(Aka: Mamma Mia is still a load of rubbish.)
A few years ago, my friends from university decided to come to London for a girls’ weekend. There were four of us who used to share a flat. Of four, one had recently had their second baby and one was heavily pregnant with their second. And then when they all arrived, it turned out that the third one was also pregnant with her first. Yay! (Sarcasm font.)
And then there was me.
Infertile. (Except I didn’t exactly have a name for it, apart from I knew I had issues.)
They wanted to see a show. I’d said I’ll watch anything apart from Mamma Mia. I hate Mamma Mia.
We were booked to go and see Mamma Mia. Of course.
(For adoptees and infertiles this is the ideal show to watch! Not really!)
During that evening whilst I sat through a load of dreadful renditions of ABBA songs (I like ABBA – I just don’t like Mamma Mia), I necked a bottle of wine whilst my pregnant and nursing friends, well… didn’t. And then another one for good measure. By the end of it I was dancing to the ABBA medley finale like the rest of them.
Back in our rented apartment, after my nursing friend had pumped, we sat around in the kitchen talking and of course they all talked about their kids and I feigned interest on the basis I’d drunk two bottles of wine and I figured the best thing to do when faced with tedious situations like watching an awful show with your teetotal friends was get sh*tfaced.
Matters turned to my childlessness. Of course. That’s what people do… Try to persuade you that you really must have something wrong with you if you don’t have kids. I mean, it’s not like you are woefully aware of your shortcomings if you are A Woman Of A Certain Age Who Is Not A Mother.
Anyway, I can’t really remember what I said but I think in the end, buoyed by two bottles of wine and a truckload of Mamma Mia inspired bitterness, I told them to stop going on about me not having kids, and had it ever occurred to them I didn’t have kids because I couldn’t have kids, and not because I didn’t want them?
I kinda remember they were a little shocked.
And then we probably had an early night because they were all unused to staying up late.
* * *
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I was talking with a mutual friend about childlessness and infertility. Since having B, I’ve always been at pains to stress it wasn’t easy and that I don’t take it for granted. I don’t want people struggling to think that I’m one of those people who just got pregnant without any hassle.
I mentioned in passing that people always assumed that I didn’t want kids and it was super hurtful. And I said, I remember kind of having a go at E (our mutual friend) because they’d assumed it of me and I was really upset at having to explain myself on what was meant to be a relaxing weekend.
Anyway, she said, “I may be breaking a confidence here but E told me about it after it happened, and she said she felt really bad.”
This was years ago and we’d never spoken of it again.
So perhaps the message does get through sometimes… even if it takes years to find out it did.
Confession time. Sometimes I can be a real bitch. That’s over a decade of infertility for you! Sometimes I feel the old jealous, mean feelings coming back.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and it’s probably just going to sound like a massive whine. But I keep meaning to blog more, for good and for bad, so here goes.
We are having a small naming ceremony at home for B. In our new flat! It’s going to be mainly home made stuff and a small group of friends and family and hopefully will be really lovely, but I don’t want to write about it too much on here because it’s a nice thing and this venting is not, so I’ll write it up separately.
The reason I want to vent is because I just feel hurt that it’s very likely none of my siblings will be attending. Now they all have reasons, some of which are better than others in my opinion, and I know this is all mumzilla and B won’t give a flying poop about any of it, but to me it’s about something deeper, which is the fact that I never thought I’d get to have a baby and it’s a special occasion I want to mark and none of my siblings can be arsed to attend.
This is unfair of me of course and that’s why I’m venting on here. But I’m finding it hard not to feel salty about it. Well mainly about my sister.
One of my siblings can’t attend because of living in a different country that’s very far away… Efforts were made but it isn’t going to happen, sadly. But they (sibling plus partner) are going to record a reading and try and FaceTime in to the ceremony, so at least they’re making an effort.
My brother who lives not that far away is probably not going to be able to make it with his family because of my niece’s (medical/developmental) problems. I get that it’s hard. I can’t imagine how hard it is. (Although she’s been fine when we have seen her sporadically including a few weeks ago when we went out for a family gathering – it was closer to their home though.) They seem to not want to take her out anywhere. Again. I get it. But they can go out for things they want to go out for. Just not for me/us.
I know it’s not quid pro quo but I went to her christening around what would have been my due date for PB (my first pregnancy, after IVF, that ended in miscarriage). I didn’t want to go but I sucked it up and even though I felt crappy about it, I turned up.
I probably would feel madder with my brother but ever since they identified my niece’s health problems I’ve felt all my jealousy for his perfect life dissipate. But my sister in law didn’t come to my baby shower and nor did my sister. In fact none of my family came.
My sister has point blank refused to come. My new niece was born a month ago and she says it’s too far to travel. I’m sure she has a point. It’s about a 3hr drive between us. She says that the car seat manufacturers say the baby can’t be in a car seat for more than two hours at a time and I’m like… Haven’t you heard of rest stops?! It’s not like she would be driving anyway – I always sit in the back with B and T drives us, and we have driven way longer than that and B is perfectly fine. But she’s very highly strung and she won’t hear any of it and anyway she’s really stressed about feeding and whatever and sticks to some convoluted schedule that apparently she can’t deviate from by a minute.
I also felt during my pregnancy that I couldn’t really be happy because my sister then was going through IVF (a frozen transfer not a fresh cycle) and she was completely nuts about it so I wasn’t able to celebrate it. I always have to mute my feelings for hers because she’s so prone to anxiety and depression and I’m always the one talking her down from the ledge.
She’s super demanding as well, even when it’s not convenient for us. She insisted she wanted the Sleepyhead (cot cushion) and I could have sold it locally for £70 as they hold their value (cost new £110), but instead I walked to the post office in the rain and queued up for ages so that she could have it on next day delivery because she needed it right that minute and kept asking me to send it straight away. Bearing in mind I was doing her a favour and saved them £110 and lost myself the resale value of £70! And it cost me a decent amount to send!
The thing that really upset me on top of the naming ceremony non attendance was that she’d said when she was pregnant that she wanted the electric rocker… It cost around £150 new and so rather than selling it when B was done with it, we had it in the tiny living room of our tiny flat for the past four months. Like you don’t really get how small our flat is… The frame took up half the sofa and the rocker was balanced on piles of boxes because we had to move it around when we wanted to move around! So I was pretty p*ssed off when she sent a picture of the niece in a new rocker they’d just bought. (Same make but cheaper model than the one that has taken up our living room for four months.)
