Three Long Years

It’s been three years now since we started trying to conceive a second child. Almost two years since our devastating secondary infertility diagnosis. And almost a year since our final attempt at IVF spectacularly failed.

Time is passing and my longing for another pregnancy, and more importantly another child to love and nurture does not diminish. It still sits heavy as a stone in the deepest part of my heart. Maternal instinct is a base desire, not a longing that I can control, and so I know it will remain, even if the intensity wanes.

I never imagined that I’d be someone who counted off so many years of trying, and failing, to conceive. Well, who does?

To clarify, I’d imagined infertility, I just did not imagine how it might weigh me down. Before we began trying for our first child, I expected to run into some difficulties. My complex health history made me believe it wasn’t going to straightforward. But back then I was naive. I thought if it didn’t work out then I would find a way to be okay with that, because I was prepared for the possibility. I certainly didn’t think I’d cry over every period for all eternity, or count off the months of failure one by one, always knowing exactly how many had passed.

And I don’t know, perhaps I would have been some approximation of alright if fate had destined us to be childless. To think about not having Thomas now hurts with an intensity I cannot put in to words. But if I’d never known him, and the joy he brings I could not miss him with that same passion. It would obviously have been different had we been able to have no children, rather than only one. I would be a different person and it’s impossible to know how I would have coped. I had so many consolation plans. Plans for an entirely different life. I knew we’d have extra money, I’d have more opportunities to invest in my career. I’d planned the places we’d go and the experiences we could enjoy. I guess in trying to have a child I was making a choice between having a family or completing other exciting life goals; the things that study, poor health and other circumstances had contrived to deny me in my twenties. I wanted a family, but the alternative was palatable enough – exciting enough, even – that it might just have been alright.

And it’s not as simple as saying that my current reality is not “alright”. I wouldn’t trade having my amazing boy in my world for anything at all. Nothing. I wouldn’t even change him for two children if neither of those were him. But having only one child whilst wanting more leaves you in a limboland where the absence is particularly acute. We’re still parents. But we’re also still incomplete. And if happiness is related to the difference between your expectations and reality, then I’ve fallen through the crack between both of my anticipated realities in to the one situation I did not foresee and so it’s unsurprising that it’s come with a weight of sadness. And whilst I know for sure that career achievements, exciting world travel or even learning to fly a plane are no replacement for, or in any way comparable to, having a family of your own, they must surely provide a better means of distraction from what you do not have. Instead I am confronted day in and day out at the school gates and swimming lessons, or the local soft play centre and playground, by other parents with their broods of siblings, or the buggy pushing mothers with their round beach ball bellies as proud evidence of the next addition to come. I cannot run, never mind hide.

In the last three years that we’ve been trying in vain to grow our family, I’ve seen people go from not yet being pregnant with a first child to having two children. It’s hard to shake that feeling of being stuck in the slow lane whilst everyone else accelerates past, reaching the destination that I long for, but can never attain.

I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s still hard. Even after all this time. And despite having Thomas – I’ve said it before but it always bears repeating that my sadness does not reflect a lack of gratitude for what I do have. I’m still allowed to mourn what I do not.

I think it always will be hard. But I recognise that it’s a bit like other forms of grief. It began as an endless ocean with soaring waves that I could neither avoid nor see past. Gradually the waves diminished a little, but they’d still strike me unbidden with no warning of their approach, often overwhelming me in the process. More recently the calm periods have felt a little longer. I can often predict the waves before they hit, even if I can’t avoid them entirely. I’m a little better at riding the storms. I go under less frequently. I know the ups and downs, the waves and the storms, will continue. But I also hope they’ll continue to lessen in their frequency and impact.

Three years is a long time to try for a baby. A long time to spend counting days and hoping. No one expects it to take so long. No one wants to believe that they will be the ones for whom there is no resolution, no miracle. No happy ending. So no one plans for how to stop counting. We’re not actually trying any more. We can’t pursue any further fertility treatment and even adoption is, currently, a blocked road. For obvious reasons we don’t use contraception, but we’re not “trying”.

