I’ve been really toying with posting about this. This part of my life started 17 years ago. Yikes. It’s one of those where I want to support people, but I’ve also come to terms with it. Sometimes – if I’m totally honest – talking about it only resurfaces a time in my life best forgotten.
But here I am. Memories jogged by Fertility Awareness Week. Typing away. Finding it hard to stop. I guess that’s quite telling. A sign I need to continue in the hope I might raise something someone is unfamiliar with.
I’ve documented our fertility journey in a fair amount of detail on my website. How we came to the decision to take a different path in our quest for a family. But I’ve never talked about one of the key reason. Well, it’s probably a fair statement to say that my body did the talking really.
You see I have a balanced translocation. Have you heard of it? No? Not many have. I hadn’t all those years ago. It was mentioned in passing after miscarriage number 3 – maybe 4 – I’ve lost track. A karyotype test checks for chromosome abnormalities. The way it was positioned at the time was “it’s highly unlikely, we rarely have patients with it and it’s probably a waste of money, but you’ve had every other test so you may as well have this as well”. Well, when you’re already tens of thousands of pounds down, an extra few hundred seemed a drop in the ocean!
So, there we were preparing for IVF cycle number 3. Emotionally and physically. I’d had the blood test a week before and had kind of forgotten about it as we waded through all the packets of impending drugs that would become my daily cocktail.
And then there it was. The phone call that changed our world. Knocked the wind out of our sails. Drumroll. The results were in. And yes – I had a chromosome abnormality. Lucky me.
The call was a blur. It was way too medical for me to grasp, especially in the moment. The only thing I really remember was the sting in the tail – “of course there’s no point going ahead with your next cycle so stop the stimulation drugs from today”. What!
In a split second that call seemed to take away our hope. Our lifeline to becoming parents. Yet another bump in an already very rocky road.
Meetings with consultants and genetics experts followed. All trying to convince me that the good news was that I was healthy. Medically I had no physical impacts of this balanced version – if it had been unbalanced then this could have been a very different story. But this was very little comfort. Well at the time anyway.
For those of you who are unaware of balanced translocation, in simple terms, it’s when part of a chromosome has broken off and reattached in another location. In other words, it means that sections of two chromosomes have switched places. (www.verywellfamily.com)
For me, the experts were edging towards this appearing that it could be causing my losses. Could be the reason for my infertility. Essentially, my body may have been rejecting the abnormal embryos it was creating.
Now, don’t get me wrong, after a while it started to sink in that maybe, just maybe, we now had an answer to the reason I couldn’t hold a pregnancy. Had I finally shifted from the “unexplained infertility” to the “ahhhh so that’s why” category? Not quite.
Of course science isn’t always that straightforward. Clear cut. Fertility issues are complex. We had reams of potentials and possibilities put to us. Spectrums of severities if we were lucky enough to fall pregnant. Heart defects. Visual impairments. Cleft palette. These are some that spring to mind. All things that we would have been able to manage.
But some possible outcomes were far more severe. Coupled with the constant reference to late losses. It was all to much for me. After everything we’d been through until this point I couldn’t knowingly face this prospect in the mix.
We talked about adoption in detail at this point. I’m not ashamed to say I wasn’t ready. That I wanted to give something else another shot. That I still longed for morning sickness. Sore breasts. A bad back. Sleepless nights. A long and painful labour. Yes please.
I’m ok with this. That I still wanted these things. But I have to be honest, I’m going to find this very hard to explain to my children one day. Maybe that’s why I’ve been a little reluctant to share it. I’m less comfortable about them knowing these details. But, if I don’t share my story, how can I help people to maybe find the destiny of theirs?
I wish I’d known about this whole genetic thing much sooner. We would have saved time, money and heartache. But, if our path had turned sooner, I wouldn’t have the wonderful children I have today. And that would have been a far greater tragedy to our story.
So, back to my point. I’m sharing this really to give some knowledge to people that don’t know. Granted, all this happened 10 years ago so karyotyping might be the norm these days. I might be telling you something that is an everyday conversation in the IVF world these days. I’m a little out of date.
But I’m mainly writing this to say that if you did get tested, and if you do have a balanced translocation like me, that your journey to motherhood doesn’t have to end.
Pregnancy didn’t work for me. But it could for you. The abnormality may not be passed on in the embryo – my sister has exactly the same chromosome abnormality as me and had a healthy child naturally. You could try donor eggs (which we did too but with no avail). There are no doubt all sorts of new sophisticated genetic IVF treatments.
Or maybe you might not be ready to really consider it now, but you could explore adoption just as we did. And with a wonderful outcome like nothing I could ever have imagined. I am reluctant to add this though. If someone had said this to me in my darkest days of longing, I would have found it hurtful and insensitive. Sorry if you feel this coming from me. I guess I just have hindsight on my side.
Fertility. Infertility. Whatever the word. The meaning is the same. A desire for a child. A family. For answers. In a way I had my answer. It’s not conclusively the reason for my infertility – my sister is proof it can happen. But, I do take some small comfort in the belief that this is as good a reason as any. To me it did provide some of the answers I craved. It did help guide us to the adoption path.
If you’re still searching for your answers. I’m sorry to say you may never find them. But, by sharing my story, I hope you can see that there could be other avenues to explore.
I’m no medical expert. I certainly don’t want to mislead anyone. Give – or take away – hope. But this is another viewpoint in a whole host of information out there. Whatever your next steps are, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all the luck in the world.
To find out more around genetics and fertility awareness, there are lots of websites or social media accounts to give you support, here are just a few:
If you are still grappling with your fertility. Hold on to the hope that one day, in some way, your time will come. I feel your pain. I stand with you. Stay strong, and remember that even the impossible, is possible.