When I said about the rocker she had asked us to save for them she said she “forgot, sorry.” Yeah that is fine… I mean we’ve been tripping over the damn thing for four months but whatever.
Man, I was so annoyed. I’m sure that this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and this is just showing what a horrible person I am. I’m also really annoyed with her because all she does is complain and find things hard when she didn’t have to go through a fresh cycle of IVF (though made sure we all felt her pain), has had an uneventful pregnancy, a healthy baby and she gets to take over a year off work when I had to go back after four months. Not to mention their huge house they just bought. (Our dream house is a two bedroom apartment. Theirs is a five bedroom house!) She’s just a Class A whiner.
So I get that I’m being unreasonable, I really do, but I can’t help feeling upset about this. She had previously asked us to reschedule the naming from July or August to September so she would be able to come but then decided she didn’t want to.
I guess… I know I would have gone if it had been the other way round. I know that babies can travel. And B has always been a pretty easy baby. So I don’t have a full understanding of what it’s like to be hating motherhood or whatever because I don’t get why you’d go through everything we’ve been through if you didn’t want it. They didn’t even have half the problems we had! I know it’s not the pain Olympics but jeez.
I also know I’m feeling annoyed because we have a history (as with all relationships) and she’s always the looked after one, and I’m always the one who has to be looking out for her and making sure she’s okay, and just for one day I wanted to celebrate something good that means a lot to me. (Which of course we will still do.)
She’s having a lot harder time with motherhood and probably prone to post natal depression and of course I’m expecting too much. I’ve just spent my whole life with her being the vulnerable one, and the one who needs looking after and building up, and it feels kind of crappy that the one day where we have to celebrate B and the happiest thing in my life, none of my siblings will be there.
I also know that when it comes round to her daughter being christened or whatever that we will all have to go. I haven’t even been to see them yet as she’s weird about people visiting – didn’t want anyone to come when she was born, and said she only wanted a visit for like an hour, which is kind of a crazy expectation on a six hour round trip. Now apparently she’s ready for a visit, we are busy every weekend in September and anyway I feel annoyed about the naming and I don’t feel like seeing them until that has passed and I have it out of my system.
I keep telling myself to suck it up and stop feeling annoyed but I can’t help it. I feel super resentful. I also know rationally that I’ll have a better time without her there, because she’s super high maintenance and usually has a miserable face on her and would want to leave early and whatever.
I also know she’s trying to make up for it but its just ridiculous. Like she sent me £40 vouchers for cheese because I love cheese and I was annoyed about the rocker but firstly what am I going to do with £40 of cheese and secondly the cost of the rocker and the sleepyhead was a lot more than £40. I know she’s trying but I just want her to leave me alone until the naming is over and I’ve had a few weeks to get over it.
I think I’m just sick of being the okay one, the strong one, and I want someone to acknowledge how f*cking hard this has been and what an amazing thing it is that I’m a mother.
Most of the time I’m fine at concentrating on that and not concentrating on the sibling stuff.
So there you have it. I’m not all sweetness and light. I feel pretty bad for having these feelings. I know most people sympathise with her rather than me because people have been feeling sorry for her all our lives because she’s the one who doesn’t cope with things and I always do. I’ve always been the okay one and she’s always been the fragile one. And I know this is a total foot stamping moment on my part and I’m not proud of it.
You can’t pick your family unless you adopt them (ha!) so I am just venting… In a few weeks I’ll be fine, and anyway I want to concentrate on making a really nice day to celebrate B and if my siblings aren’t there then whatever; my friends will be. My aunt and uncle even changed their plans to come from up north (further away than my sister) so that’s nice. And our best friends will be there who know how much this means to us.
Today a friend of mine posted an ultrasound picture on Facebook and gaily announced to the world that their baby would be born next February.
I already knew she was pregnant because I was one of the first people she told. We’d discussed pregnancy and whether she should start trying, and how she was going to persuade her boyfriend to try, and figuring out ovulation and so on. I told her about our experience and encouraged her to come off the pill and try sooner rather than later, if she could get her boyfriend to agree.
I guess he agreed because a few short months later, they’re pregnant. I was kind of surprised by how little time it took, because in infertility-land you get used to talking in years rather than months. She told me how many months it took: three.
Three months! Straight off the pill and up the duff!
Now, I am okay, but a couple of years ago this would have floored me. Why is it always someone else who just has to come off the pill a couple of months and get pregnant?!
I really do feel happy and thankful for my life now. I feel (secularly!) blessed. But I have to confess I had a slight twinge of… something… when she told me she was pregnant. I don’t know what it is… It’s a sort of wistful, “Oh, to be that innocent!” The way they posted it all over Facebook without any worries they might lose the baby. The way they got pregnant so easily having barely tried. I guess I just feel wistful that I never got to have that innocence and that straightforward expectation that nothing would go wrong, that we’d just try and it would happen.
My infertility was measured more in decades. One and a half, more or less.
What do you call yourself when you were previously infertile but by some (secular) miracles and scientific interventions you managed to have a baby?
I’m a mother. But I’m not a normal mother. I’m a pinch-myself-daily-because-I-can’t-believe-I-actually-had-a-baby mother. I’m a Thank You Science mother. I’m a “If you think you might have issues getting pregnant you really should try straight away and let me know if you want to know anything about endometriosis, IVF or immune therapy” mother.
I’ll never have that whole will we, won’t we have another one dilemma. We are over the moon with our lovely One and Only.
I’ll never innocently post early scans on Facebook for people to guess whether it’s a boy or a girl or who the baby looks like. Nobody knew about our pregnancy who didn’t see me in real life. There are still people who don’t know!
I had a twinge of something, a remembrance of loss of innocence, and I’m happy for my friends and I’m happy for us because we are so lucky to have B, but I had a twinge because I remember what it was like to be there, and I’m thinking of all of the people still in the trenches, or those who have had to walk away from the dream of being parents… and I’m sad for them.
So – mothers after infertility. Mothers after loss. I don’t think infertility ever leaves you. I don’t think loss ever leaves you. But we know desperately how lucky we are.
