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Catherine ' Interview 04

Age at interview: 45
Brief Outline: Catherine was diagnosed with unexplained infertility. She has a son and daughter conceived with IVF.
Background: Catherine is a writer, married with two children. Ethnic background' White British.

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Catherine started to try for a baby when she was 30. When nothing happened for a few months, she started to get worried especially as she was quite aware of her age. She had a sympathetic GP who referred her for tests quickly. She and her husband opted for the local hospital but there were long delays between tests, so in parallel they made an appointment to see a doctor privately. They were given the diagnosis of unexplained fertility and recommended to try IVF straight away. They decided to pay for a cycle immediately rather than wait a year for treatment on the NHS.  Their first cycle was unsuccessful and so they decided to try a cycle with some of the frozen embryos left over. That cycle did not work either so they opted for another fresh cycle, which did work. After an anxious pregnancy, Catherine’s son was born. She and her husband waited two years before starting to try for another baby. Again they had to go through IVF, although they left quite long gaps between cycles so that it did not impact on their family too much.  This time it was one full cycle and four frozen cycles before they were successful and had a daughter four years after their son. 

 

Catherine was worried after a few months of trying to get pregnant. Her GP was sympathetic, ran...

Catherine was worried after a few months of trying to get pregnant. Her GP was sympathetic, ran...

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I started having, trying to have a child when I was 30. And I knew, I’d always known that I wanted children, but until then I’d been kind of, you know, busy doing all those kind of career things and feeling settled. And I really felt when I was 30 that I was actually ready to have a family and that was what I wanted to do. And a lot of my friends had started having children. And when it didn’t happen within just a few months I actually started to get slightly worried. I think even then I was quite aware of my age. Although 30 is relatively young, I knew that, you know, my fertility would soon start diminishing. And also I knew that there were long waiting lists for treatment and for tests and for all those kind of things. So I actually went to see the GP probably after only about five months. And I was really lucky because my GP was actually incredibly sympathetic, and I know a lot of people get told to go away and keep trying. But he said, “Oh, no, I’ll do some tests straight away. We might as well rule out any problems immediately.” Which he did. And then he referred me to a clinic fairly quickly as well.

 

Catherine contrasted the abrupt reception she got at one clinic with the private consultation...

Catherine contrasted the abrupt reception she got at one clinic with the private consultation...

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And the difference between them was extraordinary actually. One lasted about ten minutes. The doctor turned up an hour late, didn’t address my partner at all, didn’t talk to him, only talked to me. He said, “I think you’ve got polycystic ovaries.” I don’t know quite on what he based this. He said, “Have you got spots?” And I said, “Well, do I look as if I’ve got really bad spots? No, I don’t have spots.” He said, “Do you ever have unwanted hair?” And I thought, “Well, I think most women do actually.” He said, “Well, I think you’ve got polycystic ovaries. Go and have a scan now and come back in three months.” So I went to have a scan there and then, and said to the woman doing the scan, “Have I got polycystic ovaries?” And she said, “No.” But I still had to wait three months for another appointment. Meanwhile the appointment with the private doctor was just brilliant. And, you know, we paid for it, but it was still in an NHS unit. He was still treating us as he would have treated his NHS patients, and he was absolutely lovely. He was really sympathetic, really understanding. Gave my partner a physical examination, and no one had even bothered to talk to him before, and actually found something which could have been a problem, but wasn’t in the end. But it was completely different. I just felt much safer there. I felt that he was really working in our best interests. In the end no one could find anything wrong with either of us, and our infertility was always unexplained. Both the clinics recommended that we should go for IVF. But by doing it and paying for it we could do it right away the next month, and by doing it at the NHS hospital we were going to have to wait a year. So we decided to just pay and do it straight away. 

 

Catherine was surprised to be sent for a laparoscopy, under general anaesthetic. She had never...

Catherine was surprised to be sent for a laparoscopy, under general anaesthetic. She had never...

