My goodness we’ve made it to the end of the year, the last Friday before Christmas. When I first started this series, I had NO idea how it would be received. Would anyone want to take part, would anyone read? Well. Those questions have been well and truly answered and I’m so glad to be able to provide to this space to anyone who may need it. Today, all the way from across the pond, Ruby shares her experiences of a life less expected. As always, I’m so grateful for everyone’s commitment because it is such a personal subject to open up about. Please do read, leave a comment and share as much as you can, I’m really willing this to grow and grow so that we can help as many people as possible who may be going through something similar.
I’ve also started to build a resource list, for those of you who are either childfree by circumstance or childfree by choice. A combination of blogs, communities, individuals who are doing wonderful things in this space. Please do let me know if there are resources you use I can add.
We Are : Ruby, 30 and Alex, 32
Home Is: Virginia, USA
We Do: I’m a photographer and Alex is a network engineer
Find Me: Instagram
Growing up, we’re encouraged to make plans for our life. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “Who do you want to marry?” “Where do you want to go to university?” And the inevitable… “How many babies do you want when you’re older?”
I made plans for my life starting around 14 years old. I was going to be a nurse, marry a nice man, buy a nice house and have 2-4 babies before I turned 30.
I decided I wanted to be a nurse, So I geared my life towards achieving that, studying all the right subjects at school, followed by nursing school at University. By the age of 21 I had graduated and was working full time as a neonatal nurse.
Check! ✓ that was one goal off the list.
Next on my life plan: Find a nice man to marry. Well, just 5 months after graduating university a man in a nightclub tapped me on my shoulder and from that moment on we were inseparable. Four months after we met he proposed and eight months from the day we met we were married. What a whirlwind!
Check ✓ at 22 years old that was another goal off the list. I wasn’t doing too bad at this life plan thing.
My husband was at that time serving in the US Air Force (he is American, I am British). We decided to immediately start trying to get pregnant because we didn’t know if/when he would be deployed abroad. I had been diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager and so I already knew that I would have difficulty getting pregnant and that it would take some time. Little did I know how long. I started taking medication to try to regulate my cycles but it wasn’t working. One month, Two months, 6 months, One year went by and we still hadn’t gotten pregnant. By this point a few of my friends had started to get pregnant. I cried after seeing every announcement on Facebook. (- Curse the digital era!) Working as a neonatal nurse was tough. I spent all day looking after other people’s babies yet I went home every night wondering if I’d ever get to hold my own children. I spent many days job hunting because it was heartbreaking work and wasn’t helping me deal with my emotions about our situation.
A year later my husband left the Air Force, so this meant going back to live in America. We filed for my green card as soon as we found out, it took 6 months to complete the process but I was finally able to join him in the states 10 weeks after he left. It was overwhelming to move to a different country. The climate, the people, the customs. Yes, I know, it was only America, they speak English, what’s the big deal? You’re right, it was probably easier than moving somewhere where they don’t speak English. After the first 6 weeks it stops feeling like a vacation. Reality sets in and you realise that you have to make it your home now. We lived with my husbands parents for 4 months before buying a house, so it felt like our life was in limbo until then. We had taken a break from trying to get pregnant this first year so I was able to enjoy my first few months in America.
We moved into our house in the summer. We unloaded the moving truck during the night, it was cooler then and much more pleasant to move furniture.
Check ✓ we were now homeowners, I’m still on the right path, maybe there’s still hope.
“This is it” I thought on that first night in the house. “This is the house we’re going to bring babies home to”. We continued to ‘not try but not prevent’ for the rest of that year. Who knows, maybe I’ll ‘accidentally’ get pregnant like so many others? haha! How many times have I told myself that?
I didn’t go back to work as a nurse. If I’m honest, the work just didn’t make me happy anymore, plus I got very ill from the stress and Alex didn’t want me to go through that again. While Alex was earning enough to support the both of us, we agreed that I would take time to figure out what I wanted to do in and in the meantime, just enjoy being a housewife. What was the point of starting a new career when I was going to get pregnant soon and be a stay at home mum anyway. (That’s what I hoped anyway).
Depression set in around Christmas, it was the first year spending the holiday without my family, new traditions, different foods, and still not pregnant yet. It was a difficult one. I cried in the shower christmas morning about how my life was not how I planned it. Why couldn’t I get this final checkmark that I know would fulfill my life? I didn’t want to be away from my family if I didn’t have my own to take care of.
