Our 2018 in Brief

This is one of the first photos I shared in 2018, along with the caption “it’s tough my dear, but so are you” - we had just found out we would need IVF in order to have a family, and were readying ourselves for what we figured would be a pretty difficult year. 

Little did I know that getting through 2018 wouldn't just take courage, but some yet unknown force I didn’t know I had in me, that we didn’t know we had in us. 

It was without doubt the most challenging year of my life, the year I felt what it was like to have to reach out and grab bits of myself to stop them floating away, to have to physically hold my heart together and claw my way through the days. It may not have looked like it, and I’m not sure it’s even a good thing but I’ve become an expert at putting on a brave face, at holding tight.

In January, we had our first specialist fertility appointment, and learned we needed private IVF - we were told the chances of D having sperm were very slim and to start readying ourselves for the possibility of using a donor.  I became the manager of the place I work, took on a third more hours, and began the juggle of holding together a career and a very fragile state of mind. 

In February, we had our first appointment at Bourn Hall in Cambridge. We were told D needed surgery to see if he had sperm. He was put on medication for three months to increase the chances and we were given around a 30% chance of success. 

In June, after three months of medication we had finally reached the day before surgery. D was told on this day, with just hours to go before he was due to go under general anaesthetic to find out if he would ever have biological children, that his teaching contract had come to an end and would not be renewed the following September.  

He had the surgery, and after waiting in his hospital room for four hours I realised, at last, and with absolute certainty, that I didn’t care what the outcome was. I just wanted him back, both back from the operating theatre and back from the very dark hole teaching had left him at the bottom of. 

We were told that afternoon that he had no sperm, and that he would never have a biological child. We already knew we would continue with a donor and D said to his surgeon exactly what he had always said to me, they may not have his DNA but our children will have everything else he has to give them. We booked an appointment to discuss donating some of my eggs, and counselling to talk through the legalities and ethics of donor conceived children. 

In August, we had the most incredible family holiday in Cornwall. I watched as D became best friends with our nephew, and looked on with unwelcome envy as my parents showed him ‘our’ Cornwall, something I have dreamt of them doing with our own children for years now.  

When we came home, I trained six new members of staff in the space of two weeks, and had nine blood tests in the hope of becoming an egg donor. D began a new career which has absolutely changed his life. There is a metaphor somewhere in here about the similarities between a cup of coffee and a bucket being lowered down a well to haul him back into the sunlight. 

In October I was told, over the phone, as I walked on my own through a very drizzly Norwich that I have a chromosome abnormality. This means I have a higher chance of miscarriage, I can’t donate eggs and that we couldn’t progress with IVF without having our embryos screened. 

I thought on that day, thirty four months after deciding to try for a baby and £5000 into treatment that my resolve was finally broken.

But on the next day, my Grandad died. 

Somehow, from somewhere, whatever it is that holds all the little bits of me together found the strength to hold on a little tighter. I went to see him at the funeral home, and a week later I watched my family carry his coffin even though the thought of it had terrified me for more than ten years, since I first learned my Dad wanted to do that last thing for him one day. I spoke aloud at his funeral, and I practiced that poem until I knew it by heart, just like he said you have to when you have to speak in front of people.

In November, we went to Addenbrooks and a genetic counsellor drew my family tree. When Grandad became a little box on a screen with a cross through it, I held on tighter still.

In December, our much loved IVF clinic told us they couldn’t treat us anymore, and that we would have to find somewhere new. I managed our little shop through the most hectic week of the year and we had our busiest Christmas Eve ever. 

And now, that year is over and we’re already a month into a year that feels totally different. We’ve started proceedings with the place that will be continuing our treatment and already it feels like exactly the right path for us. It finally, finally, feels like we might have regained some control, like maybe I can begin to let go of the bits of me I've been so frantically holding together, and instead take hold of the wheel of the ship. 

On New Years Eve, we talked about how incredible we are. Not only have we held ourselves together, but we’ve held “Us” together too. We have so much support and love around us and we could never have done it without that of course, but we realised that had things been the slightest bit different, if blame or resentment had been allowed to creep in, directed in either direction, then that invisible force might not have held. But there wasn't even a whisper of it.

2019 will mark sixteen years of “Us.” Moving forward with treatment will require us to display to someone who makes decisions about funding that we’re in a strong relationship.


They don't know the half of it.  

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