The Fertility Show invited me to do a takeover on their Instagram page – my first takeover ever! I had really good engagement and it was an incredibly affirming experience – hearing from others and being asked questions I hadn’t even thought about. You can catchup via the highlights & the live session I had with Sophie Sulehria after.
My stint on BBC Woman’s Hour with Anita Rani.
Our 3rd round of IVF failed and the whole thing has hit me like a bus. This is not a podcast episode because I am not able to speak about this without crying. And to be honest, even crying seems so overrated right now because what I feel is a deep sadness that crying seemingly cannot express. Since test day I have cried a few times but nothing like I imagined it in my head. I cried like a baby, while my husband held onto me tightly, for about 5 minutes the morning we took the pregnancy test. The crying after that caught me unaware; while I was drinking tea, drinking water, while I was eating, while I was staring outside or staring at my phone… and it was just tears rolling down my cheeks with no sound or body response at all. A slow release of the deep sadness which has engulfed me.
I contemplated about writing this – and it has nothing to do with shame. I just knew that writing this, was going to be very different. I am usually very positive, and I always like to pair my words with encouragement, but I contemplated writing this because quite frankly I do not have anything encouraging to say. I don’t feel encouraged and right now I don’t even want to be encouraged. I worried this round of IVF would ruin me – we had 2 embryos transferred, it was our third go, in my head I couldn’t imagine anything more cruel than it not working. And then it didn’t. And now I have to reconcile what was once genuine optimism with grief, yet again! I told my hubby mid-tears that IVF feels like I’m in prison and because of good behaviour there is a plan to release me soon but then test day (“release day”) comes and I find out something unknown sabotaged my case, and I am no longer getting out of prison and have to continue serving my life sentence. That is EXACTLY what IVF feels like to me. And I AM SO TIRED.
I have prayed. I have been positive. I followed my protocol. I’m a good person. I don’t get it, what am I meant to be doing that I am not doing that is blocking my path to parenthood? Other people get pregnant SO easily, I have put in the time, surely I deserve this too? My whole life people have told me what a great mother I would be and it is honestly the only thing I have ever really wanted and now this is happening to me. To what end? What is the point of all this? What lessons am I yet to learn – that other people clearly don’t need to learn? It’s cruel, this infertility/IVF journey. It’s damaging to the spirit and we carry on because life must go on but how am I supposed to come back from this? And I don’t mean superficially come back, which I think many of us do, but how can one regain what has been lost – over the years? For the first time I really started thinking… I have never really heard anyone in the infertility/IVF community say “it’s worth it in the end” (although people who have never experienced either say it to me all the time) but I get it now, because I am not convinced that the day I hold my baby in my hands I will say it was all worth it. I will be grateful for the blessing, but I cannot assign the pain of this journey to the worth of my baby. I reject that. No one should have to pay a price like this (physically, emotionally, mentally & financially) just because they desire to have child. So no the infertility/IVF journey is not worth it. My baby will be worth a whole lot of something, but certainly not pain and ruin.
Everyone’s story is different and in all of it, the one truth remains that I KNOW I will be a mother – whichever way that happens. I have been comforted by this knowing right from the beginning but on the flipside, it makes the IVF failures harder to process because in my mind I’m thinking if not now then when? How far from now? How much more do I have to endure? I have a lot of younger women who follow my journey and although I lack the capacity to tell you this with conviction right now, please stay encouraged. It’s not the end unless you say it is. In an act of diving timing, a few days before our test day, I was led (by a close family member) to Gabby Bernstein, who has this wonderful talk on Oprah’s Soul Sessions & a book that is currently SAVING MY LIFE called ‘The Universe has your back’. I am not sure I would have the chance to make it out of this heartbreak if it wasn’t for the loving reminders to the spirit that I am reading in Gabby’s book. It’s very spiritual and it might not be for everyone but as it is literally saving me, I feel so compelled to share it in case it can do the same for someone else going through the anguish and heartbreak of infertility/ IVF. I have deeper love and respect for all of you who have walked or are currently walking this journey. Our resilience is unparalleled, and I have no doubt that our desire will be met. Make room. Make way. For love to lead. For your fears to be transformed into faith. I am saying all of this to myself as well. Because, cue Gabby Bernstein, “When we assume an energy of faith, we are receptive, released, and magnetic.”
Big love and thanks to the women who reached out to me during my 2 week wait and sent me care packages in the form of self-care gifts, text affirmations and check-ins, and love. Everything can be so shit but our #TTC community is so beautiful! Thank you so much x
Episode 5 out now! I’m back with another episode about my journey. In this episode I am just checking in with reflections from our third round of IVF. I speak on the mental & emotional shifts I have noticed between when I am not doing an IVF cycle vs when I am going through a cycle.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has tuned into the podcast. I took a leap of faith and I’m so grateful for the support & plays the podcast has had. As I always say, safe spaces matter and it’s so wonderful to hold space and create that safe space for each other.
You can listen to the podcast on:
– a love letter to my community
Dear Black People, we need to break the stigma and misconceptions. We need to check the misinformation we have held onto for generations. We need to become more critical and progressive in our thinking because in doing this we will be able to see unconventional journeys towards fertility – or anything else – contextually, and not through the lens of our projections and societal conditioning.– Noni Martins
Had my story been different I would have never known just how misinformed we all are when it comes to fertility health. I am writing this letter from a place of love and compassion because I realise the tension between black/african couples trying to conceive and their families and wider community needs to be addressed. What couples tend to do when they find themselves at the trying to conceive stage and things are taking longer than they thought, is to keep quiet and smile on the outside as their loved ones say all kinds of inappropriate things, while fuming or even crying on the inside. First thing is first, and I say this with all due respect, my womb and its reproductive ability or lack thereof is my own business. My husband’s sperm and its reproductive ability or lack thereof is his business, and together as a couple trying to have a baby together, both those things – are OUR business. I know that a child belongs to the family and it takes a village to raise a child but the process of doing that is mine and my husband’s. The best way to think about it is if you are not there when the love making is happening or when sperm is being inseminated (IUI) or when an embryo is being transferred (IVF) – just conclude that it is NOT your business. For too long, couples trying to conceive have tolerated unsolicited advice/comments from people who “mean well” but really don’t have a clue about what is really going on, and worse still don’t have the courtesy to actually ask. As a community we project our own ideas and experiences of pregnancy onto others, but we have to realise that everything is contextual.
Take for example, our male factor infertility. My husband has low sperm concentration (count) and low sperm motility (movement) due to the fact that he has been on dialysis for over 10 years. Male factor infertility is a medical diagnosis – it is not a stab at his manhood. Our bodies are biological – male factor infertility has nothing to do with who he is a man or a husband, that’s a societal construct. And that is something that we as the society/community need to deconstruct. The same man who has a low sperm count and low movement is the same man who fertilised 19 of my 20 eggs that were retrieved at egg collection. The same male factor infertility is the same that gave us 10 good grade embryos. What happened between 19 eggs being fertilised to having 10 embryos is a matter of biology and science – and has absolutely nothing to do with my womanhood or my husband’s manhood. We need to deconstruct this – making babies is biological i.e. you don’t have much of a hand in this – raising them is societal and you have more influence over this. The two are different and the thing to remember is that even when trying to conceive naturally and much more easily, the same biological process has taken place. The only difference with infertility cases is the use of medical interventions that mimic what happens naturally and sometimes assist the process to improve the chances of a pregnancy. None of this takes away from anyone’s worth or validity as a man or woman.
