Six years ago, a few days after our wedding anniversary we were told that our pregnancy, conceived in a laboratory, was no more.
Since that grim day in September, I have experienced deep loneliness and mental health problems. I’ve been told only recently by a relative that there are people worse off and have thus often felt dismissed. It’s been a journey of tears, pain and trauma. This is what I have learned and I wanted to share it with you.
Relationships will suffer
My husband and I felt differently in the first place about having children. They were a good to have for him, a bonus. For me they were essential. In many ways that’s been good because it means I’ve never been under pressure and he was pragmatic about ending IVF but I hated him for it at the time. We’ve come to meet in the middle but there are times when I have to remind him how much it hurt.
Depression and PTSD can cause irrational behaviours. Nobody wants to spend time with someone in a downward spiral, that’s not being unkind it’s just humans. It’s hard to disassociate someone from pain. It’s hard to see past the loss to the person beneath when you know that childlessness has changed them. I’ve had to remind myself that people will like photos of my dog more than anything around childlessness unless they’ve been through it. It’s not being cruel, it’s hard to know how to comment on the dreadfulness of it. What emoji would one use anyway? What words?
You have to rebuild in more ways than you expect
I’ve been too aware of my shortcomings. I used to think I was fortunate to have a good relationship with my body. After IVF I became aware of failings in other ways, that I didn’t know were possible.
I felt less than anyone else. When the mums shared stories, I had nothing to say about childbirth or lack of sleep, stretch marks and hair loss yet I had experienced them too for different reasons. I began to eat rubbish food, drank a lot and despised this body that had been through so much.
At the moment, I am at peace with myself and found a small miracle in the form of a vegetable box! I had to find ways to address the impurity of myself in therapy. I now try to start my day with yoga and embrace meditation. I walk my dog every day, rain or shine and have joined a gym. I go when I feel I want to and do so knowing that I have days when I struggle. I’m never crash dieting again or adopting any food trends.
Those you love may not appreciate all you’ve been through
This is the kicker. There’s nothing like seeing a loved one or a friend go through hell and back and suffering because of something you’ve said. It’s very hard to trust anyone with feelings. I have observed that the hardest thing to do. Too many times those who are childless for any reason, are told to have a one night stand, try surrogacy, or adoption. If how we feel is dismissed or forgotten by others, then why would anyone want to talk about it and so there is a silo of grief and a gap between friends or family.
Making peace with childlessness, miscarriages, IVF and being able to find words to tell that to those around you is something that I don't feel anyone can do. I’m sorry to not have any advice on that but I do wonder if we are a culture of comparison eager to measure loss with marks out of ten?
There will be shit days and amazing ones
I’ve had crap days last year and great days too. Sometimes all on the same day. Time can help us come to terms with what happened but I don’t feel it repairs the wounds, or remove those awful days of no hope the ones that start with an early morning chill that smothers us when we feel like the only people in our worlds. Learning to stay on an even keel and not over catastrophizing about everything from what someone wrote or didn't to how someone looked at you, is enough.
There is more to life
It’s good and bad this. Going through trauma may make you better at other terrible events but it does not make one any better at coping with them.
Watching friends and relatives have children and get on with lives is painful. I’m now watching older friends become grandparents. I feel overtaken by feelings of injustice, why me and what did I do? I can still collapse on the sofa and cry because I don’t know if I will be me again. The me who was able to hold a child, deal with conversations about being a mum even if I couldn’t say something worthy. The me who might have been in a church being honoured as a godparent but now dreads being asked.
But yes life does go on, for better and worse. In the time since I’ve started this site, I have talked about my loss and written loads too. I’m acutely aware of how I feel about this and that I have to make sure I go on too. I’ve changed my life, become aware of who I can trust and tentatively telling those who need to know that this is me, with all my pain and I’m working on it not defining me.
On this day, when we’re encourage to talk about our mental health then can I encourage you to take a moment to consider you. To think about what will help and support you and a conversation that would bring you peace.
Next week there are two webinars when you are welcome to join me and friends. On Tuesday 12th February at 7pm GMT, I will be with Heather at More To Life, part of Fertility Network UK, talking more about this site. There is time to ask questions and chat at the end of the session. Find out more here.
On Thursday 14th February at 7pm GMT , Sarah Lawrence from After the Storm and Steph Phillips from World Childless Week will be chatting to me in an unrecorded webinar. Please do join us. Click here to register