820 days. 2 years and 3 months. That’s how long I’ve wanted be a mum.
There’s a bedroom on the top floor of our house that we’ve never really committed to decorating properly. We’re waiting.
We assumed a lot when we decided to become parents at the very start of 2017. We even (on reflection very naïvely) thought it would happen in the first three months of trying. I started to worry when it got to six months with no results. We started with the ovulation sticks and charting when I would ovulate (I swore I’d never be that woman). The smiley face never appeared.
My mum was diagnosed with vascular dementia in the July of 2017. I remember thinking I really wanted my child to meet my mum before the dementia took her away. A quiet desperation began and suddenly there was pressure.
It got to October. I can’t remember what happened in what order, but we went for tests at the GP just in case there was a reason why we hadn’t conceived. My husband’s tests needed a bit more exploration, but looked ok. Something was wrong with me though. That month we also learned that not only did my dad have vascular dementia too, but he’d had it undetected for years and it was far more progressed than my mum’s. Something that none of my family want to admit is that he has pretty much been taken away now.
The desperation got louder. I want my parents to meet our child. It was an urge from within, an instinct rather than a rational thought. Whatever it was, it was really powerful, affecting me to this day.
We were referred to the local fertility hospital and I went through a series of mostly invasive tests. Some were pretty traumatic to be honest. This took us to December when a consultant sat us down and told us that I was indeed ‘sub fertile’ and would need treatment. I had PCOS aka Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Finding out you might not be a parent one day is one hell of a way to test whether you really want kids. The grief, the loss and the loneliness starts to grow and grow after this day.
Around 5–10% of women of a child-bearing age have this condition. It’s the most common cause of infertility in women. We don’t we talk about this enough. I’ve listed some info below because I believe that more people should be aware:
difficulty getting pregnant (because of irregular ovulation or failure to ovulate)
excessive hair growth (hirsutism) — usually on the face, chest, back or buttocks
thinning hair and hair loss from the head
oily skin or acne
Not all women with PCOS will have all of the symptoms, and each symptom can vary from mild to severe.
Some women only experience menstrual problems or are unable to conceive, or both.
I have the top two symptoms but I also suffer from lots more that are not listed here. Anxiety & depression (usually when I have a surge or drop in hormones — I can feel it start and stop but can’t control it or plan for it) these are described as ‘mood swings’ which is a bit reductive to be honest, debilitating migraines when my progesterone drops too quickly (pro*gest*erone = pro-gestation hormone. It drops when ovulation (or no ovulation in my case) hasn’t led to a pregnancy), fatigue (the kind where you need to pull over on the motorway), feeling like I have a hangover when I haven’t drunk a drop of alcohol and quite heavy discomfort after eating certain foods at certain times. I’m still learning what is normal and what i’ve been putting up with all these years.
The worst part is that you sometimes don’t know the difference between real feelings and thoughts. Your hormones play cruel tricks on you.
In early 2018, we had our first cycle of fertility treatment. We were put on a treatment called Clomid or Clomiphene. It’s an ovulation induction treatment that can help a dominant follicle grow. YouTuber Once in a Lullabye sums up going through a cycle on Clomid perfectly in her video. I’m not personally a fan of all the ‘mummy’ stuff online (it gets very sickly very quickly), and the title of the channel would normally put me off, but I found this video really valuable at the time as it’s very honest about the experience.
It was really tough, there are lots of disappointing conversations and emotion-filled scans. It caused my hormones to go crazy; I was a head of department who cried in meetings. I felt very unwell and it put a lot of pressure on my relationship. We were really scared but little did we know it was the easiest bit yet.
It’s unusual for the first cycle on Clomid to work, but we got pregnant first time. The joy and happiness we felt during that time was wonderful. We’d even let ourselves enjoy it a bit. We talked about names and tracked the embryo’s size. It was the size of a blueberry the day that we found out the pregnancy was ectopic. Our first scan was always going to be nerve-wracking, but we hadn’t imagined the worst.
You know it’s bad when the nurse says she can’t find the baby and then gets someone else in to have a look. There was a heartbeat as we hoped, but the baby was stuck in the wrong place. It was in my fallopian tube which explained the bleeding I was a worried about. The pregnancy wouldn’t be safe to continue with.
An army of people rushed into the room. One person put a cannula into my hand, another asked me If I understood that I had to have surgery right now or I could die. We left via the waiting room, where all the other budding parents watched as I was escorted by two paramedics with my husband to an ambulance. Within a few hours I was under general anaesthetic lying on an operating table. When I woke up I was really craving tea and toast and wasn’t pregnant anymore. I’d lost the fallopian tube too. My body has never been the same. My clothes didn’t fit and I had scars to remind me of what could have been. It’s fair to say, I felt pretty shit about myself and so very sad at what we had lost. The little one would be about four months old by now. I wasn’t capable of doing the most womanly thing you can do.
Eight months later in early 2019, I’ve recovered physically and we’ve both recovered enough mentally to have another crack. Our faith is a little battered and strength worn, but it’s enough. I’m doing everything I can within my power to be ready for what comes next. I’m following the advice in Marylin Glenville’s book Natural Solutions to PCOS. I’m off dairy (it contains male hormones), alcohol (except special occasions a la Nana from the Royle Family), caffeine (i’m allowing 1 coffee a day otherwise i’ll have no treats and will go insane), refined carbs including sugar and am taking all of the supplements. Taking positive steps is really helping to me to get through.
I’ve noticed that i’m staying in a lot more though. Avoiding difficult questions and well-meaning “Just relax, and it will happen”s. I’ve got a medical condition. You wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to relax and then go on a marathon, would you? Are you picking up on a little anger? That’s because it’s there. I’m tired of being told that someone’s friend “gave up and then it just happened”.
This should be our first Mother’s Day. I’ve never cared about Mother’s Day or had any ambitions to be one of it’s patrons before. It’s Hallmark bollocks to increase sales of floral pink things in between Valentine’s Day and Easter, right? I’d do anything to be given a shit mug with ‘Mum’ written on it right now.
As someone who values their career as a huge part of their life and identity, it might come as a surprise to some that becoming a parent is highest on my list. The two are definitely at odds on a daily basis. Part of me is just betting on it all working out and i’ll cross bridges when I come to them. If I didn’t have my job that I love, i’d go insane, and that will always be. I’m not daft though. I know if I get my shit ‘Mum’ mug that it won’t be easy, especially juggling parenthood and work. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in these 820 days though, it’s not to make too many plans.
We’re decorating the spare room.
This is for all the mums and dads in the waiting room. At least we have lie-ins xxx 💜 xxx