I was looking at old photos of myself on Timehop (God bless Timehop, the regurgitator of past lives!) and realised that I was really skinny. This was something of a surprise to me as I spent a good proportion of my life and most of my adult life feeling fat.
It's like a lot of my old life is something of a shock to me now. I remembered with a jolt the other day that I didn't wear trousers for five years because my ex told me my legs looked a bit like sausages in them. Five years! When did I allow someone else to have such agency over my body?
Even before I met my ex, I think I had some pretty disordered eating. Not quite anorexia – I never really was one for seeing things through – but I did maintain a pretty low body weight that is significantly lower than I am now. (For context: I am around 5'2", and I used to be a UK size 8-10, and now I'm about a UK size 12. Generally not considered "overweight".)
I'm not sure when my disordered eating and strange body image first started. A lot of people (especially girls) start this around puberty, and perhaps that's what happened for me. I think it's a bit deeper than that, though. I was adopted as a baby, transracially, and I grew up around white people so all my life I've looked different from most of the people I was around growing up.
When I went to a predominantly white school, all of this got amplified. I remember that it was a shock because I slowly realised that I was "less than" because of my race. I realised that I was supposed to be blonde haired and blue eyed and I was about as far from that as possible. I started to find myself ugly (and people started to tell me I was ugly to my face). I never had the skinny white girl legs. Mine were muscular and I was just a different build. Really average for my race, as it turns out. But you don't know that as a child if you grow up with people who don't look like you.
Adoption is complex, and I don't know how much of this was tied up in adoption, but I do know I can't separate out being a different race from my overall experience of growing up. My feeling of not fitting in, even though that was all I knew. Anyway, I got kind of chubby. Although looking back, I wasn't chubby. I don't think I was ever actually chubby – I was just short, and not lanky.
Then one time when I was around 16, I went away on a holiday (to learn a language) and when I was there I got pretty sick and I couldn't really eat anything. And I dropped a load of weight. When I got back, suddenly everyone said how amazing I looked because I was skinny. I was suddenly approved of, and I liked it. So I maintained it.
I maintained it for a really long time. The thing is, I'm not naturally meant to be that weight. (It's about 20-30kg lighter than I am now. I don't know exactly how much as I don't know how much I weigh now.) So I got by on some disordered eating that kept me at my magic weight. My magic weight crept up over time… I kept in a 5kg weight range through school, and then it kind of crept up during my time at university, until it was +10kg, and then it was about +15kg in my last few years with IVF and everything. And even +20kg post miscarriage.
For me, I always thought I was "happy" when I was a lower weight. But when I look back, I was always kind of unhappy. I was happy that I'd managed to keep my weight down but I always felt a kind of anxiety about it. I used to weigh myself every day. The number on the scales made me feel like I was achieving something or I was failing something.
When I met T, after I'd split up with my ex – I had to adjust to a new way of being. I was always very controlled with my ex. He wouldn't think he was, but he controlled a lot about me. He had a huge effect on my feelings of self worth (or not). This was someone who had always dated very skinny women and even told me I was the fattest person he'd ever been with. It made me feel pretty bad about myself that I was that. The whole thing with my ex was that I never felt good enough. With T, I felt good enough. He really didn't care about weight. I actually met him when I was still pretty skinny and I piled on the relationship pounds… I let myself go.
I'm still conflicted about how I feel about it, because I recognise that my magic weight wasn't magic at all, but a strange idea of how I was supposed to look. And T tells me he loves me the way I am. But it was hard in the beginning putting on pregnancy weight – not just because of the weight itself, but the fear that it might be for nothing, like our first IVF and pregnancy was.
This pregnancy that gave me B also gave me a lot of weight. Firstly I had to take IVF drugs which make you put on weight. And also I had to take steroids which make you put on weight also. I got to halfway through pregnancy in a state of fear that it wouldn't work out, but then when I got halfway I decided I was going to try my best not to fear it any more.
I also decided to stop weighing myself. I have weighed myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day, since I was a teenager. I even recorded my weight every day in an app so I could see how much weight I put on. It's a bit crazy obsessive.
When I was properly pregnant, I gave myself permission to stop weighing myself. And I let myself relax into the pregnancy.
And you know what?
The strange thing is, I have no doubt I'm at least magic weight +20kg. Possibly +30kg. And I definitely have my moments of feeling a bit concerned about it (especially if I catch a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower – stretch marks and overhang and pendulous mammaries hanging out) but I generally feel absolutely awesome.
I don't know how it works for other people but for me – my body was always this thing that failed me. I wasn't the same as my white friends. I looked different. I was ultimately not enough – I wasn't enough for my birth mother to keep me; I wasn't enough for my ex to love me how I needed to be loved; I wasn't thin enough or attractive enough or whatever.
But having B was like all vanity went out of the window. I love myself now, because I know I'm just the same as anyone else – I'm fallible and imperfect, but my messed up body gave me B and I love myself for that.
I love my ridiculous humungaboobs that feed B like a dream… when his dad "flies" him over to me for a feed, he giggles and opens his mouth to latch on. They may be saggy and baggy but they do exactly what they need to do to feed my baby, and I'm proud I've been able to do that and even to pump for him so he's been exclusively breastfed for his entire life, for half a year.
I love my saggy stomach. (This one requires a bit more imagination!) I love that it carried B safely (even though he needed cutting out at the last minute!). I love that I got to experience being gloriously, amazingly pregnant. I once had a big bump that I never thought I'd get to have, and I grew a human in there, and if it looks like a fleshy deflated balloon well – so be it. My bikini days are over anyway and I have an awesome very flattering swimsuit with tummy panels!
I love my fuller face. (Again this is a hard one!) I love that it's the face that my son loves. His eyes light up when he sees me. He giggles and reaches his arms out. We even had to hide the cushion with my face on because he kept staring at it! Yes, I don't have the cheekbones I used to have but they'll come back one day. Or maybe they won't. But I refuse to hate my face because it looks a little bit like my boy's and I love his.
Anyone who sees me now probably thinks I've "let myself go". And I really have.
I've given myself permission to breathe out. (You kind of have to if you had a caesarean, just saying.)
