On fertility problems, and finding out I was pregnant

Did you suffer from any fertility problems when trying to get pregnant? A year ago this week I found out I was pregnant. It was the biggest shock of my life,  in the best possible way.

It was a shock because I’d least expected it to happen then, as we’d been trying for what felt like an eternity. While I didn’t expect to be expecting in the first month*, I didn’t think it would take too long either. I saw my doctor, who told me cheerfully “it should happen quickly, I’ll see you soon to book you in with the midwife!” When nothing did happen in the following months we tried anything additional that might have some sort of positive effect – ovulation tests, pre-pregnancy vitamins, cutting out caffeine and alcohol, and so on. I even had fertility acupuncture, which turned out to be nothing more than a futile fertile experience.

Fertility problems and pregnancy - one mum's story of what helped her finally get pregnant

When we’d taken the *big step* to start trying, obviously we expected things to happen pretty soon. And when nothing did happen for so long, I was left in a strange liminal space between our old life – being frivolous and spontaneous on a dual income with no dependants – and the new one I now desperately wanted, as a mother-to-be.

At the time no-one ever really talked about fertility problems and it felt like we were the only ones who weren’t making baby-related announcements. It was frustrating to have to carry on as normal as the clock ticked on, the seasons kept changing and it was soon chiming midnight on another new year, with still no news.

Eventually the doctor packed us off for tests which revealed a couple of issues – all with me – including previously undiagnosed hypothyroidsm. He prescribed me medication and even booked us into the sub-fertility clinic at Guy’s. With a ten week waiting list, I tried not to think too much about it ahead of time.

The weekend before our appointment at the clinic we’d been away. The photo above was taken in the train station on the way home, when I’d had the vague realisation that my period was kind of late, and I was awfully nauseous, dizzy and faint. Once we were back I thought I’d dig out the final pregnancy test left in the cupboard, just to confirm what I knew for certain, that I absolutely wasn’t pregnant – how could I possibly be? Except for the first time ever there were two lines instead of one, and here we are today, a year down those lines.

I’ve recently found there’s some common themes in new mum conversations. The first is childbirth – in gory and graphic detail – and the second is about problems getting pregnant. I’ve met a surprising amount of people who also had fertility problems – people who went through much more than we did, for far longer. Our experience now seems like a drop in the ocean compared to most people; however at the time it was all-consuming.

Someone asked me recently, jokingly, if it was all worth it; of course, absolutely. At the time having fertility problems was horrible, but for my glorious, just about to roll over, laughed-for-the-first-time-last-night-baby, I’d go through all that again in a fraction of a heartbeat.

Eliza in the park (four months)

* I totally did – I know a couple of people this happened too, plus it’s hard not to speculate wildly when you grow up on a diet of Just Seventeen magazines filled with articles along the lines of ‘I had sex once and got pregnant’ or that old classic ‘I got pregnant without even having sex.’

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  1. Heather
    June 2, 2012 / 6:03 am

    I also wasn’t expecting to get pregnant the first month, but it took us six months (apparently bang on average according to one midwife I spoke to). Six months isn’t that long compared to the problems I know other people experience but it seemed like an eternity when I was surrounded by friends who all got pregnant the first month of trying. I think it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that it’s just one of those things in life that you can’t control (hard if you’re a control freak like me!).

    • gillian
      June 7, 2012 / 9:03 pm

      There’s such conflicting advice about how long it ‘should’ take to happen too – my doctor said a couple of months max, someone else told me at least a year is average. When it seems like everyone is getting pregnant at the drop of a hat it is all really hard to come to terms with when it seems to be taking forever. And the control element was such a huge part of it for me too (coupled with being incredibly impatient and used to doing things at work to really short deadlines!).

