Real Story by Catherine

I have a 3 year old son and a husband, and I will be 40 this year. We first started trying for babies 6 years ago – I was desperate to be a mother. It took 2 years to get pregnant (I had booked to see the doctor for fertility tests but ended up changing the appointment for a pregnancy test – happy days!)

I loved being pregnant, I had a natural delivery, my son was healthy. However I found the first 6 months of motherhood very hard and stressful. My son had a tongue tie, was a poor feeder and spent hours just screaming so I became very isolated and convinced I was doing everything wrong. We started trying for a second child when he was just 6 months though because it had taken so long the first time and I was conscious of my age (then 36). After 8 months with no success I insisted on seeing a doctor as I knew things weren’t right.

Tests showed I was OK, but the husband had a severely low sperm count and a strange hormone profile. We were referred to hospital for further tests. After 6 months of tests they discovered my husband had testicular cancer. He had an operation, we froze sperm, and we were told IVF was our only chance for another baby. At the time, my husband being OK was the main thing, but we went into round 1 of IVF far too soon after his operation. Despite that it was a good round for my age and I got 3 embryos. From the two transfers I had none of them took. That first failure caused me to have a nervous breakdown – it finally became clear to me that my chance of having a second baby, which I so desperately wanted, were slim to none. That, combined with the un-dealt with stress of the cancer, and a body full of evil IVF drugs meant I lost the plot and took 5 weeks to recover.

Since then we have done two more rounds of IVF, each one progressively worse and after the last one, where I ended up having a massive allergic reaction and aborting the cycle, we have decided we cant emotionally, physically or financially afford to go through any more.

During the three years of trying for a second child I have supported a number of people through their secondary infertility issues and miscarriages. Every single one of them now has their second baby. And every single one of them has not kept in touch. They all talk about the relief of finally becoming pregnant, and it’s as though they don’t want to be reminded that I am still here in that hell. That hurts hugely. The only relief I have had is deciding I can’t put my body and mind through more IVF. Not much of a relief. And when my little sister, who I had also supported through a miscarriage, announced her second pregnancy recently I’m afraid that’s when I finally felt angry. Why me? Where is my relief? Why have I given so much to support everyone else and their dreams have come true but mind haven’t?

Right now I am struggling hugely to come to terms with it. My main feelings are:
1) I am scared for my son – will he be lonely? Will he miss out on the bond of a sibling? Will he get the same feeling of family that I had?
2) I’m lonely – no one understands. Also a lot of the support online I have found is all from people who managed to achieve a second pregnancy in the end. Whilst I’m happy for them and appreciate it doesn’t mean they don’t remember the pain, it makes me feel like even more of a failure as I didn’t get there and never will. It feels like there is no one out there who has been through this and will always be going through this, like me.
3) I’m lost – my life now revolves around mum friends and groups for my son. I can’t join in their second child conversations (and there are a lot) and I feel less of a mum because I have one. But I gave up my career for my son so I don’t have that either. I am in a limbo land of not knowing who I am or what my purpose is anymore.
4) Pressured – I feel pressured to be happy for my sister and not let my feelings over shadow her pregnancy. I feel pressured to get over this as I haven’t actually ‘lost’ anything in most people’s eyes. I feel pressured to be content because I have a son and a husband and some people don’t have that. I feel pressured to just be happy because the main thing is my husband is currently cancer free.
5) Denied – I’ve been denied another chance of being a mum to a newborn and actually enjoying it this time rather than finding it stressful. I’ve missed out on affirmation that I actually am a good mum to babies.

Right now I’m not finding anything that helps me, although writing all this down has given me some sense that these feelings are real and therefore valid. I think, to be honest there isn’t anything that can help, just time. And maybe then I’ll write a book to help others for whom there is no way out of this either and help them re-think their life, handle the grief, re-set their dreams and try and find peace in a world that has dealt them a cruel, and ever lasting, blow.