pregnancy

"When are you going to have a baby?" The question that eventually, quietly broke me.

When are you going to have a baby?

It’s a seemingly innocent question on the surface.

But to the woman who is struggling to conceive it’s like a thousand daggers to the heart.

It’s the question we self-isolate, voluntarily, to avoid getting asked.

Watch the trailer for Mamamia’s new podcast, Get Me Pregnant. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

10 years ago, while on our honeymoon, my husband and I decided it was time to start a family. I’m your typical Type A personality, so I had it planned out perfectly. What I hadn’t planned on was it taking seven years to complete.

After six months of negative pregnancy tests, we sought out help and were referred to a fertility specialist. We did all the tests and apart from my age (I was 33 at the time) and my husband’s sperm being a little sub-optimal, there was no reason for us not falling pregnant. So, we jumped on the IVF train, once again hopeful that this would be our solution.

During that time, we were asked by well-meaning relatives and friends, “When are you going to have a baby?” The question was a little frustrating, but not too hard to handle.

“We have a few things we’d like to do first,” we’d respond. Telling people we were already trying wasn’t an option – I was an overachiever, so admitting I couldn’t fall pregnant felt embarrassing. So, we lied.

On our first IVF cycle, they discovered that I had a non-existent endometrium. Which basically means I didn’t have a lining on my uterus for the embryo to stick to, so there was no point in completing the cycle.

For the next six months we floated looking for the magic cure to thicken my lining – different exploratory surgeries, homeopaths, acupuncture, diets, supplements and Viagra pessaries (yep!) We tried the lot.

During that time, we were again asked by friends and colleagues, “When are you going to start a family?” It stung a little, especially given the fact that we didn’t have an answer or a path forward.

“We’re really focusing on our careers at the moment,” we’d respond. It was starting to bother us.

A year into our fertility journey, our specialist pulled us aside and told us that the only real hope for us to have a baby of our own was through a surrogacy arrangement. Being a control freak by nature, the thought of handing over such a huge responsibility to another woman sent me into a tail spin. This was not how I had pictured it.

ADVERTISEMENT

But we were lucky. My husband’s sister, who had witnessed our heartbreak over the last year, generously and selflessly volunteered to have a baby for us.

For the next six months we went through the necessary legal process – going before a board of doctors to determine there was no other path for us but surrogacy, copious medical tests, counselling on both sides, a team of lawyers to draw up and sign a surrogacy agreement, and a bucketload of money.

During that time, we were asked by people we had only just met, “Are you going to have children?”

It terrified us given the fact that we were now impacting our whole family in our quest to become parents. “Oh yes, one day,” we’d tell them. We were in unchartered territory now.

Listen to Get Me Pregnant, Mamamia’s podcast all about fertility. Post continues below.

For the next two years we travelled a slippery slope. Every negative result was soul destroying. Not only were we putting ourselves through the ups and downs, but we were making my sister-in-law endure it too. Nine IVF cycles and one miscarriage in total.

After our miscarriage, we were asked, “Why don’t you have children yet?” It was at this point that I began distancing myself from social gatherings. I couldn’t answer that question politely. I would either be rude or I would run to the bathroom crying.

Finally, we fell pregnant, and this one stuck. For the next nine months when we were asked that question, our answer was not your typical response. My husband, in particular, would have to tell people that his sister was pregnant with his child. Talk about awkward. That usually shut them up though.

In December 2014 we finally became parents to a beautiful baby boy. He took us five years, but was well worth the wait. Then two weeks later I fell pregnant naturally. There are no words to explain our shock, elation and amazement.

And then the questions started. “Are you planning on having another baby?” Our response to this question was going to be, “No, just one child for us.”

To be honest, we really did want to have two children, however my sister-in-law was quite clear that this was a one-time gig for her. And to be honest, I didn’t blame her. We were blessed and completely grateful for our little boy now. But given the current circumstances I just shrugged and said, “We’ll see.”

Eight weeks later I had a miscarriage. It broke me. And because I didn’t want anyone to ask me that freaking question, I shut myself away while I grieved and picked myself back up again.

Six months later I fell pregnant again. And nine months later we had a beautiful baby girl.

Seven years, nine IVF cycles, a surrogacy baby, two miscarriages and a natural baby.

unnamed-5-1
Image: Supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

Today I am a fertility coach. I help women deal with the ups and downs, including how to handle the insensitive questions and comments that come with the territory of infertility.

I also use my voice to educate others on how heartbreaking having a baby is for some – in fact, one in six Australians.

Whether you are currently trying for your first baby, have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth, or are going through secondary infertility, trying to have a family is not always a joyous occasion. It can be stressful, expensive, devastating, isolating and soul-destroying.

Above all, it is private. Asking someone when they are going to have a baby or start a family may seem like an innocent question and a great conversation starter. But for some, it is a source of anxiety and heartbreak. You never know what someone is going through.

This coming week is National Infertility Awareness Week. A time to shine a light on a community of warriors who travel the toughest of paths in search of parenthood. Who are suffering in silence, crying in the bathroom at work, injecting themselves with hormones on their lunch break, and wondering why them?

In respect for all those currently, previously or still to suffer from infertility in the future, please: STOP ASKING PEOPLE WHEN THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE A BABY.

Jennifer Robertson is a fertility coach and helps women deal with the emotional ups and downs of the fertility rollercoaster. 

She is writing a book on her journey and has created a support group called Your Fertility Haven, designed to provide other women who are having difficulty conceiving a judgement free and supportive space to connect with and learn from each other.

You can connect with Jennifer through Instagram, her website or join her private Facebook community.

Feature Image: Supplied.

00:00 / ???