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'My failure to conceive makes me feel like I'm not functioning as a woman'

An anonymous contributor talks about her struggle to conceive and the emotional impact it can have on a person.

I NEVER WORE a mask before 2015. I was an outgoing, confident woman, and living life without a care in the world.

In January 2014, my husband and I decided that this would be “our year” to have a baby. After 11 years together, we felt now was the time, to progress onto the “next step”.

I will never forget how excited we felt. It was as if I was pregnant already, and of course I thought it would happen for us straight away as I was only 28! It happened to all of my friends without concern and infertility was a problem for older people, right?

After three long months of taking all my pre-natal vitamins such as folic acid, my husband and I started “trying”. What struck me most in the beginning was this world of fertility advice that I never knew existed.

I consider myself a well-educated woman, however, I never knew when ovulation occurred, I never knew how many fertile days I had per month, and I was certainly surprised to find out that cervical mucus played such a role in family planning!

Googling ‘early pregnancy symptoms’

The first few months were exciting. I read numerous books, educated myself on all the latest research, and on many occasions obsessively Googled ‘early pregnancy symptoms’ as every niggle and twinge I felt within my body was a sign that I was pregnant.

However, it wasn’t long before the excitement turned to disappointment with test after test coming back negative. Initially, my cycle was irregular, so my period would come when I would least expect it. To me, this was a constant reminder of my failure to conceive.

It was devastating. I cried many nights in my husband’s arms. I felt as a woman, I was not functioning as I should. My husband reminded me that we were in this together as a team, however, this did little to comfort me.

I decided to go for acupuncture to help regularise my cycle, and to this day, I will swear by this treatment for anyone trying to conceive. Although, it has not been successful for us to date, my cycle did regularise, and I took great comfort from that. I found myself remaining positive, until we hit the dreaded “12 month” milestone.

shutterstock_29021329 Shutterstock / Ollyy Shutterstock / Ollyy / Ollyy

According to some medical textbooks a couple is considered infertile once you have not conceived after having unprotected sex over a 12 month period. This hit me really hard, and I found it hard to accept.

However, the testing process for us began, and with our tests coming back clear, this caused even more frustration as to why this was not happening for us. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to know we were healthy, however, we couldn’t really do anything with that information.

Resentful of other women 

I started to become resentful of others who got pregnant so easily. I found it difficult to see pregnant women in the community, and every baby I met was a reminder of what I wanted but didn’t have. I even found myself not wanting to socialise with my friends who had children, or attending functions where pregnant relatives or friends would be discussing the imminent arrival of their bundles of joy.

The once out-going, full of life lady I was, had now become one that was questioning every move she made in case it affected the chances of conceiving. I even started to refuse nights out in case people would question why I wasn’t having a drink. I confided in some close family and friends and I am so grateful to those that have been very supportive.

Others don’t bring up the subject at all, most likely for fear of not knowing what to say, however, saying nothing makes me feel worse.

I eventually knew something had to change, I couldn’t continue to live my life like this, however, I didn’t know what to do.

“When are you going to have a baby?” 

It was around this time that I started wearing my mask. My mask is my brave face. It is an invisible shield that I wear when I leave the comfort of my home. It allows me to smile at others and congratulate them on their great pregnancy news, it allows me to laugh off the “when are you going to have a baby?” questions, and it helps me go to work everyday and do my job.

However, my mask comes off when I get home, and that is where the real feelings come out. The tears of disappointment and frustration, the feelings of loneliness and isolation, and confusion as to why this still hasn’t happened for us?

I am lucky that my husband and I have a solid relationship, however, we are suffering in silence, and it feels like we are carrying a great big secret that no-one understands.

At a recent appointment in the public hospital, I asked a question about fertility treatments and I was advised to go to a fertility clinic as they were the specialists. This was a real eye-opener for me.

How was a doctor working in the gynaecology department of a hospital not a specialist in fertility?

This still baffles me. Therefore, 18 months into our journey, my husband and I decided we needed to start saving for fertility treatment. In Ireland, you cannot access any fertility support, without coughing up all of the funds yourself, and at over €5000+ a treatment for IVF, it is not something we could afford to do any time soon.

We are good people 

It is heart-breaking that our medical condition is not recognised by the government for treatment. We deserve the chance to become parents. We are good people.

For now, I will continue to wear my mask and go about my day to day life. I will continue to hope that someday our dream of having a baby will come true for us.

I hope this article will educate people to understand the struggles that infertility can bring to a couple, and bring awareness that it is a medical condition that needs to be recognised, and treated with care and compassion.

I also believe men and women need to be educated in fertility, so that they do not have unrealistic expectations when they are family planning. I certainly underestimated the emotional impact that this can have on a person. However, now I fully understand, because I carry it with me every day.

Read:  ‘My illness does not define my relationship. I have schizophrenia and he loves me for who I am’>

Read: Construction site to delivery room: How I became one of Ireland’s few male midwives>

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