IVF: The Journey So Far

I realised today that it's been almost six months since I last wrote anything about our journey to parenthood. I haven't really gone into too much detail here, because this isn't only my story to share. It belongs to both of us. 

We've both had a lot of time to process what's next for us now, and ahead of another appointment today, and having just returned from an amazing family holiday to Cornwall which seems to have hit some sort of reset button (and explains the photo with our nephew) I thought it was about time for an update.

So, if you've been reading for a while, you'll know that back in November last year, we found out that there was no chance at all of us conceiving naturally, and that IVF would be our only option if we wanted to have a baby through pregnancy rather than adoption. 

D, my husband, had taken a semen sample to the hospital to be tested, precisely timed and nestled in his arm pit so it didn't get too cold. A week later, our doctor phoned while we were on holiday in Sweden, and initially he told us that there weren’t enough sperm in the sample to test, so it would have to be repeated. I was so relieved. So relieved that there was something wrong. My worst fear had that point had been that everything would be fine and we’d be sent away to carry on the monthly torment by ourselves, but no, this was something we could hopefully do something about. Also, not enough sperm must mean some sperm, right?

The test was repeated the following week and we went to the doctors together to discuss the results. It turns out not enough sperm did not mean there were some sperm. While the rest of the sample was made up of everything that’s supposed to be there, in both samples there had been a total volume of 0% sperm. Not even one. 

‘Not even one’, were my first words once we’d heard the prognosis. In that very moment we became part of a whole different system, a whole different community of people. We weren’t trying for a baby anymore, we were dealing with infertility.

The doctor told us about there are two different types of azoospermia, which is the medical name for an absence of sperm in the semen. Obstructive, where the testicles make sperm but it can’t get through because of a blockage or similar, and non-obstructive, where there is a problem with sperm production. He referred us to a fertility specialist at our local hospital to start investigating which D has, and explained that surgical sperm retrieval and IVF would be our only option if we wanted a biological child. 

We had to wait two months for that appointment, and sitting in the waiting room among all the other couples in January felt bizarre. How had we ended up here? This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. 

The specialist booked us both in for more blood tests, to check my egg reserves and to check D’s testosterone and FSH level, and also to check for any chromosome disorders and to make sure he wasn’t a carrier of cystic fibrosis. I also had an internal ultrasound to check my uterus and ovaries all looked ok. I’d been remarkably ok until the nurse turned the screen towards me, just like they do on the TV, when couples get the first glimpse of their growing babies, and showed me how very non-pregnant I was. Everything looked absolutely fine, but seeing something so inherently linked with having a baby when I wasn’t hammered the whole situation home. 

The doctor told us he suspected non-obstructive azoospermia, most likely caused because of an operation D had when he was child to lower his testicles, and that the blood test results would tell us more. This operation was routinely performed later in a boy’s life during the nineties, but more recently (because those boys of the nineties are now men trying for families) doctors have realised that if left too long, it could affect the fertility of as many as 90% of men who have had it. D was around seven when he had his, and it would now be done before a baby boy turns one.

So, off we went to get our bloods done, clutching a slip of paper with the details of Bourn Hall, a private fertility clinic. This set of blood tests would be the last we could have on the NHS because in our area, male factor infertility isn’t funded at all.

A few weeks later, in February this year, we were trapped in the depths of 'the beast from the east.’ However, we battled though the snow drifts to the Bourn Hall clinic in Cambridge to see their andrologist. Up until this point, we had no idea what the word andrologist even meant, but it transpires that it is the male equivalent of a gynaecologist and he would hopefully be able to give us some more answers. 

He looked at D’s test results, and confirmed that his low testosterone and high FSH level indicated non-obstructive azoospermia. He drew us a very nice squiggly diagram to explain, but basically his body wasn’t producing sperm properly, and his pituitary gland was shouting at his testicles to make some, hence the high FSH level.