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The one thing I particularly remember about the tests was having, being told that I had to have a laparoscopy what seemed to be quite early on in the process. And it, I remember them sort of saying, “You have to go into hospital and you’ll have a general anaesthetic.” And, and it seemed like this really enormously huge thing to be doing so early on. I’ve never been into hospital, I’ve never had a general anaesthetic in my life, and I was really really scared about it actually. And I was more scared about the whole sort of process than I was about what it might show. And I remember how frightened I was when I went into hospital that day to have it done, and sort of turning up on this ward and waiting for this kind of operation thing. And there was nothing wrong with me. It seemed a really odd sort of way to be going about things. And I kind of, at that point I remember thinking maybe I’d jumped into it all too soon and maybe I should have left more time and maybe I was making things worse by stressing out about it so early on really. And also after having the laparoscopy, I kind of thought if it was just a test you ought to sort of feel completely fine. And of course you don’t, because it’s quite a big thing really. I mean it’s not a huge operation but, you know, someone’s been delving about in your innards. And I felt really awful for a couple of days afterwards, really kind of, you know, frail and sort of, and it, I suppose part of that is just the, having had a general anaesthetic. But actually that was really, you know, I was quite surprised at this, at how much it affected me going through that. And in fact it was fine. And, you know, now I know it’s a completely standard procedure. But I think when you’re quite healthy and you feel completely fine, to suddenly be told, “Oh, this is part of our investigations. We’re going to give you a general anaesthetic and open you up,” it all seemed a bit extreme really. The other test which was really awful, which I don’t think they do so much now, is the post-coital test, where you basically have to have sex and then go to hospital a number of hours later. Then they take out, they do a smear and take out a sample to make sure that the sperm are living in your cervical mucus. Which is just such a ridiculously embarrassing thing to have to do and so kind of humiliating. And, you know, you just kind of, and I’m really glad they don’t do it so much now because it just felt like a really awful test to have to go through actually.

 

Catherine had qualms and wondered whether they were doing the right thing starting IVF. She...

Catherine had qualms and wondered whether they were doing the right thing starting IVF. She...

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I think that you don’t ever really expect to have to do IVF. All the way through the testing process, and I’d been on Clomid for a while as well, all the way through all of that I didn’t ever actually think that I would get as far as IVF. I thought it was something that happened to other people. I didn’t really think it would happen to us. And I was actually quite scared when all of a sudden I was about to do it and it was all starting to seem real. I suddenly thought, “What are we doing? Should we really be messing with nature in this way? Is it really a natural thing to be doing?” I had all these kind of qualms about it that I didn’t know where they’d come from at all. And it was quite frightening. I don’t know why I was so worried, but I was really quite scared about it all when it got to that point. But once you actually get into it, once you start doing the process, it’s not the actual medical part of it which is so difficult. You expect that to be difficult. You think, “Oh, I’m going to have to inject myself. That’s going to be really awful.” But you learn to deal with those things quite quickly. 

 

Catherine described being anxious about the egg collection, but with heavy sedation felt very...

Catherine described being anxious about the egg collection, but with heavy sedation felt very...

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But you are, all the time you’re, you’re having to go back to the clinic quite a lot for the scans to check how the follicles are developing. Which is always, you know, you’re always really anxious before each scan and, “Is it going to be okay? And, “Is, are there going to be any problems?” And we were quite lucky. Ours actually did go very smoothly. And then it came to the egg collection stage. And I think up till then I’d really persisted in seeing egg collection as some sort of glorified smear test actually, and I didn’t really, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that it was actually an operation. And it wasn’t until we got to the hospital that morning, and we normally go in quite early, and we got there really early and all of the staff around were in kind of operating theatre gowns. And I suddenly realised that this was actually quite a big thing that was about to happen. 
 
And I suddenly got quite anxious about it all. But actually it was fine. You can either do it with a general anaesthetic or with very heavy sedation, and I did it with the heavy sedation thing. And you could, you were kind of aware of, of pain, but you were very distanced from it. It was a bit like watching someone else go through it. And my husband was able to come in with me and sort of sit there holding my hand. Which was actually very reassuring because I didn’t really, when I started to come round, I didn’t really know quite what had happened and what had been going on. But we got, that time we got quite a lot of eggs. And then of course they’ve got to fertilise. Which is the next sort of huge stage. 
 
 

Catherine describes how much easier it was going through IVF the second time around, although she...

Catherine describes how much easier it was going through IVF the second time around, although she...

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So what was it like going through IVF a second time?
 
