Dear my 14-year-old self,
You’re approaching 27 now; you’re not much taller, if anything you’re slightly smaller, and life hasn’t quite turned out the way you’re imagining that it will. You’ve graduated from University, you’ve got a good job, you’re married (to an Italian may I add, you always vow to never marry someone with a dull surname, so congratulations on that front), you have a house, a car and a Labrador. On paper, it’s all turned out pretty sweet.
However, in just short of 10 years, you are told that you’re infertile. I know this is going to come as a shock to you now; it came as one hell of a shock to me too. I know you want 6 children, and I know you’ve already named every single one in your head. You won’t want any of those names by the time you’re me, trust me on that front, but my love, unfortunately your dream of a family like the Von Trapps just isn’t a reality. You can’t have children without IVF, which sounds really scary right now, but you’ll figure it all out. In fact, you’ll never research anything as much as you do this, and if you put half as much effort into your A-Levels as you do researching IVF, you’ll get into Cambridge University. Spoiler alert, that’s not where you go. In all honesty, you really struggle to cope. It sounds dramatic, but when you’re told this news, your world falls apart. The boyfriend you have now? He’ll dump you in 3 weeks and you’ll cry a lot in your bedroom listening to what is now old school Taylor Swift, but this? This is so much worse. Mental breakdowns are things that right now sound pretty extreme, you don’t really know much about them right now and you think they’re something that only ever happen in movies. You’ve seen the words brandished in magazines recently when talking about Britney Spears, or Lindsey Lohan, and you don’t think they’re something that happen to real people. It’s not all like you see in the magazines; you’ll grow to realise things rarely are, but they are quite terrifying. You don’t think you can cope; you can barely get yourself out of bed in the morning and you get some pretty dark, scary thoughts. But, I promise it gets better. It takes a while, but please listen to what I have to say.
You will feel like you’re on your own. You will feel like your husband doesn’t understand and your marriage will be tested to the limit. You will spend more time crying than you do laughing and you will barely recognise yourself in the mirror. You stop caring about what you look like, and your patience runs extremely thin. You’ll become even more argumentative than you already are and you’ll wish that other people were hurting as much as you were. You’ll tell people that you would never wish what you feel upon them, but if you’re really honest with yourself, you would give anything for them to feel it instead of you. It is tough.
It gets better. I don’t even know how you do it, but you do, and you pick yourself up and then you run with it. It takes a few months, but don’t let those scary thoughts get the better of you. I know that you don’t, because I’m here now and writing to you, so think of that when it feels like it’s all too much. You will get through it.
You have a couple of operations and you love the anaesthetic. It’s a weird thing to love… but get used to it. You have general anaesthetic for your operations and then you get put under local anaesthetic for your egg collections (part of the IVF process), and it’s great fun. Hey, I’m glad you chose to love that kind of high, and not a high offered to you by weird blokes in smoking areas of bars at University whose jaws swing more than the play park. I must now add that you refuse them. You have a great support system; you have a husband who adores the ground you walk on, and you have friends who are your absolute rocks from the second this shit starts to go down and if anything, you’ll learn so much about yourself and the people around you because of it. You’ve spent far too long letting people walk all over you, allowing people to treat you like a fool, and saying yes just to please people – it opens your eyes and you’re so much better off for it.
I’d love to tell you that I’m writing this holding your baby, but we’re still working on that. Girl, you have one hell of a lot of strength. You surprise yourself so much; you take a really horrible situation and turn it into a huge journey of personal growth. If you could see me, you wouldn’t even recognise me. You do some really amazing things, and at times you still feel like you’re failing, but trust me you are not. You’re on Sky News, you’re the most watched video on the BBC website, you’re nominated for a Pride of Peterborough Award and you make national news on more than one occasion. That big mouth of yours that never stops talking? It finally gets you to places worth being. For once, it isn’t getting you into trouble but instead, you’re causing a stir for the right reasons, and you’re helping so many people whilst you do it.
You still have bad days; there are days where you’re crying so much it hurts your soul; you feel hollow and empty, but you learn it’s part of the process. It’s okay to feel like that; it’s okay to ride the wave of your emotions and a bad day doesn’t mean a bad life. It is all only temporary.
You’ll never be grateful for your infertility, but you will be grateful for the person it’s made you. I promise.
I am so proud of you. Just keep going.
Love, you. x
Charlotte Hodge2nd June 2021 at 6:51 pm
Hi Amber, you don’t know me but I was once in your shoes. Male factor infertility was our issue but regardless, as a couple it was obviously a joint issue. I feel your pain, I really do but just know that one day things will be different. One day you’ll get the knot in your stomach (the one you get when you think how awful it feels to be childless) and then suddenly you will remember you don’t have to feel like that anymore because you are a mum. Trust me xx