The fourth story I've received is below ...thank you to the person who shared this.
I know some of you would like to tell your story and you don’t because you don’t have a website or a blog to put it on. NOW you do! I’m hosting stories (anonymous and public) on my blog. I can truly say from my own experience that the world will listen and be kind ❤️ Message me or tag someone who has a story the world needs to hear. (Ps. a list will do... no need for essays or eloquent prose) There's no deadline. Just know this offer is always there.
I’ve been a triathlon athlete for the past 4 years, along with my training partner, my strong and resilient husband.
The endurance preparation has been gruelling. The training has tested our strength, emotionally, physically and mentally, and has challenged our relationship time and time again. Our ultimate goal? To start a family.
There are of course multiple ways to be part of a family and parent, there’s no fixed or linear route. For us, it’s about giving a nurturing, loving home and support to a child, as parents. But we’re also prepared that this vision might not work out.
I write this anonymously. I’m not strong enough to go public yet. It isn’t intended to be a ‘poor me’ story. Simply that whether childfree by choice, or childless by circumstance, we are totally invisible, or viewed as career hungry/mad cat ladies.
There is no ‘miracle baby’ ending here, therefore it’s the type of journey most untold and still one of society’s greatest taboos. I believe it’s one to share.
Marathon 1: Jul 2015 - Oct 2016
Unexplained fertility led to three rounds of IVF. Experienced cysts, a non-shedding lining, a frosty baby that sadly didn’t survive the thaw, and during another round we got a BFP* after the dreaded 2 week wait, which days later turned to a *BFN. I know I was lucky to access IVF, other’s aren’t, so #ScreamforIVF.
Emotionally drained and body a wreck - I couldn’t face more gruelling IVF or the egg donation route - kudos to those who can. Counselling helped, I came to terms with the 5 stages of grief. We’d always considered adoption, and so had to wait the required 6 months between processes - we planned to begin early the next year.
Marathon 2: Jan 2017 - Mar 2017
A surprise natural pregnancy - WTF? We allowed ourselves to be cautiously optimistic, growing more confident daily, although we didn’t tell a soul. I miscarried on my actual scan date at 12 weeks to the day - you couldn’t make it up. I now know I can survive the worst day of my life so far. The midwife told me I was really strong, that what we’d been through would devastate most people, she asked if she could give me a hug, we cried.
We told our families and they flooded our house with flowers, this fell on Mother’s Day. I was taken aback by comments that we can try again, I know I can’t. I gained a new appreciation for grief, loss, trauma and reconciliation. My self care and recovery was to throw myself into work - I still believe it was the best and only thing to do.
Marathon 3: Jan 2018 - Present
One year later than intended, we’re finally ready to embark on adoption, which is understandably rigorous. We attend preparation group training, gain child care experience and have 8 months of weekly house visits by our social worker. The homework is incredibly intense and the process is hard, but almost cathartic. We agree that the 100 page report about our lives and capacity to parent, is the deepest of reflections and like having our own eulogies. I soak everything in to prepare for our future, including the sensible ACEs. We’re now approved and in the family finding phase - aka another big wait.
Literally everyone we’ve met through the adoption process - social workers, medical advisers, foster carers - are incredible and care deeply, it’s so affirming. But it’s a broken, archaic system they have to work in. Kids languish in care too long and if birth parents had not been failed in their own early years, then perhaps things would be very different.
We watch our fellow athletes become parents, they amaze us and give us hope to continue, but we still feel left behind, it creates a divide. We, the remaining few, keep going, holding tight to thoughtful actions of our closest network, who give us strength to outweigh the challenging social norms and daily insensitivities.
The irony is that for both my husband and I, our careers have been the most interesting over these years. We turn our pain into good work, people are kind and call me resilient. I call it survival - they don’t know 99% of what’s going on.
We know our story could be much worse - we have each other, our health and humour. Our partners are so often tasked with being the strong silent ones, they are forgotten - their feelings and emotions shouldn’t be neglected.
I thank, and am in awe of, many inspiring women who have shared their unique experiences openly and honestly: Jody Day, Sophie Sulheria, Simone Tai, Kelly Da Silva, Ariel Levy, Nicola Sturgeon, Bibi Lynch, Hannah Vaughan Jones (and Lewis), Katie Lindemann, Sally Donovan, Emma Sutton, and Jessica Zucker.
Christmas is challenging. More power to everyone out there who has/is experiencing or supporting any element of this endurance test. And in the wise words of Destiny’s Child, ‘I will survive, keep on surviving’.
Beyond the great support networks, some links:
Metro’s Fertility Month - Metro put this much-needed content focus on for a whole month.
Big Fat Negative - a podcast by Gabby and Emma on infertility.
Childfree women need a new storyline - The Pool.
GriefCast – a podcast on grief by Cariad Lloyd, with comedians.
The long road to baby - Sophie Sulehria podcast for BBC Radio 4.
Private Life a Netflix original film – bittersweet and honest look at IVF/adoption, although U.S adoption process very different.
BBC’s Four The Adoption - real life story from all perspectives of those involved.
Top 25 UK adoption blogs – does what it says.
* Big Fat Positive/Negative, the fertility abbreviation world is intense.