Time: 3am. Date: 4th November 2007. Location: Great Exuma, The Bahamas.
Three hours into my 40th year and I was in SCREAMING AGONY. The white hot pain stabbed repeatedly into my left side. The rest of my body though was cold. So cold that I was shivering despite the warmth of the night and the heat of the pain. Tears streamed down my checks in torrents. Andrew had scrabbled through bags and drawers to find some pain killers. By that time I didn’t care what he found as long he found something. Having swallowed the proffered pills I begged Andrew to turn out the light again. I wrapped the darkness around me like a blanket and waited for my breathing to become less erratic as the pain was blunted by drugs. The darkness heightened my fear yet it was preferable to seeing my terror reflected in Andrew’s eyes. Although we didn’t realise it at the time we were standing on the edge of the infertility abyss.
Having been “charting” for a couple of years I knew that I was probably ovulating. I’d had twinges a couple of times at this time of the month: however, in the past they had been very minor and only lasted a few minutes. This time, however, the severity of the pain and its duration suggested that something was very amiss with my left ovary. Later in the day, reassured that my condition wasn’t life threatening Andrew and I became determined to enjoy the rest of holiday. We took it easy though and didn’t go rushing around the Island as we had on other visits. In this curtailed version of exploring Paradise we were aided by the aftermath of Hurricane Noel whose recent side-swipe had left many parts of Exuma inaccessible to hire cars.
The next two weeks passed in a blur of pain killers and, I have to confess, regular evening doses of Gin: “mother’s ruin” is a great muscle relaxer. Eventually we were back under the watchful “eye” of the Great British NHS and booking a doctor’s appointment. After the slight red-herring of “you’ve got a kidney infection” mooted by my parents-in-law’s GP I finally got home and saw my own doctor. I say “my doctor”, although I’d never met Dr Harley before as I was never ill. However, after listening to my symptoms and charting history he concluded that I really did know my own body and I was referred to see a gynaecologist. Eight months later I had my first surgery to remove adhesions caused by Stage 4 endometriosis.
During the post-op consultation I was told I had one of the worst frozen pelvises the surgeon had ever seen and that my chances of conceiving naturally were practically zero. A referral to the hospital’s IVF clinic was made on the spot before Andrew and I walked out of the building to face a very different future to the one we had expected. Before 3am on the morning of my 40th birthday I had no symptoms at all. No pain. Periods so regular you could set your clock by them. Yes we had been “trying” for a couple of years but investigations hadn’t indicated that there was anything wrong. I’d even conceived a few years earlier only to have a miscarriage at nine weeks.
The trip to the Bahamas had been planned to maximise the alignment of ovulation and the new moon (I will explain in a later post). So here we were, standing outside the John Radcliff in Oxford gasping for breath and yelling for the world to stop because we wanted to get off. The rug had been pulled out from under our feet, to name one of a million clichés appropriate to the situation, and suddenly we were standing on the edge of the infertility abyss. Eight years down the line and I’m still coming to terms with my infertility: acceptance is very much “work in progress”. So my blog is not only about where I am now it is also about what happens next. As I look into ways that will help me move forward I hope that, by sharing my experiences and research, it can help other people who are struggling to accept their infertility too.
No matter where you are in your journey towards accepting infertility I would love to hear from you. So if anything that I have written has struck a chord please write something in the comments or email me.