• Nicole

I have been feeling progressively worse recently, its crept over me slowly over the last few weeks. Just a sense of unease. I assumed I was fed up with lockdown, with work, the darkening evenings and the lack of social interaction. I also thought maybe this was the result of having finished and published my book, its been such an emotional and personal piece of work. I’ve really not been great at self-care recently, I just pushed the feeling of unease to the back of my mind.

Its got to a point where I feel I have to address it, for my own wellbeing. I thought about what feelings actually sat in that unease. I realised there was a lot of guilt and sadness and some anger, which initially made no sense, since we are now just two weeks away from Panel. A date I’ve been wishing weeks, months, years away, to get to. A date full of nervous excitement. I have butterflies. This is my chance at motherhood. My only chance. My last chance. I am closer than I have ever been. If I get a yes at Panel then I will be closer to motherhood than even when I was pregnant, which sounds so contradictory.

I have realised that the guilt is probably linked to the excitement. For my motherhood. As if somehow by feeling excited I am betraying my lost babies. That somehow my children will remove their importance, erase them from memory. That these children will also wipe out a huge part of what has made me, me. Childlessness changed me. It shook the core of my identity, I had to dig deep to find myself again. Learn to see me again, try to like who I was through a new lense. I’m still learning to forgive myself. Maybe I don’t want adoption to remove that aspect, the strength I have found buried deep within. The confidence I now have in my resilience. Maybe I feel guilty that adoption will somehow wipe the slate clean, remove my childless grief, erase my babyloss grief and in doing so wipe out well over a decade (closer to 2 now) of focus and dreaming and striving. As if the pain I felt and my lived experience weren’t worth the time I spent on them. Years lost to futile hope.

Or, maybe it’s the reverse, maybe the guilt is that I do still feel sad that I won’t have carried my children and I don’t want my children to ever feel that I regret any element of being their mum, even the bits I didn’t get to do. I still feel sad that I won’t be their only mum. I still feel cut up when I hear pregnancy announcements. I still find it so hard when friends share pictures of their babies, knowing that their journeys were a lot easier and a hell of a lot shorter than mine has been. Maybe mine has been too long? I'm just too broken to appreciate the good. I don't know how to be 'cool' about things anymore, my emotions are messy. Will I still feel that when I have children? I feel guilty about that too, my children should be enough.

I have noticed that I have felt particularly triggered again by posts I’ve seen or conversations I’ve had recently. In fact, I'm feeling almost permanently triggered just now. I've noticed people in my life are also no longer being gentle with me when it comes to pregnancy announcements or talking about babies and fertility. As if now my family is closer, my infertility doesn’t hurt anymore. I’ve spoken before about the assumption from people on the outside, that adoption is a cure to infertility and that now its all going to be ok. There may come a day when it no longer hurts but right now I still feel robbed of a whole part of my womanhood. I’ve had periods from the age of 12, with the one promised outcome, that it meant I would be able to have a child. What with my endometriosis they have not been fun, but the deal with nature was, I put up with those in order to become a mum. I held up my end of the bargain. Therein lies the anger, forming part of my unease.

Maybe the unease is because of yet another loss of self. I’ve become so used to being ‘the one without children’. I’m the one grieving her motherhood, grieving her lost babies. The one who failed. The one who overcame. The one who just keeps going, keeps trying. Keeps fighting. I’ve had to reframe my identity so often over the last few years, maybe there’s a part of me that cannot face needing to do this again, in reverse. To finally welcome my inner-mum into the daylight, after supressing her so brutally before, because her mere existence made mine intolerable. To be the one who is tired because her kids kept her awake rather than her emptiness and grief. To be the one with a busy schedule worked around her children’s needs, not filling time in the ‘Green Room’ of my life, waiting for my turn on the main stage. Always busy in order to not have to feel.

Infertility is so complex. I have been navigating this road a long time and I still don’t have the answers. I have been fighting my reality and mother nature at every turn for years. Its what I do. Its what my mind constantly thinks about. I have become institutionalised by my need for motherhood. So focused that it has governed my every move for years. I just kept pushing for motherhood. What will my quarrel be once I have children? What will drive me every morning with such frightening intensity? Everything has been to this end. Then what?

