It has taken me months to decide what I wanted to do about this subject but I have decided to share for two reasons. One reason is because I want to share my journey with others in case it helps someone else in a similar position and the second is because it is therapeutic for myself.
I always planned to share my story with how I had a second child through fertility treatment and have videos to show my journey. My vision was to share these when I had reached a safe point in a pregnancy but since this has been on-going since January this year it seems that these videos and this journey has become too long for me to really remember the thoughts and feelings I had at the beginning. I look back at my first month trying and see a very different person- one who was full of hope and joy about trying for a second baby. The person I see now is one full of emotional trauma, hatred for the process and a feeling that I will never see a blue line on a pregnancy test again. I see pictures of pregnant women and newborn babies and it hurts every time because my heart pangs for that feeling again.
Of course this sounds so bleak, I sound negative and believe me I've had some talks to friends who tell me not to worry and that it will all be OK. Of course it may, but it also may not happen. You see, if you told me I would be still without a child growing inside me I would have laughed really. It worked first time with Arlo and I have no known fertility issues. The issue always lay with my husband and we have dealt with that. We thought we had been punished enough. I wanted to keep the second time quiet- as last time we had two years of hell and one year of trying and everyone knew we went to Greece and followed my pregnancy from the time the sperm met the egg. I wanted this time to be one big fabulous surprise.
My fertility journey is exceptionally short compared to many but what I have come to realise on my many mammoth midnight Googling sessions is that everyone's journey is shite and everyone's journey is very different. What I have been through in 8 months is for me quite unbelievable but for others it may sound nothing and for some it may sound crazy.
I will share my trips on separate blogs when I am ready. I feel it will help me deal with the loss I feel I have had over the past few months but for now I will go through the journey in brief so far because what I now want to do, and it is taken me a long time to decide if this is right for me and right for others, is share the next part of my fertility journey and it is the biggest step I have had to take so far.
If you already know about how we had Arlo (there's a separate blog here) then you will be aware that Arlo is donored from Greece anonymously. We chose to do this for several reasons.
1. Because it is cheaper in Greece.
2. We have been given ZERO help anywhere, we have had to pay for absolutely everything because of how poor Ali's fertility situation is and because my BMI was too low and because we weren't (I now realise) offered what we should have been offered (this is a big shout-out to all the knobs we saw about our fertility issues in hospitals around the South East we really thank you for offering us absolutely jack-shite when I now know we should have been entitled to some help)
3. Donoring is anonymous and means Arlo and his sperm donor have no need to ever meet.
4. Because my Greek clinic has a heart and isn't out to make money- our clinic really, genuinely care and shocker- actually ask how we are.
I also want to point out if you are reading this and think, well I know a friend of Bob who had fertility and got pregnant naturally and why don't you just relax and it may well happen. It won't. It never will do for us. My husband has a count of zero. Yep that means not a single swimmer and unless he has been touched a magical sperm unicorn since we last checked then no. It really won't. Our only option is intervention and a donor.
In January I stopped BF'ing because Arlo weaned himself off but also I was always going to stop because I wanted a small gap between him and a sibling. I had an Aqua scan in London and prepped myself ready for a Feb trip to Greece. We all went. I said I was on holiday, closed the shop and had my heart set on round one being a success, because why not. It wasn't. My period came but my body gave me all the feels for being pregnant. I felt exactly like I did with Arlo's two week wait and every round I have had has been similar to this, making each fail a bigger kick in the vagina than it needed to be. When it failed I felt as though someone had winded me so much that I couldn't breathe. I put my heart, soul and everything into giving Arlo a sibling. I felt I had failed him. Failed my husband and failed myself. Kindly, people reminded me that IUI is as good as having Sex. Well that is wonderful news isn't it. I have never paid over 2000 pounds for sex and if I had quite frankly I would want a better outcome, but these are the stats and this is the way it is.
I picked myself up after a few days and planned trip two, because IUI needs you to go month after month really. As soon as your period comes you have two weeks to plan again. I wasn't working a job because I wanted to go to Greece but now I needed a job and tried to work an interview around going abroad, around a natural ovulating set of ovaries. As well as of course actually living my life, having a one year old, dealing with my emotions and running a business. You know- because that's all normal.
