I’ve followed a number of the the TTC / Fertility podcasts and instagrammers for a while and have been humbled by the stories shared. My mind always centres on:
1) The positive side of social media allowing women to have a space to talk about issues not previously discussed
2) The glaring omission of people of colour yet again in this space. It’s different from work I think in that this affects all women. When they are there, they are anonymous.
3) An idea of what to expect were I to navigate IVF.
Full disclosure I was that older mum. Tested pregnant a few weeks after I turned 37, considered high risk because I was over 35 (geriatric pregnancy) and a just borderline their BMI threshold (can’t remember) yet the pregnancy and birth were uneventful. We conceived naturally, however we (I) had just been referred to a gynaecologist and was on a potential IVF route. I knew I could get pregnant, yet it just wasn’t happening.
I remember leaving the consultation thinking that’s it, it won’t happen, mentally gave up, got drunk knocked on my fellas hotel room (we were both in Manchester for work) in the middle of the night and hey presto! (He’s convinced we conceived on that drunken night in a Premier Inn)
I like to think it was a romantic weekend on a trip to Brighton in a charming Airbnb later that week. Who knows, who cares I was pregnant. I am a mum and became one before 40, the something I prayed for earnestly.
Round two: we were both happy with the one and thought no more. (Uttered those words repeatedly! Be mindful of the words you speak) The birth was normal and uneventful. I didn’t want to push, in case I pooped and I couldn’t quite push her out.
The doctors came in and were like you’ve been in active labour for 15 minutes we need to assist. I resisted, we agreed to a ventous delivery and as they were prepping their instruments for an assisted delivery (not my birth plan) my midwife who’d prevented them from coming in earlier and had supported me the past hour, gave me that eye any African would give, silently willing me to do this unassisted.
When I felt the contraction, I called out for her by name to help me get my baby out! (Completely ignoring the three doctors looking at my fanny and asking my partner to look at the head (he was under orders not to look down there) and saying all sorts of encouraging words).
She encouraged me to push that baby out unassisted and I probably pooped on the bed but hey, no instruments or incisions were made in my delivery.
The pain of child birth mentally traumatised me to the point of thinking I couldn’t do it again. They say time makes women forget the pain of giving birth and your body literally splitting in two. I did. And after her first birthday, I wanted another. My partner was not keen. It took awhile for us to get on the same page. I was past 39 at this point.
As I write this, I recently celebrated my 41st birthday. 41! I always wanted at least 4 children (that won’t happen now, not naturally at least) now I’d like another, however it hasn’t happened.
I knew it might take a little time, believed it would happen but it hasn’t. I’m conscious I don’t want to get down about it. I don’t want to miss my little one growing up and what I currently have, so I’m conscious not to dwell on the fact it hasn’t happened yet.
I realise the U.K. having the NHS is a blessing and that for many, they could get at least a couple of rounds of IVF on the NHS however there are conditions. Having had a child, over 40, over weight (BMI), all count against you.
So we are in this strange twilight zone of being tested by the GP, then the consultants repeating those same tests, based on your cycle, and deciding if we want to pay for IVF dependent on what the baseline results show. When all ‘looks fine’ on paper.
I am in the privileged position of being able to afford at least 2/3 cycles however…. do I want to do that? Not a limiting mindset in anyway, the reality is I am happy with my life, I would like another child so my child can have a sibling and remember I said I always desired 4, however do I want to spend thousands of pounds for something that may not come to pass? The mental roller coaster of emotions that I know will ensue and will I mentally and physically recover?
I share this because as an African woman I am looking for these fertility stories and don’t see them. I am writing this because I was inspired after listening to Dr Zoe on the Fertility Life Raft and her thoughts.
A few months ago a ‘black’ female blogger was talking about how she had comments from women in their 30s struggling to conceive and she said she couldn’t understand why they’d waited?!
I was taken aback by that insensitive comment and surprised it came from her as I was that person, granted I had one a lot later, but it wasn’t solely about the career or goals, it was about waiting for the right man. This was important for me coming from a broken home. I ‘get’ what she may have been trying to communicate but she could have been more sensitive about what others may be going through.
I subsequently unfollowed her and I remember thinking how this is the reason we don’t talk about what we are going through. Because people from our community will judge and point fingers.
When really it’s about having that space to be able to say this is my journey, this is what I am going through, if you can’t support me, can you direct me to someone who understands what I am going through without judgement.
I’d be interested to hear thoughts.