It was much much easier actually. I think once you’ve got a child you never feel that sense of isolation in the way that you did the first time round. And although it’s still a difficult process, it’s not easy, you’ve still got the same kind of ups and downs, you, you don’t have that, you know, you’re not this odd, different person any more. You’re someone who actually has a child. It would just be really really truly lovely if you could have another one. And so it doesn’t feel as desperate. I think that one thing that was quite odd about it was I felt really worried about my son when I was doing it again. I really didn’t want me getting upset and having to keep going to the clinic and all of that, I didn’t want that stuff to impact on him at all. And I was quite worried about that, because there were times when inevitably I would get quite upset. And I really really didn’t want him to feel that. And I didn’t want him, I mean he didn’t know what we were doing, he was still really little, but I didn’t want it to affect him at all. And I remember being very conscious of that, and of the fact that I should try not to let it impact on him. And we actually had quite a lot of treatment cycles in that time, mainly frozen. We had four frozen treatment cycles and one full treatment cycle. So there were quite a lot of ups and downs in that period. But I really didn’t want it to upset him. But at the same time I desperately wanted it to work for him, because I just thought, “It would be so lovely if you could have a brother or a sister. It would really just be such a fantastic thing.” And having had a child you kind of knew how wonderful it was and how truly amazing it would be to be able to have another one.
 
 

Catherine had always wanted children, but was busy with her career for many years. As she turned...

Catherine had always wanted children, but was busy with her career for many years. As she turned...

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I started having, trying to have a child when I was 30. And I knew, I’d always known that I wanted children, but until then I’d been kind of, you know, busy doing all those kind of career things and feeling settled. And I really felt when I was 30 that I was actually ready to have a family and that was what I wanted to do. And a lot of my friends had started having children. And when it didn’t happen within just a few months I actually started to get slightly worried. I think even then I was quite aware of my age. Although 30 is relatively young, I knew that, you know, my fertility would soon start diminishing. And also I knew that there were long waiting lists for treatment and for tests and for all those kind of things. So I actually went to see the GP probably after only about five months. And I was really lucky because my GP was actually incredibly sympathetic, and I know a lot of people get told to go away and keep trying. But he said, “Oh, no, I’ll do some tests straight away. We might as well rule out any problems immediately.” Which he did. And then he referred me to a clinic fairly quickly as well. 

 

Catherine knew that her fertility was likely to start declining after the age of thirty.

Catherine knew that her fertility was likely to start declining after the age of thirty.

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Probably exactly the same as most people’s. I think we kind of, you know, we’re very obsessed with the fact that, we all know about how to prevent pregnancy, we know that really well. And I think we kind of assume that the moment we stop preventing it we’re going to get pregnant. And I think that’s a general assumption on most women’s behalf actually. And I was aware that my fertility declined as I got older. I think the things I wasn’t aware of, you know, I used to smoke when I was younger and I had no idea that that had any effect on my fertility at all. So those kind of lifestyle choices, I think we’re not necessarily aware of quite what a big impact they can have. I think the really difficult thing for me was the whole thing about stress, and whether stress affects your fertility. Because some people say, “Yes, it does. It’s proven that it does” and other people say, “No, that’s nonsense.” And, and I used to get really worried about it. And the thing is the more worried you get about it, the more you are stressed about it. And I used to think, “Was it my job? Was it my lifestyle? Was it…?” Especially with un-, unexplained infertility, you do start to think that the choices you’ve made in your life have somehow made it worse

 

Catherine describes how much easier it was going through IVF the second time around, although she...

Catherine describes how much easier it was going through IVF the second time around, although she...

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So what was it like going through IVF a second time?
 
It was much much easier actually. I think once you’ve got a child you never feel that sense of isolation in the way that you did the first time round. And although it’s still a difficult process, it’s not easy, you’ve still got the same kind of ups and downs, you, you don’t have that, you know, you’re not this odd, different person any more. You’re someone who actually has a child. It would just be really really truly lovely if you could have another one. And so it doesn’t feel as desperate. I think that one thing that was quite odd about it was I felt really worried about my son when I was doing it again. I really didn’t want me getting upset and having to keep going to the clinic and all of that, I didn’t want that stuff to impact on him at all. And I was quite worried about that, because there were times when inevitably I would get quite upset. And I really really didn’t want him to feel that. And I didn’t want him, I mean he didn’t know what we were doing, he was still really little, but I didn’t want it to affect him at all. And I remember being very conscious of that, and of the fact that I should try not to let it impact on him. And we actually had quite a lot of treatment cycles in that time, mainly frozen. We had four frozen treatment cycles and one full treatment cycle. So there were quite a lot of ups and downs in that period. But I really didn’t want it to upset him. But at the same time I desperately wanted it to work for him, because I just thought, “It would be so lovely if you could have a brother or a sister. It would really just be such a fantastic thing.” And having had a child you kind of knew how wonderful it was and how truly amazing it would be to be able to have another one.
 
 

Catherine was finally successful conceiving through IVF but she was surprised how her infertility...

Catherine was finally successful conceiving through IVF but she was surprised how her infertility...

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And I remember the nurse ringing me up at home. And my mum was there, and we just both burst into tears. It was just, I c-, really couldn’t believe that after four years I was finally pregnant and I was normal and like everyone else and going to have a baby. Because I think that’s the, that’s one of the most difficult things about it really. You do feel that you are not the same as everyone else, that you’ve kind of failed as a woman somehow. Everyone else seems to be able to do this thing so easily, and you just grow up expecting that you’ll be able to have children if you want to. And discovering that you can’t, it’s really hard to describe how much that affects you actually, how much it affects the way you see yourself and how you feel about yourself. And it starts to impact on just everything you do. You know, you can’t walk along the street, you can’t go out without seeing babies and pregnant people. And, you know, you switch on the television and everything seems to be focused on, you know, all the adverts, lovely little soft babies. And, and it’s like you’re sort of completely isolated from society really. I mean it’s quite amazing how, how much you start to feel like that and how quickly you start to feel like that as well. You know, all your friends, we didn’t tell people at first and everyone was always saying, “Oh, when are you going to . . ?” “Oh, well.” If you don’t tell them it’s worse in a way, because everyone says, “Oh, you really ought to start trying. You know, you can’t leave it much longer.” You’re just like, “Leave us alone.” It is really difficult I think that, that isolation. And it’s something that people don’t understand. You know, there’s often a lot of criticism of, you know, whether people should have fertility treatment on the NHS, and people kind of say, “Oh, well, it’s not going to kill you, is it?” And I think they really underestimate how much it affects you psychologically. A lot of people do get really really depressed when they are going through it. And it, I think it’s, it is really underestimated, that side of it, the emotional impact of infertility and of treatment as well. I think people just simply can’t understand unless they’ve actually been there themselves really.

 

Catherine felt that could have done with more support after her first cycle of IVF didn’t work.

Catherine felt that could have done with more support after her first cycle of IVF didn’t work.

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Some people, some people like to take that time off work. But I actually found working in that thing, in that bit of time was the best thing that I could possibly do, because it was the only thing that actually distracted me and it did mean that I had to focus on something else and think about something else. I think if I’d been at home in that bit of time I would have gone completely bonkers, because I wouldn’t have thought about anything all day long and all night long other than whether it had worked or not. And our first treatment cycle didn’t work, it wasn’t successful. And initially I was, I wasn’t too bad about it. I just kind of thought, “Oh, well, it hasn’t worked. That’s it and, you know, get back on with things. 
 
Then it was a few days later that it actually really hit me that, you know, this was our only way of having a baby, this was our last chance. And if this kind of hi-tech thing didn’t work, then maybe nothing would ever work and maybe I’d never be able to have a baby. And I was just, I went through a phase of just being completely devastated. I really couldn’t cope at all. And I think sometimes there’s not enough support during that time. Because after unsuccessful treatment is probably the time you most need counselling and help. And the clinic did say, “Oh, you know, you can come in and talk to us” but they left a gap of a few weeks before I went back. And it was just a really really horrible time actually, really horrible time. 
 
 

Catherine felt there was no choice at all, she hated the feeling that she was at the mercy of...

Catherine felt there was no choice at all, she hated the feeling that she was at the mercy of...

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I mean I think that’s one of the most difficult things about it, the whole, there, there’s no choice at all. You just feel you’re completely at the mercy of other people. Like when they’re deciding to give you your next appointment, when they can fit you in. I mean I think that’s partly why so many people end up paying quite early down the route, is that if you don’t do that you just feel like you’re endlessly waiting. You’re waiting for tests, you’re waiting for results, you’re waiting for treatment. It’s all just one long wait. And every single month you’ve got another period, another month that you’re not pregnant, another month that you’re becoming older and less fertile. And I think that’s what’s really difficult about it. And it does start to feel like you’ve been put on this kind of, you know, sort of conveyor belt, and you’re just going through this thing with all these things happening to you with absolutely no control over it whatsoever. And I felt completely out of control. And I think that’s actually one of the most difficult things, especially if you’re used to being quite in control of your life. To feel everything’s just completely slipped away from you was really really tough actually.

 

Despite having a fantastic midwife, Catherine says she was ‘neurotic’ through her pregnancy. She...

Despite having a fantastic midwife, Catherine says she was ‘neurotic’ through her pregnancy. She...

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I was very lucky that I had a really really fantastic midwife actually, who made a lot of difference. Because she just kept saying to me, you know, “The fact that you’ve had problems getting pregnant doesn’t mean you have to have problems being pregnant. The two things are completely different.” Which was actually immensely reassuring. And I was lucky that I had really good care throughout my pregnancy. But at the same time I did feel completely neurotic about everything. And I started reading medical textbooks and kind of pregnancy books in a slightly manic way and became convinced that I had every single thing that you could possibly have wrong with you. I remember saying to her once, “Do you think I’ve got an incompetent cervix?” And she said, “Why would you have an incompetent cervix?” I said, “I don’t know. I could have, couldn’t I?” I got really, I was really worried about everything. And the other weird thing is I don’t think I ever felt properly pregnant oddly. Even when, you know, I had a bump out here, I still used to think that other people were really pregnant and I almost wasn’t really pregnant. It was like I was pretending. And I don’t think I actually really believed that I was going to have a baby until I had my baby there. But all of the time I don’t think I could ever quite let myself believe that it was going to work. And I was, I was really really worried about miscarriage. I mean I know that everyone is. But I was just so worried. I didn’t tell anyone at all apart from my family that I was pregnant for a long time. I didn’t tell anyone at work. I, I found it really hard to, to admit to it, because I couldn’t quite believe that I could be allowed to be that happy really. And it’s kind of sad in a way, because you think you’ve spent all this time waiting to get there and you should be really overjoyed, but instead you’re just really really worried. And I think that’s quite sad in a way. It does kind of affect the way you feel about being pregnant. And I think probably quite a lot of us do end up feeling slightly like that. I mean I was, I was really lucky with my midwives about the whole birth thing. 
 
But I think pregnancy is quite, is not, it’s not quite the same. You sort of feel when you’re going through fertility treatment and you’ve gone through years and years to actually get to the point of being pregnant that that ought to be the end of something. Whereas for most people that’s the beginning of something. And it’s actually quite difficult to think you’ve got another nine months of worry to go before you actually get to the goal that you really want to achieve actually.
 
 

Catherine’s second IVF pregnancy felt harder than her first, as she could not believe that she...

Catherine’s second IVF pregnancy felt harder than her first, as she could not believe that she...

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It was much much easier actually. I think once you’ve got a child you never feel that sense of isolation in the way that you did the first time round. And although it’s still a difficult process, it’s not easy, you’ve still got the same kind of ups and downs, you, you don’t have that, you know, you’re not this odd, different person any more. You’re someone who actually has a child. It would just be really really truly lovely if you could have another one. And so it doesn’t feel as desperate. I think that one thing that was quite odd about it was I felt really worried about my son when I was doing it again. I really didn’t want me getting upset and having to keep going to the clinic and all of that, I didn’t want that stuff to impact on him at all. And I was quite worried about that, because there were times when inevitably I would get quite upset. And I really really didn’t want him to feel that. And I didn’t want him, I mean he didn’t know what we were doing, he was still really little, but I didn’t want it to affect him at all. And I remember being very conscious of that, and of the fact that I should try not to let it impact on him. And we actually had quite a lot of treatment cycles in that time, mainly frozen. We had four frozen treatment cycles and one full treatment cycle. So there were quite a lot of ups and downs in that period. But I really didn’t want it to upset him. But at the same time I desperately wanted it to work for him, because I just thought, “It would be so lovely if you could have a brother or a sister. It would really just be such a fantastic thing.” And having had a child you kind of knew how wonderful it was and how truly amazing it would be to be able to have another one. But oddly the second pregnancy I found much harder. And my midwife said to me one day that she thought maybe it was that I almost was thinking, “Anyone could have one miracle, but surely no one deserved two.” And it was really like that. The second pregnancy, I was so worried that something was going to go wrong. I was worried all the way through the pregnancy, much more than I was the first time. And I think that was true actually, that I kind of thought, “I’ve been so lucky once. Could anyone really be this lucky again?” And, you know, it’s crazy really, isn’t it? Most normal people just get pregnant and have loads of babies and don’t think about it. But it was such an amazing thing for us to be able to have a second child that I think I felt much more aware of that actually the second time around.

