Abi, age 36, co-founder @ The Fertility Circle
2.5 years, before the arrival of Amber, via IVF, in 2018
Everyone’s fertility journey is different and I share mine in the hope that talking opening and honestly about it will make someone else feel like they are not alone. Our journey lasted 2.5 years (which I know is short for a lot of people) but it certainly had its share of rollercoaster moments.
"It's funny because I'd always had this feeling that I was going to struggle to get pregnant."
Of course, everyone told me not to be silly and it would be fine once we started trying. And so it began when I came off the pill. I was quite desperate to get going but my partner was more reluctant believing he had super sperm and I would fall pregnant immediately. Of course, as the months passed and I didn't get pregnant (even despite that super sperm!), I began to feel a negative "I told you so" attitude overtake me.
"I admire people who can roll with it and see what nature brings no matter how long it takes but I’m not one of those people, I wanted answers!"
I pretty quickly went and had various tests to see if we could uncover what was going on. I knew there might be issues because I’d been diagnosed with endometriosis in the past and had already had two laparoscopic surgeries to remove ovarian cysts. It was during this time that I realised that it isn’t always easy to diagnose what’s going on. I had a number of blood tests, some of which told me there was nothing wrong and others which said my hormones were all out of whack. My cycles weren’t awful, they varied in length from 30-45 days and occasionally I would miss a period. I was obsessed with ovulation sticks which told me I was ovulating some months but not others. Even two scans I had within six months showed different results.
As we entered our second year and my cycles seemed to be worsening, I became more desperate. All these people who’d started trying way after me were falling pregnant and I was having to attend baby showers left, right and centre. It didn’t help that my closest circle of girlfriends (bless them) seemed to be the most fertile women on the planet all falling pregnant immediately or by mistake (how is that even possible I thought?!).
A private doctor recommended surgery to do ovarian drilling for my polycystic ovaries. I dove in head first thinking this might be the answer. During the surgery, he discovered things were a lot worse than expected due to adhesions caused by the previous surgeries I’d had. Both my ovaries were in the wrong place attached either to my womb or my abdominal wall. My right fallopian tube was embedded in my abdominal wall and my left fallopian tube had a large hydrosalpinx (when it becomes distended by fluid). He wasn’t very hopeful for my chances and I left feeling pretty hopeless. The next day I started experiencing severe abdominal pain and ended up in A&E. After 12 excruciating hours in hospital they discovered that my bowel had been mistakenly perforated in the surgery the day before. I was rushed into emergency surgery to remove a portion of my bowel. This left me pretty sick and in hospital for a while as this was then complicated by a bout of sepsis. I think this was my low place. My dreams seemed so far away and I felt that in my desperate quest I’d brought all this on myself. Despite all this there was a moment of complete surrender in hospital and I think this ultimate low was the beginning in a shift in mindset for me.
It took me about four months just to recover properly from the surgery. I spent a long time meditating during this time and I kept getting this feeling that I needed to do something drastic (as if I hadn’t done that already!). Ultimately, this led me to quit my consultancy gig and head to India for four months to do panchakarma (an ayurvedic cleanse and detox). I’d been dabbling with lots of different natural therapies and panchakarma felt like exactly what I needed to cleanse my mind and body of all the stress it had been under. Panchakarma was definitely an unusual experience and I’ll share more in a future post.
When I got back, I took some more time off and we underwent a round of NHS-funded IVF. I feel eternally grateful that this worked for us first time (despite estimated odds of success of about 15%).
I think unless you’ve been through it no one can understand what it feels like. And, of course, it manifests differently in everyone. For me, it was the inability to control my life (something which I’m normally ok about), and the monthly cycle of hope and desperation, but the worst thing was the fear. Sometimes this fear that it would never happen took hold of me and I just couldn’t shake it.
I got through it by meditating to reduce and manage stress and doing my best to cultivate a positive mindset to manifest what I wanted (this required every trick I knew from the Eastern practices I’d grown to love). Plus I had support from some incredible holistic practitioners who I believe were fundamental to our success (again more about this in a future post).
And finally I feel incredibly grateful for the wonderful people in my life. I couldn’t have gotten through it without my mum, my friends (you know who you are) and, last but not least, my partner who put up with my craziness, obsession and occasional middle-of-the-night rants/cries despite the fact that he was going through the same ordeal.
I knew I wanted to do something to support others in this most emotional of quests. This led me to new studies and I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I’ve learnt about Eastern practices and fertility in the future. Plus, of course, The Fertility Circle was born and my hope is that this is a source of power and comfort for you.
With love and gratitude,