In April 2008, shortly after my birthday, I was due to have another Depo-Provera injection. For those of you who don’t know, this is an “anti fertility” form of contraception, which works for a twelve-week period after each injection in three ways;
1 – They stop you from ovulating (producing eggs)
2 – They thicken the mucus in your cervix, making if difficult for sperm to get through.
3 – They make the lining of the womb thinner, so that if an egg became fertilised it would have difficulty attaching itself to the lining for a successful pregnancy.
I’d been on the injection by that point for 18 months, and my doctor had already advised that once I reached the 2 year point we’d have to discuss a break, or an alternative option. By that point in my life, I’d been on some form or another of contraceptive since I was sixteen. The most commonly used combination pills had been tried and tested and found to be unsuitable for me for a variety of reasons including migraines, vomiting and diarrhoea, black outs, night terrors, severe cramps, bleeding between periods and dizzy spells. I’d been swapped and changed on the Pill for a long time, and when I found one I got along with my monthly break crippled me, I suffered heavy blood loss resulting in iron deficiency and more dizzy spells along with migraine, vomiting and diarrhoea. My doctor eventually advised me to use the Pill as a ‘tricycle’ meaning that I’d take three months worth without a break in order to minimise the amount of periods I had each year, so while we weren’t resolving the issue of the problems I had when I did have a period, we were minimising the amount of periods I had and thus I didn’t endure more than was strictly necessary. My experience as a fertile female hadn’t exactly been plain sailing to say the least.
My decision to start the contraceptive injection wasn’t one that had been taken lightly. I was advised that while it meant I didn’t have to worry about taking a pill every morning I would only be able to have the injection for a maximum of two years – partly due to my history and partly due to the negative side effects that long term use of the contraceptive injection is believed to cause.
When The Hubby and I decided that I wouldn’t make another appointment to have my next due injection I felt a sense of elation, even though I understood that nothing would probably happen for a while yet. The average for a female to become normally fertile again after use of the contraceptive injection is a year, and at that point we had no evidence that I was ‘normally’ fertile anyway. I’d never had an unplanned pregnancy in my life, despite years on the pill forgetting to take it, times when I was on antibiotics and should have used alternative contraceptives and didn’t, it seemed unlikely that I’d been ‘lucky’ all those times, and it played at the back of my mind that maybe there was another underlying reason why it had never happened.
We told nobody, apart from my best friend, that we were no longer using contraceptives. When I first said to The Hubby “trying for a baby” he said to me, “No, we’re not ‘trying’, because if we don’t succeed then you’ll feel like you’ve ‘failed’ at something. We’re not preventing pregnancy.” From then on, that’s how I thought of it – NPP. And it was our little secret.
I didn’t want to tell everyone that we were NPP because I didn’t want the pressure – water cooler gossip on a Monday morning “Are you pregnant yet?” followed by “No” and “Oh dear, never mind, it’ll happen!” When I didn’t know for sure that it could. My parents had problems conceiving me and my brother – there’s a large age gap between us where my mum miscarried at least one pregnancy – and in addition to that her brother and her sister both had issues conceiving with their respective partners. While her brother and his wife ended up adopting their only child, her sister and her husband started having fertility treatment and then stopped halfway through when her husband decided it was too painful and the potential outcome “not worth it”. The Hubby and I kept our decision to ourselves, and continued life as normal.
Except life wasn’t normal. Suddenly I’d gone from being a normal woman who was married without kids to being someone desperate to get pregnant, all because of that single decision to stop having the injection. The sensible, sane side of my mind kept reminding me it could take months for my fertility to get back to normal, then even longer until I was pregnant – and once I got pregnant there was no guarantee it would go smoothly – but everywhere I looked I saw women with baby bumps, women with carseats and buggies, couples cooing over prams, children feeding ducks in the park and laughing as they played in the sunshine; as the months progressed those images seemed ever more apparent, and when close friends called or messaged to tell me they were pregnant, every time I said “Congratulations” it felt like I was being stabbed in the chest. I can’t explain to a woman whose never experienced it how awful it is to hate your closest friends in the world when they get pregnant for the simple fact that they’ve done it and you haven’t. As much as I loved these women, as good friends as they were (and still are) I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me, some cosmic reason why I wasn’t supposed to become a mum.