The new year arrived, I started searching for ways to fulfil that nurturing hole in my heart. Like so many others who go through infertility, we got a puppy! For the first time in a while I was happy. While Alex was at work, I got to play with our funny, adorable puppy! I house trained him, taught him tricks and obedience & in return I got love and cuddles and puppy kisses!
The next two years were filled with decorating the house, a beach vacation and more trying to get pregnant. I saw a gynaecologist who prescribed some medication for me to take to try and force ovulation. Out of the 4 months I took this medication for, I ovulated once. It was a small celebration- “Yay!” for ovulation, but “Boo!” for no pregnancy.
Our second Christmas came and went and still nothing. This time I saw it start to affect my husband. It hurt him to see his parents get excited to see their grandchildren. He wanted that. He wanted his parents to have grandchildren who lived closer to them (His brother’s family lived on the other side of the country). I noticed that he would point out cute babies in the shops to me, send me website links to kids toys he wanted to get for future children & he loved it when the neighbours kids wanted to stop and talk to him about our puppy.
The third Christmas since moving to America, we were finally able to go back to England to visit my family. It was a nice break from the monotony of life. While we were there we made the decision to finally see a reproductive endocrinologist.
Going into our fourth year of dealing with infertility, we were excited to finally see a doctor about trying to get pregnant. We had a consult complete with blood tests, ultrasounds, and a sperm test for the hubby. The doctor decided the best course of action was an IUI (Intrauterine-insemination). I was given medication to take and proceeded to have ultrasounds every 3 days to check the development of my ovary follicles. They weren’t growing so they added injectable medications to the plan, every day for 12 days and still no growth. After 4 weeks of medications with no progress, the doctor cancelled the cycle. She explained that I would need a higher dose of medication for my ovaries to produce eggs and the only way to do that is through IVF.
Unfortunately IVF is extremely expensive. We had just paid over $3,000 for the unsuccessful IUI and needed time to figure out how we would afford to do IVF. Many clinics want over $15,000 not including the cost of medications which can sometimes add up to $10k on top! It’s crazy money! THankfully through lots of research we have found a clinic which will cost under $12,000 including medications, even though we will have to travel across the country to use it. A huge learning curve has been navigating the healthcare system here and negotiating with insurance companies. It’s very frustrating at times, but getting healthcare in the US is like shopping for a car, you want the best price and can usually get a better price if you’re willing to travel for it.
Ever since the failed IUI, we’ve had other things get in the way of our plans. My husband became unemployed for 5 months so we used up all our savings, we had a leak in the bathroom which needed to be fixed so we decided to completely renovate the bathroom top to bottom, and lastly we decided to sell our house, we are moving to a new build when it completes next year. We also briefly explored adoption through foster care, but we didn’t feel ready to take on that challenge at that time – it’s not completely off the table at this moment but it’s a huge commitment and we want to make sure we’re in a place to support any children from difficult situations that end up in our care.
On a positive note though, I finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life. Just over two years ago, I started my own business as a photographer. I absolutely love what I do and love being my own boss. I am at a place in my life where I no longer feel intense jealousy over other people having children or seeing other women being pregnant. I am able to just be happy for them now.
Since turning 30 this year, I had time to think about this journey and came to the conclusion that no matter what plans you make for your life, you can’t control what life throws at you. Many unexpected things will happen and so you have to learn to let go of the control that you so desperately want. Next year will be a fresh start, new house, plans for travel, opportunities to make new friends, and possibly even hosting christmas at our house (already planning how I’m going to fit 6-8 extra people in our house – lol!).
I still have days where I get upset about not having children, but we’ve been on this path for eight years now, I’ve mourned the loss of my ‘life plan’, I’ve learnt coping mechanisms for many things, and a lot of things I’ve come to find funny in a twisted way – how many times did you get lectured growing up that you could get pregnant so easily so always make sure to use birth control? Ha! If only!
I don’t know if we will ever get to expand our family the way we want, but until then we’re trying to enjoy everything else in life… vacations, being able to sleep in on the weekends or going out on dates and not needing a babysitter.
If you are reading this and struggling, I hope you find your peace with the journey soon enough so that you can enjoy life again. If you need someone to vent to, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Thank you so so much to Ruby for sharing her honest story as a guest poster and sharing her thoughts and views in this piece. As I’ve stressed from the very beginning, this is a warm, empathic platform for people to share their stories, hopes, dreams, fears. Please do read Ruby’s story and leave a comment if you’d like to and share this series if you know anyone it could help. Together we are making changes.