What to expect when you’re not expecting XVII: it’s Fertility Week and I still don’t have a baby

A memory came up on my Facebook feed this morning.

“Kim, we care about you and the memories that you make on Facebook. We thought that you’d like to look back on this post from 2 years ago”.

I remember everything about that day, but not because of what was happening in the pictures. There I was, standing in front of a boat with a group of people, about to embark on an incredible trip to Whakaari (White Island). I was hosting people from Australia, showing them how beautiful and diverse New Zealand is. I was beaming in that photo. Smiling from ear to ear. But underneath that cheery exterior I was a neurotic mess.

I had just taken some anti-nausea pills so I didn’t vomit over the people I was trying to impress, but I was convinced the ‘Paihia Bomb’ I had received from a chemist in Northland was going to interfere with my fertility. The fertile days of my cycle had passed and I was at the end of the dreaded two-week-wait (aptly named after the fourteen days between ovulation and the beginning of your period where you agonise over every little twinge your body makes, convincing yourself that you are with child). What if this month we had finally been successful but these seasick pills stopped the blastocyst from implanting? And how long had I been using words like blastocyst?

My period arrived that day.

I didn’t blame the pills. Unfortunately this experience was all too familiar. Every month was the same. Period arrives – sadness. Period ends – determination that next cycle will be different. Fertile window starts – excitement that this could be it, followed by irritation and anxiety about having to have sex at exactly the right time at regular intervals for optimum results. Fertile window closes – relief, knowing you’ve done everything you can and the rest is up to nature. The next two weeks – excruciating. Period ultimately arrives – sadness again.

We are now in year four of trying to start our family.

I’ve said it before, but infertility runs so much deeper than just not being able to get pregnant.  It has well and truly altered my life. It has affected my relationships with friends. It has changed our marriage. It impacts on my career. I question my own self-worth every day. It has infected everything. There is no part of my life spared.

I’m not usually a negative person, I do my best to look for the good in everything. But as the years go by, my glasses are losing their rose tint.

I am angry.

After a long working week, my idea of the perfect weekend is a combination of spending time with my family (it never matters what we do, just being with them is enough) and hanging with my friends. Brunch, dinner dates, a mid-afternoon house visit – anything goes. Our weekends used to be like this and it was the best. Life was easy. I thought it was hard at the time, but I knew nothing Jon Snow.

We were so lucky. We still are really, but things have changed.

When I was in my twenties, I couldn’t understand why everyone just wouldn’t hang out with their friends all the time. My life revolved around them. I couldn’t wrap my head around why older people spent more time in their own worlds and less time in the worlds of others.

Now that I’m in my thirties, I can see why (and more upsettingly just how easily) it happens. People get caught up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just life. New families have been created, new lives are being built.

I don’t have a new family and a new life as my reason to be caught up, but I’ve let my friendships slide all the same. I see my friends juggle their babies and their partners and their problems with grace. I admire them from afar and wish that maybe one day I could be like that.

More often than not I find it hard to socialise. I’m pretty much a hermit now, and just as crabby. I do have good days. I even have good weeks. I am not sure I can say I’ve had a good month, but the point is there are times when my old self appears and I can have fun. I hold onto those days tightly and I share my love with those who will have it. Which if I’m honest is mostly with Dave, because he’s ALWAYS THERE. That’s marriage. Lucky me (I realise that sounds really sarcastic but I actually mean it genuinely).

I had an idea of what marriage was going to be like. Or more accurately, what I wanted it to be like.

I was so lucky to meet my husband in early adulthood. We became best friends and over time our feelings developed into love. What I loved (and still love) most about him is his openness and honesty. Right from the beginning of our relationship, we talked things out. That was new for me, I was mostly good at shutting off my feelings when things got too hard. But Dave showed me that bad things weren’t going to happen if I talked about why I was upset. That I could express my anger and frustration about something without the fear of him walking out or everything blowing up in my face.

We would email each other all of the time. We would usually have two or three email chains on the go at once. In one we would be discussing something pretty serious, in the second we would be having a full blown barney about something and in the third we’d be chatting about what we were going to do after work and having a laugh.