He prescribed Clomid, which is off-lable and untested for use in men, and usually only prescribed to women. However, he said he had seen some very promising results and that it has been known to trigger increased sperm production in men in a similar position to D. 
After three months of taking Clomid, D would be booked in for surgical sperm retrieval, where the surgeon would search under a microscope for any sign of sperm, and freeze any he found.  

So, three months later, at the beginning of June, we headed back to Cambridge for D’s operation. We had been given a 30% chance of finding sperm, so were prepared for bad news, but I still felt incredibly anxious about how I would feel if we found out we could never have children that were biologically related to us both. I couldn’t imagine looking at our children and not seeing the man I have loved for 15 years in them, and I worried that D would use it as a weapon against himself when he was caught in the sometimes cruel and judgmental downs of bipolar. I was terrified of how I would feel, but tried to remind myself, as Professor lupin once said “That suggests that what you fear most of all, is fear itself. This is very wise.” It didn’t feel very wise, but as we signed consent forms and the very-funny-nurse explained how to correctly wear the paper pants (i.e, not on one’s head) and D strolled confidently down to the operating theatre, I tried to hold that thought. 

Something quite unexpected happened while I was waiting for D to be brought back up to his room. In between trying to drink the nasty coffee machine hot chocolate, listening to the Harry Potter audio books and watching the clock incessantly, I realised I didn’t care what happened. When D had been done for two and a half hours, and I began to realise that this meant the search must have gone on much longer than the anticipated 45 minutes, and this in turn meant that it had more than likely been unsuccessful, I just wanted my husband back awake and safe, and ready to be a Dad however that happened. 

After three hours, he was wheeled back in by the very-funny-nurse and shortly after the surgeon came in to confirm that he hadn't found any sperm. And we were ok. We said that we thought that would be the case, that we were prepared, and that we had been waiting so long for a family that we were almost past caring how that happened. And surprisingly, we meant it too. 

The very-funny-nurse came back to explain how to correctly place gauze in ones supportive pants (with detailed mime accompaniment) and we drove home. The following day we called the clinic to start the process of IVF with donor sperm, and although we’ve been expecting the weight of the situation to come crashing down on us, so far, we’re ok. 

We still have huge difficulty with the fact that we’re not yet parents, and I’ve found myself feeling really angry that this is happening to us. The price lists continue to appear, and  the waiting for appointments seems to go on forever. We’ve recently had to confirm that we’re not at risk of harming any child born as a result of our treatment which was nothing short of insulting, but as so many people have told me, its just another tick in a box.

We’re hoping to glean as much positivity from the situation as possible. As well as having a family of our own, I’m hoping to become an egg donor too so we can help to complete another family too. On the day we found out we would need to use a donor, I couldn’t help but imagine another family, in the exact reverse of our situation, or a same sex couple hoping to have a baby through egg donation and surrogacy. We’ve been stuck in this nightmare for  over two and a half years, and if we can help someone else wake up from it too I can’t possibly not be a part of that. I’ve been provisionally accepted to donate, so I’ll be writing more about that process too. 

So that's where we are Today we’re having counselling, and an appointment with our consultant, and then there will be another long wait for my final blood tests to come back to confirm I can donate eggs, then it should be full steam ahead with our first cycle. 

I’ve you've made it to the end of this - thank you! The support I've found online, particularly on instagram has been incredible and I cannot thank the people who are also sharing their stories enough. I’ve said it before, but this can be a very lonely place to be, and having other people to call on who know exactly how it feels is absolutely invaluable. 

DIY Tutorial: Embroidered Slogan Sweatshirt

I've been seeing an awful lot of embroidered slogan t-shirts recently, plain t-shirts with cute (sometimes cute, sometimes they're crap) sayings embroidered on the chest, sort of where the breast pocket would be.

I've been wanting to make something similar as I love a good quote or slogan (three out of the six tattoos I have are text based) plus embroidering lettering is one of my favourite things to do to switch off because it's sort if mindless but really satisfying at the same time. The lighting in these photos is a bit weird, so just ignore that bit...