I've given myself permission to not care. I don't have to listen to the whispering voices of bullies from the past, who said I was fat and ugly. I'm not fat and ugly. I am the size I needed to be to carry my baby into existence. I'm the face of my ancestors, who I'm finally beginning to connect with through adoption forums and same race groups, and I refuse to be ashamed of my non-whiteness because I don't ever want to see that shame in my son's face.
Of course I don't advocate being unhealthy. (Well, chocolate notwithstanding.) The thing is, I'm a size bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. But there's a freedom in letting myself have this. I have told myself I won't diet until I finish breastfeeding. Right now, I don't know when that will be. I want to do at least a year. In fact I'm enjoying it so much (never thought I'd say that!) that I joke I'll do it till he's 15… although I think he might decide to wean himself before then! (We have started baby led weaning but B is not interested in the least… It's a messy business!)
I will start exercising again when I have the time, for sure. But it will be just for myself. I miss the enjoyment I used to get from exercise, a bit, but then we are pretty active as we walk almost everywhere and we have Dog, and he gets us out and about. Plus I do swimming with B once a week, if bobbing around in the shallow end counts. (Yes it does!)
The important thing is that I want B to have a healthy self esteem and be happy. And a huge part of that is having happy healthy parents. I don't want him to see his mother dieting or hating the body that he changed by coming into existence. I don't want him to hate half of his race that came from me. We've taken steps… He's in a diverse nursery in the diverse area we live in. So he will never have the experience of feeling the odd one out, like I did.
And his parents are currently happy together and don't argue that much! (And when they do, it's his mama's fault… Hopefully the hormones will have died down a bit by the time he's more aware!) We are hopefully moving to our new place soon, so he'll even have a bit of outside space. And he has an awesome Dog for a buddy, and a load of new buddies at nursery… Life is good… and we are going to focus on the good things we are grateful for, rather than the bad things we wish we didn't have.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know we are massive Disney fans. We have booked to bring B to Disneyland Paris this year, because even though he won't remember it, it's our happy place (and we will save Orlando and the transatlantic flight for when he's older!). We have been every year apart from last year (heavily pregnant) as a couple and now we're going back as a family.
And of course, one of the best Disney songs ever is from Frozen: Let it Go. I don't tell that many people this, but I can barely ever listen to that song without wanting to cry. It's the perfect song that sums up so much of how I feel. (Which is strangely embarrassing given I'm an almost-40 year old definitely not Scandinavian most likely not a princess archetypally buttoned up British-by-adoption person.)
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
So here's the thing… I never was perfect. But I was trying to be, and it was exhausting.
And I never realised that all this time I needed to find acceptance. Not from other people, but from myself.
There are good and bad things about Timehop. I always find it interesting to see what I did on this day a year ago, and the years before that. Although there are always things we'd rather forget and it doesn't seem to filter those out.
This morning's Timehop showed me this scan picture. So strange to think of what time was like a year ago, when little B was in existence but we had no concept of who he was, and now he's here, bright and alive and spreading butternut squash all over his tray table. (I actually hate butternut squash and it turns out he isn't too keen either.)
I am so grateful to medical science that we have this chance to be his parents, that I have a chance I never thought I'd have, to be a mother. As an adoptee, to know someone biologically related to me. To see someone who looks a bit the same. To know I'll be able to offer that comfort of looking a bit like him and he'll never have to wonder where he came from.
And I think back to this time last year and it seems almost inconceivable(!) how much my life has changed. I'm still the same person and yet I'm not.
I may be out of the trenches of infertility but I can remember what it was like. And the fear that haunted me throughout my pregnancy with B. Right now I'm looking at that scan picture and remembering how I felt relief and I cried that there was a baby there. But I also didn't feel happy that I was pregnant because I was so scared that we would lose this one as well.
And a rainbow baby, as B is, is a special sort of baby. All babies are special of course. But a rainbow baby has parents who know the fear of loss and who went through the special kind of hell before their baby was born. Maybe a rainbow baby has parents who don't take parenthood for granted. I know we don't. I feel a ridiculous sense of gratefulness every single day when I look at his chubby little face.
I don't know what I can say to my friends who are still in the trenches apart from, I feel for you and I want you to know you are not alone. I know that I'm just one more of those annoying people who now have a baby. I know what it's like to feel infertility anger and I bear you no malice if you wish to unfollow. But you must know, you are not alone.
When I joined WordPress three or so years back, I felt like I was talking into a void. I needed somewhere to shout and rage about my infertility and to try and make sense of what we were going through. And then I realised it brought up some feelings about adoption I had buried. And I quickly realised that I wasn't alone at all.
I had such support throughout my whole journey of making sense of all of this. Infertility but also adoption, and feelings about all sorts of things from work to friendships.
And I made real life friends. Some I've never even met in real life but whom I consider actual real life friends!
So although this path is hard, and paved with the small angry pebbles of anger and loss (and running with the tears we have shed! Let's make that metaphor work for us!), know that you are not alone. I promise you. There are good people out there! And the great thing is, your blog is for you and it attracts the people who are interested in what you have to say! Who knew?! There are some pretty awesome folk out there and I hope one day to convert some of my real life not-yet-met friends into actual "I know what your voice sounds like" friends!
So, that's all for today really. Looking back is bittersweet. I know we had a long bloody wait to meet our miracle. And I'd be lying if I said I was happy to go through that. But the outcome was bloody spectacular. I'm biased of course, but B is such a happy baby it's hard to complain about the slightly truncated sleep cycles (co sleeping helps) and the over familiarity with poo (how does it get everywhere?!). When my baby chucks back his head and giggles I think there is not a sight nor sound in human history that will ever top it.
This year is a bumper year. We are planning our "big" birthdays and we are going to take B on his first trip to Disney (Paris – not going to brave a transatlantic flight with a baby!). We decided we are going all out and staying in the Disneyland Hotel. OMG Disney fans! Too exciting. Of course B won't really notice it but we will enjoy it! Hopefully our new flat will settle soon (ah the vagaries of the UK housebuying process!) so B will get his forever home and Dog hopefully will too. (I am still hoping I am right in thinking he is a special species of immortal dog who's going to live forever.) A bit of outside space (it has a terrace) is super exciting for us Londoners. I see my friends overseas and their gigantic yards and I think you'd have to laugh at our modest delusions of grandeur!
