Becoming One of 'Those 'Couples
We welcome Chloë Byrne to the Disko Kids blog.
I’m Chloë. Since becoming a mum I have really felt the need to talk about stuff, stuff that affects me now, stuff that has affected me in the past, the same sort of stuff that affects thousands of other people just like me who want to be mums, or have just become mums.
I now have a beautiful, fourteen month old son, but like everyone, I went on a journey to get to where I am, and if some of the things I mention help anyone or you can identify with them, then mission accomplished. I’ve felt a bit alone at times with what I've gone through over the last four years, and it would have been nice to hear/read a voice I identified with. I know everyone is busy writing about their feelings on the internet but f*ck it, so am I now!!
It makes sense to start at the beginning…
I left my PA job under a cloud of bullying, depression, HR meetings, anxiety, doctors appointments, tears and insomnia. I was working for a complete dickhead who quite frankly was making my life hell.
We decided I would take some time off to regroup a bit and deal with the planning for our impending wedding (that's a full time job right? I mean, it literally is some people's full time job...that's what I told myself anyway), and of course, come off the pill.
I was never a career girl, who was I kidding, I wanted to be Ma Larkin, bake bread, be constantly preggers, raise my brood and live on a farm in deepest Kent (somewhere DPD could still deliver ASOS though obviously), with the odd trip up to London to eat dim sum and drink prosecco with my pals etc etc. Oh what an existence! My husband had recently gone freelance and was earning more money, and we had a little dog who we were paying a fortune for Doggy Day Care (yes that’s a thing). So it seemed like a no brainer to be at home for the time being…
Roll on a few months and we got married, and in very quick succession we moved back down to my neck of the woods, Kent. Should I go back to work? In a new area? Well, I didn’t have a ‘career’ as such , I was a PA, not really by choice, I just fell in to it (I did History of Art at university). We also knew that as soon as we got married we would start PROPERLY trying for a baby (not just 'seeing what happened' which is what we had been doing so far) and of course we would definitely get pregnant immediately once we PROPERLY started trying, so there wasn't really any point getting a new job seeing as I was going to be prego REALLY SOON. *oh how I LOL at this ridic decision now*
Time went on with us expecting to get pregnant every month - I mean I had stopped taking the pill, I was definitely going to get pregnant! I know some people struggle, but I knew that wasn’t going to be us, no way man. We were meant to be and therefore so were our future babies! I knew I was ovulating because I had started to use the ovulation sticks that told me exactly when I was fertile, so it was going to happen ANY DAY NOW. Any day.
Time went by. I was starting to get really uneasy about not working…it was quite frankly, a bit embarrassing, and a conversation stopper. I started to look at local jobs, the money was appalling, it was pointless. Jobs in London were pointless too once you took the expense of the commute into account (thanks SouthEastern). I didn’t like talking about it, I was defensive about it. I felt indignant that up until a couple of decades ago no one would have given a shit if you were a 'housewife' or a stay at home mum! Even if your 'child' was actually a dog. Ahem. Anyway, I was panicking a bit, I totally knew it was weird that I still wasn’t working. I was also panicking because I still wasn’t pregnant. Double anxiety that probably didn't help the 'baby' situation or make me very pleasant to live with (sorry Dave).
Time was marching on and still each month I was in the ‘not pregnant’ camp. I was met with the same contradictory emotions every month of being really shocked and confused as to why I was getting my period, yet also completely expecting it and knowing deep down that it would arrive just as it had the month before.
I had always been a bit arty, so I thought hey I know - let’s get on the craft bandwagon and start something amazing and cool and current and fun. So I set up my own little craft business, which started doing really well on Etsy and I was happy for a bit. I could still tell that some of my friends and family were a bit funny that I didn’t have a proper job. I hadn't told any of them about my baby concerns and had tried to give an impression of being really chilled out about starting a family - I mean it was actually really GOOD that I wasn’t pregnant before the wedding, it was actually really GOOD that I didn’t get pregnant straight away because you know, we wanted to enjoy being newlyweds for a bit blahblahblah YEAH RIGHT.
*In retrospect I don’t know why I gave such a shit about what other people thought, why I put on a front about not wanting to be pregnant or why I didn't really confide in anyone about not getting pregnant, but I guess, as Madonna sang, ‘It’s Human Naturrrre’*
It made me uncomfortable and I just didn’t feel like me. I felt unsure speaking about my craft business because I felt a bit self conscious about it, and I was still living my life as if I was about to get up the duff - not giving anything 100% because I KNEW I was going to have to stop everything reeeeeally soon, you know, when I had the baby. It occupied my every thought and was the massive elephant in the room. I just wanted to be a mum. That was the only job I ever really and consistently wanted to do since about 1984, and I wasn’t getting to do it. Everything was on hold - holidays were a risk because by the time they came around I’d ‘be pregnant’, hen dos were risky because again, I’d ‘be pregnant’ by the time I’d paid my deposit for a weekends worth of booze. I was even anticipating being pregnant at my best friend’s wedding where I was a bridesmaid and wondering if the bridesmaid dress would look ok with a bump.
