When your partner can’t give you the family you crave
From the moment I met Mark at a wedding in 2008, I knew he was the one I wanted to have children with. And in the early days of our relationship, he made it clear he wanted a family, too. Four years later, we got married. Having watched friends struggle with infertility, we decided to start trying straight away. We didn’t think it would be easy, but we did assume that if we had enough unprotected sex, sooner or later it would just… happen.
A year later, when it hadn’t, we visited our GP, who referred us for tests. I never imagined that it would be Mark who had the problem, but the GP explained he had a low sperm count. It meant we could keep trying, but it would make it harder for us to have a baby naturally.
I was determined that Mark should never shoulder any guilt – this was our problem, not his – but he did, albeit quietly. He coped by throwing himself into finding a solution – cue perfunctory sex during peak ovulation and 7am hospital visits ahead of our first round of IVF in autumn 2013. By Christmas, I was pregnant, and it felt as though everything was falling into place. But weeks later, I miscarried twins – a harrowing experience for anyone, made all the more devastating by the fact that our dreams of parenthood were tied up in this pregnancy. I had thought
I’d be spending 2014 navigating the chaos of new motherhood. The reality felt unbearable.
Months later, I fell pregnant naturally, only to lose this baby, too. We steadied ourselves for another go at IVF the following year but, once again, I miscarried. For the first time, my future felt like it was beyond my control. I drifted between bouts of rage and sadness, tortured by Facebook baby announcements and drained by the emotional effort required to appear pleased for expectant friends – never more so than when three of them announced their pregnancies in a single day. An innocent question from a wellmeaning stranger at a wedding or a birthday could reduce me to tears, and I’d show my face at baby showers, only to break down on the car journey home. It became easier not to go, and I began to isolate myself. Working as a selfemployed travel agent, I had no office to go to, so I could go days without leaving the house, forcing myself to eat and sleep – all the while having sex with military precision on the off chance that I’d fall pregnant naturally again.
What kept me afloat was Mark. I suppose it could be easy to play the blame game when one of you has the problem and the other is seemingly fine. But we never did. And private tests confirmed my egg count was low, too, rendering blame even more futile. Besides, neither Mark’s sperm nor my eggs could account for my miscarriages. We were just unlucky.
The pain affected us differently. He kept a stiff upper lip while I retreated from the world. But we quietly supported each other. He helped me see that we were in this together and, as painful as it was, we were putting ourselves through it for a reason – to become parents. On his advice, I began to open up about how I was feeling. And once I stopped plastering a smile over my face, I came to see that my friends could be a source of unwavering support – if only I let them.
Our story has a happy ending. On our fifth round of IVF, I fell pregnant. Though I didn’t dare enjoy a moment of the pregnancy, in May 2017, I gave birth to a healthy boy. It was only then that I was able to reflect on the toll infertility had taken on our lives – and we were the lucky ones for whom the pain resulted in parenthood. Some spend years living in this limbo, where you feel so consumed with what isn’t happening in your body that you forget to look after your mind. Even today, making plans feels like a luxury – for so long we didn’t. But Mark and I are stronger – as individuals and as a couple – for going through this.
For more info and support, visit fertilitynetworkuk.org