parent opinion

The unspoken grief you feel when your daughter is experiencing fertility issues.

This post discusses pregnancy loss and may be upsetting to some readers.

Over the past five years, my brain has become very attuned to the assumptions people make about newlyweds' and their next life step - that is, to have babies. This is my story.

My only daughter is 31. We have a close and special relationship. I was only 20 when I was pregnant with her; she is my only child and following a divorce when she was very young, she and I were a little family of two for several years. She married a gorgeous, gentle and kind man in 2017.

I remember my daughter messaging me on her honeymoon to say while she knew it was silly; she was disappointed when she got her period. Living with PCOS, she knew there was a high likelihood that pregnancy would not come easy for her and her husband so she had stopped contraception immediately after the wedding. 

Little did we all know that this was the tip of the iceberg of a wave of disappointments.

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost and the significance of remembering their names. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

After the wedding, we all used language that projected a future with babies: "When you have children", "When you are pregnant", and "Your children are going to look like this", etc. 

The first miscarriage occurred in 2018. A woman experiencing one miscarriage is really common, right? So, as sad as it was, we were hopeful and spoke with optimism about future pregnancies. 

A year later, when it was time to swap my car, I got a 4WD, making space for prams and bikes, preparing for my role as a grandmother.

When someone at work later asked where I would be in five years, my response was that I would work part time so I could help care for my grandchildren. 

Three years ago, Aldi were selling rocking chairs, perfect for new mums to feed babies. Apparently when this chair is in stock, they walk out of the store within an hour. I wanted that chair for my daughter. She would need it. 

I arranged for my niece to wait in line before the store opened, to make sure there was Aldi purchasing success. I didn’t tell my daughter and was hiding it at my sister’s house. It was to be a gift. 

By now IVF had begun and the pregnancy was coming soon, surely. After miscarriage number three, I told my sister to sell the damn rocking chair. 

Nearly five years and six miscarriages later (five with IVF), I remember the day I heard my daughter using the language of "if" and not "when" when she spoke of a future with babies. I went home and sobbed. We all use this language now, as we reconcile what we assumed would just happen, may never.


Watching my little girl experience this pain is unexplainable, as I know her desire to become a parent is a dream that is assumed and given to many. It is heartbreaking to be on the outside and have nothing I can give that will make her pain more bearable.

Listen: The Quicky speaks to a woman who went through years of IVF. Post continues after podcast.

This past year I have found the most difficult; balancing trying to keep hope, while contemplating acceptance that my role of a grandmother to my daughter’s children may not become a reality. 

I am 52 and lead a full and fun life, but grandma was next for me - I assumed it was my next phase in life. Twice in the last week I was asked, "Are you are grandmother?" 

A couple of years ago, I started hiding Facebook friends once they became grandparents, as I knew they would show off their grandchildren. I am genuinely happy for them, but I find it too hard seeing the photos. 

I went through a stage of getting teary if I was out and saw a newborn baby, so it was self-protection to not invite babies into my social media feed. 

Last Christmas, I cried putting up the Christmas tree, as I picked up my daughter’s pink 'baby's first Christmas' bauble. I cried for the six little ones that never got a bauble.

Early in the year, I accessed a psychologist to help me manage my emotions around what we were all experiencing. My daughter's pain is paramount in my thoughts, and I wanted to know how best to support her. Was I responding to her losses appropriately? 

I was also feeling guilty about struggling with emotions around the possibility of the dream of becoming a grandmother to her children slipping away. Was I just being selfish? Am I allowed to be upset about how their devastation impacts me? 

I had experienced IVF unsuccessfully in 2004, but this was not comparable at all. There is no reference for how I should cope, and I don't know anyone who has shared a similar experience. The impact infertility has on others doesn't seem to be talked about.

This experience has reminded me how we must choose our words carefully. You never know what unintentional pain may be caused with internally driven pressure and societal expectations - it can create a heavy burden to others.

My daughter has close friends having babies around her, and she relishes time with them. She is incredible in the way she moves through life in such a healthy and balanced way - filling it with plans and not putting fun on hold.

We keep an open heart to the possibility that just one of the little frozen embryos will be the answer to our dreams, most importantly for my daughter and her husband. 

If not, we will be alright, and life will still be full of love and joy and other children - and it will be okay to not be okay, while we accept the experience of the profound grief associated with the loss of a dream.

If this has raised any issues for you or if you would like to speak with someone, please contact the Sands Australia 24-hour support line on 1300 072 637.

You can download Never Forgotten: Stories of love, loss and healing after miscarriage, stillbirth, and neonatal death for free here.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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