I decided to embroider a sweatshirt rather than a t-shirt and I found this oversized somewhere-between-nude-and-blush-pink one in H&M. It's not somewhere I usually shop, but I'd gone in as part of a massive hunt for the perfect yoga leggings and I found it reduced to £6! I've got a bit of a thing about collarbones so I've curved the text so it sits just under the neckband rather than having it straight on the chest.

I'm so happy with it! It's not strictly supposed to be oversized, but I bought a large so I could roll the sleeves up and wear it baggy. I chose to embroider the words 'dream catch me' which is part of a line from the Newton Faulkner song of the same name.  We walked back down the aisle to it after we got married - ever the sentimental soul me!

Anyway - on to the tutorial:

You will need:

Sweatshirt (or whichever item of clothing you want to embroider)
Embroidery Thread
Embroidery Hoop
Tissue Paper (or tracing paper which would probably have been easier if I'm honest)
A Soft Pencil
Air Erasable Pen


Iron on embroidery backing

How too:

Unless you can do beautiful cursive lettering, you'll need to type your chosen phrase in a font that you like. I used a free font called 'fox in the snow', but a quick search for cursive fonts will bring up millions so choose one you like that isn't too complicated or tightly looped as you'll need to be able to embroider it.

Using an image editor, type your chosen phrase and resize it to fit nicely on your piece of clothing. If you want it to curve as mine does, any programme with a 'text warp' or 'word art' type of function that will curve your text is perfect.

Next, you'll need to flip your text so it's backwards. If you're happy to trace the text straight from the screen, hold your tracing paper over the lettering and trace with a soft pencil. If you can't, or don't want to do to this on the screen, you can print it out, but make sure when you're sizing your text to fit your item of clothing you're viewing it at 100%. If you've printed your text hold the paper up to a window (technical!) place a piece of tracing paper over this and draw over the text.

If you've not been able to flip your text, you can print it out the right way round, then hold it up to the window backwards. You should still be able to see it well enough to trace it.

Whichever way you choose to do it, you need to end up with a piece of tracing paper with your chosen phrase written on it backward in soft pencil. Are you following so far? This is very simple, honest!

Next, position your text, pencil side down in position on the item you'll be embroidering and using the back of your fingernail, or the wrong end of a pencil gently rub over the whole surface. I used tissue paper which wasn't the best idea as it was very flimsy, so you will be able to be a bit more forceful with your tracing paper.

This should leave a feint pencil line on your item. You can then draw over this with an air erasable pen which will make it much easier to see and also much less likely to rub off. The other bonus is that  the pen will fade in 24 hours so you'll be much less likely to leave your project half finished and think 'Oh I'll finish that later' then come back to it in four years time when it's crumpled up and you can't even remember what it was supposed to be. I can't be the only person guilty of this...    

Once you've got your text successfully transferred onto your jumper, use an embroidery hoop to pull the fabric taught. To say this next part feels like a bit of an insult, but I'd be lying if I said I hadn't made similar daft mistakes...make sure you only put the hoop on the layer of fabric you'll be stitching on to - don't stitch the front and back together!

Cut a length of embroidery thread and split the strands in half so you've got two three-strand lengths. Tie a knot in one end and thread the other onto a sharp, fine needle. Using back stitch, work along the length of your text with small even stitches. (If you're unsure about how to do backstitch, Mollie Makes Library of Embroidery Stitches will be helpful here)

Tie off your thread at the end, and you're done! If you want to make your stitching more secure, and stop the stitching rubbing if you've embroidered a t-shirt or something else worn next to the skin, you can iron a piece of embroidery backing onto the reverse.

