March is endometriosis awareness month and I wanted to share a photo and explain about what it is like to have this condition. If you look it up (assuming you can remember how to spell it - I never can, just another thing that's complicated about it), then you'll be told that Endometriosis is a disease. The Mayo Clinic say that it's 'when bits of the tissue that lines the uterus (endometrium) grow on other pelvic organs, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes. Outside the uterus, endometrial tissue thickens and bleeds, just as the normal endometrium does during the menstrual cycle.'
So far that sound painful and yucky, which it is. But it's more than all this. When I started my periods aged 14, they hurt and my mum would keep me back at school if I was really sore and the school were fine back in the 80s about this. Most girls at school were either very proud to be 'on' and tease the boys or some of us suffered and preferred to hide.
As I got older, the pain got heaps worse. Imagine lots of tiny blisters inside, rubbing and popping, never really healing and that's about the measure of it. For me, I had an almost constant pelvic pain, sex was painful, sickness, tiredness and lower back pain so bad I could be bedridden. This developed into adenomyosis which is where the tissue is found inside the muscular walls of the uterus and meant even more cramping and heavy menstrual bleeding.
I was fortunate that my diagnosis was swift if not damming so I knew my options from early on. There are endless clinics offered surgical and drug options to relive endo. I stuck with my GP and a specialist on the NHS and tried hormone therapy which briefly helped me to live a normal life. When the effects seem to subside, I had tissue removed via laparoscopic surgery and this has helped.
But inside me is this parasite. I can't term it any other way and I want rid of it. I have asked for a hysterectomy and when my GP agreed to support me I was relieved. I'm still waiting on dates, but that it's going to go ahead is a wonderful thing.
Endometriosis is the reason I didn't marry, rarely dated and struggled to travel anywhere. I lost my job through overusing my sick even though I'd got a GP note and I simply couldn't be arsed to fight the dismissal though I had a good case. It felt like another way that endometriosis screwed up life for me.
I'm hoping that once this surgery is complete I can start to live the the life I wanted to. I'm forty-six and I think I have just enough time to work through a very big list.
For support please visit Endometriosis UK
Hello, I'm Juliana and I haven't had children because I haven't met a man I thought would make a good dad.
The first bloke I met, I moved 200 miles to live with him even though my dad warned me it wasn't a good idea. I was in love so I went anyway.
About a year into the relationship I was pregnant and my boyfriend became pathologically jealous of the bump. I can't really describe it any other way and I ended up losing the baby at 17 weeks. If I'm going to be brutal I wasn't sure I was ready to be a mum but my beliefs prevented me from doing anything than go through. So I hoped we'd be okay. I went home after that and never saw my boyfriend again.
I drifted about a bit after that. My dad gave me grief (my mum died when I was 2) until I started to work as a learning assistant in a school. I thought I might try to be a teacher. My dad supported me through my training and it's a job I still do today and despite the pressures of paperwork, I love it. I have no ambition to be a head teacher, I am happy in a classroom.
I am now 49 so I won't have children. I don't think I want to be married or live with anyone. I look after my dad who is now very frail.
I do like the end of term celebrations but it's not without some sadness. I don't know how long my dad is going to be around for and I long for a big table full of family. Instead it's me and dad with a meal but this year I've invited a few friends and we're going to walk a friend's newly adopted dog. It's a new routine for us and I hope the favour will be returned in the years to come when my dad isn't around anymore.
It sounds very sad. I just feel that I have to do my bit to look out for myself because it's just me. I hope to go part-time or take early retirement in a few years, adopt my own dog and try to use my teaching skills to do other things. I fancy dog training because I can help at a rescue maybe and work with owners. It's not so morbid, it's actually rather exciting.
I have always said why I can't have children. My sperm are directionless and my count is low so the only way I would be a dad is through ICSI. I know this because I work in a hospital where IVF was offered. When my ex and I were trying and it didn't work, I thought I'd be tested because, being me... blasé and over confident... I was going to be alright.
I think part of the reason men struggle is because the resources aren't there. I got told in a nice room by a nice lady and that really was about it. It's not a criticism of my employers, the NHS because I know from working as a nurse, we try all we can with what we're given. Women are already struggling to get support so what is there left for men? I sought some help through private counselling which I found via BACP but it was too expensive to carry on so I do my best to look after myself by telling myself I'm more than a baby making machine. My job has sort of saved me, for a while I said I was too busy to have kids as I was busy with being a nurse and I wanted to get on with my career. But people laughed and said was I going to be house husband then? It was a bit of a patch up excuse. Okay, a lie then.
So I started to tell the truth, to close friends - some aren't friends any more because it hurts me as much anyone when I'm called a Jaffa (yes, really) but mostly we're all okay. There's something to be said for the mate who silently hugs you or claps you on the back when he sees that look on your face that says, I can't cope with this. Mostly those friends are from work because that's where we learn those signs.
haven't tried IVF, I know the tech is there and I read about what it can do. I'm amazed and a bit scared about it to be honest. I'm now proud to be a nurse, I can see it helping others in different ways and that maybe I can help men like me in time. I've started talking about a support group connected to the hospital but the cuts to funding for IVF haven't made that easy but I'm going to keep talking about this. It's important to keep talking about it which is why I've shared my story here.
Thanks for reading.
My name is Erica and I was born in Texas. I want to share my story because involuntary childlessness changed my life in a very unexpected way.
When I left school I married my childhood sweetheart, James. We lived nearby and he was a friend of my elder brother – we’d ridden the same roads, been to the same parties and he was my prom date.
I was probably the girl you’d hate at school. I won beauty queen in our town and James was well paid. I didn’t want to go into further education, I struggled with reading and took a job with Walmart. Marrying James seemed like a good idea.
Inside though I was scared that this was my future. I kept telling myself that I had a nice home in the basement of his parent’s house who adored me and I might get promotion one day. We’d have lots of babies. I had my looks and wasn’t short of admirers.
Baby-making wasn’t fun though. I didn’t think so anyway, but James was keen to be the first with a grandchild.
For the next 2 years, our lives seemed to be a cycle of me not conceiving and he’d get angry so I began to withdraw from our lives, going out with girlfriends or taking night shifts. Eventually, after a massive argument, we agreed to find medical help and ended up at an IVF clinic staring in shock at a massive quote for all the treatment we’d face. We had money but not that much and we were too embarrassed to ask our families so we kept trying until one day I ended up pregnant. James immediately told everyone and the celebrations started when I was just 4 weeks. At 13 I was in hospital miscarrying.
Everyone blamed me including James. The last time I spoke to my husband he was shouting at me as I lay in the hospital bed. Once I was discharged, I moved into a friend’s spare room.
I lost my job and my home but my friend Anna let me stay rent-free luckily some distance from James. Through her, I got a part-time job at a student shop in the university where she taught history. From this I began to go to night school, learning English Literature which I loved and finishing my education.
But that’s not all. I now live with Anna as her partner and we’ve moved to the UK where we hope we can marry. Anna’s parents are from Manchester and they are lovely, completely supportive of us as a couple and we love the openness of the UK towards the gay community. It’s early days, I have to fill in heaps of paperwork to stay here. I hope that I can teach if I get residency. It is a worry but it is a worry that I think I can manage.
I would love to say thank you to the people of the UK and especially of Salford for being so welcoming. It has made me realise that it’s not all about children and there is so much more to life.
I am Verena, aged 32. This week is hard for me because after spending thousands on IVF, we have only two blastocysts to show for it.
