Hello, my name is Katy and I live by the seaside with my wonderful husband Sam and our beautiful doggy Bonnie. We have been trying to grow our family for over 3 years now and after 5 rounds of IVF we have never had a positive pregnancy test.
We found out early on in our TTC journey that IVF was our only option due to issues on both sides. This hit us hard. When we got married, we did all those things most newlyweds who want kids start doing. Planning the perfect month to fall pregnant so a baby would arrive at just the right time. But months went by and our disappointment and sadness grew over not conceiving. We tried everything under the sun from diet and lifestyle, tracking apps and natural remedies but no success. It was confusing and isolating and I struggled to connect with people about it. No-one in my life at that point had faced any kind of fertility problem and all had very happily got pregnant and were popping out babies everywhere. I love that our lives are full of growing families and we have the most wonderful nieces and nephews that bring us a lot of love and happiness but there is a specific sadness in being the ones left behind.
When IVF was suggested, although I was anxious about the treatment, I felt like this was our chance and we were so full of hope. Unfortunately, that hope has been hard to hold onto. Through each round you believe it is going to work and you become consumed by it. Everything changes. Infertility is a constant cycle of grief and hope. Every time, hope has hooked me in, and I have believed this is our time. Then it does not work, and the grief becomes more and more immense each and every time. In those moments immediately after we learnt it had not worked, I almost cocooned myself away from everyone in my life. I just could not bear to talk to anyone about it or for anyone else to tell me how sorry they were or just look at me with pity. Obviously, we love our family and friends very much and we have been showered with the most wonderful support but in those raw moments immediately after I just have not been able to see anyone.
The most recent time was the hardest and I felt like we had really been broken by it. I felt like I was sinking into a big, black hole and I could not understand how life was going to carry on. I found it hard to go out and about and see people happily living their lives when I felt so sad and lost. Infertility takes over everything and brings out some very sad moments. Each and every time we have left the clinic after a transfer, I have felt that there was a little life inside of me. For each of those painful two week waits I have believed I was pregnant and let myself believe this was the time it would continue. I still have all of the embryo pictures on my phone (excitedly taken just before each transfer) and I am pleased we were able to capture the little lives that might have continued to grow.
Infertility impacts every zone of your life and for me, my physical health has always been hit. You focus yourself on being as fit and healthy as you can be pre-treatment and then that is hard to maintain during treatment. I have always put weight on during treatment and then struggled when it fails which has only added to weight gain and living unhealthily. I had already begun accessing support for my grief through Grief Recovery UK and had decided to do some work on my relationship with my body. By this point I was not my biggest fan and took on so much of the responsibility and guilt about my body not doing what we hoped. Through this work I was able to acknowledge my sadness and forgive my body.
I learnt that my body is more than amazing to have gone through all the fertility treatment, exercise regimes, losses and still function. I became proud of myself and finally realised it was not my fault any of this was happening.
I am sure it would be the first thing I would say to someone else going through this but for some reason it was the last thing I was saying to myself. I am actively trying to include self-care into my day and love my body and myself a little more.
Between our first and second round my Dad had a major stroke and passed away 2 days before the egg collection of our second round. We kept going with treatment because by that point there had been so many drugs, appointments, sadness and stress I could not walk away from it. I remember waking up from that egg collection and crying uncontrollably. I was relieved we had got that far but mixed with the emotions of losing my Dad that I had been holding in, I just felt heartbroken. We had lost a lot in a short space of time. Infertility is like being on a constant cycle of grief and hope. You get excited at the chance of something (a miracle) happening every month, or round of treatment. Maybe this will be the time it works, it does for everyone else around us…why not this time? Then it does not work, and you are back to feeling hopeless. Every month. Every round of treatment.
When I look back on our journey so far there have been a lot of losses, sadness and hard times. But the last 3 years have not solely been sad. Between rounds I am so proud of how we have managed to get back up again. My husband Sam is very funny and no matter how bad it has got he has always managed to raise a smile or a laugh from me in some way. We have also actively gone out of our way to do things that are going to make us happy. Last summer we bought a VW camper van and a paddle board. We have had a lot of fun adventures in those and it is always something that makes us happy. We love being outside and having fun and infertility has definitely taught us to invest in things that are going to make us feel good.
We also decided to get a puppy just over a year ago. We just wanted to do something that would help fuel our joy and give us something else to focus on. Bonnie arrived and we could not have been happier with her. She is a little ray of sunshine and brings us pure joy. One of my favourite things to do is to watch her run and gallop about on walks. She is so happy, full of love and gives the best cuddles.
After our fourth round (ended in being cancelled due to COVID) and we all went into lockdown I knew I needed something to focus on and help feel strong again. That is when I discovered Lucy from Rainbow Running Club talking on the BFN podcast (BEST PODCAST FOR INFERTILITY). I had completed Couch to 5K a few years beforehand and always been in and out of running. I decided this was a great place for me to feel inspired, motivated and around others who understand. When I saw the 12K challenge it came at a really good time. Our fifth round had failed in July and I needed something positive to work towards. The feeling of completing a run is the absolute best and always makes me feel good so this felt like absolute perfect timing.
Running has never come easily, and I think it is one of the hardest forms of exercise. It is a constant mind battle to keep on going. I run pretty slowly and get out of puff easily, but I am proud that when I set myself a challenge I do it. Previously I have even completed a half marathon. Something I am enormously proud of but amazed that I actually completed it!
For this challenge I am trying to up my distances each week by 1 or 2km. I tend to run a little longer on weekends and then keep to 5k runs during the week. I am trying to run 3 times a week but not beating myself up if that does not happen. I absolutely love a Les Mills online work out too so I am hoping some strength and cardio work will help me get up some hills and endure a longer run.
On the day I am planning to run alone. I actually prefer it! When I run with other people, I just feel anxious that I will need to stop or won’t be able to keep up. I prefer just to go at my own pace and listen to my tunes. I LOVE a motivational running playlist so I will be mooching along listening to songs like; Proud by Heather Small and Fight Song by Rachel Platten.
I am going to try and organise my run with a clear finish that Sam and Bonnie can be waiting to cheer me on. I know they will be proud of me for doing it so I want to have a moment we can celebrate together. I imagine then I will want a shower and then snuggle on the sofa with Bonnie, some chocolate and a good cheesy film to recover.
Running is all about your mind. Your body will get you where you need to go but having the confidence to just keep on going is another story.
I was running recently, and it was not too far from home when I just felt like I had nothing left to get me there. I tried to focus on my feet and just keep going. I visualised how much further I had to go and remembered that if I just keep going, one step at a time I will get there, even if that means having a little walk. That is how I try and look at infertility. Right now, we just have to keep going and put one foot in front of the other. We are at a point where we are beginning to talk about different paths and maybe letting go of the idea of IVF working for us. We are not there yet but I feel like we are getting closer to that becoming a reality.
I am so pleased I found the Rainbow Running and Yoga Club. I do not have many people in my life who really understand this journey so finding a space full of goodness, nourishment and kindness is really quite special. I love that the focus of this group is one of complete positivity and health. It is encouraging me to run more, connect with new people and strengthen my body and mind. I am so grateful I discovered it to continue to focus my mind on self-love, acceptance and hope.
To everyone else taking on the challenge of running 12k on the 12th I wish you all the luck. I hope you either have some good real-life company or top tunes to keep you moving and definitely a good supply of chocolate to enjoy afterwards.