So yeah, life is pretty good right now. So much has changed in a year. I am so grateful to my lucky stars and whoever else may have had a hand in it. (Doctors and IVF technicians mainly I guess.) I keep telling myself not to worry about something going wrong. It seems hard to imagine because 2015 was such a bad year, but maybe these things all even out in the end.
And you… I've not had as much time as I expected to catch up on people's blogs. My day seems to lend itself more to the intermittency of Facebook. But I do care about what's going on in your lives! Tell me your news!
Sitting here listening to music on Alexa (“Alexa – play songs by Ed Sheeran”) and this came on and now I’m in floods of tears. And feeling very thankful.
Trigger warning: some serious emotion relating to pregnancy.
I get it. I get it more than you can imagine. Whenever I used to read another infertility blog, I’d mentally compare it to our journey and my own infertility (because the “fault” is mine – I’m the infertile one) and figure if ours had gone on longer or been easier or harder. And usually ours compared unfavourably, and I’d wonder if it was just too late for anything to try and fix it, and I’d get angry at anyone and everyone because we had to deal with this and others did not.
I used to get so angry at people who had babies without trying. At people who’d run the gamut of insensitive comments. (“At least you know you can get pregnant” after a miscarriage that was the culmination of 10+ years of infertility and IVF… “Why don’t you just adopt?” to two adoptees who just wanted to have someone biologically related to them in their lives…) Even at my own sibling who easily had two children – one born during the holiday we went on to get over our loss.
I was angry and jealous and honestly not the nicest person to be around for a while, so after our loss the previous year I took a step back from socialising and focused more on work, and self care. And I blogged a lot. And got amazing support from this community of bloggers. And made some real life friends.
When we finally got pregnant last year that was the culmination of a great deal of treatment including multiple operations, IVF cycles, immune therapy and at least four different hospitals and countless doctors.
It was not an easy ride.
But we are lucky because out of all that came baby B. And the pain of infertility recedes, but it doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of it. As I posted the other day, I’m grateful every single day that I have the chance to be a mother. I don’t take it for granted.
After all that I am full of joy for this chance. And I’m grateful. And I feel empathy for anyone else still going down this path because I know what it feels like. It’s been over 10 years and up to 15/16 years depending on how you count it. (Not-not trying or actually trying.)
What I didn’t do during those days of anger was wander up to people who had kids and express my anger to them. I might have felt it privately but I knew deep down that my anger at them was irrational and misplaced. Someone else being fertile is not the cause of my own infertility.
Likewise I didn’t do the equivalent of that in the blogging world. Your own blog is for venting, and you can do what you want on it. But I didn’t seek out blogs where people had kids and make snarky comments. Because it is literally not their fault. When infertility bloggers got pregnant and had kids, it gave me hope. If it became too triggering, I unfollowed. But most of the time I carried on following them because I was happy for them that it worked out, and I wanted to share in that happiness.
Ultimately isn’t that what we want to happen in the infertility blogging world? We want those people who want children to be able to have children, either through medical intervention (as we had) or adoption. Or we want them to be able to come to terms with not having children.
It doesn’t really make sense to hope that all infertility bloggers continue to live in misery and longing and never manage to have a child or come to terms with a child free life… It would be perverse to hope for that, because we’d be hoping for that for ourselves, too.
So when someone from the infertility community comes on my blog specifically to bitch about parents, in the context of everything we went through to become parents, and how recently it happened for us, and knowing our background of being adopted and the loss that entails, I can have empathy for that person but I can also be kind of p*ssed off.
I have never felt “smug” about being a mother. I literally never thought this day would come, and I went through a lot to get here, and I’m thankful every day. Being grateful is not the same as being smug. And I don’t post stuff about parenting to upset infertile people, or for any other agenda. I talk about my life because my blog is about my life and my experiences.
I understand that to some in the trenches of infertility that talking about parenting following infertility may be triggering. I know that some infertility bloggers have stopped blogging after having children through birth or adoption. I know others who have started new blogs.
For me, my blog was named Zero to Zygote for a reason. I hoped one day where there was no child there would be a child. In my first post I talked about my dream of being able to tell my child the story of how he came to be. It was always meant to be a story of hope, and that journey included venting of infertility anger, processing of adoption loss, working through the grief of pregnancy loss, as well as everyday experiences and thoughts.
So I’m asking you, infertility bloggers, if all this triggers you, please do not take out your infertility anger on me on my blog. The space for that is your own blog, or a support group. You’ll never be able to chase down every person that has a child to comment on their blog or tell you how angry you are that they have one and you don’t. And it will just make you feel worse. Just unfollow me and save yourself the trouble of thinking negative thoughts.
And your anger is misplaced. I wouldn’t wish our experiences on anyone. It was not easy and it was not enjoyable and it almost broke me. I hope you resolve yours more quickly than we did (whether by having a child or being happy not to have one; I understand that having a baby is not the be all and end all, even if it sometimes feels like that). I hope that everything works out.
Of all the anger I had about infertility, the ones I hoped for the most and where my anger dissipated were for the others in similar positions to ours. But maybe you are still deep in the trenches right now and you can only feel your own grief and loss, and I get that. You’re entitled to feel that way. Life is unfair sometimes. Take it from someone who’s been there for many years: unfollow your triggers. And if that includes me, unfollow me.
I wish you all the best.
Mother’s Day in the UK was a while ago, but I saw this video on Facebook from the Today show and it made me cry.
Mother’s Day message – Today
Everything has changed for us with the arrival of baby B, after many years of infertility, medical intervention and loss. This time last year I had just got my positive pregnancy test for B and I was so scared it was going to go the same way as our previous year’s pregnancy, little PB who was lost to miscarriage.
For Mother’s Day here in the UK I posted this message on Facebook, with a picture of my mum with me and one of her with baby B.
“It’s my 39th Mother’s Day as a daughter and my first as a mother. Heading to see my mum, who first met me when I was a few days old and has loved me ever since. She’s now [Grandma] to B but she’ll always be [Mum] to me.
Both of us had a long and difficult journey to be a mother. Thinking of all the mothers out there today, especially the mothers without children and children without mothers. I promise not to take it for granted. ❤”
I hope for anyone who finds this day difficult that you know that we see you. And I hope that next year you’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day with happiness.