So how about the female factor? The majority of what we know and believe about this as a community is WRONG. Do you know that research has shown that male factor infertility accounts for about 40-50% of all infertility cases? This means that if there were 10 couples dealing with infertility – i.e. struggling to have a child – 4 or 5 of these couples would be because of male factor infertility. The biggest myth of all in our community is that all infertility issues stem from the woman. This is largely in part due to the patriarchal societies we live in but is also due to the fact that we refuse to think critically and progressively – I mean honestly, in what real world would all infertility issues be caused by female biology. To what evolutionary gain? It actually doesn’t make any sense. Sometimes, question things you have always known to be true, we live in the age of information – seek it. In case you haven’t got my point – it is possible to have issues with conceiving when there is NOTHING wrong with the woman in the equation. If in doubt, think of me as a real example. Apart from an irregular cycle, which is insignificant by the time you’re having IVF, there is nothing biologically wrong with me that could affect my ability to have and carry a child (as far as all the investigations I’ve had show). The reason we are having IVF is due entirely to the male factor diagnosis. How’s that for some myth busting?!
Another key thing to mention is that infertility is a thing between 2 people. I can have contributing factors as an individual but until I am trying to conceive with someone, they are just factors. Using my husband again, what he has is a standalone medical diagnosis – so for example the reduced sperm concentration is called oligozoospermia and the reduced sperm motility is called asthenozoospermia. These are medical conditions that exist whether in the context of trying to conceive or not. Semen analysis is based on a standard of normal levels and so even if you are not trying to have a baby, you can still have tests and stand-alone diagnosis for how much you deviate from these ‘normal’ levels. It is only in the context of him trying to have a baby with me that it becomes male factor infertility. So, I never separate myself from that diagnosis, it is OURS, not just his. We are trying to conceive together; I am not doing this alone and neither is he. To put it simply, someone in my situation could potentially get pregnant easily, with a donor sperm for example – which is an option that has worked for so many couples! But again, everything is contextual – we are not there
(yet) as we have 9 embryos frozen and have only used 1 of 3 of our NHS funded cycles. The point I am trying to make is that, just because we have male factor infertility, I don’t remove myself from the situation because infertility belongs to two people, what affects him – affects me – affects us. Other examples include women with PCOS, endometriosis or fibroids – many women know way before having babies is on the agenda but it becomes a different kind of problem at trying to conceive stage.
Which brings me onto my last point. It would appear that me talking male factor infertility has triggered a lot of people in my community. I’ve had quite a few messages from people asking me whether I have “permission” from my husband to blog about our story and others saying “you are very lucky that your husband let’s you do this”. This language is triggering for me! Permission… let’s me… Look, I appreciate that I am fortunate to have the kind of husband that I have, that has never wanted me to be anything else but myself but we need to check our patriarchal complex here. It should not be a luck thing for a husband to “let” his wife do anything. And I also don’t believe in permission. The undertone of this kind of thinking feels very much like people would rather believe that I am a disrespectful wife who blogs about this stuff behind her husband’s back, than to believe that my husband is a progressive man who feels no shame about our male factor diagnosis! Again we need to deconstruct these patriarchal systems of the man as supreme and the wife subservient to him and his command. For the sake of speaking with love and compassion and fostering deep understanding, I’ll say this. Way before any of this began, I had multiple conversations with my husband – because it is not about permission, it is about discussion for us – and only when we were BOTH comfortable with the idea of sharing our story did I decide to do it. We both had to be comfortable, I am also in this process too and I had to think long and hard about opening myself up in this way. I am lucky in the sense that my husband is not ashamed at all, and he has never internalised the ‘male factor’ element of our fertility diagnosis.
“I give myself permission to cry, scream, laugh, dance, eat and do all the things that this dynamic body needs and demands”– @siphokaziveti
Once we started our IVF treatment, the whole thing just felt like a dream. It feels real but not real at the same time and it kind of felt like we were in this game where you are almost about to have your baby and boom you wake up and realise it is not a dream and you do not have the baby because the pregnancy test was negative. I am conscious that when Mr Un_fertility and I did our Instagram live it was easy to walk away thinking that “aw they will be fine, they will be parents soon, they seem very with it” – please allow me to say the IG live was just a glimpse of our IVF journey and no day is the same. Certainly not the day we had to take the pregnancy test after our frozen embryo transfer (more on that in the next update). I remember it so vividly, and I remember it all because I only need to close my eyes to see my husband’s face when I said ‘it didn’t work’. Breaking his heart in this way will stay with me forever. I woke up at 9am and went straight to the toilet on test day, he was awake waiting for me in bed, I had left the test on top on the toilet so I wouldn’t forget to test with my morning pee (AS IF one would ever forget this in IVF!). I peed and I covered the test window with a piece of toilet paper and started the countdown, when the time was up I didn’t want to reveal the window. I thought about how many test windows I had seen before, all of them so willing to break my heart, I thought God please let this one be different…
I mustered up the courage, unveiled the test and there it was, in as black and white as it gets! ‘NOT PREGNANT’. My immediate response was to shut down all feelings and I just went numb – I have been doing this since I was a kid. I walked out of the toilet, my husband’s head rose up in hopeful anticipation (the most hopeful I have ever seen him) and I said the words “it didn’t work”, he collapsed into his body and I quickly looked away, went to my side of the bed and covered myself completely and closed my eyes. As much as I wanted to be there in the capacity of a comforting wife in that moment, I genuinely did not have anything left in me. I wanted to pray, meditate, sit still, sit in silence, scream, cry all at once. But instead I just shut down. My husband left the bed shortly after I got into it and went downstairs. As selfish as it sounds, I was relieved to be on my own because if the urge came, I could cry without him there. I didn’t want to add to any hurt he was already feeling. So I lied there so still, I didn’t move, I didn’t speak, I wept for literally 20 seconds – and I was weeping about breaking the news to my husband not the fact that I didn’t have a baby in me – then I wiped my tears and that was ALL the emotion I had that day – and ever since. I realised then just how cried out I had become, over the years, over the months that have made up 2020. So much crying that I didn’t have much cryfest in me bar the 20 seconds of weeping.
As if telling my husband wasn’t enough to bear, I remembered that I had told my mum + sister that I would ring them at 9am as soon as we found out. Again, numbness came over me and as much as I knew my mum was waiting for that call with as much hope as my husband, I couldn’t bring myself to call her. There is something about calling your mum that brings out the cryfest in you and I didn’t want to cry, as in I really did not want to cry. I just kept thinking okay cry and then what?! That’s not going to give you a baby. It’s done. Get over it. Yes, this is how not-gentle I was with myself. Again, numbness. Complete shutdown of the softer parts of me. Fight – Flight – or Freeze. So anyway, I didn’t call my mum, I put my phone on DND and I went back to sleep. When I woke up, I had kind of forgotten the morning, then I remembered, and I had this knot-feeling in my stomach and I felt so shit. I didn’t want to go downstairs because my husband was there, and I just didn’t have it in me to comfort him or even to seek it from him. I just wanted to forget this ever happened. So I took a shower with some music on and started feeling like myself again – (you guys need to understand that my black girl joy series is an actual lifeline! As funny and crazy as it is) – and I left the house to go park somewhere and called my mum.
I would say that phone-call with my mum + sis was the most ‘matter-of-fact’ I have been in my entire life. My mum was all mum-like and she was being very emotional, and I was literally responding to her with the science, the facts, 29% success rate and all that. Deflection. The more emotions I got, the more factual knowledge I dropped. Listen, I had zero capacity in me to ‘honour my feelings’ or the feelings of others – and even worse, I had no capacity to feel guilt for being this way, in that moment. It’s not necessarily something I feel needs an apology but taking my mum + sis, and my mum in particular on this IVF journey made me realise that when I made that decision, I took on the responsibility for their feelings too – which is something I had no business doing. My pain about not being pregnant was also a very real pain for my mother and I was not and still not in the right frame of mind to comfort her grief. And it is grief, for all of us. My counsellor said IVF patients harbour heavy emotions not realising that a lot of it is grief, even though we never met the baby, even though our embaby didn’t implant in my uterus, it is still a grieving of the possibility. Everything about IVF is centred on the mere possibility, that chance will work in your favour. And as we all know grief is not the easiest of emotions to process. And everyone handles grief differently. What I know now as an IVF patient, and as the one who has to carry the baby… I am in no position at all to be responsible for the feelings of others and the person I really need to look after and focus on is myself. As women we fall into these superwoman narratives so easily but trust me IVF will show you just how important it is to be a bit selfish. Because sis, you can’t come and die!
