As I sit inside a quirky little coffee shop, overlooking the manic streets of the city, I people watch. I watch men walk past in their suits and their ties, notebook in one hand, lit cigarette in the other. As they walk the smoke trails behind them, into the face of a woman. She is petite, no more than 5’2 at most. A knee length burgundy coat, flapping around as she speed walks – with the odd skip in between – through the pedestrian traffic. Her hair, blonde and unbrushed bounces around her bare face, tangled in her headphones. A scarf bounces as it hangs out of her gold rucksack. I wonder if she’s late, if she slept in, why she slept in. Was she awake late the night before? Was she worrying about her money, or was she an over thinker at 3am?
To my left is a female in her mid 30s. She is a pretty lady, a size 14 perhaps, a blonde bob and a yellow polka dot top. Her hair gently frames her face and I wonder what is playing through her headphones. Is it Foo Fighters? Is it Kate Bush? Or is it the Big Fat Negative podcast? She looks very ‘mumsy’ and yet she is sat here at 8am. I wonder if she has a child, if her husband does the school run. Does she have a husband? Does she have a wife, a partner? Does she have neither? Is she a single mum? Or is she like me? Does she go home every night and cry to her husband about how she longs to be doing the school run at 8 in the morning and not sat in a lousy café on her commute, watching other people go about their daily lives. I wonder what goes through her head. I wonder whether she is like me at all, or if we are polar opposites.
Almost 5 years ago when I embarked on this TTC journey, I never expected to be in this situation. To have my life revolve around wanting a baby, trying for a baby, not having a baby. I felt it was relatively under control; the longing was ever present, the questioning, the sadness, the frustration. It was all present. From the day I was told my tubes were blocked and I was unable to conceive without IVF, my entire world has changed. I wake up in the morning and it’s the first thing I think of, I go to bed at night and it’s the last thing that crosses my mind.
As I walk down the street I wonder if I have an ‘infertile aura’. Ridiculous, you may think, but do you know how I think? I am incredibly open about my infertility, and yet I somehow still feel at my most vulnerable. I wonder if everyone who looks at me can see through me. Can they see the sadness in my eyes? Can they see the loneliness, the emptiness? Can they see my anatomy is broken?
Being so open about my fertility has been both a blessing and a curse. I now wonder if people see past the infertility. Do they look at me and feel pity? Do they feel sorry for me? Do they see me for anyone but someone who is infertile? But then that brings me to question, who am I – other than an infertile?
It is so easy to lose yourself to infertility. I often think my infertility has provided me with a new sense of purpose, a new lease of life, a reason to shout and a community to be part of. It has made me change my lifestyle, stop smoking, stop drinking, get rid of my caffeine addiction. I have never felt as passionate about something as I do this. I have never felt a reason to be part of something, a want to make a difference and the need to be loud (I know what you’re thinking, Amber you are always loud), than I do right now. However, there are nights I sit there and I wonder, without my infertility – who am I?
Self-care is so important and yet so overlooked in today’s society. When was the last time you switched off your phone and did something just for you? When did you last have a hot bath, with all the bubbles, listening to the music you love with that book you meant to read? When did you last go for a walk, without taking any photos of the surroundings and posting straight to Facebook? When was the last time you took a day to do something you enjoyed, just because? If someone asked you who you were, would you know how to answer?
My diagnosis and this infertility truly has taken over my life, but, it isn’t JUST who I am, nor is it just who you are. This journey is gruelling, it’s consuming, it’s hard and it’s emotional. However ask yourself, who are you outside of this? I am a wife. I am a daughter, a granddaughter too. I am a sister. I am a friend. I am a graduate of Criminology and a chatty 5’1 woman in her mid 20s, who loves a good book and a good glass of vino. I need to remember, and so self care is something that desperately needs to make its way back up my priority list. I need to have a day, often, where my infertility is not the top of my priority list.
Love, Amber xx