Wanting More

Amber Hamam is sad about not having a second child.

I’d never planned on having just one child. In fact, I’d always been looking forward to having lots of kids. While my friends were fantasising about wedding frocks as young girls, my thoughts were preoccupied with choosing names for my future children; I was in love with the idea of raising and nurturing as many of them as I could. But even though it’s been my lifetime wish, it seems impossible to attain.

Our first child was conceived very easily. But the second time around, the stork just won’t come a-knocking.

Some days it breaks my heart a little, but most days, I can put this feeling aside. It’s the flippant questions that remind you. “So are you going to have more kids?” or “You need to have another one so your daughter has a playmate.” I consider launching into a lengthy explanation, but it seems easier just to smile and reply, “Hopefully soon”.

As my daughter gets older, people don’t ask as much. It’s assumed that it’s a lifestyle choice – that we’ve chosen to have just one. Or maybe they feel that it’s more tricky to ask and decide that it’s best not to bring it up. What they don’t realise is that it’s not for lack of wanting or trying. It just hasn’t happened.

I was so keen to create the large family that I desired that I was ready to have my second baby just two months after my daughter was born. I wanted to have my children close in age so that they could be playmates, and because I was planning to have three or four children, it seemed better to have them close together.

In the beginning, we followed a normal conception regime. I watched what I ate and drank, and we made lots of time for lovemaking. But when this didn’t produce our coveted second baby, I stepped it up a notch or three.

We tried ovulation-period lovemaking: charting the best time for conceiving, abstaining from sex up until ovulation and then lots of intercourse at the ‘best window of opportunity’. It definitely took the romance out of lovemaking, but you do what you have to do.

only childAfter many months passed by, I embarked on more serious measures. A visit to my gynaecologist resulted in tests, tests and more tests, checking that my hormones were okay and that I was ovulating normally. As the results showed that everything was fine in that department, the next step was having my fallopian tubes flushed in case there was a blockage. At the end of all the tests, there was no obvious reason for my not falling pregnant, and I was told to keep trying and to be patient.

But my patience was already paper thin by this point, so I tried another route. I’d heard of homeopathy helping with infertility, so off I went to an appointment. I bought everything that the homeopath suggested, leaving the premises with my bag overflowing with vials of natural minerals to aid my quest. When I arrived home and unpacked my purchases, six solutions in total, I couldn’t help but burst into peals of laughter. I felt like I was in a science laboratory, surrounded by all these brown glass bottles. Each morning and evening, I diligently took the scheduled concoctions.

A few more months rolled by. The homeopathic solutions hadn’t changed anything, so it was time to try assisted reproductive techniques. It was not something that I had really wanted to do, but my drive for a child was stronger than my concerns about this clinical and unnatural way of conceiving. We tried the first step of inter-uterine insemination (IUI). This method seemed preferable as it is not so invasive and seems a little more natural. It was just a case of monitoring where my ovulation period was and then having sperm injected – or, as they liked to say, “more strategically” placed – into my uterus.

When this didn’t work, I took the in vitro fertilisation (IVF) path. This meant that my whole menstrual cycle was completely orchestrated by science. There was a nasal spray to administer twice daily for two weeks, pumping me with a strong whiff of a chemical to control my ovulation. Regular blood tests checking that my cycle was at the right stage were followed by the absolute gem of the treatment plan, which involved my injecting an ovulation stimulator into my tummy daily so that I could produce plenty of eggs for treatment. The first few days, it took every ounce of resolve to get over that squeamish feeling before pushing the needle into my abdomen. But I got past the feeling after doing it several times. This was followed by regular trans-vaginal ultrasounds and then two operations: one to remove the eggs and the other to place a fertilised egg inside me.

I had a couple of these treatments, and they both failed – so I took a break from it all. It was becoming more and more heartbreaking and soul-crushing every time something was unsuccessful.

It’s an emotional journey. It’s like a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, feeling hopeful and positive at the beginning of each month and then crashing to the bottom with disappointment when another month goes by without a baby being conceived.

Even though it is not conducive to falling pregnant, it’s hard not to feel stressed. Every month that goes by without my falling pregnant makes me feel a little more desperate to make it happen. Sometimes it feels like I have put way too much pressure on trying to make it happen. But I know that deep down, I wouldn’t want to look back one day and regret not having done all I could. So, in a way, there has been no choice.

I know that I am not alone in this journey. At the IVF clinic, women are coming in and going out all day long. And this is just one clinic – there are plenty more of them around the country and all around the world. So many of us are desperately hoping to have a baby come into our lives, whether it be our first or an addition to the family.

My journey continues. I haven’t given up, but it’s hard to hold on to hope as more time passes. But sometimes hope is all you have. I long to have another baby of my own nestled in my arms, but I now realise this may never happen. Letting go of a dream, a dream that I’ve had for most of my life is difficult. But when I start to feel this way, I remind myself that I already have one child, and I am grateful for that. Having one child only may not be what I had planned, but I know that I am lucky.

Illustrations by Cheri Scholten