I will never forget the day my infertility was diagnosed, I’ve never felt pain like it. The sense of loss was totally overwhelming. I cried more tears than there are drops in the ocean. My heart sank like a stone to the very tips of my toes. I found myself grasping for air like a goldfish in the last few moments before it dies. I experienced a loud, deafening ringing in my ears and my vision started to blur. Nothing makes this pain bearable. Its hold never leaves you but slowly you learn to live with it.
We decided quite early on to break the news to our family and friends. Although we were able to deliver the devastating news relatively quickly, the repercussions of a diagnosis like this ripple through years like an earthquake. My self-esteem hit rock bottom. I was so ashamed of my infertility and somehow felt less of a woman. I found myself wanting to withdraw from those close to me, comparing our lives to others and worrying constantly that more bad news was on its way.
David and I are childhood sweethearts, celebrating our 26th anniversary this year. Together we survived 15 operations and seven rounds of IVF. We did acupuncture, tried every supplement going and embraced every crazy diet you can think of. I read books, blogs and spoke to friends in similar situations, which brought me great comfort. Our quest took us all around the world but eventually I came to the slow and painful realisation that my body was our biggest obstacle to becoming parents. For the first time in my life I felt totally inadequate, frightened and beaten. This was a fight we just couldn’t win – it was like trying to quickstep in suffocating quick sand.
Fortuitously it was at this low point in our lives that we were introduced to Surrogacy UK, our lifeline. A place we trusted and felt safe. The day we first met our surrogate Kirsty, was the day we started to breathe and sleep again. We found new strength and a tiny glimmer of hope appeared on the horizon like a white dove after a long, bitter war. The rest as they say may be history but we remain eternally grateful to Kirsty, her family and everyone else who helped us along the way especially Jayne Frankland, Jessica Hepburn and my mum who never gave up hope.
We could write a book about the lessons we learned but we wanted to use this opportunity to share some of these insights. Educate yourself about your own fertility and don’t delay starting the family you’ve always wanted, the risks are too great. Practice forgiveness and be kind to yourself. Look after one another, your partner carries you on their shoulders when your legs fail. Be prepared to fail, repeatedly, but remember the difference between falling down and refusing to get back up because one is much more dangerous than the other. Live full, energetic and fulfilled lives whilst you’re waiting – don’t sit at home on the sofa mourning a different life, as this invites misery and often ends in divorce. Pursue your passions with purpose – these pleasures can bring a welcome distraction but you may also find that they take your life in a completely different direction. No one wants to talk his or her fears but it is essential that we do. The most important thing I’ve learned about fear is that it has two meanings – forget everything and run, or face everything and rise. Before you choose your own interpretation, know that fear kills more dreams than failure ever could.
The truth is David and I have won the lottery. This experience has shaped us into two very fortunate, resilient and grateful people. We’ve tested our family ties and friendships to their limit and we’re delighted to say they’ve not just survived, but blossomed. Most importantly of all through surrogacy we’ve been privileged to witness first hand, humanity at its very best. Surrogacy is such an incredible selfless act, it has restored my faith in something that I had believed all my life, which is that good things happen to good people.
Primrose is the 151st baby born to Surrogacy UK. It’s thanks to this charity that we’ve had the pleasure of meeting some phenomenal women and bonded with some good friends for life. I’m incredibly proud to be still very happily married and we are truly blessed to have Primrose who radiates joy, as she is loved so much, by so many.
And for those women still struggling or scared by infertility I ask you to reflect upon this: yes we are damaged, broken and unhinged but so are shooting stars and comets. Surrogacy rocks.