Inner Stregth is Quiet

It’s funny isn’t it, how the person you feel you are can change in a moment. In the time it look for a doctor to utter a single sentence, I went from someone who was trying for a baby to someone who is facing a very different journey to becoming a parent than I ever imagined. From the day we heard the words ‘so IVF treatment will be your only option’ we’ve become part of a whole different community of people, thrust out of the ‘normal’ circle into a place that we didn’t even really realise existed - and it’s lonely out here. 

Nobody really knows how it feels, and sometimes we don’t really know how we feel either. A single word suddenly has the power to have me holding back tears, and sometime I feel like if I hear ‘you’ll get there, it’ll happen’ one more time I might give up altogether. Because it might, but it also might not, and being out of control is something I don’t deal well with. I stumbled across this 'Notes To Strangers' note in London, Inner Strength is Quiet, and it really spoke to me. On the outside, I’m dealing with this whole journey. I’ve been promoted at work, I’ve been optimistic and glad that we’re moving forwards. I’ve not cried in public or cancelled plans. Some days though, on the inside, it feels like I’m using every bit of energy I have not to literally crack into two. 

People ask if I’m ok, and the reply is always ‘yeah I’m good thanks.’ If I tell people that I almost cried on the train because a grown man pulled a carton of Ribena out of his pocket and every missing thing about having a child came crashing down around me then they might start thinking I’ve gone round the twist! 

Some days it’s the truth and I really am fine. This time last week, after a day at the beach, some laughter and sunshine and a pie for dinner, I felt like this was just the way things are meant to be for us. Optimistic. Hopeful. Today, after hearing that there’s likely to be travel chaos because of the snow and we have to go to Cambridge and there seems to be nothing but bad news everywhere, I feel like at any moment pieces of me might start floating away, like Voldemort crumbling at the end of The Deathly Hallows and all I want to do is wrap myself in a duvet to hold all the bits of me together. 

Of course, does any of this really make up who I am, or is it just the stuff the ‘who I am’ is dwelling on and being consumed by at the moment. The latter, mostly, but being a Mum one day has been so deeply engrained in me for so long that it feels hard to detach the fear, and the sadness of the situation from my everyday life, and remember that there are things that still bring joy and happiness. I am a wife, and a sister, and a daughter and a friend. I love food and art and sewing and decorating our house, going out for breakfast, growing house plants, writing. I am chronically late, excellent at procrastinating and terrible at saying no. The the list of things that make up who I am, underneath the thing at the forefront of my mind, goes on. 

Yesterday we popped into the Tate modern and, although brief, it was enough to top up the feeling that there is more to me than this. 

It’s important, I think, to try to remember that we have so much to be grateful for, and still so much to look forward to. To try and fill our days, where we can, with dreams and plans that are separate from being parents.

But right now, we're off to Cambridge in the snow, in search of the last of the answers, a therapeutic hot chocolate, and mostly, in search of a plan. 

DIY Tutorial: Faux Fabric Cable Light Fitting

I have something of a thing about light fittings. I feel like they're a really important feature in a room, and in most of the rooms in our house we've completely changed them for something that's a focal point. However, striking light fittings aren't cheap, and if they are then they're almost always striking for the wrong reason, so in our two spare bedrooms we've left the plain white fittings up, and with a little help from some cotton yarn given them the look of fabric cable without re-wiring anything! 

As you can see, it wasn't the most attractive thing, but wrapping the cable is quick, relatively easy and after changing the discoloured part of the lamp holder for a new white one, and hanging a new shade, it look significantly less...blah. 

First, unscrew the ceiling rose, and thread the end of the yarn up through the hole. Tie it to the top of the cable, then screw the rose back up.

Then just get wrapping! Keep the loops as tight close together as possible, sliding them up the cable to close up any gaps.

Your arms will definitely ache, but it's much easier to wrap the cable with it still attached to the ceiling - in our other spare room I took the fitting down to wrap it and everything kept getting tangled up.  If you need a rest, stick the yarn to the cable with a piece of masking tape and let the ball trail to the floor (watching out for any cats who may have come along to "help")

Keep wrapping until you reach the bottom, then tie the yarn off with a knot. 

