Embracing 39 is one thing. Embracing my infertility…well that’s gonna take some time.
*Trigger warning, in case you’re on a fertility journey too. And if you are, lots of love from me to you xx
I’ve never really minded getting older. Each year of candles on a cake is a blessing and a privilege and I will always treat it as such.
That said, I can’t deny that the past few birthdays have been difficult. Turning 35 and not yet a mum. Then 36…37…38. Still not a mum.
But as I celebrated my 39th trip around the sun this weekend, it was that little bit harder again. Because this year I faced the day knowing it’s almost impossible for me to ever carry a baby, or have a child that’s biologically mine.
You might be surprised that I’m talking about this here, in a space that I’ve deliberately created to be full of positive energy and to lift the soul. But please know that this is coming from that very place and those very intentions. The simple act of being able to write this is a mark of progress, maybe even the first signs that eventually, I’ll heal. It’s important that I acknowledge that in order to move forward.
The only way I can describe these past few months, is grief. And anger that my body can’t do the most important thing it was designed for.
Being told since the age of 13 that I have child bearing hips, and then not cocking well being able to bear a child, seems to be nature’s way of being an absolute dick.
Finding out that despite nearly 30 years of debilitating periods, I never actually had any use for them, is ironic. See that’s actual irony, whereas rain on your wedding day is just a normal UK occurrence – your song is bullshit Alanis Morissette.
Of course now I still get to have them, knowing they’re abso-pissing-lutely pointless, until menopause does its thing. Apparently there’s no tick box to opt out early. What a lovely monthly kick in the balls that is.
Some days I’m overwhelmed with emotions that I never knew I could feel. But on my better days, I’ve been able to reflect and think.
How and when do we prepare women, and men, for the prospect that they might not be able to have children? That infertility is a very real thing. That time really does matter – particularly for women.
It’s only just now, since learning that my ovaries are absolute pricks, that I’ve really understood what a miracle making a baby actually is. Yet growing up in the 80s and 90s, it was only ever talked about as if sex without a condom equals a baby.
I do of course understand why it’s important we teach safe sex. I’m not a moron.
But even as we get older, infertility just isn’t talked about. I very strongly remember hearing about egg freezing for the first time, and when I got divorced at 28, I fleetingly considered it. The thought left my head almost as soon as it arrived because I thought it made me sound desperate. And because I knew other people would say “you’re only 28 for goodness sake, why on earth do you think you need to do that?” I knew that’s what they’d say because I know it’s what I’d have said to someone else.
Well hasn’t that split second moment of ignorance come back to bite me on my rather large arse! Turns out, it’s not desperate, it’s good sense. Because here I now am, in a wonderful relationship that we want to turn into a family, and my egg farm has hit a rather permanent drought.
As a society, we don’t seem to understand just how enormously shit IVF is either. Nor that it doesn’t guarantee you a baby. We imagine it’s exciting, that despite the physical strain of it, you will have a baby at the end. Turns out, that’s not the case folks. It’s not like popping to Tesco to buy a cake because your oven’s broken.
In my first fertility appointment, I was told that I had just a 15% chance of walking out of hospital with a baby in my arms. That everything I was going to go through, physically and mentally, was incredibly likely to come to nothing.
So there’s no giddy excitement. There’s no picking out wall colours for the nursery. There’s just fear and anxiety. There’s short-lived highs and long lasting devastation. Hope, yes. Of course there’s hope. But it takes a back seat to the physical and emotional strain. To the nasal sprays, the daily injections, the endless scans, the surgical procedures, the setbacks that seem to be around every corner. And my very favourite, the pessaries up your hoo-haa. Three. Times. A. Day.
But I did it. Twice. And it failed. Twice. And in all honesty, I don’t think I have the strength to go through it again. I have no idea how some people keep going, for years sometimes. Maybe if I was 10 years younger. Maybe even 5. But I’m not, I’m 39 and with every passing month, my minimal chance decreases further. So I’m slowly accepting that I’m out.
There are other options to explore. But each brings with it a whole host of questions just as big as ‘do we want to be parents?’ And all, just like IVF, come with zero guarantees – other than a whole lot of anxiety and heartache.
Still, we’ll push on, decisions will be made, and we will work through the consequences of those decisions one day at a time.
In the meantime, I sincerely hope that conversation and education about fertility and infertility, and all other possible journeys to parenthood are normalised. That the feelings of shame and guilt that surround those journeys and decisions are eradicated. That we feel comfortable enough to not pretend to our friends going through it that everything will be fine. It’s ok to acknowledge when life is shit, sometimes that acknowledgement brings the most comfort.
I also want to thank you all for allowing me to immerse myself so fully in Written by Lyds these past few months. It has been the greatest distraction and enabled me to focus on the joy that can be found in the smallest and silliest of things, even though parts of my world are falling apart.
Going through, and failing, IVF during lockdown has been unbelievably hard. Yet you’ve kept me connected to humanity and to love and to fun. Whatever happens going forward, there is still so much wonder in the world, still magic and adventure to be found and shared.
So, happy birthday to me, and cheers to you all. Child-bearing hips hip hooray!
Lyds, out x