It took my first ever counselling session last weekend to understand that I have PTSD. IVF is an abnormal experience that you get thrown into with absolutely no experience at all and no training. And the worst part of it is that there is no real end in sight so when you enter the world of IVF, you are signing up to lose all your power, your freedom and all spontaneity. The IVF journey is often likened to a marathon because it is long and so much mental, emotional and physical energy goes into it, but the key difference is that you are not getting rid of this energy as you would in an actual marathon. So the brain has to make a decision, is this a good challenge or a bad challenge? What does this body need to survive this and get through it? – this is where the primitive – fight / flight / freeze concept comes in and in order to main either of these states, the brain tells the body to produce adrenaline as an automatic physiological response. People with PTSD have been found to continue to produce high amounts of stress hormones even when there is no danger and it is thought this may be responsible for the numbed emotions and hyperarousal (feeling on edge). And adrenaline can cause other issues like anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks etc.
My key takeaway from my counselling session was when she said, the IVF episode is the opportunity to practice being parents before the baby is here – it is the chance to parent each other, to be the soft place for your partner and vice-versa. Because that is the role we will play for our baby. I thought this was so powerful and it filled me with a new sense of purpose because I don’t want to be this numb version of myself when I have a baby. I don’t want to be this numb version of myself in general. So as part of my mental and emotional health treatment, she encouraged me to practice (re-claiming) my soft place with hubby before I restore it in my other relationships with family and friends. I’ve said this before, but I will say it again, our story is real and it is unfolding in real-time and no doubt this is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. And you have to navigate the IVF within the context of normal life and work and relationships and it gets so overwhelming because I am constantly feeling like I cannot catch a break, if it’s not a work deadline, it’s an appointment, it’s an injection, it’s looking after the home, the puppy, it’s feeling so sick on the medications, it’s the physical pains, its friends and family still expecting 100% from you. It is just too much. My point is please practice patience with your loved ones going through IVF, if you feel the friendship has changed, or I don’t attend enough family things, or we hardly talk now… just remember that I am emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically trying to have a baby every minute, every hour of every day. All my energies are channelled towards this desire and the small bit of leftover energy (if any) is just enough to keep my head above the water.
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” – Hebrews 10 v 23
I say this all the time… I wasn’t always this believer (in God). I believed in a higher power of some sort and felt no need to be definitive about that. And I strongly believed that I am, everyone is, the orchestrator of their own life. What you put in is what you get out. But after a couple of years of putting in the work to get pregnant, my once fool proof belief systems started to the unravel at the seams. I don’t doubt for a second that God put me through all of this to remind me that HE IS. Yes I can live intentionally, yes I am a good person, yes I put in the work but this thing we call life is not all linear. There are some detours and obstacles that we don’t ask for and I don’t necessarily believe that God intentionally tries to make things difficult for me but what I do believe is that he does help me get through it – and usually in ways that make no logical sense at all. A non-linear solution for non-linear problems.
A year and a half ago, I would have never referenced God, His love, His light, His might, His promise in anything. But even through all of that, he remained faithful and kept showing up for me even when I wasn’t showing up for Him. I have seen God’s work in my mother’s life, raising my sister and I as a single parent, I have seen God’s hand in my own life, but still, it took a struggle get me on my knees and back to him. It took a struggle to strip me off my worldly pride and wisdom and surrender to Him. The fact that people write to me now and say things like “thank you for your Godly joy” still stops me dead in my tracks because I literally no longer recognise my former self. As if this wasn’t all well and good, God said ‘I want to take things up a notch’ and led my spirit to hosting IG lives with 3 wonderful women who spoke to my spirit in ways that a bible verse or sermon couldn’t have. And I am forever changed by the conviction and trust in God’s promise that these women showed.
@vanessahaye is generally just a force to be reckoned with and the same is true for her faith in God. When we first started speaking, Vanessa mentioned God a lot and I was still going through the transition. Fast-forward to our IG live and I remember finishing the live thinking, well damn Noni… you think you believe but you set limits on your expectations from God. During her IVF journey, Vanessa challenged God and told Him that if He blessed her with a child, she would praise His name for the rest of her life. First of all, I was like wait, I can challenge God like that? If you watch the live you will learn quickly that Vanessa does not come out here to play! I was so moved by this concept that a relationship with God is two-way, it is not just about one-sidedly hoping conservatively that God gives you want you want in abundance (this is also okay) but it can also be an exchange where you tell God what it is that you want and say God I am going to do my part, and leave you to do your part. I then realised that for a very long time, I had equated believing in God to mean relinquishing all my authority over my own life. Vanessa made me realise that, no no honey, God wants you to OWN the authority you have over your life but he wants you to give HIM the glory.
@faithledfertility’s story is one that needed to be heard. With all Dannika has been through, she is the most upbeat full of life sister in this journey, always hopeful and always looking for ways she can be better and do better to increase her chances at motherhood and always so willing to share the knowledge. I was moved by Dannika’s unwavering trust in God, after multiple miscarriages she is still holding onto God’s promise. Hearing Dannika’s story, comforted me and if I do happen to this in this for a long run, Dannika’s faith will remind me that not all is lost. Dannika made me realise that I was only at the beginning of my journey because unlike Dannika I have never been pregnant. And as we all know, the story as far as struggles and anxieties go, does not end once you are pregnant. This is not to say I expect to be this in struggle forever but seeing her and connecting with her made me realise that however the story unfolds, I am going to be okay. This was the affirmation I didn’t know I would need weeks later when my pregnancy test after the first embryo transfer came up negative.
@themissusv’s story added a different angle of the journey to motherhood. As I said before, the struggles do not always end once you are pregnant and this was certainly true in her case. I knew nothing about the world of premature babies and when you are trying to conceive you get so caught up with getting that positive pregnancy test that you just don’t have the capacity to consider the actual pregnancy. I am grateful to Nyasha for always speaking openly to me about her pregnancy because I am one of those people who prefers to know things that could potentially happen (I know that is not for everyone). In our IG live Nyasha spoke with the same openness only this time it just felt so much closer to home because she was speaking as a mother, a mother who had spent 78 days in a preemie ward with her daughter, with zero guarantees about anything. Much like infertility, we don’t talk enough about all the unexpected things can happen once you are pregnant. And again, Nyasha held onto God. I just think there are certain things where science will not be enough, the love of a partner/family will not be enough, your wisdom or good nature will not be enough. There are things that require something so much bigger than us. I felt this in Nyasha’s story and it affirmed my journey back to God.
I want to thank my sisters @vanessahaye @faithledfertility @themissusv for holding space with me on Instagram live and inviting God to the conversation. In the same way God was using me to shed light on your unconventional stories, God was using you as testimonies to show me who He is. To show me what he can do if I expect it, if I believe it, if I ask him for it. I said a while ago that I actually hadn’t prayed the prayer asking God for a baby – I was being so conservative in my faith. But I know now that big big faith gets big big things. And God is not a God of small things. The Man likes to show off! And me too I should meet him on his level with violent faith. Boundless expectation for a boundless God. I don’t say this to imply that everyone needs God. But I need him. I have never needed him more. My friends and family love me but no one can give me the peace/healing I need in this journey, no one’s love is like His, no one’s promise is like His.
