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16% of Canadians will experience infertility in some way, shape or form. 

This is a space where we will share their stories, to let others know they are not alone, and to let the healing begin. 

Special For Mother's Day: Lisa's Story

Special For Mother's Day: Lisa's Story

On this Mother's Day, we think it's important to acknowledge and give thanks to the many mothers who have supported their child who has experienced infertility or suffered pregnancy loss. It can be so hard being a support person and navigating this land of uncertainty. 

This interview is dedicated to all of you lovely moms out there. Happy Mother's Day to you and thank you for everything you've done or are doing to help your child. 

Ariel is one of the co-founders of The 16 Percent, and her mom, Lisa Bourbonnais, supported her every step of the way during a five year journey with pregnancy losses and infertility. 

If you have supported someone through infertility or pregnancy loss and would like to share your story, please email us at the16percent@gmail.com. 

Here is Lisa's interview:

1) What is your personal experience with supporting someone experiencing infertility? 

One day at university, I met my future husband. I went home, leaned on the warm stove door, and happily told my Mum that I had met the man I was going to marry. She knew I meant it and asked me to wait until I was 21 so we got married a week after my 21st birthday and have been married nearly 40 years now.

Our kids came soon after and life went on pretty predictably. When my daughter got married in 2013, I assumed that things would go about the same for her. I could not have been more wrong.

After one year of trying for a baby, Ariel got pregnant, but the pregnancy stopped developing at 8 weeks. A year after that, she was diagnosed with low AMH at 33. This meant fertility treatments (including a uterus surgery to fix the shape, rounds of IUI, and one round of failed IVF) and a lot of effort and dedication on her part. After unsuccessful treatment, a subsequent miscarriage followed, also at 8 weeks. 

As a mom I was taken completely off guard and felt quite useless as fertility isn't something that one can just "fix" and make better. Initially, I kind of was in denial thinking this might disappear, but after a few years I felt I had come to terms that I was not going to become a Grandma. I learned to trust what my daughter was telling me and be supportive based on that truth.

I saved all of my daughter's hand knits made by her Great Grandma in England. I assumed she might need them one day and I've never seen that kind of beautiful work anywhere else. Things that I just assumed would play out did not. Of course, I was disappointed for myself but I felt much more heartbroken for my daughter because having a baby seems like such a basic natural right for a woman to have if she chooses to, and she was being denied at every turn.

My daughter is a strong clever girl and she gave me a lot of strength by her own behaviour. We have had our moments, but I truly believe we came to a peaceful acceptance of the situation and made new plans not involving a grandchild. 

2) How has it made your life worse? How has it made your life better?

I always thought I'd be a Grandma as a matter of course. I was shocked to find out otherwise. Through the process, I eventually accepted the fact and then was quite happy to be a bit more selfish for "me" time and amusements that I may not have splurged on if I were already a grandma. 

3) What have you learned through this experience supporting Ariel?

I am now very aware that infertility is common and misunderstood by a lot of people. I've had a crash course in many different aspects of fertility treatment and options so I am a better support when asked to be so. I am very grateful for my own children that I took for granted, without considering that so many people struggle with infertility.

4) What did you hold on to for hope/courage/strength on your bad days?

I kinda go shallow when things get tough. Little things like facials, nails and getting my hair done can help boost my mood when I’m feeling low. 

5) In three words describe yourself before/during/after providing support:

Ignorant/ Trusting my girl's lead/ Comfortable with or without grandkids

6) In what ways has your experience with supporting someone with infertility changed you as a person? 

I am far more aware and less arrogant with my opinions. I felt completely shocked and didn't know how to respond at first. Whether to say keep trying, it only takes one egg, or adopt... many other lines come to mind. I also felt guilty as her infertility could be autoimmune-related and I have an autoimmune illness. 

I feel like I had a crash course in fertility. I found my opinions around a lot of issues soften as I realized why certain actions may be implemented like egg donors, surrogates, and other alternatives besides natural conception. I learned just how many people are affected by infertility and pregnancy loss and how hard it is to manage on a daily basis while keeping up with the everyday demands of life... I think I have come a long way in my ability to support without trying to direct the situation.

7) How have others responded to your infertility situations? Has it impacted your relationships? What are some things you’ve been told that have been helpful/harmful?

I think Grandmas to be get similar to Mums..... Do you have grandkids yet? How long have they been married? Perfectly well intentioned and natural questions that may involve super involved answers.

8) Tell us about you. What are your hobbies/passions/pursuits?

I am a custom compression garment fitter for the last 24 years and an avid home baker that loves to make and eat lots of treats! I’m an avid reader and yoga enthusiast.

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