I had never felt a huge desire to be a parent, whereas friends of mine were very clear from a young age it was what they wanted.
For me, that burning ache had never yet materialised. I had been completely honest with my husband from the beginning about my feelings, when he proposed it was with the understanding that I didn’t want children.
A few years later I was on a car journey with a close friend, My friend explained that after a heart-breaking number of IVF cycles she had been found to be Peri-Menopausal. Their game was over.
She cautioned me to seriously consider my “NO children” clause. If I had any doubt, if there was any possibility I may change my mind later we should consider it ASAP. Before I found that nature had taken the option away from me.
It terrified me. The thought that I may NOT have any choice in the matter.
I was 37. I reconsidered. After not conceiving for over 18 months and numerous tests we started out with IUI (Intrauterine Insemination.) After our first round we attended a BBQ. I drank, I played Badminton I behaved almost as if I didn’t want it to work. And it didn’t.
Every month that brought the disappointment of a cycle failure, I found the Pilates studio gave me healing and physical nourishment. Pilates requires you to have a conversation with your body throughout your practice in order to execute the exercises to your best ability. You cannot leave your brain at the studio door. I found this mindful movement a steadying and calming influence.
We continued through numerous rounds of IUI until the doctors decided it was time to bring in the “BIG GUNS” with IVF. I was now 39. I was terrified. Terrified it WOULD work, terrified it WOULDN’T work.
We were put on a “Short” protocol and every evening at the same time we would mix and administer the meds. The hormones raging through me made me like King Kong and I felt like I could tear the house apart. I disliked the whole system, I felt like an ungrateful herd cow.
As so many different medical professional are involved in the IVF process, something that should be so wonderful can become clinical and impersonal.
On our last cycle, when the day of the day of the pregnancy test arrived, we sat on the stairs outside our bathroom door and waited for the results. When I saw the result I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was totally numb, even though I had suspected I was pregnant knowing it was true was different. I wasn’t unhappy but equally I wasn’t happy.
The whole process leading up to what should have been a magical moment had left me feeling utterly out of control over what was happening to my body. I felt invaded and exhausted. The thrill of finding out had been taken away and I felt numb.
During this period of huge emotional expenditure, Pilates was my refuge, my safe space where in the studio I was back in charge of my own body. I could enjoy feeling the freedom of movement and breath. I was back in control.
Giving women back some power and understanding over their bodies in that time is hugely important. Providing women the a “holding space” for an hour to be themselves with themselves. Appreciating, forgiving, loving and yes, maybe even hating what they are experiencing.
It is ok to have negative feelings about the process. We want the results but the getting there can be traumatic and mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting and it is OK to say that. There should be no stigma attached. You may have to have IVF, it doesn’t mean you have to pretend you are enjoying the process, it can take its toll on both partners and anything that can help reduce the stress is hugely valuable.
Women should and can empower other women with support, knowledge and experience and this counts as part of that conversation.
I am grateful everyday for my wonderful, messy and noisy family. I am also grateful for my Pilates practice. Long may it keep me sane!