I started to get a really horrible feeling that something was wrong. I still wasn’t pregnant, so what the hell were we doing wrong?? We were trying absolutely everything, and we definitely weren’t ‘seeing what might happen’ anymore. Bonking every night (or every other night depending which month it was and what advice I’d read), legs in the air afterwards so ‘it’ didn’t leak out (bleugh), special lube that didn’t ‘KILL SPERM’ , in fact it actually mimicked your natural lubrication and encouraged the sperm to make their merry way up to the egg… hmmm. I was a bit frantic - I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have a baby. What was the point of me and my life! I had gone down an unemployed, childless rabbit hole and I couldn't get out!
I visited the GP. He agreed that I definitely should be pregnant by now. I had wanted him to agree with me, and was prepared to 'go mental' if he said we should keep on trying, but at the same time I felt shocked and upset that a professional also agreed that something definitely wasn't right with us. It was the confirmation I was hoping for, yet absolutely dreading.
I had some simple tests - all fine, I had some not so simple tests - still all fine. Then we moved on to my husband being tested.
I’ll always remember the day the GP called to discuss our results. I was literally shaking when I got off the phone (I know that sounds dramatic but adrenaline makes you go bonkers). He’d insisted on speaking to my husband and not being able to share his results with me, which obviously meant that something was wrong. To cut a medium length story short, we needed some help, and it was really unlikely we would ever get pregnant naturally.
It turned out my husband’s sperm didn’t know what day of the week it was. Ok that’s not the ‘official’ diagnosis, but it may as well be. Some weren’t going in the right direction, some weren’t moving at all, some were just plain deformed and even if they were going in the right direction they would never complete their mission!
We were being referred for IVF. I just couldn’t believe this was happening…I knew something wasn't right, but the reality of being one of 'those couples - an' 'infertile couple' was horrible. I didn’t want to be one of those couples, I wanted to be like Ma Larkin and have baby after baby after baby after baby after baby…just by LOOKING AT DAVE. You know - one of those couples.
*I know these results in the grand scheme of life and health weren’t that bad as results go - I do have perspective on this - but at that point in our lives it was pretty earth shattering news and rather hard to get my head round*
Once it had sunk in a bit and I had stopped feeling sorry for myself (and poor old Dave!), I started to feel a strange sense of relief. There was a reason for us not getting pregnant, we weren’t doing anything wrong, it was already set that it wasn’t going to happen regardless of what we did (or how we did it..!). Most of Dave’s sperm might not know what day of the week it was, but SOME of them did. Some of them did know which direction to go in and some of them did know what to do once they arrived at their destination. It was those few and far between little tadpoles that our IVF specialist would need to get hold of by the scruff of the neck and introduce rather formally to my eggs.
If we were going to start fertility treatment then I would need to be available at random and inconvenient times and would need time off from work, it was starting to be a good thing that I was an unemployed layabout…
I started to get excited about the process we were at the beginning of, something I could help organise, something I could actually participate in. Something I could research. Ironically, I started to feel like I had some control in my life for the first time in a long time, I started to feel like I had a sense of purpose and a goal that, with the help of the wonderful NHS, I could perhaps achieve.
The other thing I had, was something to talk about. Something important that, after an initial month or two of feeling embarrassed and ashamed that we were one of those couples, became my reality and something I just needed to face up to and tell my friends and family that we were going through it. The sense of relief I had once it became common knowledge with them all was enormous. By talking about it and allowing people to ask me questions I somehow managed to ‘reclaim’ my fertility situation and feel like I had a sense of some control over it. My friends asked me questions they had always wondered about when it came to IVF and I was happy to fill them in. It was in the hands of the doctors (or the lap of the Gods, depending on what you put your faith in) and I trusted them. I really believed they were going to help me have a baby and become a mother.
Our fertility journey is the most important journey I have ever been on, and when we were going through it I was desperate to read anything at every stage of the subject that I could identify with. I struggled. I hope that some of what I’ve written helps anyone who is going through the same thing. This is only the very beginning of what went on to be over a year and a half of painful, emotional ups and downs, and there are lots more stories from along the way, but we got there in the end. I’m typing this with the monitor next to me, listening to my fourteen month old son shuffling about in his cot, with the odd murmur of ‘mama’ every now and then in his sleep, and knowing that I really wouldn't take a moment of our ‘journey’ back, he was totally worth it.
You can follow Chloë on Instagram here
& her blog here