Remembering infertility

I’ve realised that there is a part of me that somehow wants to commemorate this time, even though I am in the thick of it and loving it – I don’t want to forget it. I read an old blog post of mine that I wrote when B was only a few weeks old, and I realised already I was forgetting some of it, the feeling of new motherhood and the wonder of it. It seems so precious and it goes so quickly.

In the past few months I’ve become acutely aware of how lucky I am. I mean, I was always aware I was lucky, but some things have happened that have brought it to the forefront of my mind. Many of my female friends are going through involuntary childlessness right now. Some due to miscarriages and infertility; some because they haven’t found the right man who’s willing to start a family. It’s down to luck, really, and circumstance, and some of it’s down to difficulties I can’t even begin to imagine.

A close friend of mine is still going through her third cancer. But the third cancer has turned into the fourth, fifth and sixth. It came back in her breast, but now it’s in her hip, her lung, her head and who knows where else. It is so tragic that I met her shortly before she got married (I made the cake!) and something like nineteen years after cancer #1, and then it came back and she lost any chance of motherhood, and now she has to deal with it again. It’s not fair. We are spending lots of time having fun, but we don’t know what the prognosis will be.

Another friend has had multiple miscarriages. (Actually, more than one friend. But one I see more often.) And she’s started IVF. And several friends are stepmothers to their partner’s children, which I think can be rewarding but also so difficult when you are wishing you could be a mother to a child you birthed.

In trying to be there for them, I am reminded of those long years of infertility. I suppose maybe I couldn’t say I’m infertile as such now I have a baby? (A toddler! I still think of him as a baby!) I don’t know what counts as infertile any more. I suppose I am post-infertile – I couldn’t get pregnant naturally, without intervention, and I still can’t. I sent a couple of my friends a link to Gateway Women (that Dani from The Great Pudding Club Hunt had shared ages ago) and I got to reading some of their stories and it just broke my heart.

So it goes. I honestly feel every day is a (secular) blessing and I don’t know how I would feel, in my old life. I like to think I’d be happy and I would come to terms with never having a child. But I’m so very grateful I don’t need to.

The one thing that really ever went well for us in the whole getting pregnant / birth / baby thing was breastfeeding. And B is now two and showing no signs of stopping. I find it funny I thought, I’ll try and breastfeed him for six months and here we are more than two years later. Of course he eats food now (mainly baked beans, rice and crisps – he’s his mother’s child) and he’s at nursery (daycare) so he doesn’t have milk during the day apart from at the weekends or holidays, but boy, does he make up for it during those times. I don’t think I’ve slept through once since he was born, apart from maybe a few nights when I was away for work (and jet lagged) and once when he miraculously slept until 7am-ish.

But I love it, and before it stops (and I’m already into the “should we really be doing this in public” conundrum – luckily he’s very small for his age and still wearing age 1.5 clothes) I wanted to find some way to commemorate this time. On various breastfeeding groups I’d heard about getting jewellery made from your breastmilk and for some reason I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I have bottles of the stuff sitting the freezer, and since I stopped pumping at the beginning of this year, after almost two years, it seems like I probably won’t really use it.

I told T somewhat sheepishly about my idea, and T being T he went along with it – even though he thought it sounded a bit outlandish, which I think I probably would have also thought pre-baby. (For some reason I turned out a lot more “earth mother” than I ever thought I’d be.) Anyway I kept looking around in a not very active way, but I found most of the milk jewellery I saw just wasn’t really my taste. Some had a bit too much sparkle in (a milk jewel is really just your milk mixed with resin and any other inclusions – you can add hair, or ashes, or umbilical cord, or flower petals, or whatever). I just thought it seemed a bit – sparkly, fake looking.

Then in my self-enforced Facebook drought I found myself on Instagram a lot more. (I know I know, but I don’t really engage other than liking a few photos so I don’t get dragged into drama that I’m trying to avoid… and I mainly follow cake makers so it’s all pretty rather than political…) And I decided to search on breastmilk jewellery, and I found The One.

Sacred Legacy Arts – typically they’d be based in the US – I’m in London, UK. But they are soooo beautiful. (And expensive. But, I figured if I’m going to preserve my baby’s precious milk, I’m going to want something nice rather than cheap and tacky that will fall apart over time.) I started following their Instagram so I could ooh and aah over them, and changed my mind loads of times about which one I wanted…

And then a few things came together. Kismet! Possibly. Or just the time of year… I got my bonus and knew I wanted to invest in some breastmilk jewellery, because I don’t know if we will still be breastfeeding by this time next year, and anyway, two years is kind of an achievement. And Sacred Legacy Arts decided to have their Spring Sale. 15% off – so would just about cover the extra customs I’ll probably be hit with when it gets sent to me in the UK!

I took the plunge! I even showed T and to his credit he said they looked nice and you can’t even really tell they’re made of breastmilk! And he knows what this means to me. It’s not just about breastfeeding; it’s about my entire journey to be a mother, and gratitude and celebration that I have somehow managed to be lucky enough to be one. (Even though I finally understand the meaning of the term Terrible Twos… I am still grateful and amazed I get to be a mother!)

