Infertility, Sex and Relationships - Part 2by Ellie Thompson
Struggling to conceive is, to put it mildly, a real bummer for the sex life. It generates feelings of inadequacy on both sides, and the scars that remain can be long-lasting, well after your IVF babies are born – if you get that lucky, that is.
Sex goes from being one of those fun and naughty things you did out of instinct and choice to a scheduled series of awkward events at certain points in your cycle.
Some advise on paying particular attention to the first half of your cycle, but then others will tell you to carry on having sex throughout the month, just to be sure you’ve covered all bases. So you literally have to be doing it every waking moment to stand a chance.
When you read the science, I honestly don’t know how anybody gets pregnant at all. The chances seem SO SLIM.
Why then, have I spent the best part of my life on the pill? Getting pregnant was something that petrified me in my twenties, and to be fair, my thirties too before I met Jamie (obviously I’m a virgin Jamie, if you’re reading this, well, up until I met you of course, okay?! Great… Move along, nothing to see here…).
When you first start trying for a baby, it’s all so exciting. We were both so naïve. We waited impatiently to get to the end of the first month and were stupidly surprised when AF arrived. Idiots.
Little did we know at that point, we’d repeat this awful monthly routine for almost two years, and then again for six months before giving up quickly that time around and starting IVF treatment for our second baby. Sod. That, we both thought.
Rewinding back to those TTC days before our first round of IVF, it’s fair to say we both had some real belly laughs of relief when it was a night off.
“Thank FUCK for that!” we’d say. And we’d both roar with laughter, turn over and go to sleep, the world seeming a little lighter for a bit.
Our relationship has always been based around a lot of laughter. We don’t tend to take each other or ourselves too seriously most of the time, and I think being quite similar, that humour got us through.
“Do we HAVE to do it tonight?” I’d say, looking at my cycle tracker and seeing four love hearts plotted in during the past week.
“Yeah, let’s not.” is all he’d say, with probably an imaginary fist pump to celebrate. The pressure was off. We could be ourselves again.
When you’re trying to “do it” five out of seven days a week, things are at risk of getting a little mundane in the bedroom. So as two consenting adults, of course we did our bit to spice things up. You know when your cat is still sleeping soundly in the same place at the end of your bed you need to both up your game a bit.
We had a big old barney once after we ballsed up not one but TWO Stork Kits in one night.
It was all my idea. I figured let’s give the Stork Kit a go - and get the sperm up the spout and see if cutting out that part of the process would do us any favours.
I was responsible for buggering up the first test. I can’t remember exactly why I did it, but I pulled the trigger at the wrong moment and whoops – bye-bye sperm. I broke down and sobbed – because surely that was the load that would get us up the duff for sure.
Poor Jamie. He rang around all the local chemists that night and found one in stock in a late night Boots in New Malden, literally miles away. He drove over to get it, and that night we tried again. This time, he made the error somehow and it was game over.
Ah, the devastation I felt that particular month. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘might have beens’, and those ‘shoulda coulda wouldas’.
The ridiculous pressure you’re under when you’re having sex to try and conceive and regularly failing at it is just immense. It hangs over you most of the day, like something you start to dread, and you’re not even sure why. The combination of the whole rigmarole followed up by the crushing and (eventually) inevitable disappointment days later.
It’s true, we’re also both quite similar when it comes to being a bit sensitive and self-conscious.
After finally admitting we needed outside help to figure out what was going wrong, we started down the road of the first basic tests.
When the GP receptionist read out my day 4 results over the phone – spelling out words such as “serial estradiol” with an accompanying result that on Googling brought up information on egg donors and infertility, I came off the call certain I was completely infertile. I was told I’d have to wait two whole weeks to speak to a GP about the devastating results.
My world fell apart that afternoon for a good few hours. It was the January before we were due to get married in the May. Jamie had only proposed on Christmas Eve.
I called my mum. I was in hysterics. There was no way I could marry Jamie now. But when he called from work and I told him the news, he was so incredibly kind, and unwavering in his love for me.
Unbelievably, the GP called that night after my mum phoned up to complain, and told me that everything was normal: ALL RESULTS NORMAL. It was a day 4 test interpreted as a day 21 - a mix up with the phlebotomist, no less. You can imagine my relief.
Come to think of it – they also botched Jamie’s first specimen sample, so he had to do a second and take it another 45-minute drive to the nearest NHS hospital that could test it.
Our egos both battered and bruised there was a lot of black clouds hanging over us, and the sexual side of our relationship.
Who’s problem was this? Well, regardless of the physical source of the issue, that part at least was obvious - the problem was both of ours.
Luckily for us in some ways, we were promptly slapped with the good old ‘unexplained infertility’ label. We were both proud owners of the NFI badge.
Long story short, we ended up at Nuffield, as our ‘unexplained infertility’ label cut no mustard with the NHS, we hadn’t been trying three years. I was 35, and keen to get moving, and after a scary AMH result, we remortgaged and the rest, as they say, is history – or at least, another blog post.
Ps - If you need a place to talk, and meet like-minded women who are experts at all of this TTC/IVF malarky – head over to our IVF/TTC A Place to Talk group on Facebook. You can find it under GROUPS on @jelliediary