After Infertility, Certain Aspects of Mom Culture Make Me Wince


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.

Push Presents

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.



  1. Melissa on May 17, 2018 at 10:49 pm

    I agree with you about push presents and extravagant gender reveal parties. However, we did have a gender reveal party: it was immediate family and a few close friends and was nothing fancy. And honestly, I needed it, because while we didn’t need help to get pregnant, it wasn’t easy either and I also faced a genuine issue: gender disappointment. I have a daughter and I literally have no idea how to be a girly girl. I don’t do makeup, don’t do my hair (though I can do her hair better than expected), I rarely wear skirts/dresses, and I despise pink. I needed people to help me be excited about having a girl.
    As for belly pictures and ultrasound pictures causing infertile people pain, sorry but worrying about how other people are going to react to things is way too much stress for anyone. I would never tag someone in a photo or topic I knew would hurt them, but I’m not going to not post/share something that makes me happy/feel good/is news because of concern about how others will react. I can understand that it causes pain, but expecting others to live their life worried about everyone else’s feelings is pretty ridiculous. I have vegetarian friends: should I not talk about how the steak/ham/bacon/chicken I ate was fantastic? I have friends who can’t afford vacations: should I not post pictures of the first trip we took in 10 years? I have family who’ve lost a child (which is probably more painful than infertility): should I not post things about my child? Someone is going to be hurt or offended by everything I post, unless it’s literally “woke up today, here’s the weather…” That might also be upsetting to some people!! I refuse to live my life worried about other people’s reactions. And yes, I’ve also fought depression so I fully understand what it’s like to be triggered by something and spend the rest of the day crying in bed. For me, for years, that trigger was often people having a 2nd – or more – child, because that was our plan and it was taken away from us by someone else’s stupid decision that caused a car crash and literally changed the course of our lives. Yet I would still never ask someone to consider my feelings first. My reactions are no one else’s concern but mine!!

  2. Rebbers on January 9, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Sadly a lot of people believe infertility is just a small matter but most times it includes ;stillbirth , miscarriages . Melissa s comment made me see how much she might not understand how infertility changes your view on life. You grieve for so long. That it changes you. For sure you shouldnt live to make everyone happy but im sure if you were around people you cared youd be more sensitive. Unless youve gone through infertility dont judge something you dont understand. Its a disease .it changes and defines your life for so long of course your mother experience will be different and of course youll think about those going through it. Its not a bad thing to be more caring and more informed on this.

    • Lori Sebastianutti on January 9, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you for this comment! My point in writing the article was to raise awareness during Canadian Infertility Awareness Week. ❤️

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