I decided to go for the Coronation Pear Ring. Some examples below, but each ring is bespoke for the customer.

I went for rose gold (without the crown embellishment… I can’t really afford another ring and I like small delicate rings, so I think the pear, or teardrop will be cute… I think of it like a drop of milk!).

When I was little, my mother had an opal ring I was obsessed with. I just thought it was the most beautiful thing ever, the way it was sort of greeny blue and sparked rainbows in the light. She had promised I could have it when she passed away (of course I have no desire to have anything when that happens! I can’t think of it!) but a few years ago she dropped it and it broke. Opals are kind of fragile as well as it turns out. Anyway, they can do an opal effect and I’m just super excited to have my very own milk opal!

So finally got myself organised, and packed up a bottle of my breastmilk. They have extensive instructions on their website about how to send milk, and I kept checking and rechecking that I was doing it correctly. I had to triple bag it, and write all the order details on each bag! And a separate piece of paper with all my details on it in another bag! And then another bubble wrap envelope… and more sellotape than is probably environmentally friendly.

So… my precious cargo is hopefully winging its way from London to Indiana…

I guess this seems weird to some people. For me it’s been about preserving memories for the future. It’s difficult to explain… This feeling that it is only going to happen once, that it’s so precious I want to try and preserve some part of it outside of my memory. We also had family and motherhood (breastfeeding and babywearing) photos done, and that was an intense experience. (Not sure how I’m going to cough for all of those though – will find a way!) But that’s probably another post.

All of my experience of motherhood is such an evolution. And it is rooted in so many years of never thinking I could have this. Pain and gratitude. Finding the beauty in my changed body. That’s an ongoing journey. For years I controlled and whittled it away, and now it’s slack and uncontrolled, and yet I find it hard to spend too much time hating it when my child finds comfort in it. But maybe one day I’ll regain that control. I don’t know.

Here’s the thing. I want to remember all of this. And I want to remember the time before, the dark days, because it reminds me to be grateful for the light.

30 Comments Add yours

  1. mamajo23 says:

    This is beautiful. All of it. So happy for you.

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    1. Nara says:

      Oh bless you! Thanks for checking in. It’s so lovely to hear from you. 💕

      Like

  2. Amy M. says:

    I don’t think it’s silly at all. I tried to make a milk charm when C was still nursing, but for some reason it never set up properly, and I had to toss it. (My mom’s group had a milk jewelry making craft day) I still have some milk frozen from her, and will have some left from D as well, so I’ll probably try to make something again from both of them. I’d love to see how yours turns out!

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    1. Nara says:

      Aww thank you! I always think of you as very level headed so it’s good to hear you don’t think it’s too silly an idea. 😂 I think it’s considered quite outlandish here, haha! A lot of the milk jewellery I found was in the US. We have a bit here but it’s not so much my style! It would be cool to make your own, though I know I’d make a hash of it! 😂

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    2. Nara says:

      Oh and I’ll definitely let you see how mine turns out! You may or may not have noticed my fb deactivation… I decided I was spending too much time on there so had to go cold turkey! It coincided with Lent funnily enough. I’ll be back once the habit wears off! 😂

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      1. Nara says:

        Ahhh you’re so lovely! Thanks so much for the offer. The place I ordered from is super strict about everything and there are no changes once you’ve ordered, so that’s off! But are you coming to London? Message me if you fancy meeting up!

        Also I always talk to folks about infertility. Quite funny but I figure it’s good to normalise it (like breastfeeding!) and also it would have made me feel less alone during all the years of not having a child if more people had put their voices to saying how they were having difficulties, rather than just getting pregnant all the time!

        Funnily enough I met a bloke today at work and we talked about it all (you know, a lot of people always say, “only one?!” And I tend to over explain!) and it turns out they had IVF and immune therapy too! And then had two naturally!

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      2. Nara says:

        Oops that comment posted in response to the wrong comment!! Sorry Amy! 😂

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      3. Amy M. says:

        I feel like a few people have gone quiet lately. I’ve been trying to stay off it so much, but it tru6is an addiction!
        Hopefully your necklace doesn’t take too long to get back to you!

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      4. Nara says:

        Yeah I was used to navigating there randomly on my phone whenever I had a spare minute, haha! I’m slowly getting out of the habit but I think a few weeks off will do me good!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. whymeivf says:

    Your article struck a cord with me. My #2 IVF baby is now about 4 weeks old and in a shop I was chatting to the assistant and we got to “do you have kids too?” …. and her answer was, “I wish….. I wish”, which screamed infertility journey to me, and I wanted to say I understand- I started trying for this baby in 2013!! …. but didn’t want to presume anything so we sort of awkwardly changed the conversation, and it made me so sad that I couldn’t find the right words to say something general enough to cover both scenarios.

    Anyway also wanted to congratulate you on still breastfeeding- our toddlers are the same age, but he’s in size 3 tho and I would certainly get some weird looks if feeding him still!! I personally think you should still feed in public- by hiding it away we expose ppl to it less and it stays ‘taboo’.