He is faithful, to the very end.
Love isn’t cancelled
Music isn’t cancelled
Dancing isn’t cancelled
Progress isn’t cancelled
Meditating isn’t cancelled
Dreaming isn’t cancelled
Self-care isn’t cancelled
Reading isn’t cancelled
Having fun isn’t cancelled– @insta_holaa
What a year it has been already… and I am really not sure why and how a non-UK Mother’s Day has triggered me. I don’t remember being this triggered in March when it was the UK Mother’s Day but in the lead up to today (Sunday) I have just not been myself. Even my husband asked me today if I was okay because I’ve been “a bit off for the last 2/3 days”. I told him I didn’t know how I felt and truth is I don’t but there is something about going through Mother’s Day after spending 2 months on hormones to produce eggs, having an egg retrieval, only to be told weeks later that everything is now on hold indefinitely due to COVID-19. On top of all this, my grandfather passed away during this time and my puppy died only days after our treatment was put on hold. I mean can a girl get a break!? So I did take a break for about 3weeks I switched off the part of me that is always preoccupied with baby-making and I just got on with my life like I wasn’t planning on having a family. This is after a lake full of tears and silence and more tears and just silence. I am never quiet so when I’m silent, things are really not okay.
And guess what? The ‘switch off’ time was quite literally the best few weeks I have had in a while. I zoned in fully into working from home and working out and I have a really good balance and consistency now. I even got a pay-rise during this time which is testament to how much I gave in to my work life. I felt great, I felt so balanced – something I am always striving for and I just started to really see myself again. Not through the lens of ‘you are not a mother yet’ but more ‘sister honey girl, your life is full and it is wonderful just the way it is.’ Being in lockdown has meant I have spent more time with my husband than usual and that too has been wonderful, and it has been enriching to spend time together without the ‘baby making’ cloud over our heads… just chatting like old pals and reconnecting without the burden of timed injections, hospital visits and the horrible waiting has been the break that I didn’t know I needed.
For such a long time I had reconfigured my life to fit around ‘baby making’ that so much of my Self was lost in the process but when you’re in it you really don’t realise it. My first day in my new job on the 6th of Jan was my first day of IVF! I remember having to call my new boss to ask her if it would be okay for me to start a bit later on my first day, my first few weeks in the job were filled with hospital appointments all of which had to be during the work day usually mid-morning and in February I missed my first board meeting because I had a week off for my egg retrieval. I am lucky that I landed wonderful bosses who have been incredibly supportive of our IVF but I say all this to paint the picture of how IVF consumes you. So this break, although forced upon us, has really been that pause that we never stopped to take for the last 3 years of journey. And only now it is making sense to me.
I was doing so good because everything was out of my control until they announced that clinics could apply to reopen from 11th of May. And all those feelings I parked on the 17th March after crying myself tired literally just came back flooding and are damn near drowning me at this point… I was doing so good and now I have the added layer of weighing the risks of C-19! We have all seen the stats that suggest black people are more likely to die from C-19 than their white counterparts, add the cases of the black pregnant women who died (may they rest in peace). My clinic hasn’t even called me yet and I do not know what their plans are but these are all factors I now have to consider in addition to the factors that already come with IVF and pregnancy in general. Needless to say, I am freaking the fuck out! On the one hand having a baby is everything I have ever wanted, on the other hand do I want to try to get pregnant with the added anxieties around C-19?! My husband’s protective instincts have already kicked in and he feels so strongly about the risks of C-19 and thinks we should wait. The situation is less clear in my mind, while C-19 gave me the pause I definitely needed it is now putting this horrible hesitation in my mind about how much I want to have a baby and at what cost? The effects of C-19 are making me question the one thing I never thought I would even have a second thought about.
Mother’s day when you have all these thoughts in your head hits differently. I was off all social media when the UK one came and I think for as long as I am not-pregnant I might make it a point to be off social media in the lead up to and on all Mother’s Days. The strongest feeling was that I felt bad for being triggered by other’s people’s day of joy and gratitude and actually, I think a lot of people don’t get this about the #ttcgang, when we are triggered by your mummy joy we genuinely feel so bad and it is that guilt that eats me up more than anything. The second feeling was that reminder; another Mother’s Day and I am not pregnant, and I don’t even know when the possibility might be real again. C-19 took away the mere possibility from me and when you are trying to conceive by assisted means, the possibility is quite literally ALL you have. My sister-in-law tells me off for saying our IVF was cancelled, she always corrects me with ‘postponed’ but without the pending possibility, to me it has felt like it’s been cancelled, much like 2020 so far!
Up until today I hadn’t realised that I had never even entertained the thought of me being pregnant. My default coping mechanism is to not let my mind go there at all… I have not even imagined what a pregnant belly would look like on me, or what my baby’s nursery will look like or even who the baby will look like. The minute we got news we would be starting IVF my husband already started compiling a list of essentials, the only reason I got involved was because I had to help him make sure everything was on the list otherwise my coping mechanism just won’t let me go there. People say things like you have to envision it to fruition, but those people will not be there when I need to drag myself out of a dark hole when disappointment strikes. My embryo transfer would have been around this time and the only thing I had done which even now seems so stupid to me is I had bought a couple of floaty work dresses for ‘when I start to grow’. That’s as far as I will allow my imagination because it’s a practical alternative to my work jeans (well seemed so at the time). All that day-dreaming about my pregnancy and being a mum blah blah blah can never be me. I am not strong enough for that and that is why Mother’s Day today was so difficult because my timeline was filled with those kinds of images and theirs were actual REAL.
I’ve also been thinking about the similarities between most people’s experience of C-19 and my experience of IVF; much of it feels like you are in a trap where you are literally hoping for the best, a big part of it is just a waiting game with absolutely no guarantees, both mess up with most of your plans and take away life’s small pleasures. I think for the first time, the world is experiencing what most women going through IVF feel – a shutdown of sorts of life as you knew it and a long game, seemingly unending and all you can hold onto is hope. IVF does not physically kill you but the emotional ride that comes with it can kill your spirit, even when nothing is happening AND in the context of normal life that must carry on. I remember having a split second moment when my puppy Leo was hit by a van and died where I really felt I was going to lose it – it is less about the puppy and but more about the lack of control over one’s own fate. I had to decide very quickly in that moment which path I wanted to take and sometimes it is not about choosing to do or be better, sometimes it is about saying I CAN’T do this anymore and I WON’T. And just checking out – taking time out to restore, recover, refill. And reminding oneself that not all is lost or cancelled.
I cannot tell you what is next for me/us. I wish I could say ‘yes we are definitely going ahead as soon as they call’ or ‘no we are waiting until they have more data to base their contingency planning on’ but I can’t say either. In true coping mechanism fashion, I will deal with it when I get the call from the clinic i.e. when it becomes real. My husband was keen to agree a decision about it and I said to him we’ve been doing this trying to conceive thing for a while and if there is anything I have learnt is not to get ahead of myself. I could make a decision about proceeding with treatment and spend the next few weeks anticipating the call from the clinic and struggling to sleep etc due to worry or excitement or I can just surrender to the now and hear what their plan/process is when they call and make a decision then. They may even call to say they are not reopening, or they are not doing transfers and I would have invested in a possibility that is taken away from me, again. My only focus now, is WHAT IS REAL RIGHT NOW.
