Infertility comes in about a billion different forms- from those who simply cannot conceive due to sheer bad luck, to those involved in accidents and illnesses that take away the precious opportunity to have a baby to those like me who are going through early menopause.
In a few weeks I’ll turn 24, the age my mother was when she gave birth to me and perhaps that’s why this blog post is being shared now. I’m at an age where friends are getting engaged, a few are walking down the aisle and several have children or are currently pregnant. Your mid-20s are a wonderful time of exploring who you are as an adult. Gone are the days of being a teenager and hanging out in university halls, gone are your early 20s where you panicked and wondered what the hell life was going to throw at you. No, your mid-20s are all about enjoying being an adult and enjoying and looking forward to those major life steps such as moving in with your boyfriend, moving to a different city, getting on the career ladder and drinking £8 a go cocktails. As I look at myself, I’m exceptionally happy with what I am at 23/24- I’m living with the man of my dreams, I’m about to finish a degree, I’m being paid to write and do various social media stuff and I have a cracking selection of handbags in my wardrobe.
But I’m also at a time when I dislike myself the most. I was diagnosed with early menopause two years ago this month. I was 21 and my whole life fell apart there and then. It’s taken me two shockingly difficult years to pull myself round and be someone who can manage a career and uni work, be someone who can cope with seeing an advert on TV for Kiddicare and someone who can get dressed on a morning with a smile and look forward to the day ahead.
My diagnosis did not surprise me one bit. In fact, it was me who first suggested to the doctor I may be suffering from early menopause but he ruled it out and at first diagnosed PCOS but something in me, don’t ask what, just knew. So I kept and diary and went back to the doctors over and over. I was in hospital several times, I had so many blood tests and swabs taken that I felt like a human pincushion. But in April 2011, my fears were backed up with seemingly medical proof. I was offered counselling which I took via university and I cried and laughed through the sessions until my allocated sessions were up and the university had to let me go to help someone else.
I was confident for a long while and, naturally, it was only certain things that would set me back and I’d often put feeling sensitive towards a friend’s pregnancy or seeing amazing cute baby clothes down to my crazy hormones. If menopause does one thing, it sends your emotions into haywire and I’ll often find myself crying because we’ve run out of milk or because the jeans I want to wear are in the washing machine. Luckily for me, work keeps me focused and it’s proven the thing that takes my mind off everything.
But I have lived with heartbreaking infertility for two years now and I’m perhaps suffering with the pain of it more than ever. One thing I hate is being told I can adopt/foster/have egg donation or IVF. My yearning for a child of my own- with the DNA of me and that of my beautiful other half- literally tears me apart. Whilst I’d never rule out any of those options, right now I am feeling selfish and if I can’t have a baby of my own then I don’t want one at all. Perhaps some find that black and white option not very positive but, for me, it helps me cope. Black or white. Baby or no baby. A life of eternal happiness versus constantly wondering if I’m missing out.
I’m at such an exciting time in my life- graduating, an ace career in social media to look forward to, moving to London with R- but the loss I feel knowing my future will never involve a child is unreal. The pain when it truly hits you that your life will be one without a child feels like it’s cutting you right in half, it feels like the world is seriously ending, it feels like you’re falling forever, it feels like the cruelness of it all has turned into a physical being and is twisting a knife right through your heart over and over and over.
To know I’ll have to go through another 15 years or so of friends, colleagues and family members announcing their own pregnancies terrifies me. Because, right now, every time a friend announces their pregnancy I smile and say congratulations but I am so sad for me. So sad that I spend days sobbing and wondering “why the fuck is this happening to us?!” Of course, I think my friends have beautiful children and I’m proud of each and every one of them as they make their way through parenthood. I’d never not want them to be parents but I will always wonder what it’s like. From watching your baby bump grow to the crazy experience of labour to the 5am feeds and baby sick ruining your favourite Whistles shirt.
And it’s not just your future that infertility takes away, it’s your identity. The main thing I’ve struggled with over the last two years is my role as a woman in society. Perhaps through the black cloud of depression that unsurprisingly followed my diagnosis, I instantly thought that because I was unable to carry a child, it meant I was worthless as a woman. Indeed, it’s still a thought that crosses my mind at least once a day. I’ve gone through times where I didn’t see the point in wearing my favourite dresses, applying lipstick, painting my nails or doing any of the other things that were typically feminine. I felt I didn’t deserve to be a woman. I felt like those able to get pregnant and give birth were worth so much more. Surely women were put on this world to carry children? So what was the the point of me?
But I’ll tell you what the point of me is- it’s to be the best girlfriend, daughter, step-sister and friend I can be.
As I progress forward and out of the latest infertility induced fog, I’m discovering who Hollie-Anne is without the thought of a baby in her life. Who is she going to be? What else does she want out of life? And how can she be the best person she can for those other people in her life who laugh at her crap jokes, compliment her latest ridiculous statement necklace and wipe away her tears during the bad times?
There will always be a huge, huge, huge part of me that is owned by my lack of being able to have a baby but I need to take control of the other part of me that isn’t owned by that- namely, my identity and personality.
Being infertile really does make you lose yourself and you will spend the rest of your life wondering “what if…” but you need to fight through that and not lose sight of the person you were before. For me, I need to remember I am a cracking bet when it comes to being part of a digital agency, that I am actually a very kind and caring girlfriend, that people like to be around me because I am quirky and make them laugh. I need to not forget that I AM A WOMAN. I am a woman who loves finding an ace new restaurant, a woman who secretly likes playing Style Boutique on the Nintendo DS, a woman who has a shit load to give to a marriage, to friendships, to life.
The truth about being infertile is that is the most crushing thing I think anyone can ever go through but it’s there, it’s a fact and it’s not going to ruin my life. Through the extreme pain, through the sobbing and through the inevitable moments of pure anguish and anger, I vow to remember I am more than an infertile woman- I am a great woman.
For anyone reading this who is going through a similar thing- hold your head up, you are strong and beautiful and brave. Life is crazy. Enjoy the ride for what it is and do whatever it is you have to do to cope. I suggest a glass of wine. So here’s to the brave women of the world- fertile or infertile- cheers!