Twenty Trees sits high up on the hillside, perched above the pretty little village of Hayfield. This small group of trees lines the edge of fertile farmland. On each visit my son counts the trees, revealing there are in fact only nineteen. During our last visit, a lady enlightened us. She told us on several occasions the locals had tried to establish the growth of another tree, but with no success.
So this is where our story begins. It is natural to assume that once you have had a child, conceiving again should be a fairly straightforward process. The prospect of planning and trying for another child is exciting; the miracle of conception and feeling a baby growing inside is such a beautiful journey. My mind is carefree; I am consumed with the preparation of my home, my body and my life as I consider our future as a family of four.
When it came to having first child, I was lucky. It didn’t take us long to conceive. After only a matter of months and thankfully with no complications, I was pregnant. After several months of trying for our second child, nothing had happened, nothing at all. The seed of uncertainty was the only thing that grew, but still, there was hope. There was also frustration, as family and friends frivolously questioned when we were we going to have another child. My heart ached and I held back a surge of tears as friends announced their pregnancies for the second and third time. The doctor finally referred us to the fertility clinic.
The results of the fertility tests came back bleak. There were echoes of lengthy waits during the process, as we repeated ourselves to yet another stand in doctor. We left each appointment having gained nothing, feeling empty and no further along than when we first entered the room. The waiting grew as time rolled by; tumble weed in an arid landscape, month after month after month… The ever growing collection of outgrown clothes, toys and baby accessories from our first child, became a constant stark reminder of an ever growing age gap. Our focus on the knowledge that a small miracle happened once, so against all odds surely it could happen again?
The fertility tests were invasive. Lying in a hospital bed, whilst strangers carried out clinical procedure without discussion, was a lonely process. The hospital environment was a cruel reminder of when I had given birth to my first child. Loneliness was replaced with desperation, as I sat waiting for the results in gloomy waiting rooms three months later.
Each test, subsequently an obstacle, started to cast shadows of doubt in my mind. Creeping thoughts of infertility grew and the guilt kicked in. No one talks about secondary infertility, it is almost like it doesn’t exist, and perhaps because for some like us it is not conclusive it is just circumstantial. The unknown is cold, harsh and brutal.
And so it would seem all the options have run out. All the tests complete, we have come to the end of a path. We have to accept the realisation that having another child may not be achievable on our own. This period of time was difficult, raw and ceaseless. I was dealing with the loss of someone who never existed. Someone I yearned for so much I could almost will them into being. I mourned for the person I envisaged holding hands, side by side with our first child. The devastation of knowing it is not going to happen. It was time for reflection, time to try and come to terms with the facts and change a way of thinking. It was about coming to a place of quiet acceptance that I had secondary infertility, and I found out that this, along with infertility affects 1 in 7 women in the UK.
After some time, and it was quite a long time, there I am right back at the beginning. Twenty Trees - a group of trees huddled together, standing the test of time through all seasons whatever the weather. They remind me of a family unit in their solidarity. All nineteen of them.