[ Originally posted on Medium ]
‘Well, Ms Lindemann, you are, without doubt, the weirdest case I have ever seen’
So said the eminent Professor and world-leading researcher in infertility and miscarriage. I was one of the thousands of women who came to his clinic from all over the country — even the world. He’d been a specialist in reproductive medicine for well over 20 years, but I was the strangest case he’d ever seen.
‘I’ve never seen what happens to your womb in humans before, only in mice.’
I’m not just infertile, I’m really really infertile.
1 in 6 couples experience infertility, but I’m the only woman in the world with a womb like a mouse, apparently.
My husband is apoplectic with rage when I’m introduced to another Dr as being ‘like a mouse’, as he (rightly) says that it’s dehumanising. I’m so used to feeling like a lab rat, I don’t even notice.
The eminent Professor says that statistically, most couples do get there eventually, with persistence (although at what physical, emotional and financial cost?)
And that from a clinical point of view, he rarely recommends that a couple stop trying for a baby because they’re a hopeless cause — that the decision to continue is one for them and them alone.
‘But, Ms Lindemann, you are a case entirely all on your own. There is absolutely no question that there is no point in you continuing treatment — your womb is simply unable to sustain a pregnancy’.
Our route to reaching the end of the road was ridiculously short and sharp. From starting trying to being told I’ll never have a baby, in just 2 years. We were doing IVF within 3 months of starting to try: anyone who says the baby-making phase is fun has clearly never gone through fertility treatment (which a friend of mine astutely describes as ‘a very expensive form of self-harm’).
Highlights of just one 12-month period include 4 IVF cycles, 3 cancelled cycles, 2 pregnancies, 2 losses and 3 surgeries (no partridge in a pear tree). Then begins the slow descent to the end, as it’s clear that whatever procedures, therapies or medications we try, things are getting worse, not better.
If anyone chips in with a well-intentioned — but desperately unhelpful — ‘have you tried…’ comment (yes, it’s great that your infertile friend was told she’ll never have children, then snorted some oregano and licked a tortoise and now they have miracle quadruplets, but that has no relevance to my situation), I bite my tongue, as I will win the ‘have you tried’ game.
Things I have tried to improve my womb include:
HRT (oral, vaginal & patches)
low doses of hormone injections
high doses of hormone injections
vaginal Viagra pessaries at £1000 for 7 days (specially commissioned from a compounding pharmacy in Cardiff)
uterine washes with a drug used for bone marrow harvesting
blood pressure tablets
blood thinning tablets and injections
tablets used to treat breast cancer
many, many womb biopsies
going on contraception (yes, a copper IUD was part of my fertility treatment)
In addition to thousands and thousands of pounds on:
a bazillion supplements
red raspberry leaf tea
red meat & other ‘womb lining friendly food
Mayan abdominal massage & nightly castor oil packs
lots of fertility meditation & hypnotherapy.
Spoiler alert: none of this worked.
The narrative that if you try hard enough, keep going, don’t give up, stay strong and you’ll get there, that it’ll all be worth it when you have your baby in your arms, isn’t just unhelpful — it’s offensive.
(See also the ‘You can beat cancer if you fight hard enough’ narrative.)
As though if we weren’t successful, it’s because we didn’t try hard enough.
No. Just no.
I’m childless not by choice because of biology.
Nature 1, Science 0.
I might be the only woman in the world with a uterus that’s so dysfunctional it’s never been seen in humans before.
But I’m not alone in being infertile. The WHO defines infertility as a ‘disease of the reproductive system’. I am the 1 in 6.
I’m childless not by choice because I suffer from this disease. Not because I didn’t try hard enough.