Before I embarked on this journey, I worked in an office. I’m a not-very-bigwig in the corporate world. And for years I defined myself by it, so I find myself applying “work” lingo to this new and amazing world of parenthood…
Hence: the QBR. At work, the Quarterly Business Review is a chance to look back on the last three months and assess what was good about it and what you’re going to work on next quarter.
I don’t seem to have any time for blogging nowadays. I never wanted to be one of those infertility bloggers who drops off the face of the planet when they have a baby, but there you have it. I’m still here, but right now I’m soaking up all I can of the experience.
I have to go back to work early for the UK – usually people take a year, but I’m on unpaid leave (due to starting my new job pregnant so ineligible for paid leave) and this (just over four months) is all we can afford. Hence my sparse postings lately. I’m sure when I’m back at work and have a commute again, I’ll be able to write a bit more.
Anyway, here goes!
Performance: B’s development
Following the developments a baby makes is like trying to catch a wave upon the sand, as the nuns in The Sound of Music would have it. B changes every single day. It’s amazing to watch.
It’s totally out-of-this-world amazing and totally run-of-the-mill normal at the same time. I absolutely know I’m not the first and last person to have a baby, but I can also now see why mothers get a bit obsessed.
Things B can do (not an exhaustive list, because I am not on top of things like that):
- Smile. He smiles all the time now. It’s like a magic mood lifter. How can you be anything but happy when a little fat baby is grinning a toothless grin at you?
- Halfhearted roll. He started rolling out of bed – his side sleeper cot, onto our bed. I bought a Sleepyhead bed nest which now contains him. He can roll halfway from his back to his side, but doesn’t seem motivated to roll fully (and we aren’t motivated to encourage him!).
- Hold his head up. We do tummy time when we remember (#badparents) and he easily holds his head up and tries to crawl a bit, but is a long way off, thankfully!
- Dribble. My boy is a world champion dribbler. Apparently this means maybe he’s started teething. He doesn’t seem particularly upset.
- Babble. In the last week or so, he’s just started to enjoy the sound of his own voice. T is convinced he can say “Hello” and it does sound like that sometimes, but I think it’s unlikely!
- Enjoy playing. For a while, I wondered if he was really enjoying playing, but now he definitely does. We do Baby Sensory once a week and he can now engage a bit in activities. He laughs when he enjoys things. And he has started batting toys at his (incredibly tacky) Baby Gym, finally, rather than just lying there and expecting them magically to entertain him!
In short, he is the most awesome beautiful baby in the world and I am fully in love.
Review: Parenthood after infertility/loss
During this whole thing, I’ve always been conscious of being infertile and of needing so much intervention to have B. On the one hand, I’ve passed into motherhood / parenthood and in many ways it feels like something I always was supposed to do. By which I mean, it feels natural. But on the other hand, I’m really conscious that pregnancy and birth did not come naturally to me. And I don’t want people to think it came easily or that I’m not grateful.
I thank my lucky stars every single day that I have B. It feels like a journey I never thought I’d get to make. It’s awesome. I also in the same breath thank my lucky stars for T, his father and my partner. And Dog, the best dog ever. It is nice to have a little family of my own. Of course I’ve always been a part of my family that I can remember, but it’s weird to have started my own. And even weirder to have someone who looks like me. People comment that all the time. I can totally enjoy that because having been adopted, I never had that.
I feel a need to explain to people that it wasn’t easy to have B, because I feel like on the one hand it’s hard to imagine him not being there, but on the other it’s weird not to reflect on the many more years I had of being childless with no idea if I’d ever not be. And I want people who are trying to conceive to know that we went there too.
Does the pain ever go away? I know some people say it doesn’t, and I respect that. For me, it’s immensely healing to have B. That’s not on him. He’s not responsible for my happiness. I just feel that the pain of infertility and loss has become more distant in my everyday thoughts. It’s not “worth it” as such but it doesn’t really intrude because I’m too busy enjoying him. It’s amazing how babies change and grow and learn stuff every single day. I’m in awe. And I’m so happy to get the chance to experience this. It feels like a dream come true.
I guess one thing this journey gave me was an intolerance of people who complain a lot about having a baby. I just can’t. I know so many who would give their right arm to be pregnant so it annoys me when people whinge on about pregnancy and motherhood. I know they have a right to, but I just don’t like to hear it. During pregnancy I almost relished the back pain and discomfort because I knew it meant he was coming. And now, I have almost infinite patience when he wakes me up during the night or cries, because he’s here and healthy and he needs me and I wanted this. Of course I get tired, but I look at his little face and think, You are so wanted and loved.
Review: Motherhood after adoption
Although I feel like I started this blog to talk about infertility, it became clear that I had many thoughts on adoption, and having been adopted as a baby. I probably have a whole post on this, but for the purposes of this QBR I can say it’s been on my mind a lot.
It’s literally amazing to me to see B’s face every day and how much he looks like me. I never realised how much I missed having kin before I met him. I have my (adoptive) family and I think we are a pretty close family. And they’ve embraced B as one of their own, because he is. But for me it’s just mind blowing to meet my actual flesh and blood. Finally.
If you’ve followed my blog a while you’ll know T is also adopted. So B has two parents who don’t have bio family in their lives. He is it. It’s kind of huge but it’s kind of normal as well. It’s a nice kind of normal. I like that he won’t grow up wondering who he looks like or feeling weird for being a different race from everyone else.
We purposely moved here to a diverse community so he won’t stick out. It’s awesome to see how there are lots of interracial couples here, and lots of mixed race children. I feel a sense of parental responsibility that I can do that – make a conscious choice for him. I was speaking with my cousin who is in an interracial relationship with mixed race children, who felt the same about making sure they fitted in. Racial mirrors are important.
Crunchy mom score: 10
I seem to have turned into a hippy. My friend the Earth Mother (who sometimes reads this blog *waves*) is my role model here!
Breastfeeding is this huge thing I never thought I’d get into, but a quarter in (almost a third now I’ve finally gotten round to finishing this) and it seems to be my superpower. I know this is no credit to me and some people just seem to find it easier. It’s nuts. I’m so glad it has gone well. I had the difficulty getting and staying pregnant, the messed up birth, so I deserve something, right?! Actually was totally happy just to have a healthy baby, but I’ll take it.
