Leanne (UK): My IVF Hart: The struggle of being a step mum
I wouldn’t consider myself someone that has always dreamed of children, but I have also not been one to decide it will never be for me. My focus in younger years was always around my career, caring for my family and my friends. So as time went on (and several failed relationships later), I started to think that maybe it just wouldn’t happen for me. Then I met my now-husband and my decision about children took a massive turn… I wanted a baby and I wanted one with this man. So at 27, I thought it was sure to happen, wasn’t it?!
Like most of us, my husband came with baggage. Unfortunately, his was an ex-wife and a vasectomy. Yep, there we go, that decision I made in my head had been shattered. The vasectomy was supposed to be a marriage saver, just a short two months later it all dissolved and he was left feeling a ‘broken man’. He thought that no one would want him: a 29 year old with no future to offer. But for me, there was no way I was letting this man go: he was the one for me.
Along with the bad news, he also brought with him three children. This could be the saviour, surely? It was not; it didn’t take long for the ex-wife to cause arguments and trouble, so much so that we ended up not seeing the children for six months. This is not how I had expected parenthood to be, even as a step-mum. I was now longing for my own.
Not long after we shared the news of our pasts and what future we wanted (I was pleased to hear he did actually want more children and he did indeed regret the snip), we decided to take some steps. A reversal was on the cards and he had already been looking into it. We thought this would work out just fine. He was young, it had only been two years since the op, surely we would be ok! We got a loan and booked it in. The op went well, the tubes had been mended – hurray! Then came the first of many semen analyses: poor count and 89% antibodies on the tails. Not too disheartened, we decided to try to conceive naturally for two years without luck. We needed a helping hand. Following more semen analyses, several blood tests and consultations, it was then determined that we would need IVF/ICSI to help us on the way.
Whilst we made decisions and finally regained access to my partner's children again, it seemed the ex-wife was making her own too. She was pregnant. This was so hard to deal with, as the children were so excited at the concept of having a baby sister or brother. This led to them wishing for us to have one too. Holding back gulps in the back of my throat, I explained to them that it is not our time right now and that they should enjoy the new addition to their mum's house. Then I felt like we were letting so many people down by not being able to produce a baby. I felt anger towards my partner’s ex-wife and even stopped going to collect the children with my partner. I simply could not face her; I blamed her for this mess.
We decided to leave the B word for a while and focus on our bond again. Either way, we were a family, that was decided when we met. No way would this define us and rule our lives! We fought to see the children more and gained regular access; we would continue as this blended family. Three years on and feeling strong in our bond we married in a secret wedding that took six weeks to plan. Happiness was right here and we were ready to say the baby word again.
28th January 2018 was the go-live date: stims started and we were on our journey to have our own baby. Two weeks in and all was well until my husband woke up in pain. He had an infection in his epididymis tube and we would have to stop treatment. ‘Heartbroken’ is the only word I could use at this point. We were told to allow three to four months for new sperm to regenerate and start all over again from day one…
We are one month into that wait and coping. We still see the children regularly and build memories. As a step mum it makes it hard for me, as seeing them tugs at that side of me that wishes for my own. Mother’s day is really hard, they make cards for their mum and I sit in the back hoping that one day I will get the same. Being a step mum has not fixed our fertility battle (I thought it would); I wouldn’t even say it has been a plaster over it. It has been an extension of this journey we are in and continues to take.
The hate for a decision made long before has subsided and I look to the future whatever that may bring. I have learnt that you cannot control all of the paths – you can only control how you see the next direction. I see it as a need to spread as much positivity as possible and will take the next road as an egg sharer.