The trauma of trying to conceive and experiencing failed IVF attempts is emotionally devastating, which is why for many women like 36-year-old Sophie Sulehria Mother's Day is 24 hours of dreaded silent heartache
I never really thought twice about the process of having a baby, I always presumed it would just happen for me as it seems to for so many other women.
After a few months of struggling to conceive, my best friend Michelle Kennedy suggested I go to her gynaecologist after I showed signs of pain and discomfort. For ten years of my life, I was told I had everything from IBS to potential Crohn’s disease, but I was later told in fact that I had severe endometriosis and primary ovarian insufficiency (POI).
This was a complete shock and utterly outraged me – how could they have got it so wrong for so long? I went on to have two surgical procedures, which was when my world came shattering down – my husband Jonny and I were told it was unlikely that we would conceive children naturally.
We married seven years ago and ever since we’ve been trying to have a baby. We have embarked upon £50,000 worth of IVF treatment, and after every failed round the prospect of becoming pregnant became more and more unlikely. The odds were against us – as they are for most of the 50,000 women who seek treatment at IVF clinics in the UK. The daily hormone injections, regular blood tests, invasive procedures and scans also add to the pain. Not to mention the expensive acupuncture, vitamin supplements and counselling.
We had to accept, reluctantly, that it will be almost impossible to get pregnant naturally.
The more you see people of your age progressing with the love they can give a child, it makes you so desperate to want the same for yourself. It became heartbreaking to walk past baby clothes in the shops as I could never imagine a time where I would be buying those tiny clothes myself.
After we went through our third round of IVF, I was ready to just say ‘I’m done’, and move on. I think we both felt that. But when there’s a glimmer of hope, you don’t ever let go.
Every time Mother’s Day came around, I had to just get away and out of the noise and celebration. Jonny took me out of London to the countryside to go on long walks, so that I didn’t have to come across it. As a day that is meant to be so full of love and appreciation, I couldn’t help but dread it – I felt lonely and almost envious of other women on this day.
What about the women going through fertility treatments like me? The women experiencing, loss and secondary fertility, where is their place on Mother’s Day?
Michelle and I have always been incredibly close since we met at university, like sisters, her little boy calls me Auntie Sophie. We both started trying for children at the same time and this is where our experiences stopped matching up – Michelle fell pregnant instantly whilst I didn’t.
Whilst I was going through the first of my IVF treatments, Michelle sat me down and told me about her new business venture in creating an app for motherhood, Peanut. I could tell she felt so awful that she was creating a tool for women, that I wasn’t able to use yet myself. I was happy for her, she’s my best friend, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel excluded from this group that I so desperately wanted to be a part of.
I made Michelle promise that when Peanut became a success, she’d start Peanut TTC (Trying To Conceive) – because while motherhood can be lonely, trying to become a mum and being successful is even more lonely, especially on days like Mother’s Day.
I helped launch Peanut TTC with Michelle at the end of last year, and I wish there was a product like this years ago as I know it would have supported me so much when I was going through my IVF journey. Having like-minded women to talk to, share stories, gain advice and friendship and build that support network is so valuable.
This Mother’s Day, we had the privilege of speaking with women from Peanut’s community who are going through their own fertility journeys and how they perceive this day. This year, we want to explore what is hard, what is often not talked about and excluded – the silent struggle that so many women go through at all possible stages of motherhood. We want to shine a light on these women and let them know what can often seem like an isolating journey, you are not alone.
* Peanut is the social network for women. Created with the idea that no one should have to navigate motherhood alone, Peanut’s app is a place to build friendships, find support and learn from other women at a similar stage in life. Over 1m mothers, expectant mothers and women trying to conceive have joined the app to connect and share experiences in a safe space.