'Grief, pregnancy envy and the things that actually helped me through my fertility struggles.'

Thanks to our brand partner, IVFAustralia

It was my son's ninth birthday last week and because it fell on a school day, I spent the night before making cupcakes for him to take to school. He had put in an order for half-chocolate and half-vanilla and since I had long gotten over any guilt associated with using packet mix, I was happy to oblige this very specific brief – no matter the mental load.

On this particular day, his class was also hosting their first liturgy and since he had been rehearsing a few 'alleluias' at home, I knew he had a small part to play. By mere chance and not because of my careful planning, the stars aligned, and I found myself at the school church during lunchtime on a workday.

As I watched my just turned 9-year-old approach the alter and take a small bow, I had a sudden recollection of a moment from maybe ten years ago. It was so fleeting yet so vivid, and a memory I thought I'd long forgotten.

I remember it like this. 

I was sitting at the traffic lights watching a pregnant lady waiting to cross the road. It mesmerised me by how she looked; the way she intuitively rubbed her belly. Seemingly content and oblivious to me staring her, I imagined her life was perfect, and I found myself feeling deeply jealous of her. 

You see, she was pregnant and beautiful, and she had everything I could desire. 

In that moment, I felt ugly and infertile. 

Pregnancy envy is real and for every pregnant woman, for every baby shower and birth announcement, it threatened to derail me and so often did. Only now do I look back on that moment and realise the reality of the situation could have been very different but in that one moment in time, I wanted to be her, and I despaired I was not.


Even now, a decade later, and now as a mother, the memory is visceral, and I remember how sad I felt at the time.

Image: Supplied.

Now here I am watching my son, his hand over his mouth, whispering to his friends, fidgeting in his seat and though I am wishing he had his shirt tucked in, I think back to the path that took me to be sitting in the school church on a Friday afternoon.

Becoming his mother was prolonged, exhausting, time-consuming and a great deal more complicated than I had ever imagined.


Parenting is also all of those things so maybe there is irony in that.

I had long considered myself an optimist, so it was with innocence and happy anticipation that I arrived at the IVF clinic for my first cycle. Looking back, my naivety was astonishing and the disappointment of my first (of a few) failed IVF attempts was crushing. I could not believe it when over the phone, the gentle and empathetic nurse told me the cycle was unsuccessful.

Whoever said it takes two to tango did not have fertility issues, because what I soon discovered and quickly appreciated was that it would end up taking a cast of thousands (okay, maybe not literally) to fall pregnant. It may well take a village to raise a child but sometimes and certainly for me, it took a small nation to make one.

I was never quite prepared for the emotional toll each IVF cycle could have on me. 

My head and my heart would compete for space in my thoughts and my emotions were never quite safe. I struggled with the lack of control I had over my infertility. 

Until the point of facing my infertility I felt as though I could do anything I put my mind to. Not in an arrogant sense, but if I wanted to achieve something I just would work hard at making that happen. Simple right?

Image: Supplied.


Fertility does not abide by this thinking, and it did not matter how hard I tried, I was powerless. Though annoyingly a cliché, but helpful nonetheless, was that I could only focus on what I could control and that became my holy grail.

I surrounded myself by those I knew who would support me and I relied enormously on the experts who knew more about my uterus than I ever would.

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I tried as hard as I could not to rely on fertility and IVF related forums, because if you are TTC (trying to conceive) you know that some of these forums are rabbit holes full of dashed hopes and unhelpful platitudes. 

At the very least I got smart about the information I consumed, relying only on what made me feel hopeful though realistic. I relied heavily on my health and fertility practitioners, of which there were many. I inhaled their advice yet still advocated for my wellbeing – I asked questions, queried protocols and embraced the 'knowledge is power' adage.


The thing about infertility is that it strips you bare. They say you lose all dignity when you give birth and that is true, but if you have been through infertility and IVF treatment, all graces disappear at the first injection and your vulnerability is exposed when talk turns to egg quality and uterus lining.

Often it is easier to talk about something only after you have been through it, and this was especially true for my experience with IVF. 

For reasons I could never quite understand, I felt deeply ashamed of my infertility, as though it was my fault. It was enough pity myself and my underperforming ovaries, I could not endure the pity of others. Only on reflection do I realise how misguided this was, and if I would do anything different it would be that I would have owned my story and shared it. 

These days I am deep in Minecraft biomes that make no sense, maths homework that makes less sense and Googling "10 new ways to cook with beef mince". Though I am quick to complain about uneaten dinners, I love book week and weekend bike rides.

As my son's liturgy ends, I think about the relentlessness of parenting and yet the privilege that it is and how thankful I am to have come to the other side of infertility with the support of IVF.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Check out the leading fertility specialists at IVFAustralia, Melbourne IVF, Queensland Fertility Group or TasIVF for more info.