The day I was told I couldn’t conceive naturally was a day I will never forget.
Attending the appointment alone, I was ushered into the doctor’s consulting room from the public hospital waiting room. It was a doctor I had never met before. He seemed quite rushed and apologised for the delay, since I had already been waiting for over an hour. At the age of 37, I had decided to get my fertility checked, since wanting to start a family with my husband after a year of trying naturally.
Like many of my friends, my career had come first. I had worked in both the science and IT industries and managed to climb my way from a junior role to now a senior management role years later. My career had always been an important part of my identity and I had never been one that had felt ‘clucky’ for other people’s babies. However, the older I became, the more aware I was that I desperately wanted a family before it was too late.
He sat in his white coat facing me with his manila folder, with I assumed, my test results inside. I had already gone through a procedure called a ‘Hysterosalpingogram’ (HSG) which is a radiologic procedure where contrast dye is injected into the cervical canal to check the fallopian tubes and uterine cavity. I could not even pronounce this procedure’s name, let alone grasp what it would eventually mean to my own outcome.
The doctor opened his manila folder and took out a picture of some fallopian tubes and uterus and proceeded to draw straight lines across both the fallopian tubes. I could hear him saying ‘you have bilateral tube blockage’. How could this be? What could make my tubes blocked? I never expected this in a million years. What did this mean? Couldn’t they unblock them?
I immediately started questioning myself. What had I done in my life to cause this? Apparently the fallopian tubes are not tubes that are the size of drinking straws as I had imagined, they are microscopically small in width. This meant that any cells debris present in these tubes can cause blockages. His face did not show any empathy, concern and his message was delivered quickly with no emotion.
“You will never naturally fall pregnant.”
The rest of the conversation was a blur, with a referral to an IVF clinic and me being ushered out of the consulting room.
My dream of having a family was suddenly in doubt; feelings of guilt started to creep up. This was all my fault, there was a problem with my body. How was my husband going to take this? How could we afford IVF?
As the months followed, I was ushered into the roller coaster world of IVF. Its ups and downs were everything that I had imagined. I felt like I was bi-polar suffering from extreme highs when I received a positive pregnancy test, to extreme lows when the pregnancy was not viable, or I miscarried.
The pills, sprays, scans, injections made me feel like part of this huge scientific experiment, but I trusted the process knowing that hundreds of women had travelled the road before me with success. The keys to success in the end were persistence and positivity. Our six IVF attempts were apparently considered the average to get a positive pregnancy with many couples needing only one cycle, and many needing up to ten. Our naive minds, did not expect it to take as long as it did.
I remember many visits to the clinic, sitting waiting to be seen, watching the other hopeful couples. All were as hopeless as us, dreaming for a miracle. I would hate the moment when I would find out another of my friends or work colleagues were pregnant without even trying! Quite often feeling happy for them, but gutted at the same time that it was not me.
Our miracle finally happened, and the excitement of a normal pregnancy was not announced as it was if it were conceived naturally. That’s something they don’t tell you. IVF makes you think that your pregnancy can fail at any moment.
After finding out the pregnancy was viable and waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we were very tentatively ready to announce to our family. Two years and three months after our journey began, we visited our parents interstate for a Christmas break. Both sets of parents were given a Christmas card with something very special inside. An ultrasound of our little miracle. We all cried and hugged in happiness. It was the start of our next chapter!
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem