Welcome to the second in my Guest Vag series, where fellow women open up their hearts, vaginas, and share their Maybehood in the hope it helps yours. Bebs has written incredibly openly about her Maybehood, with an emotional honesty and humour that I’m sure many of you will resonate with (I certainly did). Over to the wonderful Bebs!
Tell us a little bit about yourself Bebs?
Hello! I’m Bebs (or Beth, Bethany or B, depending on who you are). I’m 33 and I live in Devon with my husband, 2 cats and 6 chickens. I say I live with my husband, but I don’t actually know where he is right now. He’s a submariner, and he’s currently under the water somewhere, doing something very important, I’m sure! I work in marketing and communications – very boring in comparison, and I’m reminded of that every time we go out with friends or meet new people and the entire night is spent listening to my husband as he answers a million random questions and tells exotic tales of life at sea (disclaimer: life at sea is actually pretty shitty and it also makes living normal life pretty hard – particularly when you’re trying for a baby). I love white wine (a bit too much!) especially when shared with friends, I also love reading, listening to music, baking, running and spending time in my garden.
What have you and your vag been through?
Ahh my vagina and I. We’ve been through a lot, and I have to say, I don’t hate my vagina or blame her for any of this. In fact, as time goes on, I’m learning (slowly) to love my body for all the things it can do, instead of always focusing on the negative. We’ve been through four and half years of infertility together so far. We tried for over a year before going to my GP, at which point they carried out the standard various tests on me. We then had to wait for a (very painful and frustrating) year for my husband to be tested. When those results came back we were finally referred to our local hospital, at which point I had to have more tests, scans, ultrasounds, dye flushed through my fallopian tubes, invasive examinations etc etc etc. When we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility we tried Clomid for six months (cue horrific hot flushes, mood swings, mental crying and obsessive and to-the-minute timed, very unsexy and pressurised love making.)
When that didn’t work we were (after accidentally being discharged from our consultant and having to beg/scream/cry/yell at my GP, the GP receptionist, the consultant’s assistant and anyone else who would listen) referred to the fertility clinic closest to us and have since had 2 rounds of Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ISCI) IVF.
You know the drill; daily injections and other medication, bloating, swelling, mood swings, tiredness, pessaries (oh, the pessaries! Why oh why does no one talk about these before you have to start shoving them up your vag or bum 2 or 3 times a day?!) and just generally feeling overwhelmed with joy that it’s finally happening and also fear, despair, anxiety and curiosity about what lies ahead. The first time, when it was time do the pregnancy test it was positive. Our first ever real life positive pregnancy test! I will never forget telling my husband, looking into his eyes and telling him it’s positive, but I’m bleeding, and this isn’t right. Bittersweet doesn’t even begin to cut it. I knew what was happening in my body and low and behold a few days later the second test was negative. They call it a chemical pregnancy, and I hate that phrase. It makes it sound like it wasn’t a real pregnancy, but it was the closest we’ve ever got. The second time, the bleeding started on roughly the same day and the test was negative. We’re waiting for our next round, but who knows when that will be now that Covid-19 is a thing and all life has been put on hold.
Moment(s) you found the most challenging*? *fucking awful
This is a hard one! There have been so many challenging moments, from the constant announcements from friends, family, colleagues and just about every other bloody human being around us that they’re expecting, to the ignorant and hurtful comments from people ‘when are YOU going to have a baby?’, ‘don’t leave it too late, you’re not getting any younger’, ‘you can take my kids home if you want’, ‘why don’t you just get a dog?’, ‘just book yourself a holiday and relax’ (seriously, like we haven’t fucking tried that?!), ‘oh great you’re having IVF, I know 3 billion people who have had it and they ALL now have children’, and the never-ending waiting. Waiting each month for ovulation and then inevitably my period, waiting for 1 and a half years to pass so we could actually get some medical help, waiting for doctors appointments, waiting for test results, waiting for hospital appointments, waiting for more test results. Waiting, finally, for our IVF to start and then all of the waiting that is involved in that process. It’s agonising. It’s so unbelievably painful and frustrating to have no control over what is happening.