I am hoping the focus will then be firmly on my children’s needs. That’s what will drive me. It feels almost relaxing (I can feel all the mums out there squirming in anticipation of my rude awakening when the reality of motherhood hits and relaxing is the furthest from what it feels like). What I mean by relaxing is, the denial of my reality won’t be there, therefore the denial of my worth also won’t be there. I may be fighting with children but no longer with myself. Its a subtle difference. The pain of childlessness and the lack of social status that comes with being over 40 and not being a mum will be gone. My identity will finally integrate with my yearning.

I feel scared that I have fought so long for motherhood and that I won’t feel it as I thought I would. What if, and this is the worst thing, I don't enjoy it? Its been all-consuming. It has become what I am about. I’ve always felt I was a mum, its taken so much to accept years of not being one, but not being a good one I think would destroy my heart all over again. I'm scared of feeling happy, as if that somehow leads to everything being taken away again. Its a defence mechanism, which worked for me during my TTC years, but maybe its time to let that go. I'm so scared of being so broken again. Mending a broken soul has taken a lot more than I ever thought. I need to re-learn how to be ok with hope and joy.

Things are (hopefully🤞) about to change 180 degrees for me, or 360....depending on whether you view this as me changing direction or just starting a brand new cycle. What I’ve longed for I shall have although very differently to how I had imagined. As the butterflies are intensifying I realise I need to make time for my emotions, not push them aside to be dealt with ‘later’. I need to forgive myself for how I feel. Infertility has been hard. Triggers are hard. It turns out adoption is a trigger also and I need to forgive myself for that.

I shall pick myself up, dust myself down, work on that wellbeing. I am moving forwards. I shall embrace the excited butterflies and try to relinquish my denial of joy in a bid to protect my heart.

Time to redefine myself once more, this time, as a mum ❤

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  • Nicole

This week is Fertility Week. It has triggered a lot of things within me. Anger at my infertility. Sadness at the loss of my babies. Also a lot of anger at the lack of information I was given. But mostly a desire to change things for other girls and women. There is still so much secrecy around fertility and infertility.

I was always aware that my fertility was ebbing away. I had learnt as a teenager, via a documentary, that biologically the ‘best’ age to have children was around 23. So I knew I was counting down after that. Nothing however, prepared me for being single during close to a decade of my fertile years, with nowhere to turn for support or advice. When I spoke to my GP about fertility treatment he simply asked me if I didn’t like men. Rather than help or discuss options he chose to ridicule my situation. I walked away from his office ashamed of my failure to secure a relationship, although I had been trying so hard! I was angry that my desire for a child was so strong, that I was having to take the step alone.

This could have been an opportunity for my doctor to explain my options, maybe freezing some eggs? Or at least having some checks on my fertility so I could make an informed decision. I didn’t get any support, I was simply referred to a fertility clinic who seemed happy to take my money for a round of IVF without providing options also.

My blood tests came back as all good, hormone levels fine. I thought I was on track for a baby. However there were still assumptions I made based on my lack of information. I assumed that hormones showing as normal and still being in my mid 30’s, that IVF would simply work. I didn’t know I had Endometriosis. I didn’t know that Endometriosis could impact my fertility. I didn’t realise that you didn’t need to be menopausal to have a low egg count. Then, when I met my boyfriend, and was pregnant within 3 months of starting trying, I didn’t realise this could still mean I was infertile. People kept telling me “at least I could get pregnant”.

I knew people could have a miscarriage, it often seemed to be a first pregnancy and I convinced myself it was the body just warming up, or if something was drastically wrong with the baby. I didn’t know it could happen again, and again, and again……and again. I didn’t know that infertility wasn’t just not being able to get pregnant, but also, not being able to stay pregnant.

