I don’t remember exactly when trying to conceive became my entire life; I quite often try and pinpoint where I spiralled. When did ovulation sticks, and basal body thermometers become part of my daily routine; when did pregnant women become a thing to avoid and baby showers the equivalent to putting a hand in a blender? When I look back over the last six and a half years, I’m not sure when I crossed the bridge into the murky territory, but I do know that keeping my head above the dirty water has been tough.
On Sunday, I joined The Fertility Show for their first online summit for a chat about staying sane when trying to conceive. I was joined by the incredible Becky Kearns (@definingmum) and Noni Martins (@unfertility), as we sat and discussed our fertility and IVF journeys. I never thought I would get so much joy from talking about my faulty reproductive system, but there is something deeply comforting about knowing that your story resonates with other people whilst listening to their story resonating with you. I can honestly say the primary thing that has kept me sane over the last few years has been talking; sharing my story and hearing the stories of others has been nothing short of liberating.
I told the world I was infertile approximately 4 hours after I found out myself; I had come home from my laparoscopy, still really rather high on painkillers and coming down from anaesthetic, cried into my Dominos pizza (that I had been advised not to get after anaesthetic but, what’s a girl to do when the world has come crashing down around her?), and told everyone on Facebook to stop asking me when I was having children, because it wasn’t going to happen. Sometimes I look back and cringe at the hanging of my laundry so publicly, and yet in the same breath, I know that if I hadn’t done it in that very moment, I may never have done so.
It’s only now as I head into my third cycle of IVF that I truly realise how much talking has saved me, and how far I have come since that day. I regularly make people uncomfortable with how openly I’ll talk about my uterus and my husband’s sperm, but the taboo surrounding infertility is still rife and I refuse to play a part in that. Without talking, nothing changes, and I cannot be part of a community where it feels like we are regularly misunderstood and do nothing to try and change that.
I cope with my infertility in a manor of ways; I bake brownies with an obscene amount of sugar, I read fiction novels that transport me to a world different to my own, where I can escape and find joy in the words of someone else. I plan a life in a tiny cottage with a big garden, wisteria, and magnolia trees, where I drink tea and wine and eat pasta at my French patio table with numerous dogs at my drooling waiting for leftovers. It has been essential in my healing and in my growth that I become as in love with the life I could have without children as I am with my dream of becoming a mother.
Infertility rips you in two and it consumes you in every way it could, from what you eat to what you drink, to your sex life and the way you spend your money. It creeps into your home and invades every safe space you have; it creeps into your kitchen and lines your baking trays making you wish you were baking the cake for your child’s first birthday instead of comfort food for your head. It appears in the steam on your bathroom window as you soak in a bath so hot it makes your head light, imagining what your pregnant belly would look like as the water caresses your stomach. It’s the silence in the spare bedroom; the mouthful of hot coffee that you secretly wish had gone cold whilst you tended to a newborn. It doesn’t have to be the end.
Communication opens up the dialogue, it’s key to explaining why your heart hurts so much; why you’re so happy for your friend and her pregnancy and yet feeling so sad inside; why you can’t face your colleague’s baby shower and if you have another maternity leave collection shoved in your face, you might just have a breakdown. How you cope with infertility is a personal thing, but one thing I’ve learnt in my almost 7 years is that having that outlet is a vital tool to get through.
I can’t change my circumstances, but whilst I ride this wave of uncertainty, finding a way to breathe is the only way I can make it out alive.