He taught me how to communicate and I honestly think that’s what’s kept us going through this whole thing.

I can’t tell if our relationship has changed or if it has just matured, like a fine wine or a stinky cheese. We certainly have different priorities now than what we had a few years ago. Sometimes we get distant with each other, but thanks to communication, we pull each other back by using… um, communication.

It’s hard sometimes, really hard. Occasionally I don’t want to say something because I don’t want to hurt his feelings. But then I realise if I don’t, it’s going to get worse and possibly turn into something much harder to fix. So I bite the bullet and do it, and it’s never a big deal. I like to think he feels the same way with me, although let’s face it – I’m practically perfect in every way so he doesn’t usually have anything to complain about. Ha.

We’ve been together for ten years. We’ve been trying to have kids for so many of those.

Saying yes to having kids was one of the biggest decisions I have made in my life so far. Granted, it was an easy one to make – I have always wanted babies. Dave and I discussed it pretty early on in our relationship. We were on the same page. Lucky for him.

Some people have their babies young, some later in life. Some choose not to have them at all. There is no right or wrong, it is a choice every person thinks they get to make. We talked about waiting until I was 30 before we would start trying. We had things we wanted to accomplish first. We weren’t ready. We wanted to get married, buy a house. You know, line up the ducks. Quack quack quack.

If we started at 30 then we could still complete our family by the time I was 35. We talked about getting me pregnant in the same way we talked about planning our next holiday.

“Well we don’t want to get pregnant in June, because that means we’ll have a summer baby and I don’t want to be uncomfortable in the heat”.

We talked about it like we had a choice.

In three months I will be 35 years old. We don’t have a choice.

Well, we do, but it’s not the choice we thought. So now we choose to do round after round of IVF. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll need to choose something else.

We started our fourth round of IVF on 1 November. This date also marked the first day of Fertility Week in New Zealand. The irony is not lost on us. If I believed in signs, I would say that this was a good one and we were bound for success. But we all know that just wanting something enough doesn’t do shit, so I’m putting it down to a happy coincidence.

I’m terrified of failure. I’m not sure how much more I can physically take. My life has been consumed, I can’t remember what things were like before we jumped on this roller coaster. I wish it didn’t, but at the moment infertility defines me.

This round is going to take much longer than our previous rounds, and not because we are already planning for cancellation and failure (although if the shoe fits…). Our doctor has put me on yet another drug, called lucrin. It’s designed to suppress my hormones and make my body think it’s going through menopause (lucky me, hot flushes are my FAVOURITE). The idea behind it is that when you start the follicle stimulating drug two weeks later, the doctors can control how they grow. By dropping the amount of lucrin by half at the same time I start taking menopur (the follicle drug) it will hopefully give the follicles a wee boost. I’m honestly hoping for a massive shove.

So let’s see how far we get. Maybe we should start taking bets. Will we make it to egg retrieval? Will my body decide to grow more cysts instead of follicles? Will we end up with an actual, live baby in nine months? Stay tuned!

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3 Comments

  1. Susan Hawthorne says:

    I read every word you write Kim and my heart is with you and my belly too. I am now 72 and identify with you from my own experience from several perspectives. Bless you and Dave both

  2. Fingers and toes crossed for the big shove K & D xxx

  3. If it makes you feel any better (and as I’m sure other people going through this will have told you), you are definitely not alone in the effect it’s had on you. I feel like infertility has made me a bad daughter, a bad friend, a bad participant in my sports teams an usual community activities… I just don’t have the emotional capacity to give a lot to anyone other than myself and my partner. I also don’t want to have to endure the explanations, or the updates, or the questions.

    I stopped for petrol this morning and on a whim, I bought myself a coffee. It just reminded me how little I’ve done that recently, just gone out or done little fun things like brunch with a mate. The normality of it was jarring.

    Mentally this is easily the toughest thing I’ve ever been through- even the death of one of my parents doesn’t compare because that was something I’ve always expected one way or another; this is my whole future at stake and I have virtually no control.

    Lots of the very best wishes to you and Dave for this round. Those of us who have been following are rooting for you.

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