Life after childlessness by Victoria

Moving forward, moving on, getting over ‘it’, coming to terms with ‘it’’, are just some ways my infertility has been described. It has never been labelled and has in some ways been brushed under the carpet and doesn’t get talked about.

Well I have now got to a stage in my life where I can now talk about my childlessness, why I don’t have children and how my life has now evolved.

When I first went through all the initial tests at the age of 38yrs old in 2013 and I got my results in Feb 2014, it absolutely floored me. I was not expecting it at all. I became withdrawn, became quite numb and quite consumed by my grief that I might never have children. As a result I suffered.

My boss at the told me to take time off work, which I did, I spent a month off work. I returned back to work in full knowledge that my colleagues knew what I was going through. I had been open from the beginning about struggling to conceive, and that I had gone through tests and knew that my chances of conceiving naturally had reduced to just 2%, with a predictive 5% chance of conceiving with IVF. At this stage of my husbands and my journey, we just thought, that’s it, we will keep trying naturally to conceive. Our CCG at the time had withdrawn funds to provide IVF on the NHS and even though my parents very kindly offered to fund a cycle, the odds were stacked against us, and declined their offer.

In the April of 2014 I went to my first support group meeting. I sat outside for such a long time summoning up the courage to go inside. What if I was the only person there? What do I talk about? Were just a few of the thoughts going through my mind at the time. I’m glad I did, because due to the woman running the group, she was able to tell me that IVF was now available in my CCG. Finally a life line! I got back in contact with my GP and went through the system and had my first cycle of IVF at the end of November 2014. Sadly though, the first cycle of IVF failed and I needed surgery to remove fibroids as well. Fast forward to November 2015, and I had my second and final cycle of treatment. I barely responded to the highest dose of drugs. No eggs left. Before we had our second cycle of treatment, my husband and I had discussed where we would go from the last cycle of treatment, if it didn’t work and we decided that we would consider adoption.

After waiting nearly a year after our last cycle of treatment, we went along to our first meeting. There was so much involved and after a great deal of loop holes to work through, we decided that we would give it a miss. I know there are so many children out there looking for a permanent home, but I felt it didn’t feel right for me.

So here we are now, childless. Involuntary childlessness due to my infertility. It’s something I never saw coming. I had a plan A but it is now a plan B. I changed jobs last year, in fact, I am back at University doing my masters’ degree which is pretty hard going but I’m enjoying it! Going from a work place who knew what I had gone through to a new workplace has not been easy. A few people know that I can’t have children, and my childlessness doesn’t get talked about that much, either I don’t talk about my situation, or some of my colleagues don’t bring it into conversation.

When people have asked ‘do you have children?’ I say ‘no, I don’t’ have them’, which then gets corrected quite quickly ‘well I can’t have them’. As always the same question comes up – ‘why don’t you adopt then?’, to which I reply, ‘it’s not for me’. Conversation stops so quickly after that, it’s almost as if there is nothing else worth talking about – we’re British, we can at least talk about the weather!

It’s interesting working where I do, I’m in the NHS which is a very family friendly environment, pronatalism at its best! I hear and join in with conversations about starting a family, especially with junior doctors – this is when I feel comfortable talking about childlessness. I hear conversations about “I’ll get to my ST5 level and then consider starting a family” – at this stage, if you have not taken a break already and done some research means starting a family at nearly 33yrs old. I chip in “Don’t leave it too late to have a family, you can always come back to your career” has been my advice. The expression from junior doctors has been quizzical, none of them have ever asked about children, all we talk about normally are how our patients are getting on, so the surprise to hear advice given quite freely, and about my own circumstances has been one of interest and sadness from them. Please don’t feel sorry for me, just accept childlessness for what it is, being here now has changed me especially with how I live my life now.

There have been a few key comments that have come my way since my fertility journey began, that have shaped me and how I now view life.

Childlessness is something I have come to accept. It’s there, it is part of me and always will be. Yes I still have my occasional bad days. I had one the last time I saw my biological niece and nephew. She looks like me, and behaves like me – well when I was her age!. It breaks me every time I have to say goodbye. But we have an amazing relationship. But when I have my good days, seeing children out playing and mums carrying their babies has no effect on me. It is life, children grown up into adults, they have children. It’s the life cycle. Seeing pregnant women? That is something different. That green monster starts to rear its head, it notices, gets a bit narked and then goes back has a bit of a grump and then allows me to carry on.

What is my purpose in life? I got really hung up on this one about 18 months ago. A conversation with my old boss holds a level of uncertainty,

Me- “I feel I have no sense of purpose now”

Boss - “But you do!”

Me- “Really? Do I?”

Boss – “Yes, you are an amazing nurse!”

At the time of her saying this, I had absolutely no resonance with this. I felt I needed a purpose, something to be recognised for, something that would be on par with being a mother. And earlier this year it happened.

I had a light bulb moment. I don’t need purpose, I just need to keep doing what makes me happy. I have a job I love doing, especially as I am also doing my masters’ degree. I took up running and am a BIG advocate of parkrun. I know it is a cliché thing to say but parkrun saved me back in 2014 when I started my fertility journey and has continued to do so through to where I am now. Over 100 runs under my belt, I have made some lovely friends, and being part of such a wonderful community is something of benefit that I get from being part of parkrun. And to give me a kid fix – yes, that’s right, I am a Run director for Junior parkrun. Nurturing and promoting the health of the younger generation is something close to my heart and I will continue to do so for many years to come.

What else makes me happy? Well I love doing yoga, the serenity, and mindfulness that comes with it is an amazing place to be. Shavasana, eat your heart out! And getting creative. Love ceramics, making something and then painting it, has a certain sense of achievement with it. My two dogs, Ruby and Bronte, my furbabies. Especially Bronte, she is proper cuddly J. Last but not least, my husband, Andy. He has been there through all the tears, injections, big decisions, and everything else life has thrown at us. He is my rock.

I had a fertility bucket list. It is not a fertility list anymore. It is now the Living Life List.

So in response to a further conversation which I think sums this up;

Beth – “I want to pray for you”

Me – “Really? What are you going to pray for?”

Beth – “I will pray for you to have a baby of course!”

Me- “Beth, no, please pray for me to be happy”

Beth – “Ok, I will pray for you to be happy”

Beth, your prayers have been answered.