I keep reading "it only takes one" posts online, and they upset me terribly because I have tried IVF in two countries now and have long passed the "miracle"-stage of "and then we did IVF and - tadaa - he is four now and extremely cute". That's great for everyone for whom IVF worked out smoothly, but our embryos don't give a shit about statistics and let me end up in the "not even clinically pregnant" category over and over again.
The worst thing about IVF in my opinion is that people can influence your life when they shouldn't have any say in it. I am seeing a psychologist because I sometimes have a hard time dealing with maybe never having a kid. When the IVF clinic found out that I had told my family doctor that sometimes I felt like hurting myself, they demanded a psychological evaluation or otherwise they would not implant any of my embryos because "a pregnancy sometimes makes such conditions worse." Never mind that I was feeling depressed BECAUSE we've been unable to conceive for about four years.
Incidents like these make me speechless. They make me feel like not only my body, but society on top of that are taking my choices away. It has made me wonder about society and women's choices at a more general level. I mean, what's the deal with doctors refusing to tie the tubes of women who are sure they don't want children? Basically, they are subjecting these women to the risk of becoming pregnant involuntarily. How come doctors get a say in these matters at all?
In my opinion, society needs to mind their own business and let us do what we think is best for us individually. A little less judgement about different lifestyles and choices would be nice.
Anita and Joe
I was on the path to success. I had a great job and a partner and I was expecting our first baby after our second IVF cycle.
At 11.38am on a wet Monday morning, a speeding car driver missed a turning and smashed into me.
Three weeks later I came around to find that I had lost part of my leg, part of my left arm and my much longed for baby. Five months later I lost my partner as he struggled come to terms with the change in me.
I felt desperately grief stricken for him, for my body and my baby. I can remember shaking with the despair, unable to control my feelings and my reactions which I felt so selfish about. It took months to get over those physical reactions. I had counselling for a long time and still go to see a someone who could help give me coping tools from everything from how other people look at me to how I feel about myself.
My employers were good, I had good healthcare but I've decided to take the leap - best as I can! - and do a PhD. I love literature and I hope this means can I teach the next generation to love it as much as me.
I don't know if will have children. I would need to go through IVF again because I don't want to use the embryos my partner and I had. I don't think that my amputation stops me being a mum but it's like it's opened up different possibilities.
My parents have been amazing. They helped me to find a new flat which my brother and I share. Joe is my twin and I think he got a huge shock and being close helps us both. So I have asked Joe to share my photo and to say thank you to him.
My name is Jill, I am in my seventies now.
I married when I was 20 – as was expected in those far off days. Before the wedding, my fiancé said he wanted six children! I thought two would probably be enough – but nothing happened.
When I was 30 we turned to the doctors and discovered that my husband had a very low sperm count. There was no treatment available because, as the doctor said, there was little research into male infertility. There was no call for it as women usually found their own solution to the problem.
It took a while before I understood what he meant – but that didn’t help. I was incapable of seeking extramarital adventures.
How this diagnosis affected my husband, I don’t know. We couldn’t talk about such things. Having no children, we threw ourselves into our separate careers, and slowly drifted apart.
I was in my forties when I met my second husband. I wasn't too late yet to start a family. But it soon became apparent that he was very ill. I nursed him for eight years – then he died.
The stress had worn me out and it took a further five years before I really recovered. By then my mother needed my care. Gradually, over the next 13 years, she deteriorated – becoming confused, distressed, blind, deaf, incontinent, suicidal, and there was scant help from the NHS or Social Services. We struggled on alone.
She died in 2013 and now, four years on, I am only just beginning to feel less stressed and tired.
And yet… it has not all been bad. My husband made me promise to write the story of his illness and death. He wanted to write it himself but couldn’t manage it. I did not know if I could write, but it felt as if he was dictating to me… the words just flowed onto the page and within two months of his death, the manuscript of my first book was complete – and I knew I could be a writer.
Before the book was published, I sent the manuscript to the hospice that featured quite largely in the tale. I was swiftly invited to address a gathering of all their bereavement counsellors to tell them my story. I didn’t know if I could handle this – but before I finished talking most of the audience were in tears, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I had found my new career. I realised that I am a Storyteller!
I mean a traditional, oral storyteller – not someone reading from a book.
It is a wonderful career – not much money, but great satisfaction. I love watching adults relax as they begin to understand that stories are not just for children. And children, who are nowadays supposed to have such a short attention span, sit transfixed for nearly two hours, enjoying the same ancient folk tales that have entertained and educated mankind since the very beginnings of civilisation.
As long as I have my memory and my voice, I can continue my work. But when they fail me… what can I anticipate? I have no family now. My close friends have all died or moved away. I live in a very rural area with many holiday homes and few neighbours – but I do not want to move from this beautiful house – so full of memories.
I just pray that I will be allowed to go suddenly – a swift fatal heart attack or stroke, please.
I am eighty years young. I am now of the age when my friends are talking about their grandchildren and sharing photos with me down the pub or at church.
My wife, Julia and I tried to have children but it didn't happen. It affected us terribly, lots of tears and the pressure was a lot back then. It is a lot now. When I see cards for Mothering Sunday and Father's Day in the shops I feel very sorry for younger people but that's what it was like when I was younger, and it felt constant. There were few role models or examples of people who didn't have children. In our small village we were considered strange for not having children so we moved to a city.
We didn't have any explanation. I worked in a printing firm and thought it might be the chemicals we had to use when I started work in the 1960s. My wife thought it might be her fault but she was always careful. I treated her like china you know. My heart breaks when I hear of the funding cut for treatment. We had nothing and it caused us grief, it's the not knowing or never having the opportunity. People pay for their health though tax and.. well let's not go into politics but it makes me ashamed for this country.
Julia passed away three years ago and I am lonely sometimes. We became closer because of what we did not have. It was a happy marriage despite this and we had nephews and nieces who still bring me happiness. They are teaching me the internet. I suppose not having having commitments meant we could travel a lot and I took early retirement so we had many adventures. But I would trade in all the views to have had a family.
I worry about what will happen to me. I have been to cooking classes so I can make a nice meal. Meals on Wheels was cut here. My wider family look out for me but I do not want to be a burden. I keep active. I walk every day and take dogs from the Cinnamon Trust with me and I have made new friends that way. I think that if I am visible then if I fell or was ill, they may realise and rescue me but I do have an alert system in my home.
I used to paint and I went back to it when I was widowed and it's lovely. I really look forward to it. The group are so focussed on their painting that we don't talk about families that much!
It was through a painting club and walking our dogs that I read about the project and I found out from Berenice about Walk In Our Shoes and World Childless Week. I dare say I'm the oldest person taking part but I hope others will talk about it. I would like to meet other men like me and to know that my story means something.
Robert was interviewed last month for #WorldChildlessWeek by Berenice.
I am Olivia and I live in London. I am childless not by choice and I have been compelled to write after the recent events in London and I hope you will publish my words.
I live close to Grenfell which caught fire a week ago. I have seen such terrible grief these past days, people trying to come to terms with something so terrible that it is impossible to comprehend.
You might be wondering why this is related to me since I wasn't made homeless and I didn't see my world burnt. It's because I used my plan B. I completely changed my job from a social worker to a grief counsellor after I wasn't able to have children.
I had worked in children's services when I was diagnosed with early menopause. I felt like a failure when I got angry at people who didn't treat their children well. My attitude wasn't healthy for them or me. I'd go home and be so bloody angry and dread the next day, calling in sick and letting down people. I had to work it out somehow but ended up being put on extended leave which made me feel worse for ages, until I started counselling again, this time with more of a skew on career and CBT. I decided to re-train. I already had some basic counselling skills through my job and was able to fund myself through a loan to take professional skills.
