Stories of Hope: Anna & Aimee Willson
“I truly believe that without the mindset and energy work, I’d still be battling to fall pregnant now.”
Anna and her wife Aimee always knew they’d have to do the whole ‘make a baby’ thing differently and they were up for the challenge, but what they experienced took an unexpected toll on their mental health.
As a result of her personal journey, Anna – who describes herself as an “Intuitive Fertility Coach, Psychic Medium and IVF survivor” now dedicates her career to helping others navigate the “fertility rollercoaster” through her business Your Soul Calling.
As June marks World Infertility Awareness Month, Anna and Aimee – now proud mums to Olly and with another one on the way (Aimee’s pregnant this time!) – are sharing their journey, how they managed their mental health and what support they think is needed for other couples experiencing fertility issues, offering another #StoryOfHope.
Can you tell us a bit about your fertility journey?
“Blood tests showed that my egg reserve was lower than Aimee’s, so I went through treatment first and we had to get cracking pretty quickly. Fertility treatment is not funded on the NHS in our area, so we had to find quite a bit of money to fund it ourselves. We re-mortgaged our house to ensure we had enough in the pot to cover everything – it wasn’t ideal, but when you want something so badly you do everything you can to make it happen.
“We chose a donor from the London sperm bank which was quite a surreal process (almost like online shopping, but sperm instead of shoes!) then got a treatment plan together with our chosen clinic.
“We tried intrauterine insemination (IUI) first as it was less invasive than IVF, but sadly it didn’t work. We tried again with IUI in 2018 and I was sure I fell pregnant this time, but I started bleeding the night before we were due to do the test the next morning.”
That must have all taken its toll on your mental health. How did it affect you?
“At that point, we were gutted, skint and emotionally drained. I hit rock bottom and really started questioning if this would ever happen. My mental health took a nosedive and my heart ached for the baby I wasn’t sure we’d ever get.
“It was tough going. We both started the journey really upbeat and positive. The clinic was great, but in hindsight perhaps they raised our expectations a little too much as they made getting pregnant sound easy. We’d spent most of our younger life trying NOT to fall pregnant, so just assumed it would be easy when we did finally want to have a baby!
“That wasn’t the case at all, least not for me, so it took us both by surprise.”
How did you deal with all this?
“My wife Aimee had to hold it together for me as I was falling apart, especially after the second failed IUI. I hadn’t really thought about how hard that must have been for her, but she was my rock.
“In the end, I took a step back. I listened to what my intuition was telling me. I viewed things differently and really started to focus on my mindset and my emotional state – that’s when things changed dramatically, and I fell pregnant on our first attempt at IVF just a few months later!
“I’m so glad I got a grip on my mental and emotional health before the IVF treatment because it was a lot more invasive and very stressful. We had access to counselling before and after the treatment, which was helpful, but to be honest I found it hard to talk about the failed IUI because I felt like it was my fault. I kept most of it to myself, which I quickly realised was massively the wrong thing to do! You don’t really know what mental and emotional support you’ll need until you’re in the process and it doesn’t work… that’s when it hits you and you realise just how hard things can get.
“Aimee and I stuck together though and she noticed a really positive change in me leading up to the treatment, so she felt better knowing I was mentally prepared for whatever they could throw at us.”
As well as the treatment, as an LGBT+ couple were there any other issues or barriers that you faced?
“I wouldn’t say barriers necessarily, but we did notice a few little things such as the reading material and consent forms predominately being written for a man and a woman. It didn’t really bother us, and we don’t take things like that to heart, but it would have been nice to see that attention to detail covered off for a same sex couple.”
What support did you feel you needed on this journey and what was actually available to you?
“Additional mental health support would have been great, but the clinics focus quite heavily on the ‘mainstream’ mental health services such as counselling. I felt like something more holistic would have been welcomed – perhaps a service focusing on not just mental health from a clinical perspective, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Something CBT based, even some meditation support perhaps.
“I was lucky as I had all these tools at my disposal, as I am trained in CBT and make my own guided meditations. But for other women who maybe don’t realise how beneficial these things are, it could get very lonely very fast.”
What did you find most useful in your mental health journey?
“Meditation was key for me. I’ve had a spiritual gift since I was young, so I know how powerful things like meditation and the Law of Attraction can be. I had been consumed by the clinical stuff with the previous IUI treatments and really neglected this side of things.
“YouTube has some great free meditations, but you can also pay for specific fertility meditations which I would advise looking into. As well as this, I did a few acupuncture sessions and found them really helpful.
“Anything which focuses on mindset and energy were game changers for me and they were hands down the thing that changed the trajectory of my fertility journey. I truly believe that without the mindset and energy work, I’d still be battling to fall pregnant now.”
You have used the Hub of Hope to find support, can you tell us a bit about that?
“I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the Hub of Hope existed until I found it online after I’d had my son. As if my fertility journey wasn’t enough to deal with, I also suffered from post-natal depression. I used the hub to search for support in my area. My GP was also very helpful and got me some CBT therapy on the NHS.”
Based on your experiences what changes would you hope to see regarding fertility treatment and mental health?
“The counselling we had via the clinic was quite mechanical in its delivery and we felt a bit awkward during the sessions, almost like we were one of many sessions that day. It felt a little impersonal and something of a tick box exercise to be honest. I’m sure it helps a lot of people, but for us it wasn’t really a big support.
“The work I did focusing on my mindset and emotional state using meditation and host of other techniques, helped me more than anything. You go through so much emotional trauma when you struggle with your fertility and if you don’t deal with it effectively, you are throwing your money away at things like IVF or IUI as the clinical side won’t work in isolation – I learnt this the hard way!
“I’d like to see more holistic support available for women going through fertility treatment – CBT, meditation classes, breathing classes, Yoga and things like that.”
What advice would you give to other couples going through or planning on fertility treatment?
“Don’t be fooled into thinking the clinic is the answer to your prayers. It is in many ways and of course I’m aware my wife and I would never have fallen pregnant without treatment. BUT it’s very unlikely to work in isolation. You must do the mental and emotional work required to prepare yourself for treatment or you might as well throw your money down the drain, in my opinion.
“Get yourself into the best mental and emotional shape possible with the time you’ve got, then go for it. Walk into that clinic KNOWING you’ve done everything you can to make this a success. The outcome, whatever it may be, will be easier to deal with if you know you’ve given it your best shot and have left nothing to chance.
“Above all, please make sure you reach out for support. Find someone you can relate to, someone who understands what it’s like to go through the treatment and has come out the other side. It can be a very lonely road, not just for the person having the treatment, but their partner too.
“Ensuring you get the right network of support is crucial to your success and it breaks my heart to think of the countless women out there right now, struggling with this. It’s why I now dedicate my career to supporting women still on the fertility rollercoaster – I learnt all that I know the hard way, so you don’t have too!”
Find out more about Anna’s work at www.yoursoulcalling.com
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