“Oh you only have one child, it should be easy for you”
I have spent the last 13 years hearing this. Let me tell you: it’s NOT. Being a mother is never easy for anyone, so please stop telling me that so I then have to explain why I only had one child and not the standard “acceptable” number of two. My dream number of children was actually four. But after my first, I simply couldn’t have any more. Not for lack of trying.
Over 5 tortuous years I endured 6 failed IVF treatments.
I carry the guilt and the pain of these procedures with me everywhere, like a lead weight in the back of my brain.
It lives alongside the memories of the countless doctors appointments and the $20K of out-of-pocket expenses I calculated one night in the midst of another meltdown, while making the agonising decision of whether to undertake additional treatments or to stop.
Yes, I finally stopped at the age of 46 after being told by my husband that my personality had changed dramatically.
“Oh well at least you have one… there are other people that don’t have any”
YES, I know that as well!
It doesn’t make it any less painful.
What people don’t understand or relate to is the internal torment and pain is like no other: it is simply grief in another form. It is the loss of hope and the loss of what could have been.
“You just need to stop stressing out; maybe a holiday would work?”
Stop stressing, go on a holiday, take a break, it will happen in its own good time… YEP YEP YEP, did all that. NUP, it is still not happening, thank you very much. Any more suggestions, people?
For five years I was trying to work to pay for IVF treatments, raise a toddler, be a good WOG wife, clean the house, socialise with family and friends, and to add to this already hectic scenario I was required to have countless blood tests (sometimes weekly), doctors visits, the internal examinations, the fuzzy brain from all the drugs injected into me, the sleepless nights going over every detail and feeling I may or may not be getting (THAT FEELING in your uterus)…
Did it take? Does my piss look too yellow?
OMG it literally does your head in on a daily basis. This process was like a full time job, let alone everything else to worry about, including the mortgage payments.
All the while I smiled through the journey telling myself that I was tough and I could DO THIS.
I reflect now and think of all the secret crying in the car, usually on the way to and from work, over several years. I never really told anyone the extent of how bad I was feeling. Instead, I would portray an exaggerated smiley front for years at work and in front of family and friends. I was trying really hard to be strong and outgoing and live life for the sake of my family and small child.
The workplace was not an easy place to be during this time. I wrestled with the question of whether to tell my male manager that I was going through IVF. In the end, I decided to keep quiet as I overheard another manager make a comment about another woman in the workplace wanting to get pregnant, saying that they would no longer consider her for any internal promotions because “she will get pregnant and then leave and so what’s the point?” (She got pregnant two years later.)
I was astounded that this was even said by the young 30 year old accountant whose wife was due to have a baby. Such obvious discrimination, and proud if it. YOU PRICK! READ THE WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION RULES BEFORE YOU MAKE COMMENTS.
Could my life get any harder? I can’t get pregnant. If I do tell them that I want to get pregnant and am doing IVF then I will not be considered for any promotions. If I don’t get pregnant and I’ve told them then my career will not progress anyway. I’m screwed either way.
My only child also decided to be very clingy and would cry endlessly when I dropped him off at childcare and reception. I remember the daily task of the pre-school teacher holding my son down and distracting him while I did a runner out the gate so I could go to work, so I could afford the IVF treatments, so I could give him a sibling. I felt like once I achieved this pregnancy everything would be ok: he would be happy, we would be happier, and I would be part of the NORM in society! Then all of my friends and random people would finally stop asking that question.
I was so convinced that the struggle would be worth it. In reality it wore me down and broke my heart. It broke my spirit. It made me sad and some days very, very, sad.
By the age of 45 I could no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Are you ok?”
Among all of the well meaning advice and unintentionally hurtful comments, I never seemed to hear these three words.
I know people handle things differently, however one common thing I noticed was that people with families that did not endure a hard journey in pregnancy never really liked to ask or enquire if I was doing ok in my journey. It was as if the subject was too hard to talk about and people really only want to hear the good things, never the struggles. On many occasions I still withdraw from social events and away from some people in my life. It’s not hard to be nice and kind and ask the question, “are you doing ok?” We are not the enemy: making us feel even more socially isolated doesn’t help us.
No one really knows unless they have travelled the journey, and it’s a solo journey, a sad journey, and now a bitter one now that the prize of a child is not there to make me feel that the journey was worth it.
However the journey of failure to conceive a second child so that I could have that perfect number of children never leaves me. It’s a never-ending reminder, it’s at the friend’s dinner table, at the shops, at the communion party with a stranger next to me making small talk, it’s there when I’m on holiday. I am reminded every time someone makes a thoughtless comment, or when my own child has no one to play with because I haven’t provided them with a sibling.
I worried constantly and spend endless time trying to organise activities and play dates left, right, and centre to keep my son happy. Feeling anxious about his social development and just once wanting to feel that I was enough for him.
So I’m asking all mums out there to stop with the comments and think about the other person sometimes. How about asking me first for a play date first during the holidays, instead of me always being the one to organise everything, every school holidays. I know I am good at it and I know I only have one child and it should be easy, but I need break as well.
Ask: “are you ok?”
And now that we are on the verge of finishing primary school I am getting told by other mums that it should be easy for me to send my child to a private school and pay the fees, as I only have the one to worry about. YES YES, I have only the one to worry about, but I feel like shouting “I already spent 20K on trying to have another one, so NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO its not easy for me to pay school fees either!”
My heart goes out to all those couples trying to conceive and have not achieved in their journey towards motherhood/parenthood. Please be kind to yourself. You are valued, and your life will be exceptional with or without children .
I’m 50 now and I’m a different person and I have a different perspective on life. I never again want to be at the mercy of an employer, so I run my own business now around my child’s school and sporting needs, and I have as much flexibility as I want which is great, and I am proud of my achievements. I am no longer quiet about my feelings and talk about my IVF experiences with anyone that would like to hear about them, yet it’s a subject that many people do not share or tell in fear of judgement. It’s probably similar to being overweight: people talk about it behind your back.
I also walk away from people who make thoughtless comments, but on occasion I will tell them they are rude and thoughtless and make them aware of their actions. I will no longer smile through it.
I am still brave, and the light is shining again at the end of the tunnel, however most importantly I am a proud mum to one child. His name is Marcus and he is a loving child with a beautiful personality.
My name is Claudia and I’m a wife, mother, and small business owner. At the age of 25 I read a life changing book called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Since then I have been living a life actively pursuing my passions, dreams and bucket list items despite the fears and challenges life has thrown at me. I believe you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. I want to inspire people to dream big and live kinder.
Why are we doing this thing? Because there’s enough noise in the world telling women what we ‘should’ be doing.
We should parent more consciously, but not be helicopter parents. We should take care of our bodies, but not be vain. We should make boys pay, but demand equal rights. We should dress appropriately, but also be confident in our skin, wear what we want, but not be provocative, oh and please feel comfortable in the world’s skimpiest school bathers but then wear your jeans to the formal because last year the boys looked up the girls’ skirts and so you’ll have to be the ones to modify your behaviour. Yeah. No.
We are a mother and daughter writing team who launched a platform for women 14 – 104. Women who need to read stories of daring. Women who need to write them.
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