This week I felt useful in the face of utter disaster, walking between church halls, a sports centre and just doing what I can to help anyone by listening. I've helped to sort through the mountains of donations. I hope, I pray that my actions have helped in a small way. We are told and can believe that we are less useful, a bit redundant but we have to stop believing that shit. It's wrong. Small stuff matters. Just saying hello or thanking someone is useful because it brightens a day.
Amanda and Carrie
I knew Carrie from school. We'd lost touch after we'd left the secondary school having made all the promises that you do when you're sixteen about best friends forever. I think we had met in the Wimpy in our nearest town and had a stilted conversation. She was going off to sixth form and university. My family has got me a job as a secretary in a publishing firm.
Roll forward thirty years and an invitation pops through my parents door and a note on Facebook from a friend of a friend appears to say that there is a school reunion. Carrie is going and wants to see me. I really don't want to go. In the years that passed since I left school, I've Facebook stalked almost everyone who is online and shared the same lessons as me. Married and kids, or divorced with kids.
I simply didn't meet the right person. My first partner was married - I wasted nine years assuming he was divorcing and then suddenly came to my senses and walked away. I didn't meet anyone for ages and when I did, he simply didn't want children and I agreed, blinded by love and not terribly sure about them myself. It felt too grown up to have children with someone and a huge deal to tie with someone whom I loved but was erratic, unreliable and apparently a bit of liar having forgotten to tell me about his kids by his first marriage.
I sound like the worst judge of men and, sat alone at home, looking at the computer screen I didn't want to go. What on earth would I talk about?
A few days later I found the Facebook group, joined and rsvp'd to say no but thanks. I explained that I was on holiday and privately noted that I should actually book a ticket somewhere in case I forgot and was spotted at Tesco's in a true moment of paranoia.
Then came Carrie's email. She said she was sad that I wasn't coming along but could we meet for a coffee, she had lots to talk about and really wanted to catch up. She proved persistent, and I'm glad she did.
Carrie and I share so much in common, our relationship history and our lives. We neither went to university, she hated her first term and left but later did an Open University course like me. We share lots of common likes including crafts, cats and baking. We have much that isn't in common, she has step children with her former partner whom she still keeps in touch with. These differences don't divide us. We didn't go to the school reunion, we booked a flight to Crete and spent a week talking and talking. We are thinking about going into business together.
My message is that the people from the past aren't always bad. I could have easily deleted that email and spent my life wondering what if, just as I'd done so often in the past. But I have a bright new future with a good friend by my side.
My story of fertility is a bumpy road of junctions. Unplanned pregnancies with the wrong people at the wrong times early in my adult life and emotionally forced into terminations. I always assumed there would be a right time! Then suddenly when I thought I was too old, but desperately in love, I had a surprise pregnancy at 40 I thought I was blessed only to have a missed miscarriage, then another miscarriage and sadly an early labour at 16 weeks due to Edwards Syndrome so we had hopes gained with heartbeats and dashed with heartbreaking scans. I don't tend to say that I'm infertile but now at the age of 43 and 1/2 I'm definitely now firmly in a place of involuntary childlessness. A hard place where people leave your life alongside your quality eggs, like people abandoning a crap party when you're the last one there still trying to keep the music on and keep on dancing.
My story doesn't include IVF, a financial and emotional choice for us but I still feel that pressure and the simmering judgement from many mothers (especially the ones with miracle babies) that I haven't tried hard enough to be a mum. My gut says that is not something I think my heart can cope with when our combined ages give us a similar chance of conceiving naturally than of having successful IVF so what's the point in adding even more grief to our heavy hearts. You don't hear many people say that but now I say it loud and proud every time I'm asked in that must try harder tone! It's our lives, our grief and our choices so please respect us as all we want is a family together.
Eight years ago my husband of fifteen years and I jointly decided that we would not become parents. Abandoning IVF, we passed the panel for adoption and were unable to work out how on earth to choose a child. We should have been joyous and we were briefly. But unable to decide the weeks and months slipped by. My husband said I should choose because it’s my idea. This is not like a trip to the cats home, I tell him.
By then we had stopped having sex. My husband was unable to get the images when we first went through IVF from his mind. He had diligently sat with me through every procedure but when I miscarried, it was the start of the decline of what little sex life we had. And if I’m honest, we didn’t do much to repair it because I felt hopeless. I was overweight and covered in spots from the steroids. I was red eyed from tears and we had shared too much to feel like there was any mystery left. We tried daily kisses and hugs and they were enough. Cavorting in my undies trying to be sexy was humiliating when I was rejected and my husband refused to seek help.
Then I met the man who became my lover. I met him at work, he was briefly my manager and I moved departments such was the need I felt. I wanted him to notice me. He isn't conventionally handsome but he feels capable and a permanent bachelor. Calling him a lover makes us both seem less sordid than it is. It isn’t, it’s skulking around and hiding in his flat and wishing I could hold his hand in public. It’s watching him across the staff canteen and knowing that if I sat with him, I wouldn’t trust myself not to say something intimate or revealing that would give us away.
I can pack a bag under my husband’s nose and say I’m going to a work conference. I call him from my mobile three miles away from the kitchen standing my my lover's kettle, making tea, to say I’m having a nice time. It reflects on the lack of interest my husband has in me and I in him.
I want him to find out so that someone can decide my future for me. Since I first stuck a needle in me, since I first called the adoption agency, I don’t feel I have had a choice, because I can’t choose a child alone.
Yet I can chose to be with my lover. I can decide when I want sex and that I do want sex, that I am as glorious as he says. I can go into a shop and buy underwear I’d never usually buy, speak words I’d never say to my husband and be the free woman I longed for.
Infertility screws up your sex life - literally. I do not think that I am a great example for Walk In Our Shoes because I feel I should tell you that I will repair my marriage. I don’t think I will until someone does something. I am older than my lover and he may go off me, my husband may find out or I may tire of them both or come to my senses.
So this is my photo, of my lover and my feet. The only one I can take.
Christmas often finds me at work. I'm a fireman and if there's work going I'd take it and any extra shifts I could to avoid anything festive.
I am infertile. I found out after my wife and I went for investigations. We tried to save up for IVF as the PCT doesn't offer it here and in any case she already has a daughter so we wouldn't have qualified. She was a teacher and neither of us earned enough really. We scraped enough for one cycle of ICSI but we lost the pregnancy a week before Christmas, five years ago at 13 weeks. A year later our marriage had ended even though we had been through therapy so you can only guess how I felt about Christmas.
Two years ago I struggled after a house fire. A baby died and I went to pieces, more than I should. The parents had been smoking and it made me unspeakably angry. That's when it all came out. To be fair when I told my boss and went on sick leave for a bit, I felt braver for doing it. I told the rest of the station why and they've been amazing, I thought I'd get called a jaffa but they don't. Nobody did. I'm still Spike but they're a bit more sensitive around me when it comes to kids and it's good to have someone tap me on the shoulder and check I'm okay. One of them, Jim mentioned that he volunteers at a homeless shelter over Christmas. So I went with him that year and realised that there are lots of people out there who have been disowned by their families. It's so heartbreaking but I came away feeling rewarded and exhausted. I went last year and ended up setting up a footie team!
This year, three of us are going including Jenny who is Jim's sister. We started dating in the summer and yes, she knows all about me and assures me that it's okay. I told her really early on so she can make a choice and she has chosen to stay with me. I hope that sharing my story will help other men to speak out and get support. It's worse to bottle it up.
