ANDREW COUTTS, MA (Ed), BA (Law),BSc (Econ) Hons
Against the Odds:
A journey through the minefield of infertility By Sam Osborn
A book review by Andrew Coutts
As the author herself rightly states at the beginning of this diary-based account of her fertility struggle and subsequent pregnancy, and subsequent birth, it is ‘not the most dramatic or remarkable’ story. It is however one, that many can empathise with and although not all of us can claim to have won the fertility battle the story does provide hope and represents an honest account of a period which is fraught with fear, frustration, anxiety, excitement (and for Sam Osborn), ultimately happiness.
The book starts with a familiar account of how the birth pill was both a blessing and a curse. Having supported her through her young, free and single days the pill brought Osborn to the very edge of a sheer cliff, “The overriding feeling I had was of falling down a huge black hole - I was being sucked in and was having difficulty catching my breath”.
Following unfruitful visits to unsympathetic GP’s Osborn recounts long periods of self-doubt and depression which lead ultimately to a physician recommending the use of the drug Zoladex which, while addressing the acute symptoms caused by the pill would have meant an early menopause and hysterectomy. This proves to be the watershed moment for the author who has to make a momentous decision between drug or a potential family of her own. Osborn decids upon the latter.
A chance visit to a Chinese herbalist sorted out the irregular and painful cycle; reflexology helped balance her hormones and the adoption of a range of complimentary therapies did the rest.
Next up a partner to fill the ‘baby shaped void’ and another problem. Osborn’s new man had fathered a child in a previous relationship but had a vasectomy sometime before.
There follows an intense period in the story when Osborn wrestles with her FSH/AMH levels; challenges the pessimism adopted by some of her medical team and embraces the positivism of others; undertakes her own research and adopts an holistic approach alongside traditional medicine. In parallel, her partner has a reversal of his vasectomy and finally overcomes the complications associated with it.
An open mind, a favourable physical response and of course a lot of determination in the face of comments such as, “If it’s not in the medical journal, then I’m not interested” eventually channels success.
The diary format then becomes testament to an anxiety ridden nine months peppered with moments of great happiness and ultimately joy with the birth of a healthy baby.
The book is a good read for anyone embarking on a fertility journey or anticipating the birth of a long-awaited son or daughter. One of the main things I took from it was the fact that those of us on the journey have been increasingly educated and empowered about fertility and our own bodies. Increased access to educational and medical information; treatment options and holistic support have strengthened our arm – our fertility destiny, or a large part of it, is moving slowly into our own hands. We are empowered patients and our fertility options are to a large degree considered and ultimately decided by us.
Osborn sums this up perfectly. Whilst accepting she did not always receive the responses she desired from her consultants, nurses and GP she appreciated all their help and guidance in hindsight.
However, as a final caveat she says;
“There is a wealth of information ‘out there’ so you also need to consider how you feel and what is right for you. Knowledge is power and even if it doesn’t work out, knowing you have done everything in your power can give some comfort to you”.
‘Against the Odds: A journey through the minefield of infertility’ is available from Amazon, ISBN: 1973300109. Cost £6.49
Andrew Coutts is a regular speaker, writer and commentator on fertility issues and has been involved in developing numerous patient engagement events throughout Europe.