This week was National Fertility Awareness week. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of fertility issues, the treatment they require and to provide support to the couples that need help.
Yesterday, we got The Letter from the very clever people at the clinic where you were made. I don’t know why they chose Little to be placed back inside Mummy instead of you. Little got herself cosy, and you were frozen. Knowing Little, she probably thumped you and made you stand behind her.
I dread this letter arriving. Did we want to keep the three of you frozen at -196 degC for another year, or will we let you go? They didn’t phrase it quite so kindly. They asked if we wanted to let you perish.
Perish. Taken out of your wintery sleep and left to fade away. A story that will never be told. A life that will not be lived. The very wording of the letter hits me square in the heart every time. With the Miracle growing inside me, my hormones are all over the place, and being asked if I can let my three potential babies perish is a bitter choice to make.
We were so lucky. Not only did we manage to make embryos, but they seemed to stick too. I don’t think of you as ‘leftovers’, but you were there in case we needed to try again. I don’t know if you are boys or girls or if you’d have blue eyes like me or brown eyes like Daddy. I don’t know if you’d have even survived being defrosted, but you’ve been on the periphery of my consciousness since you were made. I knew you were there and that you were safe.
With the Miracle on his or her way and your three ICSI pixie sisters, one of whom, like you, spent a year frozen at -196 degC, we’ll be done. Our family will be complete. But the nurturing, maternal heart inside me grieves for you, even though we’ve never met. I’ll never know who you were or what you might do.
It’s given me a shock. I thought the trauma of fertility treatment was over. We had our glorious girls, and our Miracle to boot. Yet this decision has affected me deeply. We’ve had to let you go. We cannot give you to others, or even to other clever people to learn how to help other couples escape from the hellish wilderness years. We couldn’t leave you in the freezer forever.
I don’t know if there’s a place you can go to while your soul waits for another Mummy and Daddy. I like to think there is. And if there is, I hope you get the nicest family in the world – full of warmth where you’ll never be cold again.
So goodbye, my nearly loves. The ones that never were.
*This is a photograph of the frosty that became Medium as a three-day embryo, defrosted after a year in storage the day before.
I’ve been busy, friends. Busy trying to get my head around something huge.
So, there I was, smugly sticking to my Slimming World and gym regime. I lost a stone. I could feel my body changing and my fitness levels increasing. My riding was improving. My body was beginning to respond to my brain and my reactions were quicker. I felt great. I was making plans with pony pals to camp at Badminton, to do a dressage boot camp and hack around Wales, mainly drunk. I was thinking of going to Portugal to buy a youngster that would come over in a couple of years.
Then I stopped feeling great. I felt knackered. I felt dizzy and a bit sick. I wanted to be in bed, asleep, all the time. Just doing the school run felt like wading through treacle. I was short-tempered, easily irritated and headachey. My period, always unreliable at the best of times, was late, but that was irrelevant because during the wilderness years, our very clever and very lovely consultant told us that we had more chance of winning the lottery than conceiving naturally. 32 million people play the National Lottery. Your odds of winning are apparently 14 million to one. I don’t know how ‘they’ worked that particular statistic out; maths isn’t my strong point.
One Sunday morning a few weeks ago, I was digging through stuff and happened across an old pregnancy test that I’d shoved in a drawer when I was expecting Little. Knowing it would be negative, and still feeling rubbish, I peed on the stick and carried on getting ready to go to man the pre-school cake stall at a village event. Giving the stick a cursory glance a few minutes later, I nearly passed out. Very clearly displayed on the screen was a decisive ‘PREGNANT’. What. The. Actual. Fuck.
I called to Lovely Husband that I needed him upstairs straight away. He replied that he needed me downstairs as Medium had just spat her antibiotic everywhere. “No, no,” I said. “I definitely need you up here more.” He came upstairs and I handed it to him, simply saying: “This has to be faulty.” His reaction? What. The. Actual. Fuck.
Dumping a sticky Medium in the bath, I rooted around the bathroom cupboard desperately hoping to find another test. I struck gold. Those that have experienced infertility and consequent treatments will know how many pregnancy tests you buy and stash around the house. This test also said I was pregnant.
Somewhat dazed, I went and did my stint on the stall. Then I got home and Googled all the reasons you might get a false positive on a pregnancy test. I don’t recommend that anyone does this. By the time we went for an early scan, I’d convinced myself that I had a brain tumour. Fortunately, the scan showed us a little bean with a beating heart. Lovely Husband cried and laughed simultaneously.
We’ve now had our 12 week scan and I have spent the last month in huge jumpers and with my coat zipped up on warm days to hide my burgeoning bump. At 41, the odds are against me and we didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag until we had to. I’m struggling to do up my coat now. We’re still waiting for our odds on the scary screening tests, but we didn’t get the ‘within three working days call for further testing’, so we can finally breathe out.
To be honest, even though I saw a distinctly baby shaped object on the screen last week, I saw him/her move, wave at us, suck their little thumb and their heart beat, I still can’t believe it. Early pregnancy is a funny old time anyway, but to have been told it’ll never happen and then for it to do just that is… Well, frankly a complete and utter mind fuck.
I’d given everything away. My maternity clothes all went to a charity shop and our baby stuff is currently being used by a friend. One who – phew – I know will look after it and let us have it back. Baby #4 would be an expensive miracle otherwise.
And that is just what Baby #4 is. A miracle. A little soul that clearly wants to be born. And how blessed are we that he/she has chosen us? I’m choosing to focus on that and not that I will have four children under six in May. There’s Valium for that, right?