Umber (UK): Lessons learned along the way...
Four years and two kids later, its all a bad dream. Details are hazy, timings are off. Like my head has done me the kindness of making the memory a distant one.
You see the tender bruises, the scatter of blacks blues and yellows across my stomach faded. In the absence of any permanent tattoos to mark my battle for baby, it’s all a bit of a blur. But don’t get me wrong, it’s a blur with sharp edges.
So while I can’t deal you my facts and figures, or stats of the type I would have obsessively poured over night after night, I will trade you the lessons I have learnt, about myself and others throughout my journey.
1. Fertility is a lottery
I won the IVF lottery with my first ticket. Clomid (which had failed me miserably years before) turned out to be a first time miracle drug for kiddie in round two. Both pregnancies stuck with the net result of one boy and one girl. Despite years of trying and failing to get pregnant, I never experienced the pain and unthinkable disappointment of a miscarriage.
I know that I am one of the lucky ones and yet I am no more, no less deserving than any other woman fighting her own fertility battle. It’s a war of attrition - on the body and mind - yet there are so many survivors without a baby in their arms. It’s an injustice that the winners are so arbitrary.
2. Family & friends
My battle was not a silent one. My husband attended each and every appointment. My mum and sister administered all my injectables (as I never could). My brother and dad kept an awkward yet watchful eye on how I was doing and prayed silently for our miracle.
My best friends at work kept an active interest. Aware of my endless appointments, they were willing me on; my safety net, my soundboard. I told my partner at the law firm where I worked that all focus would be shifting to IVF and he dutifully and respectfully backed off.
I didn’t have a support network. I had an army of supporters. Their love, hopes and prayers buffered me, protected me and provided me with a comfort blanket when I needed it most. They propped me up at my most vulnerable and for that I am eternally grateful.
3. Money loses all meaning
To this day, myself and my husband have no idea how much money we spent on our fertility battle. To ensure our appointments fit around work (law firms and infertility do not mix) we went to a private clinic.
We stopped looking at invoices, our bank statements and just paid whatever we needed to. Money is no object when there’s a baby in the balance. I realise now just how fortunate we were to be able to take this view.
4. Obsession & betrayal
I firmly believe that there is no greater obsession than a woman longing for a baby. My once career-focused mind was rewired and there was no turning back.
It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up, and the last thing to dwell on at night. And it was everything in between. I went into autopilot, a default mode, going through the motions and just biding my time.
I don’t think I ever felt resentful or envious of “that pregnant woman on the train”, or family members that carelessly stumbled into their pregnant state. I felt only a profound sense of sadness at myself and my body that had betrayed me so badly when I needed it most.
(FYI - it has since redeemed itself and has been forgiven).
Years later, I feel safe and secure in my victory. I have my precious family in the shape I have always wanted and I am so grateful. Grateful to God, to science, to the doctors, to my family and friends. For my little miracles. The memories of my fertility struggle fade. I am grateful for that too.
And then I hear that one of my oldest and dearest friends is embarking on the same battle. Is facing the same uncertainties that I did, battling the same odds. And I’m reminded just how precarious the situation is and was. How fragile. How desperate.
I weep uncontrollably at the sight of her text message. For myself and for her. For the unfairness of it all. For the struggle that I know she must face. For the hurt she must be feeling.
But I know she will fight, head on, for as long as she is able. She’s a warrior like no other. Just like me.