I always had a view of the way my life would go. I was convinced I would follow the same path as many others in my family and the wider community; complete my education, secure a lucrative job, get married and then go on to start a family.
Three out of four of those were fairly straightforward – I graduated with a first-class degree in mechanical engineering, started a job within the energy industry straight after university and married the love of my life. But accomplishing the fourth milestone took us nearly three years of struggle and heartache.
According to the NHS, infertility affects around 1 in 7 couples, that’s approximately 3.5 million people in the UK. I never imagined contributing to that statistic, but after years of trying to conceive naturally, suffering miscarriages and experiencing a failed round of IVF, I was just another number.
Whilst, I am now a proud mother of a beautiful baby boy conceived through IVF, it was a lonely journey of heartache, hope, and self-discovery.
Regardless of how common infertility is, there is still a social stigma attached to the subject. In the Asian community, this is amplified. It’s for this reason I want to share my lessons and help shine a light on a subject that secretly affects so many of us.
The lessons which I have learnt are as followed:
It’s all consuming When you decide you are ready to have a family and it doesn’t happen for you, it can eat away at you. Every pram that I saw, every baby shower that I was invited to and every baby announcement social media post I scrolled through reminded me of the fact that I was not falling pregnant. I found myself feeling jealous of some of my closest friends and family who seemed to be able to conceive so easily. I was happy for them, of course, I was, but I was sad for me, I was sad for us. Falling pregnant was all I could think and dream about. I became obsessed that this was happening for everyone but me. With each monthly cycle that passed and each negative test, I binned I felt less and less like me.
Words can hurt just as much as needles Whilst trying to fall pregnant and undergoing treatment, I was taking additional supplements, injecting myself with hormones and comforting myself with chocolate every time the dreaded time of the month arrived. I had put on weight over the years, and as a result, I’d have people prematurely congratulate me, unnecessarily quiz me and awkwardly put me on the spot when it came to ‘was I pregnant?’. Aunties would ask when I’d be starting a family of my own at every wedding or family function I attended. I could feel the room watching my midriff and gossiping amongst themselves. I’d brush the comments off with a smile even though on the inside my heart was crying.
Don’t suffer in silence Struggling to conceive and coping with loss was very physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. I couldn’t face talking about it with people mainly because I couldn’t face them talking about me. But as I shared my story, I realized I wasn’t alone. There was a whole community of infertility and IVF warriors that could relate to my experiences. They provided more comfort and strength to me, then they will ever know. When I wasn’t up to talking, I would write things down, this became my therapy, helping me to celebrate the highs and cope with the lows. I think the best way for infertility to become less taboo is for more people to talk about their experiences so that we can learn from, understand, and connect with one another. It is the most powerful tool we have to normalise the subject and will help to make it easier for those who might undergo similar experiences in the future.
Trust your resilience There were dark times in this journey where I was doubting how I would get through the days and weeks; whether I had the energy or the fight within me. But prayer, faith, and friendship helped me to build my emotional resilience and find the strength to make it through. My infertility has truly shaped the woman I am today; I am stronger, braver, and more thankful than I ever imagined possible.
For all those trying to conceive be it your first, or your second, be brave, be beautiful, but most of all be kind to yourself.