exactly what to look out for in terms of signs of ovulation and when to time intercourse. I knew there had to be something wrong with me as we had done everything right and by the book up to that point and there was no obvious reason why I hadn’t conceived.
I have always been very honest with my friends and family about the fact we were trying to conceive, as I never thought there would be an issue. I am a very open person and never mind discussing things in my personal life. But it did start to become emotionally draining when people constantly ask you the one question you dread the most….‘now that you are married, when are you going to have a baby then?’. I often caught people staring at my abdomen wondering if I had a bump yet….no no it’s just fat!!! Asking if someone is going to have a baby doesn’t seem like a hurtful question and is never intended to make people upset; I have definitely asked friends similar questions. However, it really can be very upsetting, as people do not know what is going on in your life and should never assume that just because you are married that you want to have children straight away. If only people knew the struggle and heartache we were going through!!! Eventually I got bored of going into any details about it not happening and just replied with ‘no not yet’ as it was an easier answer than telling the truth or being embarrassed by the fact that I had been unable to get pregnant.
I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed about what is happening to me. I have not done anything to cause it and I couldn’t have stopped it from happening. And I feel that more people should talk about their fertility struggles and share their stories. It almost seems a taboo subject to talk about and tends to be hidden and not discussed. Since going through fertility issues, many older family friends have disclosed issues that they have dealt with and it seems a lot more common than you would expect. I know many people who are silently suffering with endometriosis but I have to admit that prior to the last year I did not really understand what it was. It seems to affect everyone differently and does not always cause infertility.
At work I am surrounded by pregnant women and have never had to witness the severe psychological effects that infertility can cause, until now. It really is an important issue and we need to support each other. I believe that is is very difficult for people to understand how you feel unless they have been through fertility issues themselves. Women are so strong yet so weak at the same time. And it is ok to talk about our emotions and how we feel even when trying to put on a brave face to the outside world. I watch women give birth everyday and women’s bodies are literally incredible, but I feel like my body is letting me down right now!
I had no family history of fertility issues and am generally quite a healthy person, so I assumed we would be put into the category of unexplained infertility as so many people are these days. The NHS is an amazing resource, but referrals and follow-ups seemed to take a lifetime to come through! I work in the NHS and have massive respect for everyone working within the system as I understand the pressure the NHS is under, but being on the other side and waiting for referrals and appointments was making me anxious, as time seemed to be ticking away. It turns out that I am not good at being the patient!!!
Eventually I was seen by an amazing fertility consultant who I used to work with in obstetrics. He suggested that he thought I had endometriosis, but I was convinced I wasn’t ovulating every month and that was the reason I hadn’t conceived. Being in the medical industry I took it upon myself to self diagnose: which is never the right thing to do and drives me crazy when my patients do this!!! My consultant arranged a hycosy scan (catheter inserted into the cervix and dye shot up into the uterus) for September 2017 to see if my tubes were open and working. This was not a pleasant experience and showed a massive endometrioma (cyst filled with blood) on my right ovary. He suggested that this should be removed as soon as possible by surgery. He diagnosed me with endometriosis which he hoped to remove during the laparoscopy. In hindsight although I had been lucky enough not to have suffered with severe pain, I did have some symptoms of endometriosis. I always assumed that my excessive fatigue was due to my job and working endless night shifts, but it seems that it is a side effect of having endometriosis. I had also experienced 4 episodes of excessive pain in the year of 2017 and assumed it was just normal period pains so ignored it.
Although I was worried about the prospect of having surgery in November 2017, I did feel a sense of relief that there was a reason why we hadn’t conceived and that my consultant could fix me and everything would be ok. However this is just the beginning of our fertility journey…..!!!
Sincerely, Shelly x