Sending love to all my IVF sisters… whatever decision you take, it is yours to make. We have made it this far and although it may not always seem like it, we have so much more in us to carry on. All my love & all the Light x
“There is a life to be lived right here in the waiting.” –@morganharpernichols
Before we began I spent a lot of time worrying (and being actually terrified at one point) about what it was going to be like, what I was going to be like. Having gone through the first half now I can say that it was not what I was expecting in the sense that it was not as bad as I expected. I had definitely allowed my mind to get the better of me before we began. So I started off on a pill called norethisterone for 10 days which was okay initially then it made my breasts so heavy and I had the worst backache for a couple of days but after that I was fine. The backache was something else and I’m still traumatised about it now! A few days after the pill I had what they call a withdrawal bleed; the whole point of the pill is to induce a bleed so that IVF can start from a baseline when your uterus lining has shed. At the end of bleeding, I would say on the 5th day, I was instructed to start the first course of injections (Bemfola) and I was to inject myself for 10 days every night. Of course I did not inject myself! My husband did – because I can’t even look at the needles when I’m having my bloods done. I also thought it would be a way for him to feel involved in the process and feel a sense of utility in all of it. On the 5th day of Bemfola, I was instructed to start another course of injections (Cetrotide) to be administered every morning. Both these injections had to be done within a half an hour window of the same time each day so we did 5am and 11pm which suited our life/work perfectly. Over the course of these 10 days, I had 2 scans; one on day 6 and another on day 10 (which was meant to be my last day on injections but they wanted me to do 2 more days of stims (stims = injections). The scans were done at intervals; Day 1 scan – after withdrawal bleed to make sure uterus lining had thinned; day 6 scan – I had 24 follicles; day 10 scan – is when I found out that I had too many follicles and there were going to apply the freeze protocol to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation; day 12 scan – after an extra 2 days of stims for my eggs to mature I was given a date for egg collection. By day 12 I was definitely feeling the effects of the stims, my ovaries were full and it was slightly uncomfortable but nothing I couldn’t handle. I was then instructed to take a trigger shot injection (Buserelin) that night and my egg collection date was exactly 36 hours later. On the day of the egg collection, I felt awful – I felt nauseous, I was VERY hormonal and I just wanted it to be over and done with.
The egg collection for me was by far the worst part of IVF (first half anyway!). I was already quite hormonal by that point and now looking back everything just seemed overwhelming to me in that moment. We were asked to come in an hour before our appointment to do more paperwork and prepare for the collection. I was given strict instructions not to wear any jewellery, nail varnish, deodorant/perfume or anything with a scent or alcohol in it. I was also told to bring some bedroom slippers and a nightgown. When we arrived we were taken to our own private room and I was asked to change into the hospital gown. It was at this point that hubby had to go and do his thing and provide a sperm sample. When he got back we were called into theatre (is that what the room is called?) and I kid you not there were about 7 people in there and when you are hormonal, lying down on this bed while they strap your legs in position, with all of them watching over you and doing different things, IT IS TERRIFYING. I was so scared I was tearing up when they were asking me to confirm my name and details. When they asked my hubby to leave the room, I almost unshackled my legs ready to follow him out. I understand all of these people need to be in the room, like the anesthetist, nurses, consultants, but I feel like they should all come in once you’re knocked out because it was the most intimidating feeling and made me worry even more about what they were going to do to me. Anyway, not before long I was completely knocked out and got woken up when it was all done. At first, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and they kept trying to wake me up (at one point I even held my eyelids opens like they do in cartoons, which made them all laugh), when I did eventually snap out of the slumber they were asking me questions and I could not speak. The words were playing in my mind but I literally could not speak – I was trying to move my mouth but I don’t know what was happening no words were coming out. The combination of realising this lack of speech and suddenly remembering where I was and how I was feeling before I got knocked out, the shock of it all sent me into inconsolable tears – I justcouldn’t stop crying. I got even worse when I saw my husband and it was just coming out of me like a waterfall. I think for much of the IVF process I was keeping it together (because I was actually okay) but something about going through a procedure like egg collection makes it VERY real that hey girl, you’re an IVF patient and this IS a big fucking deal.
The way egg collection works, is by draining the egg follicles that the injections stimulated and the eggs are contained in these follicles. I had an amazing egg collection result of 20 eggs!!!! I owe this amazing result to my faith, my high AMH and I think as well to the supplements I was taking during stimulation and 3months prior (which I bought at the Fertility Festival in London for £90 for 3). There is some research out there that retrieving more than 15-20 eggs does not improve pregnancy outcomes so we are just so pleased to have that ideal number from the get-go. Back to the day, after all my crying which went on for about 30minutes, the nurses brought me some food because, oh yeh I forgot, you cannot eat past midnight the night before egg collection and you cannot drink water past 2 hours before egg collection but food was the last thing on my mind but my hubby forced me to eat. I then realised that I was having a bit of bleeding down there so I put a liner on and I peed (something they made sure I did before leaving). Getting off the bed and peeing was painful so I just moved at snail pace. Not long after I peed we were released to go home and I was advised to take a few days off and just rest my body. My egg collection was on a Thursday and on the Friday the clinic rang me to confirm that 19 eggs had been fertilised and 13 embryos had made it to day 1 and that they would call me on day 5/6 to confirm how many made it to freeze. On day 6 the clinic rang again and this time I was back at work and I had spent the last few days just worrying about the outcome out of our embryos… but won’t He do it… the clinic confirmed 10 embryos made it to freeze meaning we had only lost 3 embryos over the 5/6 days. I immediately called my husband and we were both just in shock and deeply grateful after so long to be at this point now, with viable embryos waiting for us. I thank God for his intervention and his promise.
When they say a story is too good to be true, it usually is, in our case more like too good to carry on. As a result of producing so many eggs, our transfer (putting the embryo in my womb) which was meant to take place 5/6 days after egg collection was cancelled due to a standard protocol they follow that if you have 18 or more follicles of 11mm+ in size, it’s an automatic freeze to prevent ovarian hyperstimulation and the negative effect it can have on implantation. I could have been pregnant by now (if this cycle had been successful) but the clinic wants to make sure that my body recovers from all the stimulation and resets before we continue the process again. So that’s where we are now, in the break in between and actually it has been really restorative having this break, although I was upset initially. And there is research (although not conclusive) that suggests that freezing all embryos for later transfer might improve implantation and pregnancy rates and increase the safety of IVF. It is an odd place to be though… so close and yet not quite there yet… and we will have to do more stims (injections) to prepare for the transfer and then there is the worry of losing embryos in the thawing process but I learnt very early on with all things infertility, to SURRENDER, to God, to what is meant to be – will be, surrendering to our medical professionals because they do this everyday, surrendering to the present. I try and just focus on one day at a time when it comes to IVF and as it stands we don’t really know yet when our embryo transfer will be, and you know what, that’s okay.
I am finding it A LOT more difficult now to be ‘not-pregnant’. There is something about trying to reconcile being an IVF patient with the fact that others are having babies naturally, JUST. LIKE. THAT. Your friends, people you know, and it’s everywhere. Don’t get me wrong I am very happy for my friends when they fall pregnant, carry to full-term and give birth to healthy babies but each natural pregnancy is a reminder that I am not a mum yet and that I won’t be able to fall pregnant naturally – it is actually heartbreaking and that is not to take away from someone else’s joy, it is a strong realisation of the lack of it (in the form of a baby) in my own life. Being an IVF patient, without your success yet is SO damn hard to live with when you have to live it in the real world of other people having babies seemingly easier/quicker. The raw honest truth is that it always makes me feel better when someone’s pregnancy has a backstory of infertility, because I can relate to it then. And that’s REAL – If no one else will say it, let me be the one to say it. In addition to all this, I now have people/family asking me about children. Much of my turmoil with infertility was internal for pretty much most of the 3 years but now and I realise this is because we have been married over a year now, people bring up babies all the time. Every family gathering I have been to in the last 6 months almost all the women who know me like that have asked me 2 questions; ‘How is married life?” And ‘Where are the babies?’ This one particular incident literally happened 2 weeks ago at my mum’s… if you know me you will know I like wearing loose clothing and flowy shapes, anyway, one of my mum’s friends made an assumption that I was pregnant because I was wearing a kaftan and literally my mum had to come up to me and scrunch the kaftan to one side to show my ’no belly’. This is a true story. And listen I’m not mad at all this, I’m actually not and in fact, I actually couldn’t stop laughing at the time. I mean yeh partly because of the audacity of it all but I realise as Africans we think we mean well when we do this, the women in our lives want to be encouraging about having babies and this is how they communicate this. What upsets me is the fact that it is never the right time and place for me to educate people on infertility and it’s a whole entire culture to dismantle. My mother’s generation is from a different time and I cannot be angry with them for what they know or don’t know. I know a lot of people my age who don’t know anything about infertility especially those who have had natural pregnancies and they too cannot be expected to understand the sensitivities of infertility. Unless we educate them.
