I was the woman you hear about; you know the one, your hairdressers’ best friend’s cousin, who had struggled for years to get pregnant but it magically happened as soon as she stopped trying. It was totally because she relaxed, she wasn’t consumed with every cycle; as a couple they had sex more and just for fun because they could without the extra pressure of perfect timing, position and whether the moon was full or not.
Falling pregnant after infertility is surprising, elating and terrifying. It was a surprise for us, as the legend goes, we had stopped trying and were getting used to the idea of a childfree life. During the four years that we had been trying I had joined a club that nobody wants to be part of, the worst yet the warmest club in the world, The Infertile Club. I had immersed myself in others stories, I found comfort in the feeling I was not alone and a little hope from success stories. I also craved information, facts and knowledge, I crave this in all areas of my life, I obsess over every single detail and fertility/infertility was no different. I learnt so much. I have not found many stories like ours, some with similarities but not the same; one of the biggest lessons that I learnt was no matter what route was taken every pregnancy and every birth story was different, add in layers of infertility and the nuances are tenfold.
Feeling like a fertility fraud started as soon as I found out I was pregnant. We hadn’t shared our infertility with many people but now that I was pregnant, I wanted everybody to know. With every new announcement came my wee skit, ‘Oh,it was complete surprise, we can’t believe it, we had stopped trying, did you know it’s actually been a really long road to get here, we didn’t think we could get pregnant’. To this day I can’t explain why I came up with the performance, the only conclusions I can come to is that I needed the validation and understanding of how difficult it had been for us, wanting everybody to know how much we had wanted this, and we understood how lucky we were.
I felt too lucky. The previous four years disappeared as soon as I had the positive pregnancy test. I forgot all the processes, the pain and the tears. All the time researching, immersing myself in the infertility community, the ovulation tests, the blood tests, the dates with wanda (if you know you know), the restrictive diets, the supplements, the negative pregnancy tests, the surgery, the life put on hold. I forgot it all. You can read more of our story here.
Just as we were getting used to the idea of a childfree future, as I was getting ready to open up to the infertility community, we find out we were pregnant. I suddenly did not know where I belonged. As humans we love to belong, and I wasn’t sure there was a place for me. I didn’t feel I belonged with young first-time mums, for a start I wasn’t young, my pregnancy file stated geriatric mum ffs. I had never been pregnant before, hadn’t gone through IVF success or failure, we had not suffered a loss, this was not going to be our rainbow baby. When people heard our story would they think that because we had chosen not to pursue IVF, we did not want a baby enough? Would people think that we had it easy now we are pregnant? If I shared our story, would it hurt rather than help people, like so many other stories had helped me? The stories that had once comforted and given hope were now working against me, why did we deserve to be the lucky ones?
With time, distance and the birth of a beautiful baby girl comes clarity. Infertility is infertility even if you get your happy ending, who even knows when or if that ending comes. We are the lucky ones and we will never not be amazed and grateful. Yet, we must acknowledge the difficulties and trying times that come with being pregnant after infertility. Infertility does not leave you with the birth of a healthy baby. Every story is unique, each individual or couple will make their own choice when deciding how they will handle their infertility and what path they will take to bring a baby into the world. Likewise, they will decide what is right for them and when they have had enough. Not any of these decisions will ever equate to them not wanting a child more than anything in the world.
Since Ellen has arrived in the world, I could not care less about the route she took to get here, but just that she is here. I realise that as a woman, as a mama and as a human that I am many things that I share with a great many others; I experienced infertility, I have an autoimmune disease, I experienced pregnancy after infertility, I am a mama, I am a geriatric mum, I had my first baby at 39 – 3 months before I turned 40, I was pregnant during a pandemic. Even these are just a small part of my make up. The infertility community, any community, is about shared experiences, I am a culmination of many experiences that I can share with many communities.
I will never know if I feel like luckier, if I am more grateful, if I have more patience but more anxiety to any other parent. I will never know if I feel different to a new mum who had her first baby at 20, or the new mum who had her baby at 42 after multiple rounds of IVF. All I know now is that I feel like Ellen’s mama and there is only one thing I need her to feel and that is loved.
If you are struggling with infertility here are a few sites and profiles that may help: