Start with the end in mind, they say.
Which is perhaps why I’ve often found it hard to start.
There are many stages of acceptance those of us who’ve been through struggles realise we need to work through.
For my, our, in fact (since my husband has very much his own leading part) struggles there were points we thought the struggles had ended, then something would change and take us down a new path to explore.
I should say right from the start two things I over think about:
- We are privileged. We come from happy, safe, families where we were supported through early life, we have good support systems, we are not in danger, we have many opportunities available to us. We are white privileged too (not a positive, obviously). None of the above means the below didn’t impact us to a life changing degree though.
- Something I consider, or at times know, others think: what right do we have to have children? For those that don’t even ask this, you know the answer. The feeling, the wave, the non-questioning, even the fact that you might have to question it seems unfathomable. For those that do think and might ask it this is my answer: of course we have no right and I don’t believe I’m ‘due’ anything, full stop, let alone because we’ve ‘had our bad luck’ (an awful phrase). But the feeling that your life was meant for something as well as this (our present, which I’m actually, now, very happy with) is just there, constant and un-wavering. And then the loss and grief feels so heavy to bear you equate it to the amount you must want this. Maybe not always correctly but that’s my case anyway.
Here’s the start through to present.
We were married in 2010, lovely spring day, bit of rain, no-one cared (about the rain, not our marriage!), I got pregnant in the autumn slightly unexpectedly but very happily and subsequently found blood in my poo. Thinking it was pregnancy related trotted off to GP, who very unusually (i.e. I was not high risk and technically in many of young adult cancer cases this is exactly where things usually get missed) was sent for extra tests. Forgetting about the hospital check and only to be reminded by my GP calling that morning (weird) I went, thinking nothing of it. No other symptoms and the blood had gone. They found a tumour straight away. I was on my own and scared. Called husband out of a meeting. Had to scare him too.
Pregnancy and bowel cancer. For me these weren’t viable options due to the tumour’s location and surgery required. We had to have a termination. It’s taken me 8 years to write that sentence without trauma related to it.
We had the quickest IVF round in between diagnosis and my surgery (strange, strange mental place to be pregnant then 2 weeks late in an IVF clinic) to preserve embryos, I had a 12 hour surgery that was technically perfect but physically and emotionally gruelling that was to commence 18 months of the same. Chemotherapy was awful – I was not a pretty, kind, or happy patient. Stopped early because I wasn’t tolerating it. Actually they said I was dying, and I felt it. All the while thinking ‘I should be pregnant now’, ‘I should be on maternity leave’ (side note – I eventually went back to work and a colleague unhelpfully did say ‘I bet it’s just like you’ve been on maternity leave’. No, no, it was not Caroline).
Got better, body slightly broken. Started trying for babies and realised it wouldn’t be easy. Went for IVF eventually, had 3 rounds, 2 with fresh but dwindling eggs, 1 with my frozen embryos transported in a Dalek like cryogenic tube in the back seat, strapped in like a child, down the M25 in the back of our car because we didn’t trust a courier. Who would?
We got pregnant with a fresh round actually. On my birthday went for an early ish (10 week) scan, only to be told the pregnancy had such a rare condition that the top Harley street scanner had never seen it in real life, only in textbooks. Ashen faced, we walked about regent’s park not knowing where to look. We had to have a termination.
We regrouped, rested, I stopped work in the way I was working and joined a gym with a spa for respite. Irrespective of whether we could afford it, I knew, I knew, this was healing time.
Another question often asked is about adoption: why put yourself through all of that when you can ‘just adopt’?
But the idea that ‘just’ adopting is an easy option, and that it’s the option that every person with a fertility issue should take is misinformed on many levels. Indeed, we did look into foreign adoption and were stung by a silly arrangement we’d made with someone who might be able to support us then couldn’t.
Surrogacy or live without children.
We spent a fair few years in the latter. Believing this was our option and coming to terms with it. We’ve been immensely happy, actually. Driving in to the Peaks, the Highlands, The Lakes, spending time with nephews and nieces, flying to places we wouldn’t otherwise have done. Got a dog. I’ve had great therapy. Always talked. Built my beautiful business, which has sustained and maintained my sense of purpose.
But the feeling, the feeling. It didn’t go. It only got stronger – only this time without grief and a more practical sense of ‘we both still really want this’ i.e. it didn’t feel like a reaction to anything, it was just plain non-questioning lust for a bigger family (we call our 3 animals our family, in case that didn’t make sense).
Surrogacy has always been on my mind. I’ve never questioned that I would like to bypass my womb, my often still slightly broken body. In fact I’m so happy to proxy this over to someone who has far more working bits in order than I. And biology-wise? I’ve also always felt that forgoing my own would be advantageous, in case the cancer was indeed anything to do with this.
I could document another unfortunate surrogacy hiccup that occurred uniquely for us, in the UK. But it feels moot now. Haven’t we moved on, so many might quietly question? We never will, I defiantly tell you – we just learn to live differently with pain and loss and suffering and, cliché away, become all the more whole for it (eventually).
Anyway, we discovered surrogacy is more reasonably arranged (legally and costs wise) in Canada than anywhere we had seen before. We also have family in Canada and near the same time zone on the US/Canadian border. Everything just seemed to flow in the investigation of it.
As I write, we’ve confirmed our Donor, and just last night our newly matched surrogate told us she would love, love, to be our surrogate.
Is this the end in mind?