Do you have any little rituals to help the tough bits of the fertility journey like injections and disappointments? Claire and Alex found a box of chocolates really did help the medicine go down. Supporting each other is the theme of the next Fertility Support Group meeting – ‘We are in it together’.
Claire met husband Alex, aged 38, on dating app Tinder when they were in their early thirties and had both come out of long-term relationships.
“It was quite a whirlwind romance actually,” laughs Claire. “When you are a bit older you know what you want don’t you? We both knew we wanted children and talked about everything on our first date.”
Guilty of over-Googling
The couple married in 2017. “We stopped worrying about contraception from that moment on and at first it was exciting not worrying about taking precautions and seeing if anything happened,” says Claire. “But then it shifted to checking when I was ovulating and tracking my periods and Googling on the internet. I tend to ‘over-Google’ things because I have a little bit of anxiety in general. Towards the end Google became my best friend but also my enemy.
“I would routinely take pregnancy tests on my own and they would always be negative. It would be heart-breaking every single time and I would do three in a month until my period arrived. It is really sad now I think about it, but that is where you get to when you want something so much.
“I love my mum dearly but she was obsessed with me having a baby and was always saying to me ‘it is about time!’ So I felt pressure, albeit well-meaning.”
Alex agrees: “When you have decided that you want a baby it feels like it is never-ending and is going on forever when nothing is happening. Time just doesn’t seem to flow the same when you are at that stage.”
The couple, who live in Hertfordshire, were told after Alex’s test results showed low sperm that they could be referred for NHS-funded IVF.
“It was amazing to be told that we could have IVF,” says Claire. “We celebrated that evening with a glass of champagne and popped a note on Facebook saying we were ‘celebrating life’.
“We were given a list of clinics that we could go to and Bourn Hall Cambridge was our first choice,” says Claire. “There was something really appealing about going to the world’s first IVF clinic set up by the people who had brought Louise Brown in to the world.”
“Bourn Hall has such a great reputation and history,” adds Alex. “and it gave us that feeling of hope after all the testing and waiting.”
“The doctor we saw at Bourn Hall, Dr Sharleen Hapuariachi, was really nice and very open and talkative,” says Claire, “and that is desperately what we wanted. We needed to have a conversation with someone who was happy to talk us through our questions and also go in to more detail because we are both really in to the science of things.”
Coping with infertility – some tips
- Treat yourself to a notebook – The one tip I would give to any woman or couple going through treatment would be to buy yourself a really nice notebook, one you know you are going to keep, and spend time writing down all your questions. I bought myself a really nice plastic wallet too to keep everything clean and put all my leaflets and documents in so when I came out of our first appointment, having gone through all the questions in my notebook, I felt listened to and we got really detailed answers and that was really important.
- Have little routines together – Claire and Alex discovered a really novel way of turning Claire’s hormone injections at home in to something to look forward to.
“First of all I would put an ice cube on my stomach just before I needed to inject and it would numb the skin and I didn’t feel anything when the needle went in,” reveals Claire. “We developed this little routine after Alex bought me a nice box of chocolates where he would hand me the needle, I would do the injection and then straightaway he would hand me a chocolate. It really felt like we were in it together. The injections became a nice thing, it was lovely.”
- Keep yourself centred – The couple also listened to a mindfulness app featuring meditations on the way to appointments at Bourn Hall.
- Take care of yourself – “I remember how hard it was when I was being invited to baby showers and children’s birthday parties,” says Clare. “There were times when I would just avoid some social occasions altogether if I thought it would be too hard on my mental health – and that is normal.”
- Share with others – “I have discovered that there are actually more people than you realise struggling with fertility issues,” says Claire. “I now actively offer to share my experience as a way of supporting friends who are unable to get pregnant. I think if you can make yourself emotionally available to people who are struggling it really helps.”