Cut off the excess, add your shade (ours is from Next) and you're done!

Much better I think you'll agree.

I'll be sharing a full reveal of this room soon. One day it will be our first child's room, and it feels like a really positive thing to be getting a room ready for whenever and however they arrive. If you'd like to read our IVF journey so far you can find it here.

Finding An Old Film

Last week I met up with a friend who I've known for 11 years but somehow hadn't seen in five! We were at uni together in Leeds, and he now lives in Ipswich which is about an hour and a half from us, and where D goes to work every day so there's really no excuse, but somehow it had still been half a decade since we'd spent any time together!

We both did Fine Art degrees, and Rob is now working as a photographer. Meanwhile, all knowledge about photography (other than auto mode) has drained out of my brain so we planned to meet up in Norwich and play with cameras, particularly D's late Grandad's old SLR.

I had totally forgotten there was a nearly used film in there! It's of nothing very interesting, just D and I posing in front of trees and drinking but I had it developed and Rob scanned the negatives for me and I thought it'd be fun to share.

I think it was around 2008/9, so almost a decade ago. I think I look like a totally different person, all oily and forehead spots and dishevelled hair, and D looks like a little boy with no beard, but these years were some of our happiest.

Some Grateful Thoughts on Friendship

I've never been one for big groups of friends. I am a definite introvert (well, webtrovert really but that's a different story) and crave my own company, so without really being aware of it, I've always been quite selective about who I choose to open up to and spend time with.

I've been thinking in the last few weeks about the types of friend I have in my life. One of the lovely, and absolutely unintentional things that happens when you're honest about struggling with something is how many people rally round to prop you up. I've been feeling so lucky to know so many people who may not have any idea what this feels like, but who somehow seem to know just what to say...

There are the friends who were once colleagues and who I miss everyday. The ones I cleaned up bodily fluids with, looked out for and kept safe, argued with over the best approach to a situation, and compared bruised shins with after one of 'those' days. To quote J.K Rowling 'there are somethings in life you can't share without ending up liking each other' and it turns out working in SEN is definitely one of them. When you've wiped someone else's spit off each others faces, laughed till you've cried about how ridiculous your job is, asked 'is my forehead bleeding?' and inadvertently shown them your boobs while trying to prevent a child pulling you over by your clothes, there really is no going back.

There are the friends who were once 'best' but who, as often happens when you go on separate adult journeys, I don't see very often anymore. Every few months, or maybe even longer, we meet up for a catch up and put the world to rights over eggs benedict and tea, and at the end of the conversation she simply says 'let me know if you need anything.'

There are the friends I call family, the ones I've known since we were both babies. The ones who I forget to reply to and catch up with via our parents letting me know what they've been up to but who still know exactly what I'm thinking. The ones who pop in to see me at work, and forgo all the 'stay positive, it'll happen, at least you have an answer' conversation and just go right in with 'this is shitty isn't it, and it's bloody unfair that it's happening to you'.

There are completely unexpected friendships. One of the people I most enjoy spending time with is 13, a big fan of sausages and Mr Tumble and technically my employer. I love hearing about his day, teaching him how to buy his shopping, watching him carefully make choices and most of all hearing his jokes. He is the epitome of doing what makes you happy without giving two ticks about what anyone else thinks; whether that's echolalia re-runs of countdown, jumping, flapping and clapping as fast as you can or telling me, with half a grin and twinkle in his eye 'giraffe, hippopotamus and elephant are too big for a pet.' He has no concept of the worries of adult life, as long as there is gravy, he's happy and that's so refreshing to be around.  

There's the friend affectionately known as 'work-mum', who would be the first person I'd call on if my  actual Mum was away. The one who I have the same shared experiences with as my other colleagues but with whom I also share a love of sewing, house plants, swapping books, drinking coffee and 'putting the world to rights in a safe space' (read: bitching) Always on hand to help me out with the above friend, and he loves her just as much as I do.  

