I've never been a fan of oversharing on social media but sometimes I think it might be a useful tool to help answer those often-asked questions like... How old are you? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? No-one enjoys providing answers to these and yet people feel they are fine to ask. So here I'm going to answer them; I'm 43, I'm not sure about marriage, I can't have kids.
People who know me well, know I've had a great life. I've had amazing jobs, I've travelled loads, I've lived abroad, I've dated and got some great - and not so great - first date stories! I've drunk way too much champagne in classy rooftop bars around the world and been drunk and flirty in London's finest pick up bars! I had a free temporary membership at a dubious Private Members' Bar in Mayfair. I've eaten in some fantastic restaurants and I loved being single, free and fun. I didn't think about children because I was single and I trained myself into thinking it wasn't a big deal. But it was. I just never thought time would run out.
So when I met my "manfriend" nearly five years ago, I admitted early on that I wanted marriage or kids. He wasn't in a hurry for the first option, but really wanted the latter so we agreed to grow up and try to be parents. I always knew it wouldn't be easy - I have PCOS and Endometriosis - and by this time I was nearly 40. So we sought out professional help fast. I will always remember the young male doctor who told me it was "probably too late at my age" (40!). Luckily for him, I wasn't pumped full of hormones at that stage because my reaction would have been very different. But somehow I picked myself up, found a Doctor who understood and started "assisted conception".
Fast forward three years and we are at that cruel and emotionally crippling stage of "acceptance". We failed. Or my body failed. Whichever way you look at it, the failure hangs over us now. We can't bear to consider the next options (donor, surrogate, adopt) and if I'm honest, neither of us see those options as considerations. I would ask people for advice, but it turns out that infertility isn't really dinner party conversation. It's definitely not something you share at the office over lunch. But I don't want to be quiet about it. I want people to know, to understand and to make sense of my new status in life. For years people thought I was the career girl, the fun single girl, the girl who just didn't want kids or the girl who was having 'way too much fun getting drunk and partying' to have kids. Now you know. I really did want them, I just couldn't tell you and just couldn't trick my body into doing what everyone else has done.
So, after one year trying like normal people, then six cycles of Chlomid (hormonal help) and finally a desperate three cycles of gruelling IVF at personal cost (too old for NHS, thank you), here is my message:
Friends: I'm sorry I have been distant and "unavailable". I just couldn't face being out in the world when it felt like such a sad place. I put on weight from the drugs and going out in fat-jeans has no appeal. I have a fantastic habit of getting tearful for no reason - it could be the hormones from all the IVF or maybe I'm just a hot mess. However, now that I'm not trying to get pregnant, I can drink booze, eat brie and don't have to stay home monitoring my cycles. I'm getting better now, so please invite me out. But I warn you, I'm a shocking lightweight now!
Colleagues: Well the cat's out of the bag! I'm no career girl! Those nights I stayed late in the office were partly because I couldn't face going home to more drugs/sadness/anticipation. I like my job but I would equally have loved being a mum. It's one of the most important jobs in the world and I'm sad I failed that interview. Cut me a bit of slack when I'm at work - I'm just human. I bet you have bad days too and if you want, you can tell me about them. I'm a bit more understanding these days.
Ladies: If you're young enough, freeze those eggs! My poor ovaries produced many eggs, often performing better than those of a woman in her twenties. But I'm afraid, bottom line, they are OLD, OLD, OLD. I just picture them, lazy like me, slobbing on the sofa saying "nope, I'm not gonna grow into a viable embryo, I'm too old and lazy". In my next life, I'm freezing them when they are 21, perky and up for anything.
Men: Don't assume. I'm not childless 'cause I'm having so much fun. And just 'cause I'm childless please do not assume I have no maternal instinct.
Parents: You were lucky enough to have children, hold them close. Love them dearly. Never take them for granted. I envy you all. Im a brilliant Aunty, a great sister, not such a bad daughter and sometimes a good girlfriend but unless we choose another path, I will never be a Mum. That's hard to take - but harder if I see people not making the most of their kids.
Oh and before anyone asks, a pet is not the same as a baby - and babysitting is not going to fill that hole - so please don't ask! After all, I need to find a new purpose in life and I'm going to be out having too much fun! Only now, if you see me out partying, drinking, travelling or dancing you might appreciate that it's not because I'm wild or exciting but it's because for me, that's my life now, instead of children.
Facebook Support Group: Seeking the Positive