I never really ‘dreamed’ of having a child. It’s not that I didn’t want one, it just didn’t enter my thought processes for a long time. I met my now husband in the first year of university, we then travelled the world and did all the things people without children do (mostly involving late nights and alcohol). Even after we got married, it didn’t become a priority and it was only a year or two later when we started discussing ‘when’ we thought a good time to have a child would be. And of course, everyone we knew – on the face of it – was getting pregnant just by looking at their husbands. So, we did one last big holiday to South America and then we were going to have a baby. Simple as that.
A year later and no sign of any pregnancy. Despite downloading all the godforsaken apps that tell you the minute you’re ovulating, and using ovulation sticks, and generally over thinking the inner workings of my body, we trotted off to the doctors. One laparoscopy later (and they gave my tubes “a good squirt” just to make sure they were clear) and there were no answers. So, then the tests on my husband began. We don’t even know what the technical term is, we just call it ‘lazy sperm’. It means we could get pregnant but it’ll probably take a hell of a long time. So, onto the waiting list for assisted conception we went.
I could imagine the process of being invited to an open evening where the unit staff did a talk on what to expect, to discover more than 100 other terrified looking couples in the lecture theatre with us, or the number of times my husband had to inject me with the hormone because I was too scared to do it myself. But there are some things we only learned by going through the experience and, for anyone else going through this, every person is different so don’t assume my experience is the same as anyone else’s.
Medical science is incredible
Did you know there are three kinds of assisted conception? Me neither. There’s Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), where the sperm are ‘introduced’ to the womb/fallopian tubes at the time of ovulation, then In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), where the sperm and eggs are left to do their thing in a petri-dish and then resulting embryo is implanted in the womb. And then Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. When you think of the microscopic size of these, the science just blows my mind.
We are beyond lucky
We lived in a London borough that funded two cycles of assisted conception. We’ve since moved to a borough that has removed all funding so, if we were in the position now of needing treatment, we’d need to find the money ourselves. When I sat in that lecture theatre, I can’t tell you how many times the different speakers pointed out the chances of success. Less than 25% chance of a live birth, if you didn’t know. But don’t worry, ‘we’ll have all your frozen embryos to try a few more times’, we were told… I cried the day I discovered I had one good embryo. Which meant on this round, I got one shot at my 25% chance. That was a pretty low point. Somehow against the odds, I fell pregnant.
It’s not really happening
We spent the first three months of pregnancy pretending I wasn’t pregnant; what was the point? I got lucky in that my early months were easy so I was able to carry on as normal. Although it was a rollercoaster of emotion: I happened to sit through a talk from someone at a work event who had been through two rounds of IVF and both had resulted in pregnancy. And both had resulted in miscarriage. I had to lock myself in the loo to cry, I was mortified.
We spent the next three months reminding anyone who asked that the chances of miscarriage were so high that we weren’t holding our breath. Hardly the cheery response anyone would have been looking for.
Only when we got to less than three months to due date did we start to think we might need to do some planning. Our junk room was still a junk room. We hadn’t thought of a single thing we needed for baby, and despite knowing we were having a boy, we hadn’t thought about names.
When my boy was born, the midwife placed him on my chest and I vaguely remember uttering the words “it’s a baby”, much to the endless amusement of my husband. I was obviously off my face on gas and air but I think my sentiment was more the disbelief of finally getting what we’d hoped for than thinking I’d be birthing a pterodactyl.
We weren’t ready for the ‘next one’ questions
We’ve always been open with people about needing to have IVF, so it came as a shock when the questions about “when are you having another one” started. I get it from someone at work who’s making polite conversation, but close friends and family who I thought had a slight grasp on what we’d been through totally threw me. If anyone knows the correct answer to this question, I’d love to know. To those who don’t know, I tend to tell them why there won’t be another. To those who should know better, I tend to go with sarcasm (sure, got a spare £10k so we can get another round in before I’m 40?)
There is a serious side to this question. We know we’re lucky to have had success in our first round, and we don’t qualify for any more NHS funding. So, do we suck it up and accept we’ll only have one child. I mean, it’s not like I was desperate for kids in the first place. And one is already quite a handful, I don’t know how I’d manage with a second. And honestly, does anyone have £10k sitting around to pay for a ‘maybe’? What’s the chances of being so lucky a second time around? Or are there times when I feel so sad I can’t give my son a brother or sister I don’t even have words to describe the feeling? I think we’ll make peace with all of this at some point, but for now I’ll likely continue resorting to sarcasm.
We are truly unbelievably lucky
I know I said we were lucky, but this can’t be underestimated. Some days I want to scream at my now three-year-old son for doing some of the stupidest things known to man. But other days, I still can’t believe he’s ours to keep and enjoy and love. There is nothing in life so precious.