There are the friends I talk to everyday and who I tell absolutely everything to. The ones I send pictures of my dinner to, who know when all my appointments are. The ones who's conversations start with 'what's a Prince Albert?' and who I messaged within 30 seconds of flushing my moon cup down the toilet. The friends who talk so often I wake up with 85 unread messages if I have an early night, and who I can message at midnight with 'who's awake' when I'm feeling like a horrible jealous person and someone will be there to say 'I get it.' These three girls get me through my days.

There are friends I haven't known for very long in comparison to some, but who I knew immediately would be in my life forever. Who I can be completely honest with, cry in front of and tell off for not eating any lunch! The type of friend who knows the minute they look at you that you're not ok, and who will rush over to give you a hug.

There's the friend I hadn't seen for five years, but who can still effortlessly teach me things just like when we were at uni together over a decade ago. Who I can talk with all day as if we've never been apart, and who I'm still convinced lived a parallel childhood to me.

There are the friends I've met online who I've never met in real life. The ones who message after I've shared a vulnerability to say, "me too, I know just how you feel.' The internet has many flaws, and I've fallen victim to lots of them, but one of the things I have always found, particularly on instagram is how supportive the community is, and I'm still always surprised by the number of people who pop up to say, "I'm with you. I've got your back."

There's my best and oldest friend who I sometimes don't see for months or speak to for days but it just doesn't matter. Long distance friendship is a tough thing to deal with sometimes. It's rubbish when all you want is a Chinese and a chat with the person who knows you the best of all, but when you both understand that life just gets in the way sometimes, when you've both got jobs and mortgages and no money left to buy fizzy sweets, never mind train tickets or petrol, you get by with making plans and reminding the other that you love them lots.

I'm pretty lucky, don't you think, and I'm grateful for that every day.

Letting Go Of What Was Supposed To Be

D and I met when I was 14 and he was 15. He was older and cooler and two years ahead of me at school. I took GCSE music in a bid to impress him (daft idea) and we quickly became pretty inseparable.

He asked me to be his girlfriend in April 2003, when he had just turned 16 and that was the beginning of the last fifteen years. In 2007 we went to university in Leeds and in a damp and draughty back to back terrace we made our first home together. In 2011, in the week before we came home from Leeds, we bought an antique diamond ring and managed to keep it a secret from everyone until D proposed on a clifftop over a year later. We had an engagement shoot in that spot a few weeks later, and swiftly went into full time wedding planning.

Little did we know that the planning would be somewhat interrupted. In 2013 we bought our first house. We'd fallen in love with it and somehow managed to completely miss that it needed a huge amount of work doing to it. We spent the next year, and rather a lot of money, completely overhauling it and ended up with a beautiful, very stylish, teeny-tiny home that wasn't big enough for a normal sized sofa but which we were so proud of.

In 2015, 12 years after we first got together, we finally got married and as much as I know it's the worlds most often used cliché, it really was the best day of our lives. I said in my vows that on that day, we became part of the same team, and we had a pretty clear vision of the next move for our little alliance...

I remember asking D when he was about 17, 'You do want to have kids one day, don't you?' and can still see the look of fear in his eyes as he tried to work out what the right answer was! I'm pretty sure at that point he said 'yes' just to make sure I didn't break up with him, but over the last decade we've moved on from discussing names and cooing over tiny clothes. We've imagined Christmas morning, discussed our thoughts on schooling, dreamt about teaching a little tribe about life and generally planning for our lives as parents.

Just a few weeks after we got back from our honeymoon we put our tiny cottage on the market and sold it in less than 48 hours. After an incredibly long and stressful few months of arguing with the land registry and spending half our waking hours on the phone to the solicitors we moved into our current home. It has three bedrooms and a downstairs toilet, a safe back garden and double doors into the living room that we immediately pictured throwing open on that fantasy Christmas morning. We'd bought our family home, team Nickerson-Smith HQ, and all that was missing were the final members.

