“Having children may not be a reality for you!” These words echoed like gun-shots through my mind over and over again.
If you’ve ever heard these words uttered to you by someone in the medical profession you will understand the intense shock and pain that follows. Despite the gentle manner in which these words had been delivered, I felt as though a sword had pierced my heart. My dream to have children seemed as though it was almost ‘crushed’.
After surgical procedures and months of trialling various drugs with no result, I was told there was no physical reason why I couldn’t get pregnant. I was left confused. I found myself in a place I didn’t understand. I wasn’t sure I was even aware this place existed! Because there was nothing that could be identified as interfering with us getting pregnant I felt greater frustration. It would have been easier to process had there been a clear reason. Why couldn’t we get pregnant? What WAS wrong? If they couldn’t find anything stopping us, what would help us to make our dream a reality?
I knew there were people who had trouble having children, but finally did, and others who just never could. My hope, my belief deep down was that we would be in that first category. I didn’t want to imagine what life might look like for me, for us, if having children was not going to be our reality. Making the choice to maintain hope through this time was difficult, but not something I was willing to let go of!
We had friends in our world making their own pregnancy announcements…again and again! I would smile and offer my sincere congratulations (because I was genuinely happy for them), but it only highlighted our own very real and personal struggle. It highlighted how alone we felt on our journey and gave us our own personal insight into what it means to experience a deference of hope that makes the heart sick.
Many just assumed we weren’t ready or wanting kids yet. As I was a little bit older (in my early 30s) I would often receive comments from well-meaning (yet insensitive) people who felt it their duty to point out that my body clock was ticking on…and we had better get moving!!!
My outward responses were always much more gracious than my immediate internal responses. I would most often reply (using great restraint) with “Well…sometimes things don’t always work out the way we’d like them to.”
Month after month my husband and I would ride the ‘highs and lows’ of hoping and praying we’d discover a positive result…only to be disappointed and devastated again! The cycle of shock and not wanting to believe that this was happening ‘again’! Closely followed by intense disappointment and anger at the realisation that yet another month had passed us by, and still no baby! Then at some point we would muster the smallest amount of hope to try again, convincing ourselves we’d have more success next time. At times, hope seemed to completely fade. It felt almost impossible to muster, but we continued to hope against all hope!
We rode this very personal rollercoaster for three years – thirty-six months – one month at a time – heartbreak after heartbreak, wondering if we would ever see our dream of being parents become our reality.
Then, finally through yet another fertility intervention we became pregnant with our first little miracle. Words just couldn’t encapsulate the absolute elation we felt as we realised our dream was about to become a living reality! We felt so blessed. However, in that moment we made a decision to never forget the journey we had just spent three years of our life navigating, because we had come to know so many other couples finding a way through their own heartbreaking journey of a hauntingly similar tale.
Something we came to discover on this journey was a type of grief that is uniquely different to the typical kind of grief that people experience. It was unlike the tangible grief people face after losing a loved one to death, some other kind of tragedy or separation. This grief couldn’t be seen. There was nothing tangible to grieve. And for the most part it was a kind of grief that no one else was even aware of, due to the very private nature of such a journey. Nonetheless, the impact it had on both of us personally and as a couple, was so profound and so deep that we weren’t able to travel through life with the same perspective that we once had. Our battles were real. They impacted every area of our lives – our marriage, our friendships, our mental and emotional health, our physical health, our work life, our faith…and so much more!
Once our daughter was a few months old, we decided we’d continue on the journey to grow our family, filled with hope that our experience would be somehow different this time around. After another long, disappointing and at times hope-less 36 months we discovered after another fertility intervention that our next little miracle was on the way! Needless to say that by the time we found out we were pregnant with our second child we had spent 6 years out of 8 on an incredibly emotional rollercoaster in our quest to have a family. We felt like the most blessed couple on the face of the planet to have two unbelievably special little girls who graced our lives with their presence.
I was reminded constantly of how wonderfully privileged we were to have our two little miracles….and it seemed like a stretch (perhaps even selfish) to think that our dream of having three children might be possible, especially while we still knew so many couples who hadn’t had any success in starting their family after years and years of fertility intervention. I determined that I could never want for more. This was our family and I felt incredibly blessed to have this as our reality. As I was nearing 40 I determined in my heart that I would let go of the dream to have another child. I wasn’t sure I had the emotional capacity to endure that process again. It was time for us to settle and really enjoy our beautiful little family. (Two years later we were elated to welcome our third child into our family – but that’s a miracle story for another time).
Our fertility story culminates in a beautiful ending (and the beginning of our family). I am, however, aware that this is not the case for many couples. Sadly, this kind of experience is not isolated to just a handful of people. It is more common than we might have the ability to comprehend. Fertility clinics are overflowing with couples embarking on fertility procedures in an attempt to see their dream of having children become their reality. Each couple has their very own story to tell. Having been there, having walked that road of the heartbreak of hope deferred (with no guarantees), having shared in other couples’ journeys similar to ours (but without the result of children) has produced in both my husband and I a deep understanding and empathy of the emotional pain that accompanies such a journey.
If this is your story and you find yourself isolated and alone, not knowing who you can share with, I encourage you to find someone to talk to. Someone you know is able to listen. It may be a close friend or family member. It may be a professional counsellor/therapist. This journey is much too heavy for you to carry alone. This is not insignificant because others don’t see or understand it.
You are worth it!
Your relationships are worth it!
Your life has incredible purpose and meaning despite your circumstances and your yet-unfulfilled dreams.
With you on this journey,