 

Catherine tried to explain her fertility treatment to her young son. He misunderstood and...

Catherine tried to explain her fertility treatment to her young son. He misunderstood and...

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You talked a bit ago about how you felt really isolated during your first IVF cycle, and feeling sort of, as if you weren’t fulfilling what you should have been able to do as a woman. Did that change once you’d had one baby and you were trying again? Or did that sort of feeling carry on?
 
I think it did change to an extent. Because once you’re a mother, you’re a mother, and so you don’t ever feel that kind of sense of, “Oh, I’m never going to feel, be a mother.” But I think there, there are different things that come into play. I think, I felt very strongly that I was failing my son, because I thought I was kind of, you know, he was going to be an only child and it was entirely my fault. And I remember we talked about it once, before I got pregnant again. And he was still quite little and I was ex-, he said something about brothers and sisters and I was kind of trying to explain it to him. And I said, “Well, actually, you know, it’s really difficult for mummy and daddy to have babies and we had to have lots of help to have you. And some people can’t do it very easily.” And it was just before Christmas, and he said, “I know, I’ve got a really good idea.” He said, “You could go to the shops. There are bound to be some babies in the shops for Christmas.” And I just thought, “Oh, no.” I felt so mean. You know, there was nothing I wanted more than to go and get him this baby for Christmas. And it was all so straightforward in his eyes. And he obviously completely misunderstood what I was trying to tell him. But I felt really awful from this, you know, because I just wanted him to be able to be normal. And I felt in some ways I was not allowing him that, because we couldn’t give him a brother or a sister.
 
 

Catherine learnt that you had to accept that people don’t really understand what you are going...

Catherine learnt that you had to accept that people don’t really understand what you are going...

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Some friends were really lovely about it and really did try to help and would kind of talk to me about it and things. And other people were just absolutely hopeless. And I think you have to accept that people don’t really understand what you are going through, and people do say sometimes things that seem to you so crass and awful. But it’s just that they don’t understand. And they don’t mean to be unhelpful, or they’re not trying to be horrid. But I think sometimes it does really feel as if people are just trying to get at you. You know, people would say, I remember someone saying to me after our first IVF attempt didn’t work something about, “Oh, well, you could always adopt.” And I thought, “But, you know, this is only our first IVF attempt. Why are you saying this to me now?” And then other people would sort of assume that because you were having treatment it would inevitably work. And I remember saying, someone saying to me when we’d had our first lot of embryos put back something like, “Oh, well, you are pregnant really, aren’t you? Because the embryos are inside you now.” And, and to me that was just, I don’t know, it was just too unbearable to even think about. I thought it was a really upsetting thing to have said to me. But I know that the person who said it was actually trying to be really positive about it and, you know, upbeat and make me feel better. But I think it’s like anything, you know. People can’t necessarily understand unless they’ve actually been there themselves.

 

Catherine found it so difficult to combine work and treatment that she eventually took the whole...

Catherine found it so difficult to combine work and treatment that she eventually took the whole...

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One minute you’re overjoyed because you can see all these follicles developing, and the next minute they’re saying, “Oh, well, we might need to leave you on the drugs for an extra day” or whatever, and you’re sort of panic-stricken. And it, it really is immensely difficult. I tried to carry on going to work when we were doing that, and after about four days I just realised that I was going to have to take some time off. Because apart from anything else it was the amount of time I was having to spend at the clinic. And I hadn’t told anyone at work, and so I had to keep lying about where I was. And I’d said that I had this series of appointments and I’d be a bit late in for work some days. And then, you know, the next day they rang and said, “Oh, can you go to Belfast tomorrow?” I was meant to be at the clinic at 9. I said, “No, no, I can’t” you know. It was just impossible actually. So I ended up taking the whole of that time until the embryo transfer off. Which was actually a really good thing to have done, because it just made it so much easier to cope. And I know some people prefer to keep working and find it easy, but I just found it really difficult. I think maybe a lot depends on the nature of your work really.