We'd decided when we were planning our wedding that we'd start trying for a baby the January after we got married. When January 2016 arrived and I didn't fall pregnant straight away we remained excited, optimistic. My Mum had fallen pregnant with both me and my sister in the first few months of trying and I was sure I would too. We started talking names, looking at nursery decor, even buying the odd tiny item of clothing. I bought D a mug with the words 'The Adventure Begins" emblazoned on the side and imagined handing him a coffee with a grin on my face and watching comprehension dawn.

But then six months went by. Then nine months. In September 2016 one of my best friends had her baby girl and it hit home then that whole human lives had been created in the time we'd been trying to make one of our own.

It was around this point the we started to feel a bit panicky, and that I started to feel emotions I hadn't expected to associate with starting a family. Guilt, fear, resentment, even jealously. It's the most horrible feeling when you realise your first reaction to a family member announcing they're pregnant isn't joy, but to burst into tears because you wish it was you. Of course the joy and happiness is there, but it's accompanied by a bitter side note of 'it should be us by now.' I think I'll write in more depth about this as it's been something I've really struggled with. D has continually tried to remind me that we don't know everyone's stories, and as more and more people around me (both in person and those I follow online) seemed to be announcing they were pregnant, I've tried really hard to remember that not everyone shares their story and they might have gone though the same torment as us before sharing their joy. That's part of why I'm so keen to talk about our journey. Every time I've mentioned it briefly on social media I get messages from people saying 'us too' and while sharing is a completely individual decision, I think we'd all feel less alone if more people who felt able to talked about it.

I've been through numerous cycles of thought about changes I can make; I've given up caffeine and drunk green smoothies, cut back on red meat and spent £30 a month on the best fertility supplements I could find. I've practiced fertility yoga, carried crystals in my pocket, used a fertility monitor and hounded D the minute he got through the doors because 'the egg is showing today and we only have 12 hours before we've missed this month'.  On the other hand I've also somewhat hit the self destruct button, thought 'f**k it, it's not working anyway so I'm going to drink all the coffee and wine I like and see if that works because celery and water clearly doesn't!'

Of course, none of this made any difference, and in February 2017 we decided to start investigating. My first round of blood tests came back fine and it appeared I was ovulating normally. The doctor told us that 80% of fertile couples will conceive in the first year and that of the 20% that don't, half of those will conceive in the second year. He told us that in his experience, once couples start looking into why it's not happening, the reassurance that everything seems to be fine is enough to take away the stress that was preventing them falling pregnant. I went away feeling sure that it would happen soon - what were the chances of us being in that 10% that don't manage to fall pregnant in the second year...

We carried on trying for another nine months, all the time getting more and more certain that there must be something going on with one or both of us that was preventing us from becoming parents. We started decorating the smallest bedroom in the hope it might instill some positivity, and every so often I'd get out the little collection of tiny clothes and blankets we'd accumulated and hope it wasn't all pointless.

Then, in November last year, we got the results back from another round of tests and discovered that we were indeed in that 10%. There's a reason is hasn't happened for us and without intervention there's no chance at all of me falling pregnant naturally. It's been bizarre to realise that all the stressing and worrying and day counting and supplements and laying upside down would never have made any difference.

I'm still not sure it's really sunk in. We have our first appointment with the fertility team next week, and after that we'll being the process of IVF.  I feel like we've suddenly become part of a whole new community, and while it's a relief that we don't have to 'try' any more, it's going to take a while to come to terms with the fact that our journey to become parents now will be largely a medical process.

Mostly we're hopeful, a bit of us is even a little excited. Meanwhile a lot of us is terrified and there's definitely still a bit of us both grieving for the way we thought it was supposed to be.

But theres no point dwelling on that. This is the way it will be and as usual, we'll meet each new challenge together.