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Anette’s Story: Finding out about nonparents.com today of all days has been a Godsend

Warning – this is not yet a happy story and it is actually quite self-pitying. I apologise. I am hoping it will be cathartic. I got married five years ago to a man with three children from his previous marriage. He had a vasectomy at his ex-wife’s persistent request because she had already had four children and did not want any more. A vasectomy was of course less invasive than its female equivalent. Shortly thereafter, their marriage collapsed, with the ex-wife walking out and leaving him with all the children. It seems odd to start my story by seemingly blaming someone else for something, but the story has to start somewhere and a lot of its framing has much to do with how I am feeling today.

Friends who knew that my husband had had this vasectomy, being in my mid-thirties, never previously married, with no children, assumed that I was not particularly concerned about having children. But I have immense willpower and faith so I did not overly think this – and after all, I was marrying the man of my dreams, the rest would come.

Indeed, just over a year later, my husband had a reversal, and a year after that we were pregnant! Sadly I miscarried seven weeks later. We took great comfort in the fact that it had happened at all – it was short of miraculous. I work away most months in the year and we hadn’t got the timing quite right; and although my husband’s reversal had been successful his analysis displayed a high percentage of anti-sperm antibodies which helped to prevent conception.

After a year of concerted effort, this time arranging both our travel and visits across three continents to maximise our babymaking chances, we decided to be more proactive. I was working in the US at the time and started a series of investigations that I could not go far with because my job finished and I came back to the UK, which is more conservative but nonetheless we were referred to fertility specialists with the proviso that down the line we would not be eligible for NHS-funded IVF because of my husband’s previous vasectomy (which, incidentally, was paid for by the NHS after a very cursory session that did not probe the reasons behind the decision and were only too happy to carry out the procedure!). I indicated that in the US I had been scheduled to do a laparoscopy for a more definitive diagnosis for the possible reasons for infertility but this was dismissed by my GP at the time as being premature.

By the time the referral came through I was once more working abroad so on short trips so trying to do tests on my short trips home. Getting appointments within those timeframes proved impossible as I would fix an appointment only to have it postponed to a time that I would have left. After a year of this back and forth I finally requested my test results to be transferred to another gynaecologist.

In May 2016, the clinic sent me a copy of my results and to my surprise I found out that an ultrasound conducted in Nov 2015 included the very scary terms, ‘hydrosalpinx’ ‘adhesions’ and all sorts – but no one had ever conveyed this to me. Shock horror and surprise. All this time we had assumed the problem was my husband’s sperm and the antibodies but in fact the main problem was likely me.

My new consultant asked us to repeat the same tests, as too much time had lapsed between the ones done with the previous clinic. Test found that I produced few follicles during ovulation, and my ovarian reserve (AMH level) was 2, although for my age range it should be between 4.5 and 9, so critical to get started. An ultrasound was inconclusive for hydrosalpinx etc. so a laparoscopy was recommended. Further, the Consultant advised that if my tubes were blocked and dilated then he would clip either or both tubes as needed, in order to give IVF a better chance.

I had the laparoscopy on 16 Nov and it confirmed all the scary terms and worse (as far as I am concerned, with one side being resected). I was clinically infertile and IVF (or in fact ICSI given the afore-mentioned antibodies) is our remaining option. I am nervous (stressed, worried, anxious, depressed) about starting: it costs so much; it is so uncertain; my work involves a LOT of travel and it is not particularly flexible. I do not really want to subject my body and our marriage to this. My follow up is today to think through what an ICSI protocol would look like for me. I feel defeated before I begin. And then I worry because of course this is not the attitude to begin with.

Finding out about this site today of all days has been a godsend. I looked it up after listening to Nina’s interview on BBC Focus on Africa on a marathon catch-up so thank you very much!

Some back story: I am originally from Sierra Leone but have lived all over. My husband is English. So I have three step-children that can never be mistaken as mine, which means there is never a let-up in the constant reminder that I am childless. Their mother, despite her previous claim to not wanting more children met a new partner and has had two more children in the last four years. For a while we were very bitter – a lot of the anger was generated by thinking about how she essentially forced my husband to have his vasectomy, which was adversely impacting our chances, and then walked out barely six months later.

Yet, as it turns out, the even greater challenge resides within my body, so it was a real reminder that at the end of the day, the reality is our path, is our own, no one else’s and we have to face it and walk it. As we start the next phase I am relieved to let that go and pour all my energies into IVF and surviving it, come what may.

Would you like to share your story? Send it to: [email protected]

Childless black woman

Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Anette. I hope it has a happy ending, although I will not be doing you a favour by telling you exactly what you want to hear. I can see that you have done a lot of research on issues related to infertility. If so, you may have come across figures suggesting that the success rate for IVF varies according to age. Below are figures from the NHS, they show the success rate for each of the age groups: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/IVF/Pages/Introduction.aspx.

    Often, what I have found and from my own experience, people go into IVF and end up spending lots of money trying to conceive that way, without being aware of the success rate within their age group. As you are in your mid-thirties and have already gone through a lot by the sound of it, you may want to start thinking of what the next step would be for you and your husband if IVF proves unsuccessful. It is better to be prepared for all the eventualities than not. I wish you peace and happiness, whatever the outcome.
    • 32.2% for women under 35
    • 27.7% for women aged 35-37
    • 20.8% for women aged 38-39
    • 13.6% for women aged 40-42
    • 5% for women aged 43-44
    • 1.9% for women aged over 44

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