My colleague and I share a secret.
I’m childless through circumstance. My first wife was certain that motherhood wasn’t for her. That broke my heart and eventually our marriage. I don’t know when I thought it was over and why we just hadn’t talked about it before, but there it was.
At 30, I thought I’d never meet anyone who’d want me. Then I fell in love with Maria. I knew her through friends and we moved in together six months after our first date. Fast forward three years and despite all our efforts, we were yet to conceive. When we started to look at Chinese herbs, we came to our senses and saw our GP. We were almost instantly referred to IVF and none of the three cycles worked. On paper we’re perfect. We have to be to get through the restrictions placed on couples. We’re both the right BMI and neither of us smoke or drink a lot of booze.
We’re both 40 and our hopes of becoming parents are fading. Surprisingly we’re okay with it. The pain of IVF letting us down is worse than finding our feet in a new future. We’ve managed to buy ourselves a small house because we can afford two bedrooms better than 3 or 4. We have amazing holidays and we’re talking about setting up a business together. The future is different but not any less exciting.
In the meantime I’m working in a huge company with my best mate. His name is David and his wife almost lost her life last year when she miscarried their baby. We sit together and seen as the departmental ‘lads’, always up for a pub quiz and sponsored events. To you and most of our colleagues, we’re happy chaps. Like me, little stuff affects him. A bloke in our team brought in cake when his wife got past their 12 week scan and neither of us could swallow a bite.
I’m sure we’re meant to be stronger, at least that’s what society wants. I’ve seen David in tears, broken hearted and unable to speak. Today he found me kicking boxes after we went to a book launch at work and they wanted parents to take home a book for their kids. Little stuff screws you up even if the future is actually okay.
Mary and Stuart
I found this site last weekend when I was celebrating the Wave of Light. Usually when I log onto social media, it's swamped with stories of my friends and their kids. I like to see them sometimes but not always and I feel a bit lonely.This weekend I was overwhelmed with Waves of Light and it was like I'd found a tribe. It was lovely. So my photo is my feet and candles to honor that moment. I've now looked at joining some support groups to find more women like me. My husband also found the Fertility Network video from Gareth. He said that he was like someone had spoken his words.
Sometimes social media hurts but when it works, it's so powerful. Thank you tribe.
Beyond the daily challenges that people on this site have spoken about there are those days and months are marked by anniversaries of private grief.
Life can lose focus. You study, work and then assume that you may take maternity leave. For me, IVF over many years was my focus. I felt guilt for taking time off so I didn't have a break when I probably should have for my own sanity. I pay that price now. I am too tired to fight the most simple of battles.
We adopted our lovely dog but our home has two empty bedrooms, the chair where I fainted is still in the house and I exist in a space that was for a life that never arrived.
It is easy to be fearful for a different future. To feel no energy from the things like design and creativity sometimes. To feel desperately sad at times when I know the experiences of the journey have changed me but I know that the situations around me have not, to feel alienated from basic problems as child loss feels so much more significant.
I found solace in study, and the result of that is this website. I hope the future will bring something equally as encouraging and hopeful, educational and inspiring.
Every single person who has found the courage to participate, those who are not ready to do that and those who read this and understand or learn, we'll walk together.
Society refers to me as childless. I prefer calling myself an angel mum, of 4, all affected by the same condition. My husband and I both have the same faulty gene, resulting in 1 in 4 pregnancies being affected, our angels knew better, they were all affected, not just 1 of them.
Seven years on and me knocking on the door of 50; the decision made a good few years ago to stop trying for that '3 in 4' child. Now my body has made that decision too. It is time to move on. Not to forget, not to get over but learn to live with & move on.
Society makes being childless difficult. Just like we never thought that it would happen to us, it seems that society never expects to meet a woman without children, even though it knows that childlessness exists. Throwaway questions are asked - 'Do you have children?' is one of them. It's the one question in the world that I dreaded. I'm not one to shock or surprise, I never wanted to be different or stand out from the crowd or worse, lie. As soon as I heard that question I knew that my answer would make me do just that, apart from lying, that never felt right.
Part of my moving on is to write a book documenting my journey of freeing myself of the challenges that I face as a childless mother in a child-centric world. One of those challenges is finding an answer to THAT question, so far I have found that it depends on the person asking & the situation. So far, that works & that's a big step in my shoes, in the right direction.
always thought I would be a mother.
By the time I heard my clock ticking, an alarm was sounding and it seemed like a mad dash to find the guy and get pregnant. I found the guy, but 3 failed IVFs, 2 abandoned attempts at adoption, and one divorce later I realised my life was not going to look like I had hoped.
Seven years later after lots of therapy and support, I am finally in a place where I am happy with who I am and what my life looks like. This is not to say that there aren't triggers, but they are not as frequent and I have many tools to help me mitigate the sadness. I look back on that time and sometimes wonder how I survived so much pain, but I am so proud of the person I have become.
A beautiful, caring woman, who can still love and give even though the very core of my being has been tested. I never thought I could let myself be vulnerable enough to share my experience, but here I am.
A colleague has come into work with her baby. I’m relatively okay with it, this is good. It's a big step forward for me and I am proud.
If I do go over, will anyone know the effort behind this? Worse, could it be seen that I’m ‘better’ and therefore okay? Will they forget that the days are still fragile, that good ones are treasured but misunderstandings can turn the brightest sunshine to wild skies. I sit tight and hope I’m not offending anyone. But nobody can rob me from the pride I feel about myself for accepting that me sitting here is okay.
Ten years ago today:
I sat naked on a cold exam table with only a paper gown to cover me.
I experienced my last miscarriage, but had not yet known.
I saw the tech's face drop when examining the screen she was looking at, the same screen on which I had previously seen my baby, and photos of which I had previously taken home, coveted, and shared.
I lost all control. After the tech excused herself and left the room, still not saying a thing, no one from the hospital came back to us for hours to tell us what was going on – but I knew-- and all I wanted to do was to get the fuck out of there, but I couldn't. They wouldn't let me leave. I am still so mad. Leaving should have been the one thing I still had control over at that very moment, but I didn't even have that.
My then husband paced the room for hours, trying to comfort me, making phone calls to my parents, family, friends, and my employer for me. The hours allowed him to get pissed off on my behalf and his own. He was suffering, but in a far different way. I was too self-consumed to see it. He almost wasn't there. He wasn't even supposed to be there. But, by chance, his then senior partner found out about the appointment and told him to go. A glint of light in all this darkness, for which I am still extremely grateful for. We are now divorced. I wonder if he knows what today is.
I had never felt so desperate and alone in my life, in the dark, cold, and silent room, despite my then husband being there with me. We were there together, and yet each alone, experiencing this loss differently.
I had never cried so hard in my life and haven't again since.
I wasn’t aware that I would have to endure blood draws every week, multiple times a week, so the doctors could review my hormone levels, which for weeks revealed my body wasn't giving up on the baby and wouldn't let go.
I would still have months to go before I would deliver my baby. Which I did. Much later. Months later. At home. On the bathroom floor. Alone. The “friendly” staff of my ObGyn told me I was “just passing tissue” when it happened. But I saw. It was my baby. That's another story.
I knew that I'd likely not get pregnant again. I would choose to not continue down the infertility treatment path. The shots, the pills, the temperature taking, the blood draws, the procedures, the pain, the hormones, the rushing to the clinic an hour away with a brown paper bag full of hope, the hope to become pregnant via a painful injection, and again and again have disappointing results being told to me in a clinic filled with pictures of success stories lining the lobby, hallways, and even bereavement room, and just the myriad of tests upon tests upon tests all to result in “unexplained infertility.” It was exhausting (and expensive). I knew I couldn't do it again. And ten years later, I haven't. I can't bring myself to get my hopes up again.
