It had never occurred to me that couples who fall unassisted with their first child can experience difficulty conceiving subsequent children.
It is rarely discussed, and casts a wide shadow over those it affects. Many couples quietly struggle with their grief and frustrations as they long for a child to add to or complete their families.
The guilt I feel can be overwhelming, I berate myself that my beautiful son is not enough. I despise the twinge of jealousy & sadness a pregnancy announcement elicits and the desperation I feel when friends complain about their multiple children or tell me I’m so clever for stopping at one. How I wished they understood what I would give for more noise in my house, the night feeds or the tiffs between siblings in the back seat of the car.
School pick up is a particular painful time of my day. Watching other mum’s cuddle their babies and wait for their school age children is difficult for me, I feel desperately isolated from everything I want but can’t have.
The frustration i feel regarding my body is something else entirely. I feel like my body has betrayed me, failed me. Unable to fulfill my primary purpose, I have failed as a woman. The shame that i feel is intense and deeply perverse.
The strain on relationships is profound. Even the most committed partner can be worn down by the sadness, desperation and obsession infertility manifests. It can be hard to truly open up, as responses can range from well meaning, “You just need to relax more! It will happen” to mildly intrusive “How often does it happen? Have you tried lying with your legs in the air after you’ve finished?” to downright offensive “Isn’t one enough?”.
I know plenty of couples who are happy with their one child, I’m almost envious of that resolve. My partner and I had always envisionaged a large family together, messy and all things wonderful. The pain in intensified by my son’s yearning for a sibling. We are constantly involved, always playing with him but we will never be a playmate.
I have spent more money on pregnancy tests than I would wish to admit. The faintest physical signs can evoke hope that maybe this month might be different. If I’m honest, most months follow a similar pattern; healthy eating, regular exercise, abstaining from alcohol (just in case) and then after the negative test or the arrival of Aunt Flow, days of glutinous junk and alcohol as I wallow in self pity.
IVF is our resolve to face this head on, to hold onto hope and each other. To take on this beast, to be brave.