    Thirdly – i know this is perhaps crossing the anonymity boundary of WordPress, but I’m in the US and coming back to the UK for like a month in June. If you wanted to avoid customs tax on your ring I’d be more than happy to ‘mule’ it to the UK for u and post from there…. you’d have to pay US sales tax but I live in TX and it’s deffo less than UK and no custom fees obvs.

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    1. whymeivf says:

      It’s a beautiful ring by the way and a wonderful idea, what a nice way to preserve the memory

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      1. Nara says:

        Argh I wrote a comment to you but it posted above! Sorry I can’t fix on phone but will see when I get to my computer! 😂

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      2. whymeivf says:

        Haha it’s ok I read it 🙂 ooh a meet up might be quite fun! Where are you based? We stay in Surrey and usually come into south London (Brixton/clapham/peckham rye) and occasionally central London to see friends.

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      3. Nara says:

        Ahhh drop me a line and I can give you the details? I try to stay semi anon on here! Zerotozygote at gmail!

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      4. whymeivf says:

        Sweet!! Have emailed – wasn’t sure how to connect as no DM on WordPress!!

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      5. Nara says:

        Yeah bedtime here but I’m replying!

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  4. ohsoblue02 says:

    Definitely hear you re: infertility! I feel immense “survivors guilt” sometimes because I now have 2 children (when once upon a time I thought we’d never be able to have any) and there are so many out there still struggling. I’ve also been looking at jewelry but haven’t settled on anything- right now I’m thinking a rose gold necklace with two discs, each with the initial of one of my daughters but can’t decide if I should do a 3rd blank disc for the baby we lost.

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  5. Hufflestitch says:

    Beautiful ❤

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  6. This is such a beautiful post. Going to infertility definitely makes you appreciate children even more. And I think it also makes you realize how prevalent infertility is. It’s heartbreaking for anyone going through it.
    The breast milk jewellery is a lovely idea. People in Ireland aren’t that supportive of breastfeeding past the age of one year I find. Even family and relations have made comments about me stopping. I don’t tend to bf as much when we are out and about now as I guess as Mini gets older I feel a bit more self concious about it! She’s also going through a boob gymnastics phase and likes to climb all over me while still nursing haha.x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nara says:

      Aww yes the gymnastics, I totally never thought I’d ever end up tolerating that! I think I now have nips of steel! 😂

      Sorry to hear they aren’t very tolerant of breastfeeding where you are. I do think it really varies. Like most of my longer term friends think it’s a bit weird (but aren’t mean about it) but actually a lot of my mum friends are extended breastfeeding, which is something I really didn’t expect. Maybe it’s just London? I definitely thought it was weird before we ended up doing it!!

      My parents did mention stopping a while ago, and I cited WHO guidelines (two years and beyond) and they’ve never said anything again! I’m sort of surprised tbh as they aren’t backward in coming forward! 🤣🤣

      Hope you are doing well! I’m a bit hit and miss about blogging but since my fb hiatus have been on more! Xx

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  7. RJ says:

    I think that is an incredibly beautiful remembrance of such a beautiful journey you’ve had with your son. I wish I had some leftover breast milk to do something similar. Today I purchased 2 rings, one for A and one for C. They are birthstone stacking rings, nothing fancy at all. I just wanted something tangible to commemorate both of my children so I can relate. And I wish so much I was extended breast feeding. I was so sad when A gave it up at 18 months.

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    1. Nara says:

      Aww, I think birthstone stacking rings sound lovely. You can do “DNA stones” (including from Sacred Legacy Arts) with their hair, if you are interested in that? They just put a tiny bit into the stone. On the bf, I think 18 months is a lot!! I mean that is natural term weaning isn’t it… following what your child wants to do. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dani says:

    What a beautiful ring! It’s a wonderful idea. I was going to offer to bring it back with me on one of my trips but see in the comments someone already offered 🙂 Infertility really does change how we see the world, in some ways I am glad I am not ignorant. I was talking to someone just this week about how the experience has made me more patient and open hearted towards others in ways I didn’t think I ever would. There are so many who have struggled far more than I have and I can’t begin to picture it or imagine how that could be.

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    1. Nara says:

      Yes! Exactly this. I actually met a guy at work who just had a baby and it turns out they did IVF and immune therapy too. Was really nice to make that connection. I think it has made me take less for granted. Although I can’t really say I’m a patient person because I’m not! Perhaps it’s made me slightly less impatient! My heart aches for my friends who haven’t been able to have children, who desperately want them.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nara says:

      Oh and thanks for the offer… They’re super strict about not changing any of the details after you order, and they even say if you need it sent to a different address you need to put a redirection on! 😮
      I can’t wait to see it though. I guess it’ll be summer before it arrives!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dani says:

        Wow that’s so long! But worth it of course ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Ah that’s really beautiful!! I love that idea.

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    1. Nara says:

      Thank you! 💕

      Like

  10. tidleone says:

    A few friends have done this. I think it’s a lovely idea. I’m planning to have a tattoo as a reminder of the IVF journey, if I ever get round to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nara says:

      I like the idea of a tattoo but I am very fickle in my likes and dislikes and I’m worried I’ll end up with something I don’t like for long! 😂 I do admire many of them on others!

      Like

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