This is a story that starts way back in about 1997 when I was diagnosed with HPO type 1 amenorrhea with very low LH, FSH and oestrogen. Basically this means the control centre in my brain is not functioning properly, hormones can’t communicate with my ovaries to produce oestrogen in the proper amounts needed for ovulation and I have no regular cycle. At the time of diagnosis, I was 17. I was put on the pill to see if my body was capable of responding to the hormones, it was, and I was sent on my merry way with a vague mention of possibly needing help to start a family one day. To me that day seemed very, very far away so off I went to live my life, microgynon in hand.
Looking back on it now I do feel frustrated that the ‘possibly needing help to start a family one day’ was so downplayed. Of course at 17 it was the last thing on my mind, but I don’t think I understood the seriousness of that statement. In my mind the fact that it had almost been mentioned in passing meant that it would be a simple fix, a magic tablet I could take.
I took the microgynon on and off all my adult life. Every now and then I would get sick of it and stop for six months or so, my cycle would stop immediately and then after a few glorious period free months I would want to feel like a normal woman and start taking it again. Then about 5 years ago I stopped taking it altogether. I didn’t get a period, and I didn’t get pregnant.
Fast forward to 2015 when my husband and I decided the time to start a family was absolutely now. We felt as ready as anyone ever is to step into the unknown and start a family with the wonderful ups and downs that we knew that it would bring and so after some tests my gp referred me to the hospital in early 2016. I was put on hrt for an initial three months and was introduced to the unpleasant world of internal scans. After a few more tests and few more dates with dildo cam we were told we would need to go straight to ivf. There was no magic tablet. We found ourselves completely ready and yet unable.
It was August before we were approved for NHS funding, October before our first consultation and in January 2017 we finally started the actual ivf process. A BFP in early March, a missed miscarriage in mid April and a second surgery to remove retained pregnancy tissue in June. It’s fair to say 2017 has had its fair share of ups and downs, and as we gear up for a second cycle of ivf we know those ups and downs aren’t over.
Going through our first cycle of ivf has already taught me how resilient human beings are, how much capacity the heart has to break and mend, and how to be strong by drawing on the experiences and strength of others.
My one piece of advice to anyone starting a journey of ivf or dealing with infertility issues, male or female, is to find your tribe. Use social media to seek out people who can understand and support what you are going through, who can show you how it’s done, how you keep moving forward when you don’t know if you can. Yes you’ll need your partner, friends and family to rely on and help you through too, but I’m not sure I would have gotten through everything that’s happened this year without a girl gang of incredible and infertile cheerleaders standing with me.