pregnancy

'I tried to fall pregnant for 16 years. This is what I learned about infertility.'

With one in six couples experiencing infertility, why is it that no one talks about it openly? Why do so many couples suffer in silence? Why do we feel like a failure when we don’t conceive on cue?

For many years I was in a haze, thinking that my life would "start" when I fell pregnant and had a baby. 

I feared the times when my mind wasn’t occupied at work or busily doing "things" as that meant I had free time to think and I would always be thinking about my lack of a baby, that something was missing in my life... that I wasn’t whole.

Watch: A tribute to the babies we've lost. Post continues below.


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With the chances of even falling pregnant each month lean to start with, why do we feel so ashamed of not being able to? 

Why do we feel we have to suffer in silence and that we don’t have a purpose in life if we want children but can't have them? 

And why do we lose ourselves and our sense of purpose on the baby-making train ride when suddenly the heartfelt joy of starting a family gets taken over by doctors, numbers, cold white clinics, crazy medical bills, early morning appointments, and crossing all fingers and toes with the hope that this time it will work?

My baby-making train ride.

My infertility journey started quite early, I got married young and at 24; we wanted to start a family. But in the many years to come, no baby came.

The struggle for me was mostly in silent moments, questioning myself with, 'Why me? Everyone else is pregnant, why can’t I be?'

I grew up in a traditional family structure and thought my only purpose in this world was to be a mother, and I thought that a baby would make me happy, make me whole.

However, the struggle in silence was real. I looked happy on the outside, but inside it was all I ever thought about... my lack of a baby. I was living for a future state. When I have a baby I will be happy, when I have a baby I will have my purpose in life, when I have a baby I will be able to join the mothers' club.

But after going through infertility for 16 years, now I’m on the other side of my trying to have a baby years, babies don’t even come into my mind. And if they do, it is with a completely different feeling... kind of like I’m happy to not have had a baby. 

Which is SO strange because I tried to have a baby for SO long. And I still have frozen embryos, so it’s a bizarre feeling to not want to use them anymore.

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Here are some of the things that I learnt from my journey.

It's okay to let people in.

People want to help, even if just by listening and understanding. Don’t suffer in silence and pretend that all is just peachy. 

There is no need to be hiding your personal infertility struggles in silence or holding shame when you are going through this.

If you were diagnosed with a disease or sustained an injury, most of us would let everyone know, therefore why does infertility have to be different and kept in the dark? 

You haven’t done anything bad and ended up with this thing called infertility; it has just happened to you so there’s no need to feel ashamed about it.

Set up your inner circle of supportive friends who you can call or message at anytime, just to let all the things going around in your head out. 

Sharing has this amazing power of release, it clears out the mind games and creates space for the good vibes.

Nothing good comes from suffering in silence, it will only eat away at you. By opening up it will free you from the inner turmoil.

We are whole just as we are

Repeat: "We are whole just as we are!" This is our new mantra and affirmation to repeat out loud daily.

The gender equality and women’s empowerment movement to close the gender pay gap for women has seen change. But more needs to come in the way of women if they don’t have children, as men don’t receive the same disapproval if they haven’t gotten married or had children. 

Therefore, more change is still required for women who are made to feel like they haven’t achieved everything in life if they haven’t given birth.

We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own "happily ever after" for ourselves.

Comparison is one of the biggest challenges.

A word of warning, infertility can bring out the worst in you, in particular when comparing yourself to others.

Why did they fall pregnant so quickly? Why are they pregnant with their fourth and I can’t get pregnant with my first? Why them and not me?

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The mental struggle with infertility and comparison can be one of the most challenging things of this journey, however when you stop comparing yourself to everyone else and go within, you’ll find your own peace.

We are all different, and everyone has their own life challengers and bumps in the road. However, it’s how we react to them that makes such a difference.

Therefore, the next time one of your friends surprises you with their happy pregnancy news, stop and take a breath. Breathe out that negative breath of why them and not me, and then take in a fresh breath of love. Smile and let them know you're happy for them. Also share with them that you hope to celebrate happy news with them one day soon, and let them in.

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Comparing yourself to others will only make you feel insecure, stay in your own lane and practice love over fear every day.

Lean into our own uniqueness.

Stand up and be proud of yourself as you may not have followed the status quo of instant reproduction. And know that it is okay.

Brené Brown says it so well, "True belonging is a spiritual practice and it’s about the ability to find sacredness in both being a part of something but also the courage to stand alone".

By leaning in to your own uniqueness you will discover and experience more fullness. Instead of fitting in, stand up and create your own group, be a leader.

Did I want to write a book about my infertility journey, not really as it's very personal, and I knew if I told it that I had to tell the whole story with all the bits and not filter. However, when I thought of all the women I could help who were suffering in silence, I had to stand up and become a leader as scary as it was and still is. But in doing so it has been extremely freeing.

We can embrace otherhood.

What is the name for the group of people who wanted children but couldn’t have them, and not for lack of trying? And when people ask you if you have children, you could just say this phrase and they would instantly understand... with no judgement or further interrogation.

That you are not childless by choice, you really wanted children, but it didn’t happen for you.

Instead of #mumlife, I’m starting a global movement called #embraceotherhood. To embrace otherhood is to know that you did all you could to have children and you know that being a parent would not singly define who you truly are, that you are whole and complete just as you are.

By embracing otherhood, you’ll find yourself again after going through infertility, without feeling shame or that you are lacking something. And by creating this mindset shift it will help you embrace all your future possibilities with excitement.

Finding your life purpose is really about inner growth from whatever experiences have challenged you to rise above and move forward with excitement. And I can vouch by saying that shit feels good!

I hope that this helps you see the end of your infertility journey as the beginning of your new epic life in whatever form that may be for you.

Bernadette Andrews of Embrace Otherhood is an author and life coach to women who have gone through failed infertility and seek a new meaningful life.

For sixteen years, Bernadette has been on and off the baby making train in the hopes of falling pregnant. She has done it all, from IVF and Chinese medicine to naturopathy, all while maintaining her humorous and positive vibe.

In sharing her story, Bernadette hopes to help others experiencing infertility know they’re not alone, and that you can live a full, purposeful and rewarding life whether you join the mothers club or not. 

You can find Bernadette's book, How to Stay Sane on the Baby Making Train, here, or visit her website Embrace Otherhood.

Feature Image: Getty.