After more than a year of NPP, I felt like a failure. I gained weight from comfort eating all the wrong things, from drinking more and more to forget the pain of not getting pregnant (I know I was shooting myself in the foot there, but there is no logic involved in such a decision when you’re in that place) Every time The Hubby and I were intimate I’d wonder “is this it? Will I get pregnant this time?” I checked online and in books and every other way I could for the best positions, the best time of the month, the best thing to do before and during and after, to ensure pregnancy. Every month when another hideous, horrible period arrived (and with it the cramps, heavy blood loss, iron deficiency, migraine, vomiting and diarrhoea) I felt worse and worse and not just from the symptoms of my monthly guest.
Finally, in October, 17 months after we started NPP, I was walking around like a zombie. I’d been to the doctors and told there was nothing obviously preventing me from getting pregnant, but we had to have been NPP for 24 months before we could move forward and have fertility tests done. I arranged a big Halloween party, purely for a distraction. I invited friends to come and celebrate and stay with us from all around, and amongst those friends was my best friend, the one person outside of The Hubby and I who knew we were NPP. On a downer the night of the party I went upstairs with her and she knew what was on my mind.
“Look,” She said, “It won’t happen as long as you’re worrying about it, thinking about it or ‘it’ is in your head in any way, shape or form. Enjoy your husband. Enjoy having lots of wonderful sex with him and don’t worry about the outcome, just focus on having fun and enjoy lots of good times with him. Have fun, let yourself go, and if it’s meant to happen, it will.”
I sighed. I knew she was right, but it was easier said than done. “OK,” I said. We went downstairs and enjoyed the party, getting out of our trees and dancing the night away. The Hubby and I both had the following week off work as it was our wedding anniversary week. We spent a lot of time ‘having fun’ and I tried not to think about getting pregnant. One of my friends split up with his wife, and I went to the pub with him one evening and we got absolutely hammered – practically every other night of that week off I was drinking vodka or champagne with The Hubby (in celebration of our wedding anniversary).
At some point, during that very drunken, not-giving-a-shit week, I got pregnant. Of course, by then, I’d given up the thought that I ever would, so I didn’t even think to do a test, or give a thought to it when I missed my period at the end of November. A friend said to me, “Do a test” and I was like, “No, don’t be daft, I won’t be pregnant.” Still, she persisted, and the next day when I came home from work early because I felt faint and nauseas I stopped at the supermarket and picked up a pack of pregnancy tests along with the orange juice and medication I brought, convinced I was getting the flu.
The pregnancy tests (all three of them that I did in the end) were positive, and fortunately for me I had a lovely straight-forward pregnancy that I thoroughly enjoyed and would go through again in a heartbeat if you asked me to. I adored being pregnant, swollen ankles, morning nausea, the works. After waiting 18 months for pregnancy, when it happened I revelled in every moment and even now, 12 months after giving birth, sometimes I can’t quite believe that The Boy is finally here.
If anyone out there is TTC at the moment and having trouble, please don’t feel like you’re alone … It happens to many, many couples, but a lot of us don’t talk about it while we’re going through it. TTC is a very private thing, not the sort of thing that is freely spoken about, and in so many cases couples who are TTC (or NPP) feel like there is something wrong with them if it doesn’t happen quickly, when there really isn’t.
I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason; and since I had The Boy I believe in that even more. If I hadn’t struggled for so long to get pregnant, I might not have appreciated the gift that is having a child as much as I do. If I had got pregnant more quickly, it wouldn’t have been The Boy, it would have been another child, and while I’m sure I would have loved that other child just as much, now he is here I wouldn’t swap The Boy for anything. He is my beautiful boy, my one in a million, my wonderful, superb little mini man and I would jump over a bus and run into a burning building and do all kinds of ridiculous things if it meant I could ensure he was safe.
There’s nothing quite like the powerful love that a mother has for her child, and if you’re lucky enough to be a mummy then you’ll know that. If you’re one of those ladies pregnant right now, or NPP, or even looking at potentially becoming a mummy in the distant future, brace yourself, because there is nothing on this earth like the feeling you will have for that perfect little person when you get your first cuddle, and that feeling just intensifies as time goes on and you get to know them better.
I am many things in this lifetime: Daughter, sister, wife and friend – but above all else I am a mother, and I am more proud of that than any other accomplishment I’ve ever made in my life.