Wednesday, 28 October 2009

How did we get here?

I read a post the other day - I'm not going to link to it, because I'm not arguing with the post in itself, but would like to give another side to the picture - which said that a person in her 20s shouldn't be struggling with infertility. To me, the post said "it's understandable that people in their late 30s and early 40s go through this, because they've selfishly concentrated on other things and left it too late - whereas I don't deserve this at all, and it's not fair".

I agree with the second part of that - it is completely unfair that anybody, at any age, should struggle to do what should be the most natural thing on earth.

And the first part of it is what the media tell us pretty much every day - women are having children later because they're being selfish and putting their careers and their hedonistic lifestyles first, and some of them just leave it too late and then expect to receive help and sympathy when they suddenly decide they want children.

I have to say, that message we're constantly being fed that it's somehow our fault makes my blood boil.

I've said before that all I ever wanted in life was to be a wife and mother. I imagined myself having at least two or three children before I was 30, and going on to have six or seven.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the plan that God had for me.

I had a serious boyfriend while I was at university, but he was jealous and controlling, and I finally realised that he was not good for me.

Then there was the guy I thought for a long time (even for many years after we split up) was the love of my life. I wouldn't have sex before marriage, so he "serviced his man machine" (his words) somewhere else and ended up getting the other woman pregnant. The two consolations for me in that were first that I'd found out what he was like before we got married, and secondly that his two children were the ugliest and most unappealing babies I've ever seen (in fact, the only ugly and completely unappealing babies I can ever recall having seen).

There were a few other brief relationships which went nowhere - the sticking point was very often my Catholicism or, specifically, my refusal to sleep with the person before marriage, but I stuck to my beliefs and told myself it was their loss. As you get further into your late 20s and 30s, that becomes a bigger and bigger deal, because the people you're meeting at that age (at least in London) almost invariably have some sort of sexual experience and find it very hard to understand why you want to abstain.

It's very hard to meet new people in London, but throughout my time there (aged 25 to 36), I joined various clubs and social groups in the hope of widening my social circle and allowed various friends and family to introduce me to a succession of their single friends. As we got older and more and more of my friends married and had children, the pool of single friends they could introduce me to got smaller and smaller, and I began to believe the parting shot of my university boyfriend: "If you leave me, nobody else will have you."

My single state wasn't all bad news - because I had no other commitments (apart from work, which I've always been quite good at juggling), I was able to support one friend through a divorce, another friend through her husband's illness and subsequent death, help my newly-widowed friend to look after her toddler children, look after my sister's baby when my sister was very ill, and generally be the person a lot of my friends would turn to in a crisis.

At the age of 31, I decided that if marriage and babies weren't on the horizon, I'd better get myself a job with a decent pension, and I started to train as an accountant. Ironically, although I had never imagined myself having a professional career of any sort and still saw it as a second-best option that I hoped to leave behind for the joys of motherhood one day, I turned out to be rather good at my job. I passed all my professional exams and was rapidly promoted over the next few years.

My 35th birthday was the most miserable birthday ever, as I began to realise that my dreams were likely never to be fulfilled. I joined an internet dating agency, but never got further than the first date. Then I decided to make more radical changes in my life, and I changed jobs and moved house.

I'd almost given up hope of ever meeting the right person, but early in 2007 I signed up with another internet dating agency.

Meanwhile, my now DH was in his 40s and had never had a girlfriend. As a painfully shy teenager, his life had revolved around his brother, who had significant disabilities and died when DH was 18. He never really got off the starting blocks. Then in 2006 his best friend married a girl he had met through an internet dating agency, and persuaded DH to sign up with the same agency.

His was the first profile I saw, and he was the only person I ever contacted through the site. Six months later, we were engaged. Nine months after that, we were married. He is the kindest, most gentle and loving person, and I'm grateful every day that I found him.

We discussed children from the beginning, and I knew he was as keen to be a father as I was to be a mother. By the time we were married and able to start trying, I was 38. By the time we discovered that his sperm were never going to get us pregnant without help, I was nearly 40. I then had FSH and AMH tests which showed that I had low ovarian reserve.

And that's how we got to where we are now - I spent my life searching for my soulmate, and by the time I found him, we were both old and knackered.

So I'd love it if people would look beyond the grey hairs and suit that seem to confirm the media stereotype and see the individual behind them. The dream isn't new - it's always been there. I've done everything in my power to fulfil it, but I didn't have the great good fortune to meet my DH while my eggs were still young and fresh.

Infertility is a horrible, soul-destroying thing whatever age you are. But when you feel that people are judging you and blaming you for the suffering that you're going through, it certainly doesn't help.


  1. I completely agree with everything you have said and as always you put it so well. Infertility is unfair at ANY age. I too was with a jealous & controlling boyfriend for a number of years and it was actually the fear of having children with him & him treating them in the same way that eventually made me leave. He, like your university boyfriend, told me I would never get anyone else to love me. I was lucky in that I met my DH just a year later, but if it had taken a decade to find him I know that no one else would have completed me in the way he does. You are no more to blame for your infertility than anyone else and in fact you have done a courageous thing in waiting for the right man to have children with. As a child of divorced parents I know only too well that this is not always the case. Please know that while one individual may be judging your situation ignorantly, the majority of people (and not just those who read your blog but those who understand that life isn't a media stereotype)have nothing but admiration and respect for you & for anyone who goes through these trials with the diginity and courage you have shown. I didn't post yesterday but the way you have dealt with your sister's pregnancy is a lesson to all of us. Both my sisters have had babies in the time I have been ttc and I sobbed my heart out in the car both times. I couldn't be 100% happy for them, but you are right, they are not the babies I have built my dreams on and I still have my chance. Thank you for teaching me that valuable lesson. I'll be thinking of you & praying for you as always xx

  2. I stumbled across your blog a few weeks ago and just wanted to say I really enjoy reading your posts.

  3. :( What a lovely story