Still that little flicker of disbelief that this is where I find myself burns on. Unconsciously I suppose I still hope for a miracle. I still cry each and every time my period arrives. That is increasingly infrequently these days, which at least reduces how many times I face the hurt of that particular reminder of what is not to be, but in itself reminds me of the ever worsening state of the situation. The dwindling chance of a biological possibility of a miracle. Sometimes I wonder if using contraception would help cement the absolute reality of the fact that we will not conceive. If I was actively trying to prevent a pregnancy, would I be better able to move forwards without counting how many months have passed?

No. Probably not.

There is no conclusion to this really. I’m in no doubt that those waves of sadness will keep coming and when I focus on it, infertility will always hurt. But for the majority of the time the joy in the family I have surpasses the disappointment of the unfulfilled dream. That’s a positive, three years down this endless winding road that began on that fateful September day three years ago where we committed to “trying again” without a thought at all to the possibility of failure.

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11 Replies to “Three Long Years”

  1. Three years is indeed a lot of counting, and a lot of daily encounters that sting but in terms of processing the grief of that absolute ‘no’ it’s really not that long, and I think you’re doing brilliantly. Your love for Thomas shines through everything you write and there’s never the sense that you’ve let infertility become your primary personality trait, which big loss so often can. And hopefully in time the grief orbit will get a bit bigger and the hurt come less often.

    1. Thank you Carie. You are right, of course, that whilst it has been three years of trying, the actual grief part has been a smaller amount of time. And I do know that whilst time may never heal entirely, it does definitely soften the edges. I’ve worked hard not to let it consume me, and I suppose I should be proud that it hasn’t.

    1. Thanks Donna. There is really nothing anyone can say, but it helps to know that people are reading, perhaps understanding a bit and offering their support x

  2. Hello, I stumbled across your blog quite by accident a month or so ago as I was waiting for the outcome of our final IVF attempt. Sadly it was negative and your post could have been written by me! We too have been trying for a second baby now for exactly three years and I feel like I’ve been living in a strange alternate reality for most of it. I hope we both find peace with it, it can be done I am told. Sending you virtual hugs from a stranger who totally gets it xx

    1. Thank you for commenting. I’m sorry that you are in the position that you “get it” but it’s always helpful to know I’m not alone. Sometimes it feels as though everyone else eventually gets their miracle. I hope that some of blog ramblings have been useful, and that it also helps you to know you are not alone xx

      1. I know what you mean about feeling as though everyone else eventually gets their miracle, alas that does not appear to be the case for us either, I had a similarly face slapping letter from our consultant that pretty much put paid to any hope for a miracle, natural or otherwise. My daughter was also conceived quickly and easily so it’s all been very weird that this is how things have panned out for us. Your blog has certainly helped me 🙂

        1. I still find it bewildering that it can all go so wrong so fast. I’m so glad that we didn’t wait any longer to try for the first time. It’s hard sometimes not to feel that it’s a bit unfair. Hope you are recovering from your failed IVF and the letter ok. I’m always happy to talk x

          1. Thank you, and you xx It is unfair, I’m certainly still in that angry, unfair, slightly desperate phase where I think surely it will happen but I know it won’t. Keeping your blog is such a great thing, I had one when my daughter was a baby but I stopped writing it when she was about 16 months, I wish I hadn’t now, I wish I had recorded every precious moment x

          2. I still find it hard to believe that it won’t happen even though my head knows it. I still have this dream…

            It’s not too late to go back to blogging. I don’t record everything, by any means, and there are big chunks of time missing, but I’m so pleased I have the stuff I do, and that’s why I keep at it even if it’s infrequent. It has helped sometimes with offloading some of the infertility stuff too. c

  3. You definitely cop it from all angles being so engrained in the preschooler world when many people in your day-to-to-day life are expanding their families. It must be very very hard not to be able to escape from that. I’m not sure there is any constructive advice for this sort of situation, but I think acknowledging your emotions (as you do so eloquently here on your blog) must be a small help in some way.

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