Infertility is a life-changing experience. Going to the ends of the earth to create your family will make you truly understand and appreciate the miracle of human conception. When you finally reach the other side, you experience a multitude of emotions—elation, gratitude, and finally, admittance and acceptance into the amazing world of parenting. Now that I’m a parent, I’m experiencing all the ups and downs like everyone else, but I’ll always be looking through the lens of my specific family-building journey. And having lived through years of frustration and disappointment, there are some aspects of the “mom culture” that I’ll never be a fan of. Here are a few.
The first time I heard this appropriately alliterated term, I was sitting in the lunch room at work. A pregnant colleague was talking about her wish list for her impending “push present”. After a while, I clued in that this was a gift partners were buying for the women in their lives who would be taking on the task of pushing a baby out of their vaginas. These were not your run-of-the-mill gifts either. They included the likes of diamond bracelets, platinum earrings, and gold lockets. This was not a particularly good time in my life to be learning of this phenomenon as I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to become pregnant for a few years. Call me crazy, but I was under the assumption that the soft, squirming baby that you got to hold at the end of the birth (whether it be vaginally or by C-section) was the actual gift. Let me just say that as someone who used ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology) to conceive, delivering vaginally was an extra-special experience for me, but the only prize I had my eye on was that beautiful baby I got to call mine after seven years of trying. Presents recognizing moms are great—Mother’s Day and birthdays immediately come to mind because they recognize ALL mothers, including those that were never pregnant like adoptive moms or those who used gestational carriers. And for couples who’ve already spent thousands of dollars just to get to be parents in the first place, the money used to purchase a diamond necklace could probably be better spent elsewhere.
Gender Reveal Parties
In addition to elaborate baby showers, gender reveal parties are becoming equally extravagant. In existence for around a decade, a gender reveal party involves getting friends and family together to reveal the biological sex of the unborn baby. This could involve the expectant parents cutting into a cake containing either blue or pink filling or having them open a large box of pink or blue helium balloons that rise up in the air in dramatic fashion.
The sex of my unborn children was never more than a curiosity for me during both of my pregnancies. I was asked countless times, “Do you know what you’re having?” or more specifically during my second pregnancy “You must really want a girl.” “A baby”, I would always answer. “I want a baby.”
I know there are things that are so engrained in our culture like “Every man needs a son,” or my particular favourite, “Who will take care of you when you’re old if you don’t have a daughter?”, but after giving birth to my kids at 37 and 40-years-old and with the help of skilled doctors, let’s just say I’m happy they’re here. I didn’t have kids so I could have someone look after me when I’m old. I had kids to experience the joy of raising a child and watching them grow and flourish.
The extravagance of gender reveal parties highlights how my pregnancies may have differed from my fertile counterparts. I was anxious and cautiously optimistic during both. I didn’t have a baby shower. “Come visit us after they’re born”, we told friends and family. The furniture for the nursery arrived two weeks before my due date. I did not stencil the name of my future child on the wall, nor did I colour co-ordinate or decorate. I washed loads of white, yellow, and green onesies that had been given to me by my sisters. That was all the preparation I needed.
Bump Pics and Ultrasound Updates on Social Media
With one in six Canadian couples experiencing infertility, there is a good chance that someone on your Facebook or Instagram feed is suffering—whether it be openly or in silence. These are triggering images that can that literally cause someone on the other end to crawl back into bed or have a good cry. Swollen bellies in our world are usually the result of high-dose hormones that cause bloating and weight gain. I took belly pics during both of my pregnancies, and from time to time I look at them to remember this incredible experience, but they live in my computer hard drive and with the exception of a select few, the only people I’ve shared them with are my husband and my two sons. My big belly was visible enough when I was pregnant and out and about in the world, and I know it most likely caused someone pain.
Ultrasound images are special—incredible and miraculous in fact. I have all of them in an album that sits on my bedroom dresser. The word “love” is scrawled across the front and it ties with a pink ribbon at the side. Every once in a while, I pull it out and look at the images showing my children as they were growing inside of me. But there are so many others that I don’t need a reminder of as they are forever engrained in my mind. Fuzzy black and white images of my ovaries, where egg-containing follicles were counted, or those displaying my uterine lining that was measured countless times to see if it was ample enough to support a growing embryo. For many infertile women, these are the images they must face over and over again without any guarantee that they will ever be replaced with ones containing a live, growing baby.
I’m not here to rain on anyone’s parade and I’m certainly not trying to negate what an incredibly exciting time pregnancy and pending motherhood is, but I’ve lived through an experience that puts all others that come after it into perspective. Once you’ve gone through infertility there’s no going back and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to anyway.