Trigger warning - if reading this story causes you distress, please seek support.
(A list of support services is available via the 'Her voice, story, and words' blog post.)
I found myself doing something that l had always said l'd never be able to do. From this heartbreak, emerged a new me. (CW - infertility, IVF)
I am 1 in 6.
At the age of 37 I found myself doing something that I had always said I’d never be able to do. The mere thought of it terrified me. The old me would rather live with the consequences than do what I ended up doing. And I did it for 4 years.
When my partner and I decided to start trying to have children together, we also had discussions about a genetic change that he has. A change that means he has an increased risk of developing cancer. A change that carries a 1 in 2 chance of being passed on to any children. Once we decided that we wanted to try to stop this risk from being passed on to any more family, we were thrown into the world of IVF, starting the process just a few months later.
We found ourselves watching a DVD with a “how to guide” on injecting my body with a large dose of hormones. I remember the day I picked up an insulated bag, filled to the brim with injections, alcohol swabs, spare needles and drugs. I went home that night with the knowledge that within the week I would start injecting myself. I burst into tears at the thought, and told my partner I didn’t think I could do it.
And yet I did. We did. I think it took us about an hour, re-watching the video about 5 times, and all the psychological strength I could muster, to inject that first injection. I am not afraid of needles, and the pain of them doesn’t normally worry me. It was the psychological battle for me. But, before too long I was injecting hormones in all sorts of places. In the car, in the public toilets at a cricket match, toilets in restaurants. I recall the time I had to mix vials of drugs, in a tiny toilet in a restaurant, and I accidentally stabbed my finger. I walked out pretending that all was normal, to look down while sitting back at the table, and notice blood all over my top. It’s funny now.
I experienced feelings and emotions I had never felt before, and honestly didn’t know what to do with. It’s so complex to experience infertility. The happiness you feel for others having babies, coupled with the sadness you feel for yourself and your partner is a complicated feeling.
A new me
Along with having to inject myself, IVF turned trying to have a baby into a completely medical process. Hormone levels, follicle counts, daily ultrasounds, surgeries, drugs, tears, and heartbreak. Every cycle that didn’t work, month after month, lead to heartbreak.
But from this heartbreak, emerged a new me. A me that had strength and courage that I didn’t know was within me. I was able to find a side of me that could do things I previously recoiled at. I discovered a sense of “if I can do that, I can do anything”. I have carried this mantra, and used it many times since, when facing difficult situations.
IVF has given me strength.
I found a support network of other women also doing IVF. I am honoured to have met some of the most amazing, strong women I have ever known. Women who despite enormous loss and years and years of pain, show a huge amount of strength and resilience. Women who would do anything for their friends experiencing the same. This can only come from women reaching out, sharing their story of infertility, and connecting with others in the same situation. It can only come about if we open up and share battles that are often kept private. Good can come from sharing our struggles.
Thank you Saskia for allowing me to share your story.
Photo: supplied by Saskia