Babywearing is another one. It’s European Babywearing Week this week, and I’m going strong! I’m still wearing B in the wrap but have gone a bit full on down the rabbit hole of babywearing madness. Again something for a longer post but suffice to say I’m a convert to wrapping and I have another two in the post! I’m not really sure why I bothered with the pram as B loves babywearing and I do too, so he screams blue murder if he has to go into his lovely designer pram, but he’s happy to be wrapped like a little burrito and strapped to my front, and I feel like a warrior when I do it!
I want to do both of these things as long as possible and as long as B still enjoys it. I’m hoping I can breastfeed for at least a year, although I’ll have to express when I’m back at work. B is so not into taking expressed milk – we’ve tried once a day to see if he can get used to it, but he has a definite preference for milk from source. In a way it makes me happy he loves me best (as a good source anyway!) but I’m concerned he will feel thirsty or hungry when I’m out at work. Hopefully he will adjust.
Exit strategy: Going back to work
It’s not so much an exit strategy as enforced retirement (in QBR parlance). I so don’t want to go back to work. I know I’m going to cry my eyes out. I can finally appreciate why maternity leave is usually a year. I honestly had no idea babies were this interesting (well, I mainly like mine… the others not so much!) and how much of a wrench it would be. I’m already less than a month to go and it feels like sand slipping through an hourglass at high speed.
I’m with him all the time and I don’t want to miss anything but I’ll have to. I’ll pump for him, and I know I’ll do everything possible to make sure he has the best start, but really I wish I could be with him every day, all day. I guess it’s no easier going back when they’re one, though. I hope he’ll take after me and sleep a lot!
Clothes have been a challenge. Who knew maternity and nursing wear seem to be double purpose? It’s so odd that the clothing manufacturers have decided the two go together. My mum kindly gave me some money to buy some back to work clothes and get a haircut. I think she realised how awkward I feel carrying the extra weight and with massive nursing boobs!
Pre pregnancy I was around a size 10 UK and now I’m maybe a 12, bigger than I’ve ever been (well, apart from pregnancy!). During pregnancy I embraced bodycon because it meant I was actually pregnant. Post pregnancy I’m avoiding it for the reason that it makes me look pregnant! My boobs are out of control. Pre pregnancy I was 32C and post I am 36DD or by Boob or Bust (a nursing site) measurements I’m 32H! Which is crazy talk! I’ll have a few weeks to find some decent nursing / pumping clothes. I don’t want to sit pumping in a meeting room with my top off, or worse still with a dress off, in my underwear! There’s a great fb group called Can I Breastfeed In It? Which I’ve been stalking for inspiration. Sadly most nursing stuff is casual or occasion wear rather than office wear. I’m half thinking I need to make a group for prematurely working mums!
In order to try and get organised, I ordered a Sarah Wells designer nursing bag from the US. Breast pump bags literally do not exist here in the UK. Probably because mothers don’t go back to work until the babies are weaned. Most take a year off. Unfortunately it isn’t possible for us as I’m on unpaid leave so minimum amount of wages (a small statutory allowance from the government which I’m grateful for, but barely pays rent!). Anyway I was super excited to receive it until I got hit with a customs charge of £39! Wtf. You live and learn. That bag better be amazing! I’ll have to post a more in depth review later.
I’ve always felt it’s so important not to neglect your relationship when you have a baby. And yet I’ve realised in the past few weeks that I really haven’t focused on T so much as B. I’ve also probably neglected Dog a bit as T tends to take him for walks whilst I feed B. I think we are okay. T says he doesn’t mind (especially the lack of bedroom antics!) but I am conscious of it.
We are very loving and in many ways having B has solidified that. I mean, we are inextricably linked now. But we are more tired and we sometimes get quite far through the day before we kiss, which is something I always thought of as important. That said, we are around each other all day – T is on shared parental leave – so we don’t kiss each other goodbye.
Having a baby and the resultant disturbed sleep (he goes back to sleep easily but I still have to wake up and comfort him even if he’s co sleeping) and probably hormones does make me grouchy. So I need to watch out for that. I feel like my moods are way more loving-whoops-now-I’m-crazy! than they were before. T is very good natured but I’m probably stretching it a bit! I absolutely love being an Earth mother type but I need to develop some hippy vibes!
We got back to the – ahem – babymaking (well it never worked!) right on schedule. Actually a day early after the doc said it was possible after a c section (6 weeks). So we made sure everything was still in working order! But frequency is way down. T says he doesn’t mind, but I feel bad for him considering last few months of pregnancy was also a no go!
I feel really self conscious of my post baby body – for the first time in years I feel a bit ashamed of my body. Before I was a bit more vain and perfectionist – not to say I had the best body but I felt it was within tolerances and was kind of proud I wasn’t overweight. Now I feel a bit saggy and my stretch marks are still very visible so that’s affected my confidence. It just about passes in clothes but my bikini days are over! So that affects how I feel about getting naked. I am hoping over time it’ll improve. At the weekend we stayed in a posh hotel for a family do so we had a bath – for the first time I didn’t want him to see me naked. But he did and we had a nice bath! I guess it takes time. I still feel massively proud of my body for getting B here, and I know T still loves me, I just have to start feeling attractive again.
All this makes it sound like our relationship is suffering. I don’t think it is particularly- but I do think having a baby changes it. We are still great friends and we still love each other, but it’s not just the two of us (plus Dog) any more. We are parents. It’s weird to recast ourselves. I suppose it takes time to grow into our new roles. I don’t think I had to love him more. I already did. He’s the love of my life. Having a baby is something a part of us and also outside of us. A seismic event. And we are still evolving.
Next quarter’s focus
- Back to work
- Bottle feeding (expressed milk)
- New house! (Hopefully still happening… slowly!)
- Relationship stuff (not forgetting to be us)
- Austerity MkII (because of new house!)
- Teething (suspected!)
Appendices: In pictures
If we are friends on fb, you’ll have seen the pics of B. I’m obsessed by how cute he is! Meanwhile here’s a taste of what we’ve been up to lately.
As before, comment and let me know what you’ve been up to! I haven’t had much time to read other people’s blogs but if you comment then I’ll read! Hope you are all well. X
This year, our rainbow baby is here.