I had no idea that my brilliant and beautiful stepdaughter was safely in her mother's body, growing strong at that very same moment. I had no idea, nor would I have been able to fathom, the bittersweet feeling I get now when reading bedtime stories and hearing her giggle or smelling her hair and wondering what my children's laughs would've sounded like or how their hair would have smelled. It is beyond indescribable. My heart fills and empties at the same time.
My life changed forever. And not in the way I had dreamed or planned.
I write this because ten years ago today, I felt desperately alone and broken and defective. Before my miscarriages, I didn't know anyone else who had gone through one. Obviously now, looking back, of course I had known women who had suffered through them, but I didn't know they did. No one talks about this, but it is so common and so traumatic. I often make people uncomfortable talking about it. But what they don’t realize is that it is the not talking about it that makes the miscarriages even that more traumatic. We suffer alone when we don’t need to.
I'd like to nominate my friend Francis for being a lifesaver in difficult times. I used to live in a part of the city that could best be described as Nappy Valley. My partner and I had moved to that area in the hopes of starting a family. After a few years, it became apparent that children weren’t in the cards for us. We were very sad. Everywhere we went in the neighbourhood, we saw pregnant women, pushcarts with babies, children playing in the streets. Our house was empty.
I felt lost, lonely and isolated in my own neighbourhood. Until I met Francis. Francis is a single mother to a lovely boy who was born with spina bifida. Francis showed me the unglamorous side of motherhood. She was a mother who didn’t pretend life was all rosy and who listened to my story. Thanks to her, I gained a new perspective to my situation: That motherhood isn’t necessarily the dream job it seems to be, and mothers aren’t always enviable. It is good to have a friend as honest and open as she is. I wish everybody had a Francis.
I have struggled to find a sense of purpose in my life when age, life and health conspired and my journey to being a parent came to an end without a child.
I had studied extensively, taking academic courses whilst I was trying to be a mum. When these ended and my dream of being a parent also came to a close at about the same time, I felt I’d failed. I was stuck in a job I wasn’t happy with because it was easier to take holidays at short notice and manage my work as I knew it all so well. I felt utterly lost and a pointless person with no value to human life. It didn’t help that my parents didn’t understand and spent all their time cooing over my nephew. They had no conception of why this was upsetting and why I might feel excluded.
I found that counselling was a god send. Finding the right person wasn’t easy, I had to meet a few before I felt I had the right counsellor for me. With her help, I found ways to cope - tools and actions that allowed me to handle daily situations better. I was able to see that the situation with my parents required me having some empathy for them. I talked with my parents about the efforts I had made to be a parent, to give context to how I felt. It is not a great relationship but through trusting my sister to help, it is getting better. My mum admitted that she thought her only purpose in life was to have children and often felt trapped by being a parent.
I was also able to explore new career options. I have read a few books and blogs on life when you can’t be a mum. Most seem to focus on dramatic life changes from adopting cats or dogs to moving to the seaside. That isn’t always practical, especially for me as I have to face my future now as a divorced woman. I’ve yet to hand in my notice but I have taken on some voluntary work. Small steps matter and I am reminded that there is a lot I can do without children, a weird opposite of my mum’s situation. In fact we are tentatively starting some sewing classes together to find some new common ground. It is helping to heal us both. This website has helped me too, reading the stories and knowing I am brave enough to share my experience.
Justine and Tina
My partner, Tina and I have been exploring the different ways to be parents. We’ve thought a lot about IVF but our PCT altered its guidelines so we can only have one cycle. We can’t really afford to pay for the rest. Lots of people say to us that if we can’t afford it privately, we cannot afford children but they perhaps do not realise that the cost of a cycle is up front and anything from £6,000. Then we have the sperm donation costs and the dilemma of who should be the father. Unlike films and stories, we do not have ‘best gay male friend’ who thinks it an honour. Life isn’t really that simple!
If we chose IVF, then we jeopardise our chances of adoption because you have to be ‘over’ IVF if you start the adoption process. We are often told to ‘just adopt’. Worse, it that it’s 'God’s way’ or unnatural as if it’s punishment for being a same sex couple. We’d like the opportunity for one of us to be a birth mother – but who gets that honour and the privilege of being mum? The law states that the other partner has to adopt!
We wonder if we did the right thing in talking about our dreams to be mothers. We felt it was the best solution as it became increasingly hard to hang out with friends who were pregnant and watch our peers have families. Distressingly we’ve ended up in an odd position where almost everyone tries to fix us.
At the moment, we are somewhat moved forward. Both of us have escaped London and moved to a small town in Cambridgeshire. It has given us space from the ‘fixers’ and we’ve made new friends who do not know our hopes. I’ve started to train as a teacher and I am enjoying watching children learn, inspiring them and finding that’s enough for the moment.
Trying for a baby - and not getting one - is so difficult. The ups and downs of each monthly cycle, with the build up of one failure after another, is devastating.
I was so determined not to get obsessed by the idea of getting pregnant that I avoided conversations about it and didn't let many friends share what my husband and I were going through. IVF brought us closer as a couple and we retreated into our own world, supporting each other through the process. I found it so hard to share with those close to me as I was plagued by fears, feelings of shame and failure which I did not want to feel.
Counselling has been a huge help to me and what started out as a few sessions turned into two years of regular visits. I've stopped now as part of the moving on process, and I'm determined to look to my friends and family for support when I need it, even though I find this so hard. I still feel guilty that I can't provide the much hoped-for grandchildren and all the happiness that would bring to my parents.
Turning 40 has helped me to move forward from that desperate "trying for a baby" phase, with its crushing low points. Rather than suggesting, why don't you... adopt/foster/go private, I hope people will realise what I'm starting to; that I'm okay, and I'm enough, on my own.
'Have you thought about fostering or adoption?' It’s a question I'm asked every time I say that I can't have children. I always reply it's not for me. For one, because of my job and ridiculous shifts I wouldn't be accepted and secondly I don't know if I'm the right person to be trying to care for children from broken homes.
Although saying that, I have adopted. Or should I say my husband and I have been chosen to care?
Almost six years ago a little half starved fur baby turned up in our garden, after my husband gave him my ham from my work lunches and it was snatched out of his hand he decided to buy some proper food. After a few months this little boy grew stronger and started to trust us, then finally moved in realising that his previously owners had abandoned him. Now he is a rather big boy who is very contented in our house.
Okay, so I'm talking about a cat but if my husband hadn't seen him that cold winter day he would have died. I love Dopey (husband named him, not me) to bits and when I'm down or feeling unwell he will always come and sit on me (he's not normally a lap cat). It's like he knows I need a little loving too. Without him I know that some days would be much harder to get through.
So next time I'm asked about fostering or adoption I think I'll respond by saying that I'm the one that's been adopted by a beautiful fur baby.
I was compelled to write after seeing Maria's post about work and her brave attempts to change the workplace.I find it hard at work. I work in a training environment so I deliver courses and work with colleagues on their work. I'm constantly amazed by how often they make assumptions that all the people they educate are parents or have had experience of bringing up children. They'll often put this into scenarios or role play.
