It occurred to me recently that I know so many women with so many incredible stories relating to their fertility. Stories of triumph, loss, joy, grief, perseverance, heartache and pure love. Stories that, because they are ‘just what happened to me’, are often only known to the woman and a close circle of family and friends around her. As someone who has suffered significant grief and loss because of fertility issues, it meant so much to me, actually still means so much to me, to know that I was not alone. Being able to share my story on this blog has helped me both to mourn what I lost and celebrate what I have – so much so, that I decided to start a series called Fertility Fridays. Every Friday from today until everyone who wants to tell their story has told it, I will publish a guest post about fertility, and how families are made, lost and sometimes made anew. These will be stories of hope and sadness; real stories from real women, whose strength and courage defies what we often think is humanly possible.
My first contributor is Janine. Janine and I used to play under 15s basketball together, and reconnected 30 years later when she came to my office for a meeting, and we both did that whole ‘hang on a minute, don’t I know you’ thing. Janine has an incredible story of perseverance and determination, and ultimately, joy, and I am so pleased she has agreed to share it here.
I was turning 40, divorced and hoping to met the man of my dreams when it hit me like a sledge-hammer that my clock was ticking and I was very quickly about to run out of time. My hope of ever having children was rapidly slipping away from me. I decided I needed to take positive action or I was going to remain childless forever. I considered my options, and knew that I couldn’t put myself through the Saturday night pick-up routine, so I made an appointment with my GP to request a referral to a fertility specialist. It wouldn’t be that hard, right? After all, it wasn’t like I had been trying to fall pregnant, so if I did try, it would be easy. Wrong!
The first cycle didn’t work, nor the second, nor did the following seven. That’s right, I did nine cycles. I just kept hoping I would get lucky and one little egg would work. All of the sudden everywhere I looked I saw pregnant women that I had never noticed before, even the ducks on my morning walk had babies – why couldn’t I? My doctor was blunt, proclaimed he wasn’t the magician I so desperately wanted him to be, and advised if I wanted children I had better consider donor eggs.
By this stage I was approaching 45 and thought I might as well go out and buy granny undies and grow old with my cats. It was emotionally draining enough to go through all the failed cycles, but to have a child using donor eggs and donor sperm with no genetic link, was too much.
In a visit with my GP, I told him I had better get used to the idea of no children and that I needed to accept that it just wasn’t meant to be. His advice was that if I really wanted to make it happen I should at least try with donor eggs and that I would love any child I carried wholeheartedly, genetic ties or not. It took me six months to make the decision to give it a go.
I did my research and took off to Spain with the hope of getting pregnant via donor egg and sperm. Two weeks after returning I had a pregnancy test and the results told me what I already knew. I was pregnant! I thought the hard bit was over but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Overall, I had a relatively easy pregnancy from a medical perspective, but I lived in fear of losing this child. The day finally came for the birth, and I’ll never forget the moment I met my beautiful boy.
Many will argue that a family is made up of a man and a woman and their offspring. I certainly grew up believing I would have a loving husband, two happy children and a house with a white picket fence. Obviously, that didn’t work out so well for me. I was raised Catholic and had struggled with the concept of being a single mum. Initially, I found myself explaining to people why he had no father but after a while I realised that at my age I was entitled to make my own choices and I’m proud that I had the courage to go through it all by myself.
I have been asked if I will tell him of his origins and the answer is, absolutely. He will be told he is a very loved little boy, that mummy went all the way across the other side of the world to find him. I will tell him some very kind donors made him possible by giving me the cells that he grew from, and I will take him back to Spain one day to show him where he comes from.
I am biased, like every mother, and truly believe I have received a very special gift. I cannot begin to explain the joys of motherhood and the connection I feel to this child. He is everything to me and absolutely nothing else comes close. It has completely changed my life. My focus had been on the professional career I was pursuing and now it’s about being the best mother I can be and I can’t imagine a life without him. I guess I have finally met the man of my dreams, he is a lot smaller than I’d imagined but he gives me a whole lot more joy than I ever thought possible, and he does have some of my DNA.