(Here is Arlo's angel- Arlo's first mama)
I went with Arlo by myself to Greece second time, Arlo caught a bug as a flew- no literally- as I flew he projectile vomited and an air stewardess felt so bad for me after half an hour of puke that she gave me her spare clothes and found some for Arlo. I had to go straight from the airport to the clinic to find out I was already ovulating and needed to wait for the sperm that hour- with an ill baby. We changed our flights and only stayed in Athens for two days. Coming home with two new teeth (Arlo not me obvs) and now diarrhoea.
It failed. My period came. My heart broke. I cried.
The clinic felt there could be an underlying issue after Arlo. So, in April I went out to Greece on my tod and had a Hysto in a Greek hospital which is an operation to clear out my uterus. They found left over placenta and did deep cuts to help implantation. I will write about this because my clinic is well-known for this procedure and the UK isn't. I was given a 65% chance of it working after this and flew out in May on my next ovulation. I had a nightmare of a time flying out and I think because of stress by now I ovulated five days late- FIVE DAYS. I was stuck in Athens without my baby boy but I knew I had to carry on despite crying for 90% of the time and telling my husband I wanted to come home.
It failed. My heart broke again. I felt like shit. We were down thousands of pounds and we are building up debt that we can't really deal with but I knew I had to keep going.
I went out in June. It was a friend's wedding. I didn't want my fertility issues to mean I missed the whole day. So I started injecting myself this round with Gonal F. I injected every day around my belly button late after my Waitrose shift for a few days and drove to Battle to be scanned to check. I was asked by the clinic to fly, you guessed it on my friend's wedding, I was PISSED. I booked a flight on Friday, arrived midnight. Transferred the sperm with two eggs Saturday, flew back on a more expensive flight on Saturday morning UK time 10am and made it back to Sussex for the sit down meal at about 5pm.
This time when it failed I cried. I screamed into my pillow. I couldn't face seeing Arlo. I left him in his cot talking to his animals for about an hour while tears poured and wouldn't stop. I felt hopeless. My period was here with full-force and the world seemed a darker place. How could this be? How could it have? I have done everything up to this point. I've tried everything during my two week waits. I have kept the shop open, closed the shop, done yoga, not done yoga. Visualised. I don't know what else to fucking do.
Well, here we are. My clinic closes over the Summer and I needed a break anyway plus flights are too expensive and of course the pound is weak against the Euro so basically everything is more expensive.
(The trip by ourselves)
I am about to embark on my first IVF round. I am scared. Shit scared. I don't know what to expect. I can deal with it all, I know I can. But what I know I won't be able to deal with so well is failure and I know that if we have invested all of our money, emotion and time and we still don't even get a blue line then I am not sure what we will do next. However, right now I need to try IVF. I am so lucky that in all of this I have had some close friend's who have stuck by my side and have been absolute rocks to me. I also have my husband who has juggled his work around this all. Looking after Arlo by himself for up to a week and who is now coming with me to support me in September.
I am going to share my journey on my Instagram quite openly. Why when this is my business page etc? Because I am a real person, this is my business and the fact I have built SBN despite this and everything else I am actually bloody proud of myself. It proves how much SBN means to me and my family. Because I feel that sharing my fertility in the past has helped others and helped me. Because hiding it has made no difference. Because I already have Arlo and in general I feel people judge and think because you have one the pain can't be as hard. Oh believe me it can and secondary infertility is just as fucking hard. I always love sharing my days on my stories and when I go to Greece I have to lie-low. share posts that lie about my whereabouts and I feel I lose control of my life in general. This is me getting in control and to me there isn't anyone on the other side of my stories. It's just me, my phone and my daily ramblings. If people aren't bothered they can move on. If they feel it will help them in some way or are genuinely interested then they can keep up. I like the Instagram community I have built up and I feel it is a safe place in general.
A problem shared, is a problem halved and all that. So, here's to sharing IVF more openly and hoping that I find this less stressful as a result of being open about something that is just oh so very hard.
P.S I am also going to be raising money for Fertility Network UK to help others who find themselves in the world of fertility, childlessness and adoption. You can find out more here.