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The Bumpy Road to Motherhood: Three Women Share Their Stories

As part of our commitment to supporting women, we’re exploring issues that affect us at every stage of life. That’s why we’ve launched our new series of fertility features on the EDIT. This time, in partnership with , we spoke to three women about their personal fertility journeys. Read on to get to know their real stories, as each of them share their unique and challenging path to motherhood – and how it was anything but easy.

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Karina Hughes, Founder, Executive Search Agency

Was becoming a mother something you always wanted and did you ever consider that it might not be a simple journey?

“I always knew I wanted to be a mum. When I became pregnant, I was excited and nervous at the same time. In my 20s, I just presumed I would get pregnant whenever I chose to.”

Tell us about your fertility journey – the highs, lows and how you're doing now.

“I went through my first pregnancy and had my daughter without any issues. My issues getting pregnant happened when I was trying for my second child. At my first scan, they mentioned that I had a fibroid but it was quite small and nothing to worry about. For anyone who like me had never heard of it, a fibroid is a benign tumour that grows in the uterus.

“I knew I wanted an age gap between my kids and I wasn’t in a rush to get pregnant again. I set up a business and knew I was going to be pretty focused on that for a while. During this time, I started having extremely heavy periods and sometimes a lot of bloating – like a cantaloupe in my lower stomach.

“The gynaecologist confirmed that the fibroid in my uterus had grown to 10cm; about the size of a cantaloupe. He told me I couldn’t get pregnant until the fibroid was removed, as it would be too risky on the baby. In order to remove the fibroid, they would have to do an open myomectomy. This is a big operation where the surgeon cuts into your uterus, usually through the same place that you would have a C-section, and then cuts out the tumour.

“This put family planning on hold for us. I waited one year from my first appointment to having the operation. The recovery from the operation wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped – I got post op sepsis. This was very serious and I spent a long time in hospital and at home recovering.

“After the myomectomy, I had to wait six months for my uterus to heal. One of my fallopian tubes was completely blocked from the scar tissue. The consultant said that my chances of getting pregnant were reduced and if I didn’t get pregnant in a year, I should look at fertility treatments. This was a shock as I presumed once the fibroid was removed, there would be no more issues.

“Luckily, I did get pregnant. I was so happy but also so worried. I was warned that if I got pregnant, there could be complications. I couldn’t let myself be happy until I knew all was okay. After having my first child, I never expected to have to go on such a journey to try and have a second. I am lucky to have a healthy little boy, as well as my daughter.”

The concept of 'secondary infertility' – having a pregnancy previously, but difficulty conceiving again – is a less talked about issue. What was your experience like?

“For me, it was the assumption that I had one child so therefore, could have another one whenever I choose to. That was hard to deal with. I had my daughter at 28, so I always had in my head that I have lots of time to have another. It was only when things started going wrong that I realised that I didn’t.

“The other side is feeling guilty because I already had a child so if I couldn’t have another, it wasn’t a big deal, and also feeling like I should just be happy because some people struggle to have even one child.”

What would you advise other women struggling with secondary infertility?

“Get all the checks done that you can, to find out why things are different from before. Secondly, don’t feel guilty or ungrateful – you're going through something really difficult and painful. Just because you already have a child doesn’t take away from how hard secondary infertility is.”

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Saira Khan, Entrepreneur and TV Presenter

Was becoming a mother something you always wanted and did you ever consider that it might not be a simple journey?

“Yes, but my maternal instincts kicked in late into my 30s. I come from a big family myself and I always envisaged having a family of my own one day. It was also important to me to be financially secure before having children. I focused on my career because I always knew I’d be a working mum, so that I could give my children the opportunities I did not have.

“I never considered that falling pregnant would be difficult for me. I have always been slim and fit, and I lead a very healthy lifestyle. I was so confident that I would fall pregnant easily that for me it was just a question of when I was ready, and then it would just happen when I tried.”

Tell us about your fertility journey – the highs, lows and how you're doing now.

“My husband Steve and I tried for 3 years trying to fall pregnant naturally. When it wasn’t happening, I knew something was not quite right. We paid for a private laparoscopy and discovered that I had stage 3 endometriosis, so had less than a 5% chance of falling pregnant naturally as a result of severe scarring of my fallopian tubes.

“IVF was our only option. I was 37 and my husband was 43 when we began our first round – we used all our savings, as we were so desperate to start our own family. I took six months off from work to ensure that I kept my stress levels under control. It was a very intense process and despite that only four eggs were collected and two were inseminated, we were very lucky to fall pregnant.

“Getting to the first 12 weeks is hard for any pregnancy. For my husband and me, it was an anxious time as we both knew that the biological clock was ticking for us, we had no savings left and this could be our last chance. We were very fortunate that our first attempt worked out and we gave birth to our son Zac on 18 April, 2008.