At no stage of my life was fertility ever a topic of conversation. Not at school, not with doctors, not even when I went to ask about IVF with donor sperm and most importantly not at the fertility clinic I was referred to, who seemed more interested in taking my money than discussing options. Even more, I remember feeling quite pressured as they went through success rates at my age and then the rates at which they fell over the following 3-5 years. Then, when things went wrong, when I was found to have liquid in one of my fallopian tubes during my first round, which I later found out could have caused my first miscarriage, I was not given any information on which to base a decision. I was not given the option of freezing my egg. I was not given the option to heal and improve my chances. My options were go ahead or abort the cycle. It was a no brainer, I’d invested so much time, strength and money to this already.

After I had lost 3 babies and needed to have surgery following the 3rd miscarriage which didn’t complete, no one said a word to me about what happens next. I was in a state of shock (as well as having gone into actual shock from loss of blood) and so lost in grief, I didn’t think to ask. I went in to see a doctor with regards to something else a couple of months later and saw a different doctor. When he heard about my 3 miscarriages he referred me to a recurrent miscarriage clinic. Had I not gone in, I would not have been referred at this stage. This should have been automatic once my third miscarriage was recorded.

The Recurrent Miscarriage Clinic also did not explain my options. They told me they tested for everything and I trusted them. Its only later I found out how much they do not test for. I not only found out later, but too late. Otherwise I’d have had other tests privately. In hindsight it may have changed nothing at all, but I am still trying to forgive myself for not having done more. For not knowing I could do more.

If I could achieve something this week, it would be that Fertility is discussed more. That girls and women of any age and at any stage in life are aware of their options at that stage and supported. By this I include young girls, before they’re even thinking about having a family but also for those who have hit the end of the fertility road, whatever the cause. Support could make all the difference.

I’ve had two heartbreaking conversations which spring to mind as I write this. One consultant who told me I was unlikely to ever carry my own child, after having one miscarriage and one failed round of IVF. He based this on opinion only, since they’d not done any investigating into what happened. He offered no support, no point of reference, no testing, no recommendations. Just sent me on my way to absorb this, without realising the impact it had on me. I fell apart.

The other was following losing my twins 3 years later. We went in expecting to discuss how we move forwards, expecting to move to donor eggs. He gently let us down. I would apparently continue to miscarry every pregnancy, regardless. He could do no more.

In complete denial I wanted to be pregnant again. Mostly I think because I missed my twins so much and wanted to somehow find them again, I felt so lost without them. I got pregnant again and lost my 7th baby almost a year after the twins. The miscarriage clinic told me nothing, other than that there was no heartbeat. Their view was, get back in touch when you are next pregnant. They didn’t recommend any further tests. Over the years, they didn’t recommend I try to keep hold of my baby for testing, nor suggest ways of doing this. They were essentially of no help and at no point offered any after care or support.

Infertility has been traumatic. The lack of information around fertility and options has made this difficult journey horrendous. This needs to be talked about. This needs to change. Women need to know, not have to scrape around and research themselves. When I started IVF I didn’t know a single other person who had been through it. I had no idea of what I didn’t know in order to even ask the right questions.

Fertility is not promised, it is fragile and finite. For most it does work and does lead to a baby, although not always without help, but for others it’s a devastating journey through infertility which no one has ever prepared you for.

Had I been aware of options, choices and facts earlier, I would have done things differently. It may not have changed the outcome, but I would have felt less lost at sea. I'd have felt less like I was a rabbit in headlights. I’d have felt I had more control and had choices to review. I didn’t need to go through this feeling so ashamed and alone and no one else should have to!

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  • Nicole

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

I am launching my book this week, in time for Baby Loss Awareness Week. It’s the week I use as a memorial for my 7 babies, since I lost them throughout the year.

Its taken me such a long time to get to the point of it being ready. The book went through several draft versions before I was happy with it. I think part of the process for me was that of acceptance. I needed to feel comfortable enough to expose my story, a story which for so long had filled me with shame and remorse for what I felt I should have done differently, what I felt was a failure on my part. Even though in hindsight, I had done everything in my power. That in itself is a journey of letting go, accepting that it was out of your hands.