 

Catherine was reluctant to join a support group at first, but when she did, it was “fantastic”...

Catherine was reluctant to join a support group at first, but when she did, it was “fantastic”...

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But I did, at first I was really really reluctant to join any kind of support group. And I think it was partly because it was kind of, it kind of meant admitting that it was a problem. And I remember when I went to the hospital one of the doctors saying to me something about a support group. And I said, “Oh, no, I don’t want to join a support group.” And I was really really adamant about it. And I said, she said, “Why?” And I kind of explained that I thought it would be sort of admitting it was more of a problem, and that it wouldn’t help me cope, and I was coping fine by myself, and burst into tears. And she said, “Well, I don’t think you’re really coping, are you?” I said, “No, I’m not.” And I did actually in the end, I remember I had to really pluck up my courage the first time I rang the Infertility Support Network. And it was like you were ringing about some really, I don’t know, admitting you had some really awful thing. It really felt like that. And I remember my voice was really shaking and I was really really anxious. And they were just really lovely and really supportive and sympathetic. “Well, we’ll send you all our information.” And actually it was a real help. And we went to, we didn’t go to lots of support group meetings, but we went to a few and it made such a difference. It was just amazing to be in a room full of people who you had absolutely nothing in common with really apart from this one thing, but they all understood. And you knew that no one was going to say to you, “Oh, so do you have children?” and, “When are you going to get round to it?” And, you know, we could even laugh about some of the sort of ridiculously awful things that had happened to us. And it was just a, fantastic. Actually it was really fantastic. And I was so glad that we did it. And we didn’t go that often. But you knew when you needed to that that kind of network was there to tap into. And I think that was actually one of the most valuable things that we did, because, you know, at the time we didn’t know anyone else who was going through it. And it was just brilliant. And then later on as we got further down the process, a sort of friend of a friend of a friend was actually having fertility problems and started on the whole testing thing at the same time, and we became just really really close friends because of that. And it was so helpful to have her there and to be able to talk to her and always know that she understood. And, and, you know, we could go off and laugh about ridiculous things together about it and, you know, talk about how awful other people were not understanding and how unsympathetic they were. And actually it was a real help just to have someone else who was there and who kind of had the same things. But then it was quite difficult, because I got pregnant before she did. And I knew exactly how she felt about it. I knew how she was putting on that smile and going, “Oh, that’s fantastic.” And I knew that me being pregnant would be worse than anyone else being pregnant for her. And she was brilliant and we did stay friends. And then she got pregnant in the end as well. 

 

Catherine felt that she could really have benefited from fertility counselling but was not happy with the general counselor she saw.

Catherine felt that she could really have benefited from fertility counselling but was not happy with the general counselor she saw.

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At the very beginning before we started IVF I got into a complete state at one point, where I just couldn’t stop crying. I mean I would cry all the time when I wasn’t at work. I would go to work and be together all day, and then come home and just cry. I, it seemed like I just cried all the time. And I went to the doctor and said, “I really don’t think I’m coping.” And she said, “Well, maybe you could see a counsellor, who would help you with some coping strategies.” Which I thought sounded fantastic. And I was really looking forward to seeing this counsellor, and I was really sure it was going to really help. And it was just awful. I mean I think it was partly that I didn’t go and see a specialist fertility counsellor. And I would really advise anyone to make sure that they do, rather than just see a general counsellor. Because the woman I saw didn’t really have, she didn’t seem to have any understanding at all of fertility problems. And she just kept saying, “Oh, that must be awful” and sort of looking out the window in a rather vague kind of way. And then she wanted, and I, I suppose it’s a kind of counselling, a kind of therapy, where they want to go back into your childhood and discuss your, she wanted to discuss my relationship with my mother. And I’m sure this was probably terribly relevant, but at the time to me I just thought, you know, “I’m not here about that. I really don’t want to talk about that. I want you to do something to help me, I, to help me get through this now, not to talk about my past.” And I remember her saying, “Would you like to come and see me again?” And I thought it would be really rude not to say, “Yes.” So I made an appointment, and as soon as I got home I rang up and cancelled it. And it, it was sad actually, because it put me off going for counselling again. And I think it could have probably been really really helpful if I’d been to see someone who actually was experienced at dealing with people with fertility problems. And I know a lot of people find it an absolute godsend, but it did completely put me off the whole counselling thing actually.

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