I've had two rounds of IVF. We were pregnant on the second round and most of the company knew of this. We are a small workforce and it was hard to hide my absences and easier to explain them. I also made sure to read information from support groups like the Fertility Friends and Gateway Women so I was prepared for questions. A lot of what we train is about communication so I figured I'd get a few observations. I think we learned a lot at the time. At 18 weeks I miscarried and I truly couldn't have asked for more support. I took some time off on sick leave to restore myself, and when I got back, it was a phased return. People said they were so sorry and nobody tried to fix me, as if that was possible but were kind and forgiving of my woolly brain.
Despite this, they do need to be reminded that I am not the only one. There are people out there who are also affected. As you have said on the site, it's one in five so it's very easy to find that any training course could include someone who has suffered loss. Mine was six years ago but I know that if I was to sit in on a course and be asked to act out a scenario that included being a parent, I'd struggle very much. If you find yourself in that situation, you must tell the trainer if you can. Write a note if you struggle to speak about it. It isn't acceptable but know that I'm out there beating on a drum for you.
My husband and I were told 10 years ago that we couldn't have children. After attempting IVF and attending adoption meetings (stress personified) we decided to stop. Just stop. My head couldn't take anymore, my heart couldn't take anymore, my body couldn't take anymore. I was going insane. It took the Nat out of Nat (stealing a wonderful poignant quote from Cheryl Strayed). I wouldn't do that to myself anymore. That was it... I thought, my husband thought...we are done. Now we can move on. Get the Nat back in Nat!
But I couldn't... We tackled many other trials, hardships and illnesses over the years... yet the sadness got worse and began to take over. I searched in vain for support, finding a few kindred spirits along the way that kept me going. I built a strong career. It made me feel good about myself. I am a strong, intelligent, award winning business woman I would reason. It helped with the 'I'm not a real woman' feelings that would flash before me many times in despair. The numbness and the blankness. The overwhelming sadness. The career "thing" helped for a few years but really, in the end, it was meaningless.
Through this time I suffered a breakdown, endured chronic fatigue, depression and other such horrid things, and worst of all, watched hopelessly as my husband became consumed by disability. Counselling, love and faith kept us together as we learnt how to crawl out of the abyss. And yet, early in 2015, four different sets of friends announced their pregnancies. Joy of flippin joys! Now, don't get me wrong, we have wonderful friends with gorgeous and yummy children, and a delicious niece and nephew that bring us sheer joy. But this was different. This time I couldn't take it. Madness with life, the universe and everything ensued. Anger and jealousy. And in desperation I googled the word childlessness and found Jody Day (founder of gateway women) and her amazing life changing book. What a relief. I began to breathe...just breathe. Support and love and understanding and tears and hope and more understanding. She got it. Her group got it. Kelly and the Dovecote Community got it.
I took Jody's advice and went for childlessness grief counselling. I am still in the process. Still learning. Still absorbing and crying. Crying buckets... (how can I produce such an amount of tears?) Grieving.
Cheryl Strayed says 'Grief has no face'. I wish it did. That the world would recognise. We are just going to have to educate the world about Grieving for our unborn children. Our beautiful unborn daughters and sons.
I finally am grieving...allowing myself to feel it all. The horridness, the sadness, the full on crapness of it all. Honouring my dreams of our children. And healing. My life is good, my life will be good. With a deep scar that I will cherish and treasure forever.
I cope most of the time. 90% I’m okay. But then you get the blips, thanks to the idea of someone in an advertising agency who thinks a challenge on Instagram with tag Mumsworkharder is a great idea. There is no thought to someone like me. I am inconsequential with no monetary value. The mummy pound counts for more.
To my friends, seduced by the matter of winning a prize, thanks to the thoughts of the someone-in-the-marketing-agency, I am suddenly nothing. Let’s click ‘n’ share and bollocks to the consequences.
Yes, it’s an idea created by the someone-in-the-marketing-agency, but I am your friend. I work hard. I work so very hard at staying positive.
There are 365 days. But there is one day in March that used to set me back each year.
It's worse because my birthday falls that time of the year too. I detest that each year I get older and my chances of being a mum are less.
What saves me are good friends who I trust, my gorgeous dog and just accepting it's crap. I try to limit time online and I invite friends in the similar situation as me for lunch. We met through a support group and I can't imagine being without them now.
We'll take our dogs out and try to reclaim the day. You can't completely but you can at least feel you're being a tiny bit more empowered.
I used to try to wield a campaign on social media, constantly posting memes and reminders that it's hurtful but it eats you up. Leave the educating for another time when you are less angry and use your energy to find the ones that cheer you up and inspire. And never underestimate that mums understand more than you think. They may have had miscarriages or lost their mums.
We can get through this with good friends.
One night, when I was 37, I woke up soaking wet. Taking off my soaked sleepwear, I retreated to the guest room. This was it. Seven years after my ovarian tumour, the damaged affected areas removed and treatment had concluded, as predicted, I was entering early onset menopause.
Over the next year, I became hyper positive. My skin colour that had caused me to suffer so much racial abuse when I lived in the UK had now become my saviour, no-one could see my hot flushes. Living in a warm climate too meant everyone was feeling warm, not just me and having to carry lots of sanitary wear was becoming a thing of the past!
Outwardly, I looked the same and acted like a teenager still so my psyche was great and continues to be so. As the saying goes about looking at a glass half full or empty, for me it's not about whether the glass is half empty or half full, it's whether there is something in the glass at all!
So I couldn't be a mother, I could not adopt. But since birth until my death, I am Nuria. That has and will not change only the potential options open to me did. It wasn't my fault, I could not change the outcome so that’s how I cope, because the ache and want never really goes away, I have just learnt to control it.
In conclusion, live, do not exist! Make a difference, as I did, I became a teacher!
It is amazing what can trigger you. Last April 1st I logged on to find that my friend, let's call her Melanie for this is my former friend's name (!) was pregnant.
By 12noon she was not.
It was a rather poor taste April Fool joke.
So my post is asking people not to do this. This is why. Three times in my life I have had held a pregnancy test in my hand and believed myself to be pregnant. Three times I have been to a scan and found that I was no longer pregnant.
There are one in 10 couples who will be seeing their GP for help because unlike the trickster, they are devasted by not being able to have a child. Each month they find that the pregnancy test doesn't show the line on it and it's not funny at 8am, 9am or even after 12 noon.
One in 4 of your friends will see that update and be genuinely upset because they have gone past the point of trying with no hope, and are considering a life without children.
Becky Thompson on a wonderful post published in 2014 on her blog said 'you won’t see many status updates that say something along the lines of, “Still not pregnant. #whenwillitbemyturn” Because for many, the journey to pregnancy it is a deeply emotional process. It’s not something that comes up in everyday discussions'.
It's not being sensitive, this is about you being grown up and understanding that it's very likely that your status update could have the power to really hurt someone you care about. So this year, be a bit more creative about your joke.
For nearly thirty years, from the age of 13, I experienced horrendous menstrual cramps. Doctors sent me home with prescriptions for ever-stronger pain killers. None of them ever raised the subject of endometriosis. When I failed to conceive in my first marriage, I was still relatively young and naive. I told myself it would happen when the time was right. So many of my friends were having children and I just assumed that it would happen for me, too, "one day".
When I met my second husband, the time was right but nothing happened. By the time the endometriosis was diagnosed, we were already under the assisted conception clinic. Against my initial instinct, we went through IVF. But at 41, my poor eggs were no longer up to the job. For a handful of hopeful days I was "mother" to five, beautiful, cherished cells. I still have the photograph of that embryo.
