I will start this blog post by stating categorically that infertility is no laughing matter. It is perhaps one of the most devastating, non-life-threatening conditions that we suffer as humans and I would argue that it’s something that only those who have experienced it, can truly understand.
During my ten year battle with this nightmare my life was turned upside-down (sometimes literally), as my desperation drove me to try anything and everything I could to have children. During this time there were two things that got me through, one was the support of my friends and family and the other was humour.
I have written this post, possibly for my own cathartic reasons, to share with you some of the ridiculous situations I found myself in. If you are reading this whilst upside down, eating a pineapple, you are not alone!
Superstition and Old Wives Tales:
I’d like to believe that I am not a superstitious person, or at least I wasn’t before infertility. I was a firm believer that regardless of how many black cats crossed my path or how many ladders I walked under, my fate would be just that.
However, once I entered the realms of trying to conceive, everything, and I mean everything was a ‘sign’.
I developed a habit, which I still cannot kick, of saluting and counting magpies, following the words of the famous poem as if they were my destiny. If I saw one (for sorrow) I’d be frantically searching for more like some sort of deranged Bill Oddie. Two-Four magpies would make my day (Two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy), and five for silver, six for gold would have paid for a round of IVF, so everyone’s a winner!
I also found myself following random advice on what to eat, which had no nutritional basis, but nonetheless found me consuming some pretty weird food and drink combos sometimes in the same glass.
I charted temperatures religiously, I looked for signs of fertility (who knew cervical mucous could be so fascinating?) and I studied fertility to the point of obsession. This has now turned to my advantage as a reproductive reflexologist.
I did the legs in the air after sex thing to prevent any escapees and encourage all the little swimmers to head in the right direction. I would usually do this in a rather fetching pair of snuggly pyjamas with the trouser legs tucked into a pair of socks whilst also sporting a woolly hat, because our house had no central heating and it was bloody cold!
And I even sat on “that chair” in the office, where everyone around me was popping out babies left, right and centre so it had clearly worked for them. My colleagues would wheel me around the office on that chair and take me for a little spin.
The world of assisted conception:
Once I had fully exhausted both myself and my list of alternative ways to get pregnant I found myself at the fertility clinic where a whole new world of craziness opened up. I felt genuinely crazy because I had tried everything I could think of and yet I was still failing to fall pregnant, but equally I felt a sense of relief that someone was finally going to take that responsibility off my shoulders and help me.
Humour was essential when in the fertility clinic. When you arrive with your partners sample in your armpit, or when you are being quizzed by a total stranger about the ins and outs (pun intended) of your sex life, whilst you are half naked on a bed looking at scans of your own ovaries, humour is pretty much all you have left.
The staff at the fertility clinic were fantastic, they were funny, caring and supportive and remained positive and professional at all times.
We live in a beautiful rural village in East Kent and there are quite a few wealthy folk surrounding us. When I tell you that my neighbour has a swimming pool and that there is a real manor house like Downton Abbey at the end of our road, you get the idea.
One Christmas we were invited to one of these very large and grand houses for ‘drinks and nibbles’. Bearing in mind that our festive cheese board consists of a Dairylea triangle and a large packet of supermarket cheddar, you can imagine that we were some way out of our comfort zone.
Whilst gripping tightly to a glass of fizz I saw a familiar face, she smiled at me and I smiled back and took a large swig of champagne. Suddenly I spat my drink back into my glass. I realised that she was our fertility nurse from the hospital!
This woman had had her hand in my lady garden just last week, scanning my ovaries and counting follicles. A few weeks before that she had been teaching my husband to administer injections into my bum cheeks! She knew EVERYTHING about us.
Of course she was discrete and kind and she is now a very good friend of mine.
Shortly after this event we were scheduled for a round of IUI. We dutifully did everything that we were required to do, taking the meds, doing the injections, crying when the injections hurt – all of that.
On the big day I was taken to the theatre, (not to see a show, because apparently I had become “the show!”) As I lay there, naked from the waist down, slightly chilly, extremely nervous and waiting for my doctor, another doctor came in with a whole group of students!
By this time I’d lost all sense of dignity and so I just waited for my actual doctor, who entered the room at quite some speed! I half expected her to take a run up with a turkey baster and start firing little sperm at the egg like target practice. (I will never look at a turkey baster in the same way again!)
However, she did not do that, she carefully sent them on their way with the correct equipment to the fascination of the on looking crowd, many of whom had their fingers crossed for me.
After a short time I was allowed to get dressed and go on my way as if nothing had happened.
Sadly that round of treatment failed. I experienced devastation that I never knew possible. I phoned the office and sobbed a message that I was simply “too sad” to work.
Life moved on, I carried on, never giving up hope and the following month, in the midst of our pending wedding preparations, and after 5 long years TTC, I fell pregnant naturally with our first beautiful baby boy.
Let me tell you that all that poking and prodding and probing questions of fertility treatment stood me in good stead for the joys of pregnancy, birth and beyond.
And so for those of you who are reading this in that state of deep despair, I hope and pray that you can find your way through and I hope you can find humour even in those darkest of places.