As I laid there with my legs in stirrups, my heart sank and I fell into complete disbelief. All I could hear were my tears as I was wheeled back to my room where my husband Jonny was waiting for the good news… sadly he wouldn’t be getting any.
It was our fourth round of IVF, and this was supposed to be the day we found out how many eggs they’d managed to retrieve. The past two weeks had been building up to this point. Every injection, every scan, every blood test - and the signs were good. They could see at least ten follicles growing during the stimulation phase, which should have signified five or so eggs at retrieval.
But a slight bleed and a late scan just before I went into theatre showed they’d gone, that they hadn’t existed in the first place. The drugs had stimulated follicle development but my body had tricked me, our hopes had disappeared before we had the chance to see the treatment to its final conclusion. It was back to the drawing board.
I have never felt as low as I did that year. It seemed everyone I knew either had children or were pregnant, and I didn’t know where to turn. Nobody understood what we were going through, there wasn’t the support or the awareness that’s building now, and it all felt extremely isolating. Yet globally, 48.5 million couples were experiencing infertility. So why wasn’t it more widely talked about? I needed to start talking, to have the conversation, to feel less alone.
So I started searching
I was on the hunt for people who were going through the same thing we were, a very large struggle with the one thing that’s supposed to come naturally. I needed first hand support.
Cue the discovery of National Infertility Awareness Week.
To have a dedicated point in the calendar when the attention turns to this pocket of society is crucial when trying to change the narrative and break the stigma. A whole week where women struggling to conceive can be heard, be given a platform to talk about the issues they face, and support one another. It was something I needed so badly.
Because infertility can happen to anyone. It doesn’t discriminate between race, religion, sexuality or economic status. It’s the worst girl gang ever, and once you’re down the rabbit hole it changes you for life. But it doesn’t have to be all bad, as what can come from hitting an all time low is change. Change to people’s attitudes, language and understanding.
No longer should it be acceptable to ask someone “when are you going to have children?” or tell someone who has been trying for years that they can ‘just adopt’. No longer should people be scared to talk about their struggle, their treatment cycle, their miscarriage.
National Infertility Awareness Week, to me, is a week to share my experiences and change the conversation. To show the impact of infertility and the challenges people face when trying to build a family. It’s a chance to send messages of support to other people who are struggling, to give them the encouragement they need, and show them that others understand.
And I found Peanut
Another turning point in my search for emotional support was Peanut. When I started to talk, engage, and support other women within the app I discovered the kindness of strangers. People I had never met before but who seemed to know exactly how I was feeling.
“It’s like a community of women in my pocket” - that’s what I told my husband when I was scrolling one day. “These women, they get it”. From failed IVF rounds, to support when dealing with pregnancy announcements, to just being there on the low days. The thousands of women inside the support groups, people I’d never even met, all came together to help one another and share their experiences for the greater good.
They were always just there, at the click of a button, ready and waiting, like a TTC support army on days when it got tough. From advice, to hope, to love and support, or to give you a laugh when you needed it most. Across the globe, or around the corner, Peanut had created a platform where we could all be together.
Suddenly, I didn’t feel alone any more. Suddenly I felt like I could tackle it all, and all of a sudden the stigma started to fade. Then I realised, this may be the worst girl gang ever, but it certainly has the best members.