I have a good life which brings me many opportunities to help and support children and young people in my work, family and circle of friends. I have come to terms with not having children, mainly thanks to the support from an amazing community called Gateway Women. But I will never forget how it felt to suffer, so deeply, in silence. And I will always cherish the memory of the beautiful potential held in that perfect arrangement of five beloved cells. My dearest, secret love.
So this picture was taken shortly after I had returned from a Gateway retreat, where I was challenged by several GWs to take a photo a day, and after we had done a lot of barefoot walking on summer grass as we 'reignited'.
My passion and creativity in life is through my photography - I love taking my camera out to explore and capture pictures of natural beauty, and landscapes. But I rarely have taken pictures that capture the moment I am in personally, with me in them. I realised that I have often hidden behind my camera lens at tricky events like weddings, baptisms, parties etc.
In my time since losing my two babies to miscarriage, I've learnt that the moment you're in must be appreciated, and that learning to be mindful of every single moment gives me a bigger sense that yes, I am alive, that my life matters, and that just because I'm not a mother (and probably won't be now) it doesn't make my life pointless, worthless or unnecessary. It took the better part of ten years for me to reach a stage where I realised this.
I know so many GWs struggle with what makes life meaningful too. So I guess this picture captures one of those mindful moments where I felt the warm summer grass under my feet, where I realised how lucky I was to be alive, and where my GW retreat had given much food for thought, even all these years later after losing my two babies. It captures hope, it captures possibility, and it captures future steps. It also captures that beautiful sense of summer, where all feels well with the world.
I hope it gives some other women in this position the same sense of hope, possibility and future.
Rose, Lucy and Anna
I would like to use my space to say how grateful I am to my friends David and Lucy. I met Lucy when I was in my first job and we found out that we lived in the same street. A few months later, I met David who was friends with my then boyfriend, now husband.
It was wonderful when Lucy and David started dating. They married a year after us. We had all talked about kids, sitting around friends who had already had them, we'd coo over toddlers, let them climb over our blokes and assumed we'd have our own. Sadly for me and my man, that was never meant to be. I found out that I was miscarrying and put into an ambulance as Lucy realised she was expecting. We were told not to try again by the GP.
So this is the crucial part of our friendship. The bit where it could go awfully wrong. It's not that I don't like Lucy anymore but that honestly I'm jealous, alone and grieving. I'm upset that David will look at her with adoration, her bump will grow and I'll have to stop seeing her as it'll be too painful and she'll hate me. I'll have this Lucy gap in my life and a bucket load of upset when I think of my past because she's in almost every important event.
But I hadn't factored in my amazing friend. She traveled from Scotland to tell me she was pregnant. Refused to abandon me and held onto me during those dark days like a limpet. When I said it was upsetting to see her bump, she kept in touch through Facetime but I found that I didn't mind the bump so much. When the bump became Anna, a fully fledged baby I did visit. All the visits were on my terms and in return I understood the upset that Anna's arrival caused to an ordered life and how terrible post natal depression is. It's not all been easy, but I know that if I say to her that it's crap, she'll listen and respect it. She can say the same back as Anna turns into a temperamental teen. All the same time, David was there for my husband too.
So if you are bursting to tell the world through Facebook, composing a teasing message, just click on your friends tab and customise your audience or better still, be like Lucy and visit the friends who might struggle with your news. Ring them, see them and listen to them. You might need a Rose in your life just like I need Lucy and Anna.
John and Sally
We worked together for a while and then began dating and got engaged after a year. Early on we decided on four children and a dog - the ideal life, a joke at the time. We were so happy when Sally got pregnant but philosophical when we had a very early miscarriage.
Then we found, after some years, that we could document our holidays by Sally’s miscarriages. The doctor tried to help and I (John) felt helpless watching Sally go through some really awful tests. Mine was easy - fertile or not? Apparently I was a bit of a slow mover but everything was fine. ICSI apparently was the answer so we went to the fertility clinic for IVF only to find that our PCT didn’t fund cycles so we remortgaged our tiny starter home. I worked extra shifts at work. IVF takes over your life. If you’re not going through it, you’re saving up or maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I was exhausted and Sally was heartbroken. Five cycles and no answers, no children.
We are trying to adjust to a life without children but even as a bloke, a bit distant from these things, stuff throws you, like a scan photo and cake at work recently. I had to walk around the car park and fight back tears. As men we really must talk about this more.
James and Ella
We met at university, went out for a bit, broke up for a few years and then finally got back together after tracking each other down on social media.
James was a step dad to his ex-partner's children. I know he adored them. It's even harder to cope then with knowing we won't have them as James is infertile. We've tried ICSI with no success.
We try very hard to create new occasions. I struggle the most with Mother's Day and Father's Day. James gets a card from his ex's children because they viewed him as their dad for a long time and I agreed it was okay and put them first. I know that this is important him in his situation and there has to be compromise and balance. I could theoretically have children with someone else I guess but I stay with James because he is my soul mate and means so much to me. If he cannot be biological and lifelong dad to our kids, then I truly don't want anyone else. The donor option wasn't for us.
I tend to switch off all social media on Mother's Day. I've long given up attempting to reason that it's about returning to the 'Mother Church', it falls on deaf ears. We treat it like any other Sunday but much less internet. In fact it's not so bad as we read books, play a board game and walk our dogs somewhere which is almost always quiet as everyone else is crammed into a pub. We're out in the fresh air. As I work in an office and it's got flexi-time, I go in later the day after so my colleagues have shared their weekend updates and I don't have to listen to that. If I do hear about it, it's rather gratifying to hear them say how peaceful my weekend sounds. I get the impression that it's not as wonderful as the media makes out!
I am a firm believer in new traditions. We have the right to create new ideals if the old ones do not suit us. We go away at Christmas to the coast, our way of coping and I often think the alternative isn't too bad.
I never dreamed of becoming a mother. Growing up, my focus was finding a career and being independent. I didn't think much about marrying, either, but when I was 23, it happened. My husband and I agreed we didn't want children.
Slowly, as we grew older, that changed. I feel this an important part of my story because despite some ambivalence about having children, infertility has still been the most crushing experience of my life. We started trying to get pregnant when I was 29. I had been on birth control for many years, and after I stopped taking it, each monthly cycle became more painful than the last, and I wasn't getting pregnant. I finally visited my doctor to explore ways to manage my pain, and with an ultrasound discovered I had large cysts on my ovaries that were rupturing. Long story short, surgery revealed cysts, endometriosis and a large fibroid. In one year I had three surgeries and two miscarriages.
My last surgery was a hysterectomy. It was a difficult decision but I felt the need to end my physical pain, and decided against IVF for many reasons. I realized through infertility that we live in a culture that promotes and rewards motherhood, and women without children are often viewed as less than, ignorant, pitied or seen as selfish.
This is the hardest part of infertility for me: stigma and isolation. I don't belong. I am other. But "the pain will change you: it doesn't have to define you." Don't pity me. I am bigger than loss and grief. I am so sad and strong.
I work in human resources and I’ve experienced miscarriage and loss myself. My husband is infertile and our ICSI journey was not successful.
I have tried very hard to make sure that our company supports men and women who have been through the same journey. I am in a position to make changes and it’s the very least I can do. The policies in most places are woefully inadequate and human resource teams seem baffled by something that affects one in 5 couples. That’s a large part of the workforce - I don’t mean Facebook or Apple’s egg freezing policies. If that’s the best that a company can do, it’s not an answer. It’s not always successful and hugely invasive.
We have counselling in place. We ask pregnant colleagues to be respectful to anyone who is struggling to cope and keep an open, but confidential, door. We keep baby showers and celebrations to lunch times in places away from desks so people can decide to go rather than feel overwhelmed. I’ve been honest in my staff profile about my journey. If I can help just one person cope better than I did, I will. Companies have to show more empathy.
My troubles are with my wider family.
When I was a child, our large London family led by my great grandparents, East End born and bred, was stereotypically known for it’s warm heart and tough exterior. Family gatherings were weekly and soap opera arguments were common. Families were celebrated in birth and honoured with black horses in death.
As the years have gone by and my generation have moved to other countries, to pursue university, marriage or new starts. So the strong family unit has dismantled, about the same time my grandmother passed away and my grandfather sold the house in Bow to a developer. With our moving came a wider understanding of life and politics, and we demanded more wisdom from our family peers.
I am not a father because my partner lost our baby at 6 weeks and we cannot conceive. We don’t have the money for IVF and as she approaches her late 30s, so time slips away. The bank were unwilling to lend us funds and when I spoke to my family, they were cynical that it would work and the topic never came up again. When I speak about our pain at family events,the subject is changed quickly. We’re expected to attend family events including christenings but often don’t because we cannot be true to ourselves.
Most of my family are on Facebook and social media. My brother, my cousins, aunts and uncles. Without exception not one of them has engaged with my timeline when I share something about infertility. Pictures of my cats yes. Any article about loss from the media. It is only ever our friends who comment. Never those who have grown up with me and known me for 39 years. It's staggeringly rude, complacent and yet incredibly common accordingly to my partner.
Ironically we’ve been tagged in photos of the family as we stood to the side and I wished my father was stood with me and my son. Swallowing down the anger at being party to such an event, I feel heartbroken and betrayed by this selective use of social media.
If you are a relative of someone who has gone through loss, don’t let your discomfort prevent you from reading about their work finding out how they are coping and talking to them. Engage with them and let them speak, trust that they know their own pain better than you and that they aren't the same person you grew up with. Miscarriage and infertility changes people, it disrupts relationships not only within their marriage or partnership but at work, with friends and of course families. Yet it never fails to surprise me how many families take for granted that blood binds can overcome all the hurt. It only overcomes when tolerance, patience and empathy are understood.
I will share this message at our next ‘do’ and be proud I spoke out.
CJ, Ed and Mary
I got married last weekend to my wife and I wanted to share the news here. I kept meaning to write. I didn't think I had story to tell really but we think we do. I hope you will publish it. I was married before to a man who was lovely but I think I lied and I feel bad about that. I wasn't happy. I cut myself and drunk too much and my husband couldn't cope with me. I couldn't deal with me either so I tried to take my life. I was in psychiatric care for a while. I don't know how long really but I started to come to terms with who I am because of it.
I'm gay and it didn't matter how long I was married for, it wasn't going to change. No amount of pretending I was happy being domestic with him would change the fact that I didn't really know who I was, or unhappily having sex and I didn't see a future for us. I was actually scared we'd have kids - but I want to be a parent - because I didn't think I'd ever leave him. It felt like someone was shoving a pillow over my head and beating it. Worse thing is that he the kindest man I know. Really kind and I do love him.
My husband is my best friend now we are divorced. He was at my wedding. He married again and has a daughter who I am god mother to and I adore her. It's been bloody hard work trying to get used to that. It was ten years ago to the day when I was carted off to A&E and maybe that's why I am writing today?
I can't say for certain that we won't adopt, my wife and I. We are worried about our age as we're both in our 50s and it's scary. I don't know how I feel about it.
My great regret is my family. They thought I was going through a phase. I still can't convinced them and I got sick of trying, and sick from trying so we have no contact. A cousin is friends with me but I can't bear to hear their news because I feel guilty.
But I am trying to be happy. It's complex but I'm really amazed I'm married and someone actually loves me for who I really am.
I am Natalie and I am a photographer.
The video on this site made me remember the times when I was hoping that IVF would work for my partner Tea and I.
One of the teenage worries about coming out was how could I be a mum. In 1980s Tunbridge Wells we didn't talk about it.
I wanted to be pregnant and carry our child. We found our way through the whole process of sperm donation and we thought that was our biggest battle. In the process of our prep work at the clinic I found out that I wasn't able to use my eggs. They were the eggs of a woman three times my age. I was devastated but I pinned my hopes on donor eggs, barely able to believe that Tea would put herself through egg collection but she did and we managed to have five embroys. Two survived so we put them back into Tea not me. I felt cursed if I'm honest and my head was a mess about it.
We didn't make it. The test came back negative and it was a massive shock. We walked about for days unable to cry. We didn't tell anyone either so we had to put on a brave face. Maybe writing this is my confession?
When I watched a programme years ago about the journey of a sperm through the women, it seemed impossible that anyone would get pregnant and made me wonder how humankind has survived. I suppose it made me think that we were so much closer. I mean, a petri dish, and then pop them home and we're done. But it isn't like that at all because we knew we were waiting - does that make any sense? The consultant said that lots of pregnancies are lost without the parents knowing because they were not necessarily expecting to be expecting but we were.
Tea and I are still together and we're thinking about fostering. It has been five years since we went through our IVF cycle and we're still sore about it and sometimes we think about what if I'd carried the baby but we can't hold any resentment. When I did, we split up for a while and I had to sort that stuff out. If you resent you just become this island and the whole idea of walking away and starting again was horrible. Tea felt the same so we're doing our best to keep going. The social workers have some concerns about that and I have to agree. I am not sure yet and I worry I won't be but at least we're talking about it.
It felt like it took a long time for me to find my husband. I spent my twenties doing what can best be described as ‘faffing around’. I was a party girl, I loved having a good time, I was an adrenaline junkie and really felt like I lived my 20’s. I completed a university course, worked two winter seasons as a hotelier in the Alps and then went off back packing around the world when I was 27.
As I hit 30, time caught up with me and I no longer wanted to be the party animal. I wanted a loving husband, a baby and probably a dog – in that order.
I met my husband salsa dancing, he was not my usual type at all but immediately I knew that meant something special. We met nine years ago and dated for three years before we were married. We both had strict principles and didn’t even start trying for a baby until after we were married, we were both clear that this was important, we wanted to do it properly. So we were married in November 2012 and assumed we’d be pregnant by the following spring – because that’s how easy it happens, right?
How wrong we were.
In the first twelve months of marriage we moved house and hadn’t conceived, I assumed my timings were a little off. Then we lost my father-in-law suddenly and we were consumed with grief. As we recovered we headed to the doctors to see what the problem was and then the second blow; my brother was killed in a car crash at just 33. I was heartbroken and didn’t know how I would carry on.
Six weeks later we were told that my husband had no sperm in his sample and the most likely cause to be confirmed was mild Cystic Fibrosis. We would need ICSI to conceive.
To date we have been through three rounds of ICSI, each one failing. It also turns out that I don’t respond very well to drugs, I have a low-ish ovarian reserve and the quality of my eggs are pretty poor. We are still deciding on our next move.
In the past three years I have been to the very bottom of what I thought was possible to survive (including recently a bout of shingles) and am slowly climbing my way back out of this hole of grief and loss and infertility.
I am rebuilding myself with the help of the infertility community, learning about grief and mental health and using writing as an outlet. Learning that expectations can be wrong and sometimes you have to let go of how you thought your life would be and accept the way it is. I have become a volunteer for Fertility Network UK and am looking forward to being involved in this year’s National Fertility Awareness Week.
Grief and infertility have changed me fundamentally. I have had to face realities that I never imagined I would and yet I am still here and still fighting.