Here in the UK, it’s Mother’s Day at the weekend. It will be my first Mother’s Day as a mother.
I still equate Mother’s Day with my mum, the only mother I’ve ever known (since I was adopted at a few days old). Every other year I’ve just been me – a person with no biological relatives. This year, I have my first biological relative in B. I have a child! I’m a mother. It still feels surreal.
I’m sort of amazed by motherhood, in that I never really saw myself as the maternal type. I knew I wanted a kid, but I expected this first part to be the tiresome and boring part – before the baby turns into a toddler who can express himself. But here’s the thing – B can express himself just fine! And there must be some sort of hormones, or biology, that makes you love your own child.
I’ve spent years primarily being defined by my work. After over a decade of infertility I never defined myself by the typical female traits. Instead I was always about achieving stuff in a mainly male world. I was the female of colour in a white guy’s world and I ploughed my own furrow.
And now I’m “one of the mums”. And to my surprise, I don’t hate it. I relish it. I find it all the more precious because I know I have less time than the others. Most women in the UK take a year off when they have a baby. More than a year because they accrue holiday when they’re on maternity leave. I could take a year – I’m entitled to it – but because I started my job pregnant, I am unpaid by my company for all the time I’m off. And I can’t really afford more than the four months I guesstimated we could do without my salary.
Mum life is fun. And it’s even easier because T is off at the same time as me. Although we realised that a lot of stuff is geared just towards mums and babies and not dads. On the one hand I think that’s unfair, but on the other – I’m only just seeing how there’s a biological imperative and it makes sense for the mother to be the primary caregiver.
I knew it intellectually but I never really knew it. B knows I am his mother. He looks for me, and he’s comforted pretty much only by me. He likes T, but after a while he will look for me. And I’m the only one who can feed him. That’s such a big thing I hadn’t really fully understood. I see with B that instinctively he searches for me and wants to be with me.
It’s weird to think that I was once his age and that even before I was the age he is now (just two months old!) I was taken from my first mother and given to a new one. Because I see now how B knows me, knows my smell, is comforted by me. Quite aside from looking like me. He knows me from being inside me for nine months. It’s a real big thing to think that happened to me at such a young age, a fraction of the age B is now. I wonder what that must have felt like to me as a baby.
The funny thing is, I have almost a deeper relationship with my parents now because of B. They want to see him every week. We bond over our shared love of him. They don’t love him any less than their biological grandchildren – they are super proud grandparents of all of them. And I feel like we’ve had deeper, more critical conversations lately, especially about adoption. The fact they’re able to do that and to listen to my musings without getting defensive has been really a bonding experience for us.
Having my own biological child has thrown up all these thoughts and feelings. I’ve had time to think and I’ve had time to bed into the idea of having a biological relative. It’s still so new and yet he feels like he’s always been here. It’s so huge in one way and so little, quotidian in another. In one way I feel like I’m still just me and in the other, I feel like everything has changed.
I’m still active on adoption groups and lately a lot of adoptees I know have found their birth parents and families. It makes me wonder about looking for mine. I’ve thought about it a lot. But also I’ve seen how it doesn’t seem to make them happy. It seems to make them sad a lot of the time and yet they feel compelled to search.
For me, I don’t feel compelled to search. I wonder if I should feel it and there’s something wrong with me that I don’t. I wonder if I found my birth family whether I’d recognise myself in them. I’ve seen pictures of adoptees and the family resemblance and I wonder about that. Maybe B is enough for me. I feel like my birth mother would be like me – accepting of life, not really looking back. Not expecting me to go back. I don’t want to drag up difficult feelings because I don’t want to ruin the happiness I have now. And I hope she’s happy and I don’t want to ruin that either.
T is also adopted and I wonder how much his experience has shaped mine. He found his birth mother a long time ago. They’ve only met a couple of times. It’s like they just needed to do it and then go back to their lives. Since B was born, we were supposed to see her and it seemed really difficult to arrange it. Lots of tangled communication. Then she cancelled.
I wonder if she’s cancelling on purpose because it’s too much or whether the excuse she said is true. I feel slightly defensive and miffed on his behalf and on B’s behalf because I don’t understand why someone’s biological mother and grandmother doesn’t seem to want to see them. Maybe it’s too much emotionally.
Part of me feels like she’s not entitled to see B because she’s not his “real” grandmother, as she hasn’t been an involved mother to T. But that’s just me being defensive for him. I guess I don’t understand why she doesn’t want to see this beautiful man she made. I think maybe a lot of adoptees have complex and angry feelings towards birth parents and we can’t know the circumstances.
I feel compassion towards mine but it’s easy because they’re abstract and not real right now. If they were in this country and easily accessible I would feel mad if they didn’t make the effort to see me. And I kind of think feelings like that are why I have never searched. I don’t want to go down a rabbit hole of hope and disappointment. I’m fine and happy with life as it is. I kind of can’t believe how it’s worked out lately, how I have these three amazing guys I live with (if you count the dog as a guy!) and why would I want to change that, to drag up difficult feelings? Maybe that makes me a wuss.
So those are the thoughts that have been at the back of my head. At the front of my head have been the happy thoughts. The “I can’t believe that title now belongs to me” thoughts. The thought of my first Mother’s Day. On Saturday we are seeing T’s parents. And on Sunday (Mother’s Day) we are going round to my parents’ house with B and having a double.
Mother’s Day still feels like it belongs to my mother, because I’ve had thirty-odd years of celebrating it as an honour for her. This year my dad is taking us all to a restaurant for lunch for my first Mother’s Day, so it’s about me too. And it’s about T’s mum, my mother in law, and her first grandchild. And it’s our time to think of our first mums who gave birth to us all those years ago. And I think of the mothers without babies too. The unacknowledged mothers. They matter too.
As a new mum, I know I’m not special – hundred and thousands of women do it every day. And yet this year I have joined that circle of life, of women who have given life, our ancestors and the women to come down the line. I imagine I’ve joined that lineup of women, a line I never thought I’d join – through not inconsiderable effort and medical intervention – and I feel significant and insignificant at the same time.
I am me. The child of two mothers, a shadow mother and an everyday mother. The partner of a wonderful, kind, funny man. The flatmate of a brilliant dog. The mother of baby B.
Life is good.