All this to say, there are compounding elements that are making me feel more ‘not pregnant’ than ever before and making me question when? and if ever? but I still choose to practice compassion, towards others and towards myself. I make every effort to honour each day as a gift, for there is a life to be lived right here in the waiting and one day, soon enough, I will be a mamma.
You can have both God & Fertility treatment – Noni Martins
IVF seems to be this big secret that is only shared in the TTC community and the information never gets passed down and across to people outside of the TTC community. Almost everyone I have spoken to either has no idea what IVF is or has serious misconceptions about what it actually is. This is compounded in the African community which means people end up saying really irrelevant things to myself or my husband because they just don’t know anything. My mum, being a nurse, has been so keen to absorb everything about the process and I have enjoyed ‘schooling’ her on this because it is really fascinating and wonderful just what science can do for humanity. So this offering is really to explain the IVF process in simple language (where possible) and I hope you will learn something from this post. We are still learning and still discovering and still being wowed by the possibilities that science has to offer. As I mentioned in a previous post, we will NOT be blogging about our IVF journey in real-time and we will not be sharing the success/failure of our process until we feel ready to do so. I am however going to write this post from my own understanding of the IVF process as pertaining to our situation. This does not mean any or all of this has happened, I am just explaining it the way it was explained to us by our nurses.
So what is IVF? IVF stands for in-vitro-fertilisation which basically means fertilisation ‘in glass’. It is a method of assisted reproduction where a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg are combined in a laboratory dish, where fertilisation is expected to occur. For a couple with a male-factor or male infertility, there is a slight variation to this part called ICSI which stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Treatment will be exactly the same as with IVF. The only difference is that instead of mixing the sperm with the eggs and leaving them to fertilise, a skilled embryologist (embryo specialist) will inject a single sperm into each egg. This maximises the chance of fertilisation taking place as it bypasses any potential problems the sperm will have in getting inside the egg – (Via HFEA). Once the referral has been made by your GP/specialist to a fertility clinic and all the paperwork has been completed and processed (please see our fertility timeline so far), IVF starts off with a consultation with a head nurse who will go through the forms you have filled in, confirm details, take more signatures and give you an overview of what lies ahead. At this consultation, you are advised to notify the clinic on the first day of your normal period which will set the date for the whole process to kick off. Everyone’s IVF journey is very different and some people (like me) have a short protocol IVF and others, a long protocol IVF – I still don’t know what the difference is but click the link for information on the long protocol. In my situation, because my AMH is very high, there are concerns that I may have an excessive response to the stimulation, something called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – OHSS (more below). Anytime there is such a concern, the short protocol is applied.
So on day 1 of your period, you ring the clinic and they book you in for a drug appointment which is basically to talk through all the drugs you will be administering for that round of IVF and the nurse teaches you how to do the injections because they are slightly different depending on what you are having. Sorry, before your drug appointment, the clinic writes to you with an invoice for the medication – you pay for your medication even for an NHS funded cycle. I opted for the NHS prescription pre-payment certificate which works out cheaper and it cost me £30 for 3 months and I can get as many prescriptions as I want, even non-IVF-related ones. My drugs would have cost me £50 and If I needed more for whatever reason I would be required to pay more so I would highly recommend the pre-payment certificate for anyone doing IVF via NHS (or anyone who has to pay for repeat prescriptions generally!) At the same drug appointment you are given dates of when to start the medication and when to come back in for transvaginal scans – this is how they check progress, internally! The real IVF starts when you go home and map out your life for the next 4-6 weeks and start your medication – I will share my self-made colourful IVF calendar, which I am very proud of, at a later date!
Our protocol will follow the general timeframe below but as with all things IVF, this can change and vary quite a bit depending on how one responds to treatment:
- Day 1 – 10 – Take Norethisterone 3x a times a day with food – this is a pill to induce a withdrawal bleed to thin the uterus lining
- Day 11 – 15 – Withdrawal bleed – the shedding of the uterus lining
- Day 16 – Transvaginal scan to confirm uterus lining is thinned
- Day 16 – 25 – Bemfola stimulation injections x1 every evening
- Day 21 – Transvaginal scan to check the progress of the follicles
- Day 21 – 25 – Cetrotide stimulation injection x1 every morning
- Day 25 – Transvaginal scan to check number and size of follicles
- Day 26 – Trigger injection to mature the eggs (must wait to be notified by the nurses what time to take it!)
- 36 hours later – Egg collection under general anaesthetic – this is when ICSI for us will take place, fertilising the egg and sperm in a laboratory dish
- Between 3-5 days after egg collection – transfer of 1 embryo into the womb.
- 2 weeks after Transfer – pregnancy test at the clinic
On paper, the process seems quite quick but as I said, things can vary with IVF and sometimes there can be delays in terms of how you are meant to respond to treatment and how you actually respond to treatment. For example, you might not have your withdrawal bleed within the 5 days after Norethisterone. Or in a much less preferable situation, you could have Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome which puts a pause on the entire process. Because my AMH is high, it is likely that I could get OHSS which is when the ovaries develop too many follicles as an over-response to the medication. When this happens, fluid from the blood vessels may leak into your abdomen and in some cases into the space around the heart and lungs. The kidneys and liver may also be affected, but this is usually mild and will settle without medical intervention. Approximately a third of patients will have mild symptoms, with only 2-8% of patients needing medical intervention (via NHS). They warned me about the risks related to OHSS and made it very clear that I should let them know if I start to get any symptoms. They stressed even more that if do end up over-stimulating – that is, 19 follicles or more of 11mm plus in size, the transfer would be cancelled, the embryos would be frozen (FET) and I would have to wait 6 weeks before the process continues. Not ideal but they need to make sure that my body is fit enough to hold and carry the baby for the 9months.
This is one IVF cycle in a nutshell from start to finish but like I said can be different from one couple to another. If a cycle is unsuccessful, the clinic will do some investigating into potential reasons why and any information from this will be taken into consideration for the next attempt. If you have any embryos remaining which were frozen from the first round of stimulations, you do not have to go through the stimulation process again and you can just have another transfer at a suitable time when the uterus lining has been thickened again ready to receive an embryo. An interesting little fact I almost forgot to mention is that my clinic uses Embryo glue when they do transfers; EmbryoGlue is a medium developed to closely resemble the environment in the uterus at the time of implantation. It is not a glue in the common sense, but acts as an adhesive by increasing the chance of implantation of the embryo to the uterus. The embryos are placed in the solution and allowed to soak in it for a fixed duration of time prior to the transfer (via NHS). However, like most things in the IVF world, (and as you will see when I share information from the Fertility Festival which I attended), there if a conflicting body of evidence about it’s effectiveness and further research is required. I think it’s still cool though! Ha. Another thing to mention, is the success rates of IVF as they are not as high as everyone thinks. How successful IVF will be depends on the woman’s age and the cause of infertility. The below percentages show the average chance of a birth from IVF treatment. These figures are for women using their own eggs and their partner’s sperm and use the per embryo transferred measure (via HFEA).
