1) What is your personal experience with infertility/miscarriage?
I was off birth control and my partner and I were trying for a baby (with no luck) for just over a year. When I first mentioned this to my doctor, they weren’t overly concerned about it. Meanwhile, it seemed like everyone around me was sneezing and magically becoming pregnant. After another year, I went back to my doctor who referred me to a gynecologist who then put me on Clomid, a drug that is often used to help induce ovulation. Another year passed. My partner had his sperm tested (it was fine) and I had a couple tests done as well. Our doctors were stumped as to why we weren’t naturally conceiving. Eventually, we were referred to an infertility clinic for a consultation about four years after we first started trying. Both of us took the day off work, drove two hours to the clinic, and waited to see the doctor. Without an examination or review of previous tests, we were informed of the problem: “You’re too obese to conceive” (please note: this was definitely not the problem). My partner took my hand and we both stood up. Then he said, “Ok, we’re done here” and we left.
After five years of infertility we managed to conceive. After our daughter was born, we were advised the problem was that I have a bicornuate uterus with a partial septum (my uterus is heart-shaped and has a divide in it). I was purposely not informed of this as it was discovered after I was already pregnant and the doctors didn’t believe I would carry to term.
2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?
There was always this overpowering frustration with my body because having a baby is something we’re taught you “should” be able to do naturally. It was (and is) a huge source of guilt and frustration. Even after we conceived, I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant. Before every ultrasound I’d cry in the car, convinced I was about to find out it wasn’t real. This had a huge impact on something that should have been a really exciting time in our lives. Just because I delivered a healthy baby doesn’t mean our infertility struggled stopped there.
It made my life better in that it brought me much closer to my partner – he was the only person who knew exactly how I was feeling, and this was/is tremendously comforting.
6) How do you feel about your experience with infertility on your good days?
I still have a lot of unresolved feelings surrounding my infertility. It’s the reason my partner and I aren’t going to discuss having more children because I can’t go through the trying and failing again. We both feel so lucky to be able to have our daughter. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but there’s always this lingering feeling of vague resentment that I harbour toward my own body and what we went through.
8) In what ways has your experience with infertility changed you as a person?
I think it made me better in that I became a stronger and more open person. During the first few years, I was reluctant to talk about it; there is so little information, and even fewer supports for people who are facing infertility. I have been trying to make an effort to be more outspoken about infertility, particularly “unexplainable infertility” (our original diagnosis), because it’s so vague, and I know how awful it feels.
9) What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?
The best thing for someone experiencing infertility is for you to just be there for them, listen to them, and remind them they aren’t alone in this. My advice for the person experiencing an infertility with a partner, is to remember their partner is in the exact same situation, and probably feeling the exact same things. You need to be a team, no matter what the outcome.
I think the most hurtful piece of well-meaning advice (that I’m sure a lot of people hear) is,“It’s when you give up that it happens!” No. No, it isn’t. It’s biology, and in many cases, it’s also with a lot of (often expensive and painful) medical assistance. There is no magic involved (unless you count the magic of science). This isn’t a problem you can solve with advice from your mother’s sister’s friend’s cousin who magically conceived after drinking a potion fit for Harry Potter.
10) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?
I’m a librarian, so predictably I love books, but am also passionate about history; I enjoy research. Recently I’ve been trying to learn the ukulele (I was influenced by some work colleagues to learn). My main hobby is conceptual photography – I love to imagine worlds and situations and characters, and then bring them to life with my camera (and Photoshop)!
Photo Credit: Jeannette Breward Photography