Kim pointed out that “This may be challenging… But, let’s try to create a photo that is symbolic of brave. Anything… it may be a photo of the bravest person you know, perhaps a self-portrait, maybe a symbol that means brave to only you.” We could write about the experience and share it if we felt able to.
Brave = Ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
Bravery = The condition or quality of being brave; courage.
In August 1984 we left the UK in search of a new life (act of bravery number 1) to start a new job in a foreign country (act of bravery number 2). We decided to try for a family (act of bravery number 3). But nothing happened.
In the autumn of 1986 I was due to work away from home for a week. On Monday my boss gave me a lift to work and during the journey I told him that I thought I might be pregnant but was afraid that it might be an ectopic pregnancy because I knew something was wrong. Tuesday I spent the lunch hour break in a friend’s apartment battling the pain. I had a sleepless night that night and decided I would have to return home early. I asked if I could return in an official car but didn’t explain why I needed to get back. We left at lunchtime on Wednesday but I didn’t tell the driver that I was in pain and really wanted to get home. On the way back, as we left the motorway we spotted a motorist in trouble. We stopped to help her out and then missed our way back on to the motorway with the result that it took us another couple of hours to get back. By this time the pain had increased.
I got into a hot bath when I got home in the vain hope of alleviating the pain. I phoned a friend of mine who was a nurse at the local maternity hospital and told her something was wrong. She told me to get to the hospital as soon as I could and that she would alert the staff that I was on my way. My husband was playing in a darts match that evening so I had to phone the pub where he was playing to ask him to come home to take me to hospital. Eventually we got there about 11pm. By this time I was hyperventilating with the pain. The medical staff had no idea what was wrong with me and decided to conduct an exploratory operation. They told my husband to wait in the waiting room. 4 hours later the doctor emerged bearing a tray on which were the infected bits he’d removed from my body – both fallopian tubes, swollen to the size of grapefruit, the result of a un-diagnosed PID. Next day, once I was no longer in the recovery room, when the doctor came to see me he announced that I wouldn’t be able to have children. Or at least not in the normal way and that the only possibility would be IVF.
We tried twice in the UK without success. We then tried a further 3 times in Brussels. In those days the success rate of IVF was less than 10%. Now it’s better. Each time I went through the hormone injections followed by egg extraction and then replacement of a number of fertilised eggs. My husband was treated as an also-ran. Facilities provided for him to produce the required sperm were less than attractive – a grubby toilet with dog-eared porn magazines. Then the nail-biting wait to see if the eggs had implanted or not. After 5 attempts it was obvious that we were not destined to be natural parents.
Adoption wasn’t an option either – we were already considered too old by the UK adoption authorities and not enough babies were given up for adoption where we were now living. If we really wanted to adopt we would have to go to a third world country and pay for a baby. The Romanian orphan crisis came at this point. Friends of ours tried to adopt a Romanian baby but were not prepared to buy a child either. In the end we resigned ourselves to childlessness. We had cats as fur babies. We threw ourselves into amateur dramatics. We travelled. When my sister fell pregnant, as easily as falling off a log both times, and gave birth to 2 healthy boys, it was hard for me as I had wanted 2 boys too.
This account may sound very detached but that’s partly due to the fact that I’m writing this nearly 30 years on and with distance comes a certain amount of detachment in. At the time it was pretty awful and pretty painful but I don’t think about that now. As far as my husband was concerned he was just happy to have me alive. We have adapted to not having children and are thankful that we still have each other.