When It Takes More Than Two To Make A Baby
Words by Natalie Ranger
It wasn't meant to work out like this—making a baby. The game plan was supposed to be romantic, fun, full of matching underwear, weekends away, Prosecco-buzzed on a remote beach. It was supposed to just happen. But here we are, all fertility clinic appointments and acupuncture and disappointments. And we're not alone. Yet it feels so lonely.
Two years into our relationship, my boyfriend and I found out he carries a hereditary genetic condition. It's been our roadblock to parenthood. There's a 50% chance of passing on the gene, a risk we didn't want to take, so without ever trying to get pregnant naturally, we went into IVF with PGD — where the embryos are screened for the gene.
We’ve always been in different gears in our quest to start a family. I've felt destined to have a brood for as long as I can remember, I'd pictured myself popping out three by the time I was 35. While Christopher never felt that pull towards fatherhood. But our relationships can change us, and as we grew as a couple, so did the idea of having a family together.
Our consultants gave us a "perfect IVF patients" accolade. They said I was a "good responder" to the drugs, that we produced "good-looking embryos." But it turned out what we were really good at, was rolling really shit dice. "You've just been incredibly unlucky," would be all our consultants could offer when we were floored once more. When treatment wasn’t successful, I wanted to go straight back into another round, full pelt. Christopher wanted time out to let the dust settle and heal. Truth is, we hadn't prepped ourselves for IVF to not work for us, so processing the repeated disappointments has been the hardest part.
After five failed rounds, we realised we needed to take a fertility sabbatical to breathe again, enjoy life again, love being us again. We swapped fertility clinic appointments with holidays, swapped obsessing about making a baby with buying yet another house plant to nurture (we currently have 94). And we’ve had A LOT of therapy.
During this time something shifted. Stepping off the IVF conveyor belt allowed us to build ourselves up again, the panic and the paralysis eased somewhat. I knew I needed to make something, while not making a baby. I needed to turn this rejection to motherhood into something positive so I decided to build the platform that I had longed for while blindly navigating our way through this fertility headfuck. A space that speaks honestly about what it's like to struggle to conceive—from the involuntary guttural reaction on hearing another person's pregnancy announcement, to feeling like an asshole for giving a stranger with a “Baby on Board” badge an icy look, to a 101 on what to expect when you go into IVF. The result is co—creators, a collection of stories of those who've been through fertility hell and come out the other side. We cover stories ranging from IVF, genetic screening, sperm donors, egg donors, to surrogacy, adoption and the graduates—the people who have been there and done that and successfully got their baby's puke all over their T-shirt. Starting with stories from friends, and friends of friends, but in time reflecting more diverse experiences of fertility struggles. From forward-thinking Denmark, where there is no stigma attached to elective solo motherhood using a sperm donor—and even funded by the health system—to cultures where infertility is completely taboo. By opening up the conversation, we want to empower people with information and de-stigmatise the less conventional ways of making a family.
In putting the co-creators together I found that while everyone's got a different story, there's a whole lot of stuff we share. Struggling to have a baby sucks in every language, relationship and postcode. Sure, the logistics, the fertility options, funding, laws, and attitudes vary. But all that human stuff feels the same.
Bolstered by these stories, Christopher and I decided to head to the US for treatment. This time taking a different approach. They're more advanced in a lot of ways than the UK when it comes to fertility treatment, especially when your situation requires more than straightforward IVF. And we've now got two frozen embryos in Washington DC that might just turn out to be our babies. We're breathing deeply as we plan an embryo transfer later this year. We'll be rolling the dice again. But this time, giving it a kiss of luck on its side first.