I have recently been touched by the various articles and blogs I have seen surrounding miscarriage, bravely written during Baby Loss Awareness Week. It's a subject incredibly close to my heart. Like many others, I have experienced loss. I have known pain and suffering and grief. You see, my son is a seventh round IVF miracle.
He is now two and, from believing I might never be able to have a child, I find myself chasing a toddler and entering that well documented "terrible" stage. However, as much as I have been fortunate enough to experience such unparalleled happiness, I have recently found myself hurting, in ways I never imagined I would again: I have been faced with that family rite of passage known as the second child; the reminder that life is decidedly different to the dreams I once held and, as much as I have told myself it shouldn't bother me, in reality it does.
The second round announcements came, and are still coming in, at an alarming rate. I, somewhat naively, thought I'd be fine with them but found that they completely floored me. As each baby was made public knowledge I was increasingly consumed with jealousy and overwhelmed with sadness; feelings which hadn't been present since the very dark days of our infertility. My dreams of a larger family had resurfaced and left me feeling despondent, worthless and, this time round, guilty; if I love my son as much as I say I do then why am I not wholly content? I'd also made a deal: If just one of our rounds of IVF worked then I'd never ask life for more again.
And yet I find myself wanting.
One thing you should know about infertiles is that we question everything to do with family. We have to. With each round we keep on asking ourselves whether we really, really do want a child; is it worth the emotional, physical and financial strain? Can we put ourselves through it again? Can we pick ourselves up from it again? And will our marriage survive yet another blow if it fails?
Deciding whether or not to have a second child, when there is infertility, is no different. In some ways it's harder. This time round I'm already scarred, physically and mentally. IVF is tough. I had to cope with failed cycle after failed cycle, miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy.
Trying to become pregnant again also feels incredibly self-indulgent. It feels unfair to my husband and my son, it feels unfair to couples out there who haven't been able to conceive at all and it's utterly overwhelming and confusing. I've also had to ask myself if my desire to procreate again is coming from the right place. Am I scared I'm going to be left out because everyone else now has two? Will I, once again, become the social pariah I felt I was during my childless days because I'm not like the rest? And what if people go on to have three, will I want that too? Will I ever feel completely content with my lot in life?
I know, of course, that I will, that I already am. That I'm happy, that my son is more than enough and that I'm not worthless. Like all those struggling with infertility, whatever the outcome, I'm strong, I'm brave and I am full of worth. I am not infertility. But it doesn't stop those feelings creeping in when I'm tired, pre-menstrual or simply being human.
We're still undecided as to what we will do but have, at least, found some peace in not making a rushed decision. I'm only 36 and, whilst that isn't as sprightly as I used to be, I'm aware I do have a small gift of time on my side. I grapple with wanting a larger family, being fulfilled with what I have and feeling that trying to have a second child is completely unfair to all involved; it's not like we can simply have a glass of wine, look at baby photos, feel nostalgic and decide we'll give it a shot. For us it takes planning, it's costly, incredibly stressful and, in all honesty, the outcome is unlikely to be successful.
There are some days when I do find it tough, yet again, being surrounded by pregnancy whilst feeling a sense of loss, but I'm learning to live with that and tell myself that's all it is; some days. I'm learning to heal from the pain, take joy in what I do have and count my blessings. I'm aware that infertility will most probably continue to shadow my life in many ways; I've yet to completely trust in life again, I've yet to find a friend in hope but, I am learning acceptance, and perhaps it's this acceptance that will eventually overcome that secret, un-admitted fear of losing my dreams.