It's 6pm on November 1st 2010 and I'm sat in Tesco’s car park at Hexham, Northumberland.
‘Sweet Jesus Jo … what on earth are you doing here? Aren’t you too old at 38 to be doing this dating thing?’ Am I really going to start over again with someone else? Since my divorce in 2008 from my husband, I’ve spent the last three years by myself working long hours between the UK and America, perhaps it is time to get back on that horse again…. A figure is standing in front of my car... I must be out of my mind ... but I open the door and step out to greet him.
Within a month of meeting Stephen on our first date, I had met his children, and within a year I had moved from the North East to his house in Carlisle, Cumbria. Within two years, we were trying for a baby much to the surprise of my family, my friends and even myself.
Starting a family wasn't easy, what with Stephen having had a vasectomy which would need to be reversed, and me having endometriosis, it was inevitable that there would be problems. The added complications were my age, a low ovarian reserve and the fact that I had never previously had children. And so our fertility journey began.
The procedures were completed successfully, and we were told to try for a baby. 6 months, no pregnancy, 12 months, still no pregnancy, 18 months on and still no baby.
ICSI IVF was recommended as the ‘best viable option’ and in February 2014 we started our first cycle. The protocol involved Stimulation, Egg Collection, Fertilisation then Transplantation. Six eggs were collected, although only one was able to be fertilised.
Days 1- 5 post-transplant I was tired, by day 6 cramp pains had started in my back and stomach … on Day 10 I started to bleed. That day I cried for the lost opportunity, for the heartache of failure and the frustration of having to go through it all again.
I didn't need a blood test to confirm the outcome. I wanted to pretend it had never happened and just go home, curl up and hide ... so I did, for a month. But like other desperate couples, we tried again.
Six months later, we sat in the waiting room again and this time our consultant said three words that broke my heart, ‘It's over Jo’.
Confused, physically and emotionally exhausted, Stephen and I realised that we wouldn’t be able to have our own biological family.
Our dream was shattered. Adoption and fostering were never options for us - what we wanted was our own child.
So life went on.
During the course of our treatments, my mum died and her words ‘you would have made an amazing mum’ and ‘you still can be to other children’, echoed in my mind.
I left my job as a project manager in the North East to become a teacher at Lakes College in Workington. Within three months, I was promoted to Director of STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] and within 9 months, I found myself responsible for half of the college and the education of more than 2000 learners.
In the last three years I’ve had the privilege of transforming not one, but hundreds of learners’ lives and the personal satisfaction I get when they achieve their goals is immeasurable.
My message is simple, infertility is something you never truly get over, you just learn to live with it. Your life can be just as fulfilling without children if you choose to let it; and in my case, one that has made a huge difference to many children.