After ten years together, Leigh and I bought our first home and got married in 2011. We met at university and we felt we had had our time together just as a couple: now we wanted to extend our family. Trying to conceive started out as fun; it felt like a lovely secret that only we shared. But after a year of no joy, we decided to have some tests done to check all was well. Unfortunately, several issues were highlighted between the two of us, and we feared our journey to parenthood would not run as smoothly as we had hoped.
In 2013, I had a laparoscopy to remove a polyp (growth) in my uterus and to check everything else was in working order. Apart from mild endometriosis which explained my years of painful periods, nothing else was amiss. However, the previous tests had shown I had a low anti Mullerian hormone (AMH) level which means I have fewer eggs in reserve than I should for my age (early 30s). Suddenly I felt a lot more pressure in terms of time. Combined with Leigh’s low morphology (slightly more misshapen sperm than average) and motility (they were a little lazy), we knew we would have a struggle.
In September of that year we started fertility treatment, a cycle of intrauterine insemination (IUI). This involved many hormone injections for me and several internal scans to show the growth of the follicles that would release eggs to hopefully be fertilised. A specially ‘washed’ sperm sample is delivered direct to the uterus via a catheter, in the hope that an egg is fertilised. We were hopeful, as finally we felt we were in with a chance with medical science on our side.
The treatment did not work. Nor did the next cycle, or the next. Four unsuccessful IUI cycles and almost a year later we felt exhausted, emotionally drained and extremely low. We each were carrying our own fears and disappointments, and for the first time in our relationship we found it difficult to talk to each other. As often happens stress became a catalyst for change; we both broke down and sought counselling, where we were able to verbalise our unhappiness and frustration, and finally talk to each other about the pain we were in, and what to do next. We decided to have a long break from treatment, to mend our hearts and minds and let my body recover from all those hormones. We also decided to ‘come out’ about our situation to our wider group of family and friends, something we personally found to be a good decision as the support we have received has been unbelievable.
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