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Though I am, obviously, disappointed by my lack of royal title, ribboned clothes, and animal-maid serviced house (the animals that live here are far from house proud), I am most distressed by my inability to marry, walk into my castle as a wife (oh yeah, I don’t have a castle either), and walk out as a mother.
Infertility was never in my Disney dream, it was never in my school girl games, heck, it was never even in my sex education class, and this, I find, is a problem.
From the day we are first handed a doll, we are told that starting a family is easy. This message is reiterated in the fairy tales, and driven home in school (where we are led to believe that so much as looking at a fellow will impregnate us). This prepares us to prevent pregnancy and prepares us for the day we stop preventing and, subsequently and very quickly, become mothers.
So where is the preparation for infertility? The discussion of fertility tests, of assisted conception, of miscarriage, of adoption? Of anything that delays motherhood or puts you on a different and longer path to finding your family?
I was not prepared for the years of waiting, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the losses, I wasn’t prepared for anything aside from the pink wrapped promise, and reality hit me hard.
Infertility, miscarriage and adoption are still shrouded in a cloak of mystery. Conversations of these topics are still met with discomfort and pity.
People are starting to shed some light on these matters (thank you to the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Jimmy Fallon for bravely using your platform to do so) and this is fantastic, but we need to do more to keep these conversations going. To remove the fear, embarrassment and discomfort and open up. To stop the isolation and hopelessness by sharing the grief and the outcomes. To add an asterisk to pregnancy announcements.
I remember, during the years of trying for my son, how every pregnancy and birth announcement felt like a shot to the heart. It seemed to emphasise the fertility that others were blessed with and highlight the infertility I felt cursed by. The reality is that many of those announcements probably had a story behind them; a medical intervention, a long waiting time, a previous loss. These asterisks, however, were hidden. Shied away from in public conversation. Only known of by those close to the story.
Those stories that could have offered hope, comfort and comradery, instead compounded the sense of impossibility.
With as many as 1 in 8 couples dealing with infertility, I would like to contribute to the hope and possibility, to the support and transparency. I can do this by sharing my story, by including my asterisk.
I am a Mother of a beautiful son. *3 years of trying, a large portion of the adoption process, 4 miscarriages and, finally, a successful pregnancy, created and sustained with medical assistance.
What’s your asterisk?