When I was young, I knew I wanted to be a mother. I have always enjoyed working with children, either as a babysitter, camp counsellor, program coordinator, and even teacher. Being a mother was something that I was destined to be – I have always known in my core. When Hubby and I met, starting a family was high on both of our life goals, which made having children a no-brainer.
When it came time to start trying for children, it never once occurred to me that there might be an issue. Not once did I stop and think that there was a possibility we might not be ABLE to get pregnant. Fertility was never the topic of conversation among my friends, nor in the media. It just was not something on the forefront. Only recently have I realized how much I took our fertility for granted. There were issues, yes, but for the most part, we wanted to have children and we did. The idea that there were people for which this was not the case was not openly discussed.
As with many things, we experienced roadblocks that were not discussed with others. Before I was pregnant with J, I miscarried. It was a first-trimester miscarriage that was discovered during the first ultrasound. We were devastated but ultimately kept it to ourselves. It wasn’t something we wanted to readily share with others. It didn’t feel necessary to let others in on our pain as if it was something we were only meant to go through as a couple. For most, pregnancy isn’t shared with others until the second trimester, as the risk of miscarriage in the first trimester is high. The fear of sharing the information before it is “safe” to do so, is the chance the pregnancy doesn’t hold.
You then have to go back and relive the pain of the loss by explaining to everyone that you are no longer having the baby. It is estimated that 1 out of every 4 pregnancies end sometimes in the first trimester, some before women even realize they are pregnant. With a statistic that high, it is a wonder these things weren’t discussed more openly – but here we are.
After that, we were pregnant with J a few months later. Our first rainbow baby. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a rainbow baby is a baby born after a loss of some kind – either miscarriage, stillbirth or ectopic pregnancy. We wanted a baby, and a few months later she was “in the oven” so to speak. There was very little stress in terms of being able to get pregnant, and carrying her to term. So once more, I reflect that I took our fertility for granted.
It was around that time that I began to understand how difficult becoming pregnant was for so many women. Friends of mine began talking, quietly at first, about their struggles. I say quietly because it wasn’t something that was openly discussed. It is almost as if a shame was hanging over those who struggled. With so many things in life and so many topics I seem to touch on, there was a veil of mystery surrounding these things. It was taboo to talk about because as animals we are born to procreate and continue the species. As humans, we want to share our legacy and bloodline with future generations. So what happens when it isn’t possible? When nature doesn’t work the way it was intended to? Does that make us less human? Does it make women less-than?
Again, before N was born, I miscarried. The story was similar to the first, although the loss came before the first ultrasound. I am grateful that I was spared the heart-wrenching situation of watching the technician searching and searching for a heartbeat. This loss also came during a high-stress time in our lives, so it would make sense that the pregnancy wouldn’t hold. When we became pregnant with N, it was without major incident. No fertility help, no interventions, just biology.
In the past few decades advancements in fertility-medicine are phenomenal. The interventions available to couples struggling with fertility are spread across multiple paths, depending on what is the right fit. Many, though, are limited by financial means. I am forever grateful that I never had to choose between a mortgage payment and an IVF treatment because at $10-$20K per round, paying for these treatments is no small feat. I would like to think that if I had to, I wouldn’t think twice about spending the money, but I also know I’ve never been faced with the need to decide. I have friends who have gone through multiple rounds of fertility treatments and have put their careers, financial savings, and in some cases their health on the backburner to pursue the hopes of having children. I know couples who have had multiples (twins or triplets) as a result of the fear the treatments would not work. And I know some for whom the treatments were never successful.
What has changed in recent years is the openness in which we have allowed this to be discussed. Infertility issues are being openly talked about and recounted both in social media and day-to-day society. This is not to say that some women (in particular) don’t feel some sense of shame for not being able to have children. And, it should be said, that I am a full proponent of living your life how you want – and if you do not want to have children it does not make you less of a person. What I am referring to is those who want to have children and medically cannot do so. When in a situation where you already feel alone, the worst thing to be is actually alone. We need to continue to break down the stigma and fear surrounding this. Stories need to be shared, and those who are going through struggles need to know that they are not alone.
Even in recent years, Hubby and I have discussed how lucky we are. We wanted children, and for the most part, it was straightforward for us to achieve that goal. After seeing the struggles of those close to me, I do not take that for granted anymore. This is why I am sharing my own journey, because even what seems like a straight road can have unforeseen bumps along the way. Hopefully, when you get to the end of the rainbow you are able to find what you are looking for, no matter how long it takes to get there.
This is life. Love, Mom.