For nearly thirty years, from the age of 13, I experienced horrendous menstrual cramps. Doctors sent me home with prescriptions for ever-stronger pain killers. None of them ever raised the subject of endometriosis. When I failed to conceive in my first marriage, I was still relatively young and naive. I told myself it would happen when the time was right. So many of my friends were having children and I just assumed that it would happen for me, too, "one day".
When I met my second husband, the time was right but nothing happened. By the time the endometriosis was diagnosed, we were already under the assisted conception clinic. Against my initial instinct, we went through IVF. But at 41, my poor eggs were no longer up to the job. For a handful of hopeful days I was "mother" to five, beautiful, cherished cells. I still have the photograph of that embryo.
I have a good life which brings me many opportunities to help and support children and young people in my work, family and circle of friends. I have come to terms with not having children, mainly thanks to the support from an amazing community called Gateway Women. But I will never forget how it felt to suffer, so deeply, in silence. And I will always cherish the memory of the beautiful potential held in that perfect arrangement of five beloved cells. My dearest, secret love.