I had a milestone birthday in October, I turned 40 and alongside the many hopes and dreams that I had for this age, having a family was an integral part of what I imagined. I have spent the last year hoping and trying to be pregnant with our second child, by the time I reached 40. Yes, you read that right, second child!
You see, our route to becoming parents the first time around wasn’t straightforward. We went through IVF to conceive our son after years of trying to get pregnant naturally. Finding out you need science to intervene to have a baby is a blow, and I’ll never forget the consultant telling us that we would need to go down the IVF route on 23rd December 2013. Christmas was awful. We were completely overwhelmed and felt utterly hopeless. However, we were one of the ‘success stories’ it worked for us and we now have a beautiful 2.5 year old son. I felt so lucky that our journey had been straight forward and decided to immerse myself in the fertility world completely. In September 2014 I launched The Fertility Podcast.
106 episodes later, I publish an interview every Monday either with a fertility expert or someone I’ve met online, happy to share their personal fertility struggles. I’m constantly humbled by the determination we have to start or complete our families. Search infertility on social media and you’ll see thousands of profiles of people sharing their struggles, listing the treatments they’ve had, sharing advice. One in six couples struggle to conceive, so I shouldn’t be surprised at how many people talk about it online, but I constantly am. My podcast aims to help people share their story. From those still trying, to those who have come to terms with living their lives childless, I admire their resilience and acceptance of what their future holds. This week is National Fertility Awareness Week in the UK, so you can expect to hear more stories both positive and negative about people unable to start their family the way we all expected.
I want to talk about secondary infertility, because we don’t, and we should. To be clear, secondary infertility is if you’ve had a child, miscarriage or still birth and then you try again and have problems. I feel bad as I know how blessed we are to even have one child, especially as I’m talking about it with people all the time. However, we still don’t realise how long lasting the effects of infertility are. Put it this way, if you had to have fertility treatment to conceive your first child, the odds are that this will be route you need to take for the second.
I know I’m not at all unique in the guilt that I feel about all of this. Most women who have had a child through fertility treatment experience the frustration and sadness and feelings of inadequacy that I do. We are therefore a silent tribe who still have to manage the sadness felt each time a pal shares they’re expecting their second or third child, or it’s a new mum friend asking whether I’m planning any more children. It’s only a matter of time before my two and half year old starts to ask about a sister or brother. We are trying to be realistic and have a plan B – to have a frozen embryo transfer in the new year. I’m just terrified if that doesn’t work what do we do next? I don’t think I can go through another cycle of fertility treatment, plus we would struggle to afford it as we’re saving for a house. We have important life changing decisions to make.
I have spoken to numerous people talking about failed cycles, people who have decided to stop. I have watched more and more CCG’s stop funding IVF treatment. The right to try to have a family is extremely misunderstood by many. Nobody wants to walk through the doors of a fertility clinic through choice. For many, the reality of starting a family is not only a huge emotional burden but also can be financially crippling.
We grow up assuming having a family is a ‘given’ and when it doesn’t happen as you expect it’s a difficult reality to accept. I’m coming to terms with what might be and pull my son in even tighter for a hug at every opportunity. I’ll continue working part time to spend as much time with him as possible even if it means my savings pot takes longer to fill. I feel guilty that he might be an only child so I will make sure we have an open house for all his friends, that it’s filled with laughter and our family grows in a different way.