First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes…… oh.
You believe that after having one baby, you’ll be able to fall pregnant with another. Isn’t that what they say? “Because you have been pregnant before, you’re chances of getting pregnant again are higher than the average person”?
This is not always the case.
Secondary Infertility was not even on my radar when my then fiancé, Nick, suggested that we try for another baby.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could announce a pregnancy at the wedding reception?” he said. I was a bit hesitant. I had quite a difficult pregnancy first time around and didn’t embrace it. In the end I had to have an emergency C section. I put on five stone and couldn’t seem to shift it and our daughter was now three years old.
I could see the longing in his facial expression so I agreed. The wedding was in four months and I didn’t want to show in my dress, so we said we would start trying the following month.
The wedding came and went and we had no positive pregnancy test. I wasn’t too concerned as the stress from the wedding planning was enough to think about, let alone trying to eat right and look after myself if I was pregnant.
We carried on trying for another year before we realised that there could be a problem. I booked an appointment with my GP and explained the situation; in total denial that there could be an issue to why we were not conceiving. I was asked to have a blood test and referred to the gynaecology department of the PRUH and was told to wait for a letter.
Once the letter had arrived, we were both asked to come to an appointment with the gynie team to discuss our lifestyles. We were both in our late 20s/early 30s, both have active jobs and don’t drink nor smoke. We were able to conceive before, extremely quickly in fact and Nick had a son from a previous relationship. So I still believed it would only be a matter of time before we fell pregnant.
I have always had heavy painful periods and, back when I was 14, my doctor said that I could possibly have Endometriosis but because I was so young they didn’t look into it. They put me on the Microgynon contraceptive pill to make them less heavy and it worked. So there was no need, in my head, to look into it any further.
I explained this to the Doctor at the meeting and she agreed that she thought I could be suffering from Endometriosis, as well as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is one of the main causes in infertility in women.
That’s the first time I heard the word out loud when speaking about myself. I never thought that I could ever be a percentage of “woman who are unable to get pregnant”.
The Doctor referred me for a trans-vaginal scan and Nick for a semen sample (which oddly enough, was like trying to squeeze blood from a stone for him to get it done and take it in).
At this point we still hadn’t told any family, let alone friends, that we were struggling to conceive. It then started to seem everyone around us was getting pregnant. Proud beaming Facebook posts of scan pictures and birth announcements filled my news feed. I would sit alone and cry because my body was letting me down.
Over the next 6 months, I had three scans which all came back saying that I am ovulating (good news) but I did have PCOS (bad news). Doctors did not know why I couldn’t get pregnant. My periods were always on time and I wasn’t hairy in places that I shouldn’t have been. Turns out that there are many other PCOS symptoms I may have overlooked. I also found it really difficult to comprehend that this could mean we would never be able to have another baby. I was put on the waiting list for a Laparoscopy operation where they would be able to see if my tubes were blocked or if anything was stopping conception.
Nicks results all came back as normal so it was all down to me. I was advised to change my diet. That was all I was told. I had to read up on PCOS once I got home to discover what “may help” my situation. Turns out I had to cut out all types of starch (did you know peas are one of the starchiest vegetables?) no white bread, no pasta, no dairy. I had to take more regular exercise to try and stop my body from making the testosterone that it shouldn’t be.
A month later I was put on a drug called Clomid. This stimulates your ovaries into producing more eggs, with the chance at least one of them will be fertilised. We had to go through some general questions to see if we were able to support multiples and the doctor was happy with what we said. I didn’t expect for it to work in the first month but I had convinced myself that in the next cycle I would find out that I am pregnant. For me, Clomid made me feel exhausted. I resulted to taking iron supplements earlier on as my iron levels were low but I was utterly drained. I mistook the Clomid side effects for early pregnancy and found myself getting excited at the thought of a positive test. I would think about the funny ways in which I could tell Nick that we had a little one on the way. But within days, my period came and we were heartbroken. I didn’t want to have surgery as I would have to be put under general anaesthetic and that frightened me. But now that was my only choice.
By this time we had begun to tell family and close friends of our struggle. There were lots of “don’t worry, I’m sure you will get pregnant soon” and “You need to have a nice evening and a bottle of wine and just relax”. Although everyone means well, the statement I dislike the most is “Well, at least you have one already”. This wasn’t good for me as I was fully aware that we had one already. I am grateful every day that I get to see her face because some people don’t even have that opportunity, but I wanted another one. I became obsessed with watching baby programmes. On TV and YouTube videos. Finding success stories online of people who became pregnant “by using these top tips”. I gave positive thinking a try and just waited for my surgery.
Surgery day came and Nick took me into the Day Surgery Unit at the PRUH and waited outside as I was walked in.
I was approached by the nurses who gave me my stockings and gown. Never in a million years did I think that I would be in this situation I am in.
Nurses, Doctors and Surgeons would ask me all the same questions, to make sure that I totally understood what was about to happen and what I should expect (the most exciting bit was I was told that my first wee would be blue!) and roughly how long the surgery would take.
I was wheeled into the operating theatre and started to cry. All the emotions came flooding out. The antitheist was very supportive, asked me what was wrong and I admitted I was worried that I wasn’t going to wake up. Was all this worth it? What are they going to find? Would they have to remove an ovary or a tube? Is this the point where I find out something I didn’t want to know?
Obviously, I woke up from surgery. Felt a little sore but alright. At this point, I was more concerned about the little girl opposite me who had just had eye surgery and was still asleep. I burst into tears.
“Is she okay?” I blurted to the nurse
“Yes she is fine, now listen to me, we had to do an ovarian drilling on your left ovary. You have three incisions in your belly that we have stitched up.” She said. “You will be uncomfortable for a while”.
“Was there anything else you could see?” I blabbed.
“There looked to be a bit of damage to your left ovary from your caesarean section you had. But that may not be the reason behind you not being able to conceive”
I still had no answers. No one could tell me the exact reason why Nick and I were not able to get pregnant.
My surgery was three weeks ago and I have been told to wait another month before I start the Clomid again.
We are keeping optimistic and have a follow up appointment in November. I am beginning to try and not worry about the outcome. We could still be struggling this time next year. I have swapped the iron for Folic Acid and I have got Nick some Zinc supplements to take to see if that could make any difference.
Please feel free to contact me if you or anyone you know is going through this, and although you may feel alone, there are many people who are waiting for someone to talk to. Even if it is just a shoulder to lean on. I also would be grateful for any success stories!