“Two years later, we tried IVF again but we were unlucky. So we decided to go down the adoption route and on 7 March, we adopted our daughter Amara from an orphanage in Karachi 2011. She was just four days old and I knew immediately she was the daughter I was always supposed to have, so I did not resent my second round of IVF not working.

“After all the obstacles thrown my way to start and complete my family, I am happy to say that I have the family that I always dreamed of. I have a 14 year old son and an 11 year old daughter, and I could not be more proud of them. I love my family and I am so grateful that I have them in my life. I would not change a single thing in the way I had my family – this journey has created a very strong bond for us all.”

You’ve been open and vulnerable about your struggles with fertility and adopting your second child. What was that experience like for you?

“The adoption process is intense and rightly so, because it tests your desire to be a parent to a child that has been abandoned. Steve and I had nine months of social worker visits that delved into our relationship and we were assessed on our suitability to meet the needs of an adopted child. We also attended a parenting workshop that was enormously beneficial, as it gave us skills on how to care for children. I think the adoption process is amazing in our country, and whilst there were times Steve and I did find it difficult, the process allows you to question whether adoption is the right route for you. We felt very empowered throughout the whole nine month process, and feel we have become better parents as a result of the information gained from the parenting course.”

What would you advise other women when considering adoption?

“My biggest piece of advice would be to go into the adoption process being honest with yourself, and accept that the social workers are there to help you. Accept that it is intrusive, challenging, and a long journey – but bear in mind that if you get through it with a desire to look after a child more than ever, then then adoption is definitely the right way to complete your family. Honesty is the key to a successful adoption experience. Be honest about why you want to adopt, the kind of child you would like to look after and whether you have the support structure in place to help you once the adoption has taken place. Adoption is a beautiful experience – it has enriched my life and given me the family I have always dreamt of.”

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Rachel Childs, Executive Coach and Consultant

Was becoming a mother something you always wanted and did you ever consider that it might not be a simple journey?

“I always planned on being a mum, and always thought I would have three kids. I was surrounded by people who seemed to have accidental pregnancies or conceive (it seemed like) immediately. My mum had a miscarriage and I knew quite a high ratio of pregnancies result in miscarriage. However, I had never been exposed to or appreciated the complexities that can exist when you’re trying for a family.

“I have two healthy and beautiful children now; a six-year-old and three-year-old. We’ve decided to not try for the third who was always in our plan. I can’t go through the pain and angst that it took to get to where we are. I am also so appreciative of the children we have, and how much more fun things we can do now that they are a bit older. I don’t want to start again with a newborn – especially not knowing how long it could take, or what might happen along the way.”

Tell us about your fertility journey – the highs, lows and how you're doing now.

“Our first born took 14 months to conceive. All around me, friends and colleagues were miraculously falling pregnant. It felt endless, every month, thinking it was our turn, and then not.

“After months of trying for our second, we fell pregnant. At week seven, I had awful crippling pain and could barely walk. A scan confirmed it was an ectopic pregnancy. I was immediately admitted for keyhole surgery. We were due to be going on holiday, so I already had two weeks off. When I returned, colleagues had no idea about the pain, trauma and grief.

“Six months later to the day, we had a 12-week scan. We’d already had two early scans, and all was well. But now, the baby wasn’t moving – the heartbeat had stopped. I chose natural delivery and was able to hold him in my hands. It was the most beautiful thing, this tiny human being. Unfortunately, I still ended up in surgery anyway.”

How did you navigate moving jobs with maternity leave?

“While trying for our babies, I felt trapped by the system. You can’t move without risking all maternity benefits. Over the year that we went through two losses, I got to the point that I had to take back control. Clearly, successful conception wasn’t going to be an easy journey for us – who knew how long it might take?

“When I found my perfect opportunity, I got offered the job. On the same day, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I was in such turmoil. If I took the job and the pregnancy was successful, I would have zero maternity benefit. If I didn’t take the job and the pregnancy wasn’t successful, I would have lost this perfect role and be back at square one.

“There is no right answer. For my situation and my wellbeing, I took the leap and have never looked back. Despite still feeling bitter about losing the statutory maternity pay I still feel I should have been entitled to!”

How was your mental health impacted by the fertility challenges you faced? How did you cope with it, and what would you advise other women who struggle?

“After the ectopic, I had no idea of the trauma and grief I was experiencing. It all happened so fast and the baby was only a few weeks old. After the physical healing, I just carried on. Three months later, I broke down and had to take time off work.

“After the late miscarriage, the whole process of miscarrying took about five weeks. It was only at this point when I spoke to our occupational health team who were just incredible. They helped me realise I was processing grief, and that was okay. Once I was pregnant again, I was on such tenterhooks for the whole nine months that something awful might happen.

My advice to other women is to find someone to talk to who can connect with what you’re going through. Don’t feel you need to squash the internal grief; it is real and you need to process it in a way that’s right for you.”

Learn more about Randox Health and their , to understand your ovarian reserve when considering fertility treatment.