Thanks for chatting today, B! Can you tell us 5 things about yourself?
I love music so much! I play the piano, drums, flute, bass guitar, glockenspiel and have just got a cello. I’m a feeler- feel things so deeply! I have three boys under 6. It’s a normal day when I get accidentally kicked in the face, but there are also lots of cuddles. I am a photographer and a counsellor. Kmart is lyf.
What did your journey to motherhood look like?
We decided quite early in in our marriage that we’d like to start a family. It was so exciting! Thinking and planning and dreaming! The first few months of nothing happening weren’t too disappointing- I knew it could take time. But months turned into almost 8 years. In that time we saw people overtake us and not only start but finish their families. It was heart breaking and made me question my purpose and my faith. 8 years is a long time to be waiting- uncertain if anything was ever going to happen. It broke me multiple times. It has also given me huge empathy and love for people in the same boat.
What was it like hearing news of other’s pregnancies when you yourselves were trying for a long time?
In the beginning – hearing other people were pregnant was ok – I knew that everyone was on their own journey. I just tried to stay in my own lane – focused on us! Trying to conceive is an emotional journey between hope and despair! As time begun to progress, and my disappointment was harder to conceal – I began to protect myself and withdraw from life a bit. People couldn’t hurt me with their news if I was never vulnerable with them. Hearing/seeing a pregnancy announcement was always a bittersweet moment. It became more and more difficult to not feel loss deeply, in the midst of other couples’ joy.
About 6 years into our journey, we were very close friends with two other couples- and we were all trying to conceive our first baby. It was taking us all a long time. We hoped that we would all fall pregnant together, but knew that was unlikely and that soon might not have this same kinship. TTC is a transient place. At some point people will move out or it, either by pregnancy or practicality. We hoped that we would be able to continue the support and love no matter what side we ended up on.
The first couple fell pregnant and it was a shock. A good shock, as this was what we all wanted, and we were genuinely excited for them! I spent some time grieving for myself and then showered them with love and hugs and thoughtful gifts. Inside I would sometimes check myself and wonder why this had to be my story. I started to descend into a depression. Everywhere I went I would see happy pregnant women. Actually going out was difficult because I would constantly be on the verge of tears. It was difficult to see past my pain. It was all I could think about!
If I knew that I would fall pregnant eventually, I could have relaxed and trusted the plan but there was no certainty! I started to get very prickly and defensive around people who were pregnant or had children, it was how I protected myself.
The next couple fell pregnant and all my worst fears were realised. We were alone. It was never going to happen to us. They were all on a boat sailing away and laughing at us still standing sadly on the shore. I tried my best to congratulate them and be hopeful and full of faith for their future, and I was so happy for them- but I was just so sad for myself.
There is a saying that hope deferred makes the heart sick, and after 8 years my heart became very sick. I didn’t like who I’d become and the ways that I would react around anyone. Even home was a sad place. The room we had begun to set up for a baby seemed to sit there mocking me. Infertility is no respecter of persons, and it is something I don’t wish for anyone.
Thankfully 5 months after the second couple fell pregnant, we finally did. I could not have been more surprised. I thought it never would happen, but it did. It meant that all three women were pregnant together (only for 3 weeks!!) but it was a gift I never thought I would receive. Since then we have had two other pregnancies, and now have 3 healthy boys.
Somehow, I seem to find women who have or are struggling with infertility and I want to cheer them on, encourage and listen. I cannot tell everyone that it will happen for them, but hopefully hearing that they are not alone is helpful.
What advice would you have for couples who are sharing their pregnancy news with women and men battling infertility?
Throughout our journey, I had to tell other friends who are TTC that I was pregnant. These conversations were heavy for me because I know the pain of hearing this, including the complicated feelings and the heightened emotions. I know that it can change relationships and just plain hurt. I have done this well and have done it so poorly!
My advice is if you have friends that you know are also TTC- ask them (before you are pregnant) how they would like to know. Let them set healthy boundaries around finding out. For me, I wanted to hear via text so I didn’t have to respond to your face (I once vomited in the bathroom after someone told me – and I was in there an AWKWARDLY long time!). If possible, I wanted to know before it was common knowledge so that I could process before everyone else was gushing and congratulating around them. Knowing this way made me able to celebrate well when I saw them again. It also meant I could deal with my grief early on (although there will be triggers at different times).
This was my basic message to friends to announce our pregnancy to them.
“Hi friend, we wanted to let you know that we are 7 weeks pregnant. It’s early but we wanted you to know now. We love you guys and know while you’ll be happy it might take some processing. It’s our deep desire for you guys to have a baby too, and we are holding space for you. Much much love xx”
Just be kind. You are telling people something that is going to hurt, but hopefully they will have joy for you too. Don’t put too many expectations on them and check in regularly.
What is your advice around responding to pregnancy news in the midst of infertility?
All life is precious. I held my niece in my arms when she was 10 minutes old (at this stage we’d been trying for a few years) and I cried because this was a precious life, I was regretful that I hadn’t loved her before this point. All new life is beautiful and precious and worthy. Even if it was an unplanned pregnancy, it’s good to remember this. Babies are very healing, and I found being involved in my niece’s life such a joy even though it was so painful.
Do your best. If you are TTC you will probably go around expecting someone to announce their pregnancy at any moment. The dreaded Facebook announcement filling your feed when you were not prepared. You may be going around with a guard around your heart. When it happens just try to do your best.I would try to remember to be my best self (rather than something snarky that I’d regret). Tell them that its amazing news and hug them (only if Covid is over!). Just do what you can. I think shock and adrenalin can actually be your friend here, it’ll get you through. I would go with it and do my best and then get out of there! Go home and cry with your partner.
Find a safe space. There will be people in your world that will just get it. Those who struggled too, single people, friends who have proven themselves trustworthy – let them in and share your self with them. Safe spaces where you can say those things that sound awful, moan and cry without judgment – nothing compares to these places! They are gold in your life.
Find ways to give/support. The bravest thing to do is live in the tension of loving even though there is pain. There will be people in your world that are pregnant that are still your friends and could still use your support. I’ve learnt that engaging with them – while so hard – is letting life be at its fullest and most beautiful. Make sure to find healthy boundaries around giving so that you are not always raw with your disappointment and neither cutting out these people from your life but finding some way to love them is putting value on them. Hopefully, this will be reciprocated for you at some point.
Return to Hope. Find some way to return to hope. This will look different for everyone, and might be a different outcome, but life is difficult to live when there is no hope.
If this is your story – I feel for you deeply. There are good moments, but there are many hard days. I would love to hear your story and share in this with you if you’d like. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you just need a vent. Hoping your family grows as you desire!