It was early 2016 when our fertility journey began. After returning from an overseas work trip, I was welcomed home with the news that we would be expecting our first child later that year. I was overwhelmed with joy and so excited I was going to be a father! Like many first time parents, my wife and I were filled with excitement and intrigue and we soon got to work planning out the next months and the rest of our lives as a family.
It wasn’t until our 8 week scan when we heard those fateful words, “I’m sorry but there is no heartbeat, unfortunately”, that everything started to crumble. My heart sank and I was lost for words as to what to do from here. My main priority and concern was being there for my wife and supporting her through this time. After a couple of weeks of allowing ourselves to try to come to terms with what had just happened, we both agreed that we wouldn’t let it set us back and as uncomfortable as it was we still wanted to have a family.
Fast forward a few months and we once again had the news we were pregnant and again we were filled with joy, but it was more the intrigue of what the future held for us which took preference this time. Thankfully we ticked off every appointment like a checklist with military precision and welcomed the arrival of our son the following year. We were ecstatic that we had navigated through this fertility landmine and come out the other side relatively unscathed.
Phil & Harry
12 months later we decided we were ready to have another child and it wasn’t long before we had positive news. However just like the first time, we found ourselves being told those words again… This time it was earlier and doctors had mixed and somewhat contradicting messages from the HCG levels. We were asked to wait a few more weeks to see if there was any change. There wasn’t! What followed over the course of the next 18 months was a fertility rollercoaster of negative pregnancy tests, second, third, fourth opinions, tests and a heap of unanswered questions.
This already agonising process was then intensified by another miscarriage and loss. We had become fixated on falling pregnant and we had put our whole life on hold to do so. But it had taken its toll on both myself and my wife. You see, we had been on this journey practically alone albeit for a few family members and close friends. Our mental health had been hit significantly, particularly mine. My wife made the decision to step away from her job to focus on her health and to remove the extra stress of juggling a career and continuing trying to become pregnant. As in previous cases, my main priority was to support my wife and son, making sure I was there for them. I wanted to give my wife the space and time she needed to grieve, whilst trying to make sure my son had my undivided attention.
At the time I was trying to hold down a newly appointed full-time role leading a national sales team. I was focussed on being strong for those around me and making sure everyone was ok. However, this became harder and harder to manage as time went on and only resulted in personal and work relationships becoming frayed. This left me feeling ashamed, alone and with low self-esteem.
The truth is I was so focused everyone else I’d neglected my own needs and not allowed myself to grieve properly. I kept everything we were going through to myself and I didn’t feel I could share with family, friends or colleagues. I would often cry in my car each morning on the way to work before wiping my eyes and walking through the office doors. This had a huge impact on my mental health and so began my downward spiral in depression and anxiety, which then led to suicidal thoughts. It was at this point I knew I needed to get help.
I sought out a professional counsellor who specialised in these topics and started opening up to those around me to get through this period of my life. My wife and I decided to get the help we both needed and opted to try to become pregnant through IVF which is another journey in itself but we are pleased to say it was a positive one for us and welcomed our second child – a daughter – into the world recently.
Harry & Rosie
Every fertility journey is different and presents individual challenges for the people involved. I’ve learnt enormously from my experience and I’d urge anyone going through their own journey never be afraid to talk or speak up. You’d be surprised how many others have walked the same path, are there to listen and who want to help you.
Phil is a husband and father of two (plus a fur child) who lives in Melbourne.
Phil is also a beautiful writer and in addition to the post above, he wrote this incredibly moving poem.