That dirty little word, that stomach churning word, that life altering word…
A word I had never really used or even thought about, until that is, it applied to me.
October 2004 –
My husband had just put our 18 month old daughter to bed, and I lay in our bed waiting for him. After a long day, we desperately needed an early night, and as he turned off the lights and sunk deep under the duvet, I turned to him and said those magical words “I think I’d like another baby”… to my surprise, he said “yeah, me too”, now to be honest, he was probably just trying to shut me up so that he could sleep, but I took this as a firm ‘lets go for it’, and drifted off to a happy, dreamy slumber.
TTC – trying to conceive
The next 8 years were spent trying to conceive. It was soul-destroying.
At first we just told our selves that the second one always takes longer, maybe we’re a bit stressed, maybe my body’s waiting for the right time, and all those other lies we tell ourselves to make it hurt less.
Month after month I tested and saw a ‘NEGATIVE‘. My regular cycle would sneak up from its usual 27 days to 31, which felt cruel, I was terrified to test, yet I found myself daring to believe that this might be it, only to get another ‘NEGATIVE‘, how much more could we take. Sex had become a military operation, we had to schedule in time, the right time, to do the deed, and it felt like a chore, it was horrible. Everything in our life was put on hold, I couldn’t plan ahead for anything, I wouldn’t let my husband visit his family in Norfolk if it coincided with my fertile time and it put a huge strain on our relationship.
Life got harder
It was ‘all-consuming’ for me, I was feeling very low, getting ill regularly and having a lot of time off of work, coping with co-workers cold comments and talking about me behind my back while thinking that I didn’t know, but they had no idea what I was going through, how could they, they were young and had no experience with infertility, and besides, I had never talked about my situation with any of them.
At home we were coping with TTC along with raising our young daughter, my husband began spending more time at work or going out with colleagues after work, anything to avoid my demanding sex agenda or constant crying, he was trying to cope by running away, and after a while he actually left… he was overwhelmed and needed to get out, the thing is, so did I. It had taken over everything, and it needed to stop. We only stayed apart for a week, but it took another month and a trip away as a family to realise how much we loved each other, we didn’t want to be apart from each other or our daughter, so we made a promise to each other to let go and stop TTC.
We were back, and stronger than before, we spent quality time as a family, bought a house and a dog ( my substitute baby ) and all seemed good, then… I fell pregnant! We couldn’t believe it, we had just bought a 2 bed house, and now here we are with the worst timing ever, getting the ‘POSITIVE’ result we had longed for, we were so happy.
Everything was going great, I felt good apart from the morning sickness, well just nausea really, and then things started to unravel. My husband lost his job – my wages as a nursery nurse weren’t enough to pay our bills and mortgage, so along with the redundancy, we lost our house… I was devastated, at 3 months pregnant with our miracle baby, I found myself sobbing to the woman in the local council office, when she told me that all she could offer us was a bedroom to share and a bathroom that had to be shared with strangers, ‘nothing else available I’m afraid love’ she said. We savoured the time left in our little house and sadly started to look for private rented propertied ( so expensive in our area), and prepared to declare ourselves bankrupt , we had no choice, but I felt broken and so did my husband, “I should be able to keep you safe” he said, he felt he had let me down, but in truth I was so proud of how he had taken on all of the stress, got a new job & I dared to hope that things were on the up.
July 16th 2009 the day before my 30th birthday, I went for a routine midwife appointment – blood pressure good, chit-chat done, then onto the bed for a listen to baby. It took longer than usual, [I will never forget that moment, I was wearing black leggings, long boots, a white top and black & white scarf].. I held on to my top so tight as midwife whirled the Doppler around my tummy, she took it off and tried again, and again, nothing. The room went silent, it was just the two of us. she looked at me and said, ” I expect baby is just hiding”, “I will ring the hospital and tell them to expect you, they will give you a little scan, and see what baby is up to”, But I knew.
I got to the hospital with Neil ( the husband ), and we were taken into a small room, I was put on a bed, they wheeled in a small ultrasound scanner, and we waited with all the hope in the world, but his words will never leave me, ” I am so sorry, this is where baby’s heart should be beating, I am so sorry”. Time slowed, I could not believe this was happening.
“Not my baby” I screamed.
July 30th 2009 I was booked for an outpatients appointment to be induced and deliver my deceased baby, I was 17 weeks pregnant, he was 14 weeks gestation, he was sleeping inside me for 3 weeks, it was as though my heartbroken body unable to accept that he had passed & couldn’t let him go. It was fast only 2 hours from start to finish. He fit into the palm of my hand, he had a beautiful smile fixed to his lips, he had tiny fingers and toes, he was so, completely, perfect. Just not meant for this world. The midwives confirmed that he was a boy and we named him Charlie Neil Bullingham, he was so loved.
After we buried our precious boy, we didn’t even mention TTC , I just couldn’t go through that again.
A fresh start
We had moved into a lovely 2 bed house in a lovely quiet cul-de-sac, life was ticking along nicely, but I was still aching for a baby. I broached the subject with Neil, tentatively, expecting him to give it a resounding NO, but he didn’t, “if it means that much to you, we will try again” ( have I mentioned that he’s kind of wonderful ).
We decided that it was high time that we got ourselves off to a fertility specialist. We both had to undergo tests, sperm testing, ovulation testing, blood tests, and I had a hysterosalpingogram ( HSG – inserting dye and X-raying of fallopian tubes ) all clear?
We attended a ‘what next’ appointment with our amazing consultant, we were talking about where to go from here, all tests showed no reason for our secondary infertility ( The term used when infertility occurs after successful conception of a previous child ). We had a plan in place, possible IVF, or even adoption, and as we got up to leave he said ” oh hang on, are you on any medication?” I said that I was, I had been on diclofenac sodium for about 8 years ( can you see where this is heading ) for my psoriatic arthritis, he said, “sit back down!”
The gut punch
“Stop taking that right now”.
He told us that studies had show that this anti-inflammatory drug can stop women from conceiving, a fact that some Dr’s and midwives didn’t yet know.
We were advised to stop the drug and treat my pain with paracetamol, I was worried, but I was ready to feel any pain to have my rainbow baby. He told Neil to “leave her alone for a month and then go at her” funny guy!!! “I’ll look forward to seeing the baby pictures soon!” He was so confident, that we were too.
FF>> one monthly cycle and we began trying, not going crazy, not calculating, just when it felt right. March 2012 I took a test… POSITIVE I cried a lot that day, I was happy, so happy, but the road ahead seemed long and terrifying, what if?
All went well, thank goodness and in Dec we welcomed a second perfect little girl, read my birth stories here – The tale of two births
Infertility is painful, it eats away years and can destroy relationships. This was a dark time for us, I used up my 20’s TTC , time I will never get back, and although I am blessed to have my little rainbow girl, I still wonder what might have been. I will keep my precious boy Charlie in my heart and on my mind always.
Thank you so much if you’ve made it to the end of this epic post, it has felt both heartbreaking and liberating for me to write it.
Thanks again, lots of love