*This is a collaborative post with Growing Generations
For many of us, it seems like conceiving a baby is ‘easy’, for some like me it was a bit too easy – unplanned but not unwelcome. The notion of a ‘happy accident’ seems like a pretty common story but it’s not always the norm.
You might not realise it but around one in seven couples is unable to conceive naturally after trying for two years. It’s highly likely that you know couples who have struggled, or had some kind of treatment, even if they never mention it. I can honestly say I never thought struggles with infertility would be something that affected me until a dear friend shared her journey.
I can’t possibly do her story justice so I’m really grateful that she offered to share a few words here, for the purposes of this blog post we’ll call her Claire.
“After everything I’ve been through over the past 3 years, it’s hard to remember how I thought of fertility ‘before’, that carefree person seems alien to me most days. In my 20s I loved spending time with my nieces, nephews and colleagues children. I always knew I wanted to be a mum one day but I had no timeline, no concrete plans. I went to university, started a career, bought a home – I was happy. When I was around 26 my partner and I decided to stop ‘not trying’ to have a baby. We thought we’d see how things went and imagined we’d be welcoming our first child at some point in the next 12-18 months. I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I said before I always associated problems with fertility with much older couples – I never thought it could happen to me.
Needless to say, it did. After 6 months I started to worry something was wrong, I was counting, tracking cycles, changing my diet. My partner told me not to worry, that stress would make things worse but I couldn’t help it. Slowly the quest to have a baby took over and consumed my days. I was angry with myself, frustrated with my partner, I found it hard to be happy for friends around us who seemed to have no trouble conceiving. I worried that I’d done something wrong, that I was broken, that I’d never be a mum. I felt alone, bitter and desperate.
After two long years of avoiding every possible exposure to pregnant people and babies – not an easy feat in your mid-twenties – we were referred to a specialist and started the process of IVF. You might think at think point that we felt excited, hopeful and safe but it was a really hard process. Thankfully I had some counselling and support from family and friends but I still feel like infertility and IVF are real taboo subjects. As if there is some shame associated with the struggle to conceive. It took two rounds of IVF but we did eventually have our own miracle baby. A beautiful boy who is loved beyond your wildest dreams.
Our story is, ultimately, a happy one but I would really like to share that fertility struggles aren’t reserved for older couples. It can affect anyone, maybe it won’t be you but it could be your sister or your colleague. The best thing you can do for them is listen, share in the journey and give them a safe space to talk about their struggles. It’s probably not going to be a comfortable experience for you but I can honestly say it means the world to know you’re not alone.”
As Claire touched on, when I think about medical interventions that can help with infertility the first thing that springs to mind is sperm donation, I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I think a contributing factor here is that when we see fictional couples on TV or in films struggling to conceive it’s nearly always a lighthearted scene involving a sperm bank.
Given that we know just under 44% of women who have IVF are aged between 18 and 34 it’s pretty clear there is more to infertility than pop culture focuses on. Growing Generations have asked me to share some information about another option – egg donation. It might sound a bit complex but it’s actually quite a straight forward process. The infographic below explains the process a lot more clearly than I could hope to.
If you’d like more information about IVF, egg donation or surrogacy, the Growing Generations website is full of resources and advice about what steps could be best for your family. And if Claires story resonates with you I can strongly recommend reading Twin Mummy & Daddy, this post on Rock My Family and The Girl Behind The Camera.