I started writing a diary for my child, when I was planning single motherhood. I found myself single again at the age of 29, and after a few years of online dating and going on many, many, many, many disastrous dates, I accepted that I was going to need to pursue motherhood alone. At the time I was the only person I knew who, not only was considering single motherhood, on purpose, but I didn’t yet know anyone who had been through IVF. I had nowhere to turn.

I researched adoption and IVF using donor sperm. I really wanted to have the full motherhood experience and have my own child. I read psychological studies, books and accounts by other mums and donor conceived children. I kept a record of every article I came across regarding fertility. A lot of them assumed that a woman my age who had waited so long was careless at best, selfish at worst. They hurt! I had not put my career or my life first. I had been wanting children for years. I had tried for years to positively change my circumstances. I put all these articles into this diary, alongside my thoughts of what I had read, usually including desperately demoralising statistics for my remaining fertility. I hoped that when reading this diary, my child would understand my decision to go it alone.

As I went through IVF with a donor and then found my boyfriend and we started our own journey to parenthood, I carried on writing the diary. Even though I now had a partner, my childlessness was a weight on me which my partner didn’t share. I felt with every cell in my body that motherhood was where I should be and I felt so entirely alone in my pain. He very much wanted to be a dad, but did not have the same sense of failure and judgement as I did around not having children.

With each passing year, I found myself struggling more with my grief over my childlessness, and although I knew I wasn’t the only one, I still felt so totally alone and invisible with this pain. Every time I lost a baby I felt more and more separated from society, even from family and friends. I couldn’t find anyone who’d been through the same. When I found other stories of infertility, there seemed to always be a happy ending which I couldn’t relate to. Or a woman had lost babies but already had a child, therefore she wasn’t grieving childlessness alongside the death of a baby, so again there was a connection in one element, which was sometimes just the boost I needed to see me through that day, but I didn’t feel I could fully relate. I decided that my diary should become a book, for others in the same boat, so that no one would feel as lonely as I had.

I think I was driven to provide support, because I have been there, when there is no obvious path out of the darkness. I didn’t want what had happened to me to have been for nothing. I went through a lot of loss and wanted it to at least have a purpose, not disappear in the mists of time as just another sad tale. I wanted things to change. I wanted attitudes to change. I wanted others to feel heard and understood. I wanted those who were dismissive about the pain of childlessness and baby loss, including those in the medical profession who were meant to be there to support mothers going through this, to see what it felt like from the other side, to understand what their patients are going through. And, its only recently dawned on me, but I wanted to give my babies a legacy they will never have through living, but perhaps their death could lead to a positive change. One of kindness and of love, for anyone struggling with the hand they’ve been dealt.

I am so glad to be out of the pit I once found myself in. I no longer have the same sense of being alone. I feel that I am once again a visible, active member of society. I suspect its because of where I am with my grief. I have worked hard to accept my story. The loneliness was part of my grief. Now I feel it is my duty to reach back and help others climb out of the pit. This is also why I started the blog. There are several different parts to my journey, not everyone may want to know or be interested in all of it, its ranged from unwanted singleness; childlessness and my status in society, Endometriosis, IVF alone with donor sperm, natural pregnancy and IVF with a partner, recurrent miscarriages, grief and now adoption. The blog is more of a dip-in for elements you may want to know, share or understand.

It took me a long time to think that my story is worthy of telling, I’m the person who always responds “I’m fine” when asked how I am, regardless, so that people quickly move on and don’t make a fuss around me. I was very bad at asking for or seeking help and I know that I am not alone in that. Others like me, who don’t know where to turn or potentially don’t have the energy to reach out, need people who have lived through it to turn around and share, to give hope and encouragement. Knowing you are not the only one feels so great. Everyone needs to find their tribe. Not that you would wish infertility or any kind of adversity on anyone, but there is nothing like the comfort of finding a story you can relate to. Of not feeling so alone in your very personal pain. My book is the book I wish I had found. I hope that the people who need to read it, do find it.

Buy my book now:

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