How does it feel when fertility treatment fails and your dream of motherhood is shattered?
Here, 44-year-old Sam Walsh from the UK shares her story with Yahoo.
"Whenever you see someone going through IVF in a film, they always walk away with a happy ending. But life is not like that. A lot of the time, fertility treatment does not work and thousands of women face the heartbreak of knowing they will never be mothers.
It’s not something we speak about often and that needs to change.
I met my husband Liam in Ibiza when I was 21. We were a real party couple, always clubbing and out with friends. Children were not on our radar for many years. It was only after we married in 2005 and I was approaching 30 that we wondered about having a family. We had no idea what lay ahead for us.
After three years of trying, we discovered that the problem was with me.
At 25, I’d had some abnormal cells removed from my cervix but this had caused an infection in my fallopian tubes. I’d had no idea at the time.
'Surgery went wrong'
Doctors suggested that it would be safer to remove the tubes if I was to embark on IVF and we agreed. But the surgery went wrong and both my ovaries were damaged during the operation.
It was devastating but we had to hope. I was only in my early thirties and you hear about people’s miracle success stories.
But during our first round of IVF, very few eggs were retrieved. The second round was the same and I was said to be a ‘poor responder’, a label I hated. My body was letting me down through no fault of my own.
"Over the course of three long years, I endured hormone injections, scans and tests. When our third round failed in 2012, we were told our only hope was donor eggs.
It’s hard to describe the emotional rollercoaster of IVF. All our friends were having babies, moving on with their lives and ours was on hold.
It was funny how, before having IVF, I was never sure I wanted children. But once I was told I couldn’t have them, I was desperate for them.
'A painful decision'
Liam supported me with everything but he was finding it hard too.
We’d been lucky enough to have three rounds on the NHS and thought about going private and a cousin even offered to donate her eggs.
But after many painful conversations we decided to walk away from fertility treatment. My body and my emotions could not take anymore. We’d already put off so much in our lives on the off chance that we could be called up for a scan or a test.
I was in full blown menopause by now thanks to premature ovarian failure (POI) and my hormones were all over the place.
I could hold my emotions together at work but at home I’d get up in the mornings and cry while I was in the shower and in the evenings, I withdrew from Liam. He wanted us to return to our ‘old lives’, going out and clubbing together and having fun. But I couldn’t.
We drifted apart and separated in 2013. We divorced two years ago.
The Non-Mum Network
"Walking away from IVF was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and even now, I look back and think: ‘Could I have done more?’
It’s still hard. I’ve got a dozen schoolmates and between them they have 20 children. We’re still great friends but I feel like I live a Peter Pan existence, never really growing up.
I’ve coped by finding a community of women in the same situation. I set up a Facebook group called The Non-Mum Network which now has 1,100 women like me, most of whom are childless not by choice. It’s a place where we vent without being judged.
In the last few years, I’ve really started to take more care of myself. I’ve stopped smoking and seven months ago I quit drinking. I’ve also focused on having more of a purpose, doing different things like blogging and I’ve taken up exercise. I used to hate my body for letting me down so now I ensure it’s as strong and fit as it can be.
Over the years, I’ve been through all the stages of grief – shock, anger, acceptance.
It’s taken a long time to come to terms with the fact I’ll never be a mother and while I’m still not 100% at peace with it, I’ve learned to live with it and I’m happy."
As told to Jill Foster for Yahoo Style UK.
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