- under 35: 29%
- 35-37: 23%
- 38-39: 15%
- 40-42: 9%
- 43-44: 3%
- over 44: 2%.
For context I thought it might be worth sharing our journey so far minus the IVF bit (click here) – just to show a timeline of things and potentially for anyone looking to go down this route, to show how long it can take. I think we are very fortunate living up North because there was no waiting list for our referral and so everything has moved quite fast. Just after the new year, I had a bit of a meltdown when it started to hit me that we are ACTUALLY having IVF, it wasn’t hypothetical anymore and I just started getting really anxious to the point where I was struggling to sleep. At the time I did not have any of the information above and so I think it was just the enormity of the unknown and feeling so in the dark about what was to come. I sat down with my husband and told him how I was feeling and he did a mixture of comforting me but also scaremongering because in his mind it was better that I was prepared for a bad experience but we obviously hope for an okay experience _ I was going to say ‘good’ experience but I think that is asking for a lot! It’s very hard to tell what IVF is going to be like until you start going through it… it does not matter how much reading you do, how much information they give you, how many youtube videos you watch, you can never know how YOU are going to be, how YOU are going to experience it, it is such an individual journey and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to be doing it with someone else. I personally would not be able to do this without my husband and our life experiences have been so instrumental in our coping mechanisms because we accept things for what they are and work on solutions and being informed rather than dwelling on outcomes, which are often out of our control.
I hope this has been useful to some of you and an interesting read for the rest of you. I am more than happy to answer any specific questions in my DMs and I am always happy to chat, especially about this so honestly feel free 🙂
love & light
And then I surrendered. To the soft. And the sweet. And the sorrow. Not shying away. Allowing each inhale and exhale to source a new life in my cells from their exchange. Let this teach you. Within each release, lives an offering. What we let go of creates room for beginnings… Your winter may last for days, months, lifetimes. But do not mistake this as a dead bloom. Forever closed off to others. For this season isn’t for rising, just yet. This season is for letting the light pour itself into our emptied hands. Let this teach you. – @danielledoby
When we got the confirmation that IVF would be our only option, I felt I needed a break. From blogging. From talking about fertility. I just needed time to sit with everything, the last few months, everything that had come to light and everything else in-between. I always said that with blogging about fertility that I would write when I feel like it, when it comes to me, because the thing is our lives are so multi-dimensional and multi-faceted and so are we as people. And so while yes, dealing with infertility has been a real struggle for me, the break from it all gave me a renewed perspective about how much light we let in or don’t let in into our lives sometimes because we are holding onto a feeling, a struggle. Making room and time for other parts of my life made me feel whole again, functional, instrumental in the construction of who I am trying to be and the life I am trying to lead. I’ve been able to make time for joy too, meeting/connecting with my friends and occupying spaces that remind me of who I am. A long while before this I had unfollowed all the #tryingtoconceive hashtags on Instagram because I found it overwhelming to be trying to conceive yet seeing sad stories almost daily from the trying to conceive community. I fully sympathize with everyone in this community and I fully understand just how hard it can be but the sensationalism that can come with social media was too much for me. I am exactly the same with the News, I don’t watch or read the News… because my spirit cannot handle a constant stream of bad/terrifying messages, I am just not made for it. And I have always been one to choose my wellbeing over ‘general information’.
When we first began our investigations, I was very keen on knowing everything. I googled everything, I read and watched everything I could find but none of it ever made me feel at ease. What pacified my anxiety was attending each of our appointments and finding out more about our fertility health. The KNOWING, that real concrete knowing about our situation SPECIFICALLY put me more and more at ease with each appointment. Because the thing is, what you find on google is often generalised, and what you find on IG is often unique to that individual/couple. If your own fertility issues do not apply to either you can often be left feeling more in the dark and feeling like something is really wrong with you. And so now, I have really come into a space of surrendering. To the truth. Our truth. Not speculation. Not generalised information. Even up to now we are still finding out and learning new things with each of our appointments. At my last one, at the IVF clinic, I found out that I was VERY fertile. Something that I feel contradicts what the previous specialists were saying to me regarding my irregular cycle. They told me I was so fertile that they are worried I might over-respond to treatment which would not be ideal and so I will be having a milder IVF than normal. In March we thought we would have had one cycle of IVF by now and we were wondering what it would be like to be pregnant around Christmas. The point I am trying to make is this… surrendering does not mean you are giving up hope, not at all, for me, it simply means I am giving up trying to dictate the eventualities and timeframes around our fertility journey and just giving it all up to God, to science, and to intention. We have a true desire to be parents and I believe God will meet that desire and the science will facilitate our preferred outcome.
I mentioned before that I haven’t cried about this for quite a while now (about 5months) and some of that has to do with my puppy Leo, the sweetest puppy you will ever know!, but a lot of it has to do with just resetting my mindset. When I went to my first appointment at the IVF clinic, I went on my own, it was just a blood test so I figured I’ll be fine but when I got there I got overwhelmed with so much emotion and the other people in the waiting room were all couples and I started welling up and before things got out of hand, I got called in by the nurse and she was very matter of fact about everything – because I mean it was just a blood test – and I left after like 5mins and I just thought to myself, what on earth was all that near-crying about!? Our minds can trick us into emotion but we can also use our minds to control our emotion and I’ve really been trying to practice this. I have been thinking a lot about if/when I actually fall pregnant and have a baby and I keep imagining myself holding this baby and looking back at how s/he came about and I would hate for the memory to be that of pain and sorrow. I want my children to be conceived/birthed from a place of balance, a place of intention, the right energies, a place of faith. I think often about how when you are trying to conceive and there are no issues, you are making love or enjoying the pleasure of connection between you and your significant other. I think so much about the fact that we don’t have that opportunity and we won’t have the wonderful surprise of taking a test and voila! The IVF process is a process of scheduling, everything is controlled and dictated, to the T. So my mind has really been centered on how can I recreate the bliss of spontaneous (natural) conception in this simulated and very unnatural process. Disclaimer; I say bliss to mean just the sheer unknown and I say unnatural for the lack of a better word – all routes to parenthood are valid. When you go through IVF you know too much because EVERYTHING is scheduled and because it seems so scientific and fool-proof (which it really isn’t – 38% success rate for under 35s) it can be very hard to deal with when that doesn’t work out. And I feel that my surrendering to the smaller unknown that you have with IVF will help me accept any eventuality with grace.
Because the truth is… The Show MUST Go On. Right after my near-crying blood test appointment, and I mean 2 mins after I got a call for an interview for a job which I went on to secure. A job opportunity that has been a long time in the making and I am so excited for. Like I said before we are so multidimensional and we live multifaceted lives and the one thing infertility has taught me is to keep it moving. You simply do not have a choice, because you still have to work, be a wife, be a friend, a sister. We allowed our desire to become parents consume a huge part of our lives and we put a lot of things on hold because were always planning for that baby. I don’t subscribe to that way of living anymore and instead, I want to be like water; occupying spaces that welcome me and moving past ones that do not. I also want balance. My only life mantra is to always seek balance in EVERYTHING. While my desire for a baby is very real and very strong, I also desire to be happy with what I have, as I am. As we approach our 3-year mark (in Jan 2020) of trying to conceive, ‘I will not mistake it as a dead bloom. For this season isn’t for rising, just yet.’ But in other aspects, January marks new beginnings, which one must make room for, for the light to enter; starting IVF and starting my new job.