However, I think the most challenging of all was probably at the very beginning of our journey. When I think back to the early days, I had all the confidence and positivity that we would be pregnant and carrying our baby within months of us getting married. But, as the months and eventually years rolled on, it had such a profound effect on my mental health and on my ability to cope with general day-to-day life that there were times I wondered why I was even here. On my darkest days I would want to end it all, the constant grief and despair, the isolation, the anger, the desperation. There was absolutely no escape and very few people who I could confide my deepest and darkest thoughts to. I will never forget one day at work in a meeting when a colleague announced the safe arrival of his new baby. Everyone in the room whooped and cheered and clapped and looked positively joyous. I had to join in, of course, but inside another part of me died. I wanted to scream and cry and run from the room. I hated everyone in that room for sharing in the joy. I hated how unfair it was that it had happened for them and not us. I hated that I had to hide my pain to protect his joy. But most of all I hated myself. I’ve always been a happy, sociable and positive person. I’ve never been judgemental or envious. Until infertility happened, and now I hate some of the things I think and feel. Even when my closest friends and family have announced their pregnancies, part of me has been angry, upset and jealous and at times I have sunk back down to the deepest depths of despair.
Thankfully, I’m in a slightly better place now, I think. I have worked through some of that stuff, and although I still carry the grief with me, I think I have built a wall around myself and I’m able to hide behind that to protect myself from some of life’s more brutal blows.
Guest Vag survives on a dark sense of humour. What was your finest moment?
Haha, oh yes – you have to be able to laugh, even at the hardest times. I think the one that sticks out for me was when I went to have the dildo cam examination. Legs akimbo in a pair of stirrups and a middle aged man staring at what used to be the most private part of my body (those days are long gone, infertility and dignity are not two words that sit well together).
For some reason, I got uncontrollable shakes. My legs were wobbling all over the place and try as I might there was nothing I could do to stop it. I made an awkward comment (I cant remember what) to the doctor about it, because there was no doubt he wouldn’t have noticed, and he replied: “Well, this is the first time I’ve had that sort of reaction from a lady in a long time.”
Wow. I laughed. Because, how couldn’t I?! It also reminds me of the time I was having another standard vag test done and the nurse told me it would only last as long as one verse of Nellie the Elephant and proceeded to sing… but that’s another story all together!
What and who helped you?
Most importantly, my husband has been amazing throughout. He’s strong, reliable, positive, understanding and patient. He feels the pain too, of course, but he always allows me to feel how I need to feel for a while, and then he lifts me up and reminds me of all the positives in life. My two cats are also pretty good at letting me wallow but also reminding me that life goes on. They’ve nailed the spontaneous head rub when I’m feeling low, but also never let my emotions get in the way of their need for a continuous stream of Dreamies.
My mum and my sister have also been amazing. It’s difficult for them to understand but I know they both hurt for us and are going through this alongside us. They know that they don’t understand the pain as we do, but they don’t try to be anything other than supportive. They do their absolute best not to say the wrong things, they listen and they keep me going when my husband is away. My sister also lets me share her two gorgeous daughters and they are such a significant part of my life – they don’t fill the gap, but they certainly make chocolatey little hand prints all over it. I can’t thank them all enough really, for just being here.
I am also very, very lucky to have one truly amazing friend. When I say amazing, it doesn’t do her any justice really. She has the ability to empathise with me but without making me feel like she’s trying to claim she understands or that she has the right things to say. She has been at the end of the phone to me crying more times than I can count. She has turned up at my door when I didn’t even know how much I needed her. She has sent thoughtful gifts and gestures just because she’s thinking of me (most recently a pineapple necklace… if you know, you know). She researches and reads everything about infertility – but she doesn’t ever claim she has the answers, she just wants to do her best to learn about it so she can support me, and my husband too. She also makes me laugh, that proper silly, belly laugh and she has a dark sense of humour too which is helpful. We have been through the best and worst times together. She is a very special human – if I could, I’d share her with everyone else going through this. But she’s mine, so back off!
On top of that, music is always my go to. Often accompanied by wine. It allows me to let out my emotions, cry, sing, laugh, dance, dream and travel to another place when I need to.
The one thing you know now that you wish you knew then?
I just wish I knew that it doesn’t always happen straight away for everyone. I mean, I knew. I’d heard about IVF and adoption and had read people’s stories in the papers and online. But, I never knew how common it is and I never thought it would happen to me. I think the expectation that it will just happen makes it even harder to deal with the reality of infertility. I think if I’d known more, I would have lived my life very differently.
Your advice to those experiencing Maybehood?
Just look after yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first when things get really hard. Try not to feel guilty if you can’t face certain situations or gatherings. Try to imagine how you would feel if it were a friend or relative going through it – you wouldn’t expect them to put themselves in difficult situations, so give yourself the same break. I would also say don’t bother with the ovulation kits. They add so much pressure to a situation that is already incredibly stressful.
And finally, you’re not alone. I hear you. I know you. I’m here, as are lots of other women and men. We may not know each other, we may not be able to support one another, but just know that I feel what you feel and I do understand. We’ll all find our endings, whatever they may be, and we’ll be stronger people for the road we’ve travelled.