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infertility

The rollercoaster of infertility

Anonymous

It’s amazing how time can feel so relative depending on the life event.

Some moments flash by with such speed you can’t recall when they happened, if they even did happened at all, while other moments seem to slowly inch their way through your life and you long for the day when you can no longer recall how heavy it all felt.

Infertility has been weighing heavily on me for quite some time.

My husband and I recently celebrated our second wedding anniversary, a day that was filled with love and gratitude, but also tinged with sadness. You see, that date also marks two years since we started trying for a baby. As if to remind me of that fact, Facebook recently shared a memory where I had excitedly over-shared, “On our way to our honeymoon, bring on the wine, cheese and babies!” For more than two years now I have continued my enjoyment of wine and cheese, just not the babies.

I want to be clear at this point that I am a Mum. I am an incredibly lucky mother of two wonderful children from my first marriage.

Not a day goes by that I don’t realise how fortunate I am to have them. My husband has no children of his own. For many years he has wanted a child and for equally as many years, he has quietly lived with the sadness that this has yet to happen for him. Of course he knows, as do I, that he is part of a family unit, my children adore him completely and wholeheartedly and I have no doubt that their presence in his life has certainly soothed his own grief.

Nonetheless, just as he is not in their lives to replace their father, they are not in his life to replace his own childlessness.

My husband has never felt the paternal thread weave into his heart as the first heartbeat of his child flickers on an ultrasound screen, felt the first glorious kicks from within my expanding belly, workshopped baby names or frantically painted a nursery green or pink at the eleventh hour.

He has not smelled his baby, kissed his baby, held his baby, changed a nappy, cleaned vomit from his shoulder or walked the halls of the witching hour. My husband has never been called Dad. I no longer take my favourite name, Mum, for granted when it comes from the mouths of my babes.

With one in three couples in Australia currently experiencing infertility, I know we are not alone, yet for the most part, we’ve felt very alone. Infertility, like miscarriage (of which I have had three), is one of those subjects that is hard to talk about for a variety of reasons – foremost is the fact that it is a topic which makes us uncomfortable.

I was previously able to conceive my children with relative ease, so more than a decade later, I naively assumed the same would be true. I am considered young by fertility standards and I am healthy. I eat well, exercise often, and live a relatively stress-free life. With the exception of indulging in too much cheese and wine on occasion, I am considered ‘fertility fit’. Likewise, my husband is not over-the-hill (contrary to popular belief, men certainly can experience a decline in their own fertility as they age), eats well, exercises regularly and is generally a stress-free, easy-going, happy person. On face value, my husband and I are textbook ‘ready’.

Six months after I ceased taking the birth control pill, my periods – which had previously been clockwork – were sporadic to say the least. Without wanting to appear impatient and visit a fertility specialist, I thought I would simply take myself off to my GP for some blood tests, or even just a motherly chat in which she would simply tell me that the absence of a period after using the pill was very normal and that, in time, my body would realise I was giving the ‘all systems go’ for my hormones to function again on their own.

Instead of this conversation, terms such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, mutant genes, and low AMH levels were mentioned. I looked back at my GP like a deer in headlights and incoherently mumbled “low-mutant-ovarian-polycystic-what-now?”

I am embarrassed to admit, but perhaps not surprised, that in the last few years I have learnt more about my own fertility, my reproductive system and my own body than I had ever known in the 16 previous years I had been menstruating, let alone child-bearing.

I left my GP with handfuls of referrals for blood tests, ultrasounds, appointments with a gynaecologist and fertility specialist, a script for medicine which is primarily used to manage diabetes, and far more questions than answers.

When I got to my car, I cried. I had suspicions about the path I was about to start walking down and I didn’t like the look of it one bit.

Fast forward 20 months, two bouts of surgery, 12 months of acupuncture and tinctures, more blood tests and ultrasounds than I can keep track of, numerous visits to fertility specialists, 12 months of cycle tracking and ovulation induction, multiple semen analyses, significant lifestyle changes, many a diagnosis followed by yet a new diagnosis (the latest consists of two blocked fallopian tubes, polycystic ovaries and low progesterone teamed with low sperm-count and high DNA fragmentation), significant relationship stress and pressure, googling words I never thought I would and still don’t understand the answers to, more tears than I think I have possibly cried in my lifetime, cheese and wine followed by detoxing from cheese and wine, and hardest of all, not resenting every fertile person in my path, we are now staring squarely down the barrel of commencing our first round of IVF with a less than average chance of success and the stark reality that despite all the helpful anecdotes, our dream may not come true.

The hardest times, the times when silence is the loudest sound of all, are when the kids are with their father and the emptiness in our home can feel like a reverberating echo.   These moments of sadness aside, we have in many ways spent the last year learning to live with the reality of our situation and early last year my husband and I jumped on a happy cliché and purchased a lovable klutz of a puppy.  Our toddler, as we now affectionately refer to the puppy, along with my children, makes us smile more than we frown. In many ways we have started accepting that the family make-up we have may be complete and if this is to be the case we will accept it with the knowledge we are incredibly fortunate.

When all is said and done, when all the treatments are finished and the money-well runs dry, between the kids, the puppy and each other, we will be just fine.

Some moments in time go so fast you wish you could extend their presence and you desperately cling to the joyful memories, other moments linger far too long and all you want is to forget the memories and the pain they cause. For me, secondary infertility is that current marker in time but I know it won’t last forever and like other faded memories, I trust it will become just that, faded.

SUPPORT SERVICES

ACCESS, Australia’s national infertility network  access.org.au

Conception Forum on babybelly.com.au  www.bellybelly.com.au

Family Relationship Advice Line   1800 050 321

IVF Australia Guide to Resources  ivf.com.au

ANZICA, Fertility Society of Australia www.fertilitysociety.com.au

Polycystic Ovary Support Australia  www.pcosupport.org

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