The Show Must Go On. ‘And I surrender to the soft, the sweet and the sorrow’. Have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones and a happy arrival into the New Year.
Love & (all of the) Light(s)
Oh, the blessing. Oh, the blessing.
Can’t you see, what God has done.
– Jesus Is King, Sunday Service Collective
So the truth is, I hadn’t really been into the ‘Christian God’ thing for quite a while… I was always spiritual to a degree, spiritual including feeling things from my ancestors and I always believed there was/is a higher power, something bigger than us, something we owe our own individual power to. Organised religion was and still is not for me… I think when you know too much it becomes increasingly difficult to continue to believe in a concept that just doesn’t ring true to you. And although I was raised a Christian, this is how I feel about organised religion; the focus is way too much on the church and the pastor and other physical things of the world than it is about a true one-on-one relationship and experience with God. So I don’t subscribe to the organised (for man) part of religion and when I initially intended to write this post I had very different feelings about God and in particular where fertility was concerned. However, dealing with infertility, led me down a path of seeking, of searching for understanding and it is from that space that I reached out to God.
I was watching Bishop TD Jakes’ sermon today and he said that God is a God of intention and that he sets things up, sometimes to prepare you for something bigger and sometimes to show you that he is still God even if, as in my case I wasn’t really checking for him at the time. It made made think about the time I ended up in hospital with pelvic pain which I talked about in my first blogpost and how at that point we had been trying to conceive for over 2 years and how even then I had no intentions of seeing someone about our struggle because in my mind I had planned to see someone if we were not pregnant by January 2020. But out of nowhere I had this pain I have never had in my entire life, which was preceded by 7 days of light spotting and ended up in hospital for 2 nights and at the end of it had senior nurses and senior doctors telling me that 2 years is too long to be trying without seeking any medical help and that they will be referring me to a gynaecologist. Note how they did not give me the option to do so myself via my GP. As I was listening to TD Jakes I realised that if that hospital incident did not happen, I would still be in the dark about ALL that we have discovered about our fertility in the last 6months, we would still be trying not knowing that we have a male factor which significantly reduces our chances for spontaneous (natural) conception, because in my basic mind, we were going to seek help in January. Are you getting what I’m saying right now?! We are on the verge of starting IVF treatment and God-willing having a family soon, and the thought that if that incident had not occurred we would still be where we were in March, right now, fills me with tears because God in his omniscient mind made sure we were on the trajectory that we are on now. God is in the detail.
When we started our investigations, I was initially okay but with the waiting and the results, and another day/month not falling pregnant, it increasingly became very difficult not to be consumed by everything and I started looking for churches in my area. But again when you know too much, and know yourself too much I didn’t want to go to a church and pretend to be connecting and experiencing God when I wasn’t and I honestly have no shame about knowing what I am seeking in terms of the presence and experience of God and I remembered how Bishop TD Jakes’ ‘Woman Thou Art Loosed’ album saved my mother through what was such a painful and horrible time for her. It was the 90s and I was very young at the time but now as an adult, knowing what it was she was going through and how we spent full days in worship to this album over the school holidays in my Dad’s apartment in South Africa (while he was at work) and how she held on to God during this time. In my search for God, I searched for that same God that was there for my mother and I searched in Google for the ‘The Potters House’ UK because I knew that was the name of TD Jakes’ church and I thought he might have some version of his church somewhere in the UK, the same way they have Hillsong Churches everywhere now. What I found was even better… something he has been doing but I had no idea was available, I found his YouTube channel with recorded sermons from his church which were uploaded every Sunday. I could have cried seeing this and I internally wrestled with the tradition VS unconventional way of connecting with God argument and that whole notion that church is where 3 or more are gathered played on my mind and I kept asking myself, if I am going to watch this alone at home, is it right? Will God connect with me? But I asked myself the more important question; what rings Truer to you? That is, what will foster a genuine connection and experience with God that is personal and about YOU & GOD? Then I thought about the unconventional in un_fertility and I thought I am out here campaigning essentially for unconventional routes to fertility yet I am here wrestling with the idea of an unconventional route to God. When TD Jakes said God sets things up…. He wasn’t lying! God is in the detail.
So for the last few months, I have been tuning in every Sunday to Bishop TD Jakes’ sermons on YouTube and it has been the weekly dose I need/ed to gain renewed perspective on our fertility journey. I talk a lot about the everyday of infertility being hard but because God led me/us on this path of discovery and the investigations and the outcome, I have found the journey less hard because we know now… we know what the issue is and what the “solution” is. I initially started watching the sermons on my own but now my husband sometimes joins me and he takes away his own perspective. For me personally, coming back to God… I don’t really like the word ‘back’ in this because back implies you are returning in the same way and to the same thing which for me is not the case because I am completely re-innovating the way I seek and receive God. But anyway coming back to God has shown me even when I am wavering, he isn’t, that even when I am not seeking him, he is constantly seeking me… a few days before I got married, one of my really good friends Kudzi said to me “I want to pray for you because I feel like you don’t think or realise what God can do for you. Is there anything in particular you want me to pray for?” At the time as I previously mentioned, I wasn’t down with God like that and I wasn’t even thinking about God to be honest and what she said is only making sense to me now, because it’s true I did not believe that God did things for me, I believed I made decisions that bear different consequences and that the Higher Power gave me that freedom and power to exercise. I did not believe in a God, I believed in an ideology of a higher power, something abstract, something very general. But I replied to my friend and I said “I am worried I won’t be able to have children” – this was 15months ago when I said these words and even with that frame of thinking it was not until 6 months ago that God forced me into a position that I had to be referred for fertility assistance. I can’t say this enough, God is in the detail.
I was talking to Dionne of Love Laid Bare during a recording of a podcast (coming soon) and I was telling her the story of how un_fertility came about and I was just explaining to her that for a long time before I started it I had this strong pulling towards something but I didn’t know what, all I knew was I needed to be doing something ‘meaningful to help women’, this was all the clarity I was getting from the energies I was receiving and at the time I was barely on social media, in fact I despised it and the more clarity I gained, it was Instagram that I was going to use. And here is something I haven’t told anyone yet, in my quest to find this meaningful concept/platform/business for women, I actually began preliminary work and research on a clothing line for “unconventional” women like me. I had spoken to different designers, I was getting a logo done, a manifesto, a business plan etc… this all started in February. And in March that’s when I ended up in hospital – on abcompletely different trajectory. God. Is. In. The. Detail. I have a lot of women following my story who have their own private stories which they haven’t shared with me but they are learning/becoming informed or gaining perspective through my story. I have met women who have shared their IVF success stories with me, one who I consider to be my mentor in all this. I have had opportunities to speak on radio and a podcast about infertility – opportunities to break the silence, shame and stigma. All of this would not have happened if I had not been willing to share my story and more importantly all of this would not have happened if I had not been receptive to what God was trying to show me and where he was leading me. The entire 6month journey would have not have happened If I had missed him – in the detail – because I was so focussed on the outcome I wanted.
I still believe that as christians we are constantly telling couples who are dealing with infertility to pray, pray and pray and not telling them to seek help. I do not subscribe to that way of thinking because it encourages denial and perpetuates the stigma around infertility. Even with God in your life/heart, I encourage anyone to seek medical help for medical problems. Although I have reconnected with God, I have not prayed the prayer asking Him for a child/ren, what I have prayed for is understanding – I have prayed for God to equip me with the mind-frame I need to endure this process, and more so now as we enter the realms of IVF. I have prayed for acceptance, for peace in our current reality, I have prayed to maintain joy outside of this process. And with all that God has shown me in the last 6 months alone, I pray for His will to be done and I pray I continue to be receptive to his will.
Because God is in the detail – and not in the outcome alone.