  2. June 2, 2012 / 6:18 am

    Your little one is so adorable! So glad you wrote this. We’re not at the trying for a baby stage yet but a lot of our friends are – and have the same assumption that it’ll be sorted within the month. I think there needs to be more info out there for the grown ups who want to start a family, not just the teens who don’t 🙂

    • gillian
      June 7, 2012 / 9:11 pm

      Thanks Emma 🙂 When you’ve spent so much of your adult life doing all you can to avoid getting pregnant you do assume it’ll happen pretty soon after you start trying! There does need to be more info, especially as there’s also so many myths about what helps / doesn’t help (one of the most random ones I read on a conception message board was that giving up peas can help – I have no idea if there was any scientific basis behind that one, I doubt it…)

  3. June 8, 2012 / 9:46 am

    Awww what a lovely story to read!! Love pregnancy stories like this – the whole how did you find out… even more so beautiful when it was so longed for for a long time.

    I don’t know why fertility issues still seem such a taboo subject. I know someone too, who tried for 5 years. In the end their baby being born not long ago after a couple of rounds of IVF. Yet she only told a TINY amount of people. Each to their own of course… but it still seems to be such a “don’t talk about it” subject.

    So happy for you! 🙂

    • gillian
      June 11, 2012 / 4:28 pm

      Thank you, thank you! It is funny how people won’t / don’t talk about fertility issues – wow at the 5 years though, they must have been so happy after all that time! Thanks for the lovely comment, look forward to reading your blog too x

  4. June 8, 2012 / 9:46 am

    Following a miscarriage after 5 months of trying we’d sort of given up and decided to wait a few years- get married, bigger house and what not. We happened to get carried away one evening and didn’t use contraception, but following our track record, didn’t think anything of it. 4 weeks later I got my BFP, and the rest is history!!
    Thing is, now knowing I can fall pregnant quickly, I’ll be in a hurry to do so next time too- which I know isn’t sensible…. I only wish it could be as simple as it was for me for everybody- I know ladies still trying after 18 months 🙁

  5. June 9, 2012 / 12:00 pm

    Your post will give hope to so many.
    Glad it worked out for you so well in the end

    • gillian
      June 19, 2012 / 10:03 pm

      Thank you so much – such a lovely thing to say xx.

  6. August 21, 2012 / 7:29 pm

    A superb post Gillian. It’s amazing how different pregnancies can be. I didn’t think we would conceive quickly but we conceived first month with our daughter. When it came to conceiving our second child I had read it could take longer and accepted that but, like you, I also thought it could happen first month again. It took us 6 in the end. Thanks for sharing for the Britmums Carnival and sorry (again) that I missed you at first! 🙂 x

    • gillian
      August 21, 2012 / 9:25 pm

      It is amazing how completely different things can be for different people! Really interesting how different it was for you the first and second times round. I do wonder what it’s going to be like for us when we try for the second, but I guess there’s no way of telling at the moment. Thank you so much – and thanks for including me 🙂

  7. August 22, 2012 / 7:09 am

    I’ve popped across here from Heather’s BritMums Carnival. I loved reading your story and am so pleased that you got your little baby. I have a friend who is currently travelling the fertility help journey at the moment and I will let her know about this post as I’m sure it will give her, and many other couples who don’t instantly conceive like we’re programmed to think we will, the hope she needs.
    I think that thing of thinking you’ll fall straight away comes from years of being worried about getting pregnant. You spend the earlier parts of your adult life worrying about it and trying NOT to and then think it will be easy-peasy when you actually want to.
    Thanks for sharing. X

  8. January 2, 2013 / 9:08 pm

    I wish it was more openly discussed too. Same with miscarriage. Once you come out the other side and mention it to someone, you can’t turn round without finding someone else who has been through it too. We went a long way down the infertility journey and it was an agonising time. In the end the solution was simple, but I really wish there had been more conversation about the possible problems before we got so far down the line – it would have saved a lot of grief. I plan to be completely open with my children (probably via the blog!) about everything I know, just in case they should have similar experiences…

    • gillian
      January 6, 2013 / 5:11 pm

      It’s so true that once you mention it, so many people share their experiences with you too (a good thing, but as you say it would be way more useful if you knew it at the time! Especially when it seems like everyone’s getting pregnant at the drop of a hat – everyone apart from you). Speaking to mums that I’ve met in baby groups and so on, fertility has been an issue for so many more people than you’d think. I do think a lot more open and informed discussion would be really helpful – especially if it stops you consulting Dr Google, when you encounter so much murky information…xx

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