by Sophie (@the.infertile.midwife)
I assumed motherhood would come easily to me. I was young – twenty seven – I was happily married, and very ready to become a mother. Surely that was all that was needed? Oh and I’m a midwife, so I was certain that would give me a fast pass to the front of the pregnancy queue. I lived and breathed pregnancy, so surely I would fall pregnant straight away.
When we first started trying for a baby, I was working on the low risk birthing centre. Although intense, I absolutely loved being able to help women birth their babies. I would come home, high from the adrenaline that came from witnessing a birth, and roll into bed from a night shift, imagining what my own birth would be like.
I found, and still do, pregnancy to be truly mind blowing. I’m in total awe of all the body does to make an entire other human being. I couldn’t wait to see it all happening in my body. I had rose tinted expectations that I would glow throughout pregnancy, and have a straightforward, uncomplicated birth.
Little did I know it would be four years, seven rounds of IVF and lots of heartache before I would bring a baby home.
Work became all the more challenging the longer our infertility struggles went on. I wanted so desperately to be a mother that my heart felt heavy with the burden and ached with longing. And yet, I wanted to be seen as a capable and kind midwife, so I became very good at plastering on a big welcoming smile.
Even before the whole infertility/baby loss saga, I always felt embarrassed if patients would ask if I had my own baby. It often felt implied that you couldn’t be a good midwife unless you had experienced it first hand yourself. I strongly believe this not to be true, as you wouldn’t expect your oncologist to have lived through cancer to be a good Doctor. There are many absolutely fantastic midwives out there who haven’t had their own baby.
I had days where I considered leaving the profession. I wasn’t sure I would be able to continue being a midwife if I was never able to bring my own child home. I resented that infertility was making me so miserable. I quickly became an expert at switching off my emotions. I adored my job, and felt like infertility had already stolen enough of my life without taking away this too.
When we eventually started our first round of IVF I had just started work as a community midwife. Fortunately my clinic was local, so I would pop in for a quick scan before work, then hurry along to start my visits. I’d been so low for nearly two years, and finally I felt a flicker of hope. I’d visit all these fresh babies and was intoxicated by that newborn smell. I wanted nothing more than to feel the weight of a newborn in my own arms. At the end of the day, I would come home and cook dinner before injecting myself at bedtime, completely exhausted from not only the drugs, but the emotional rollercoaster we were on.
Midwives are taught very little about IVF, so the whole thing was a huge learning curve for me. I realised that I had probably said the wrong thing over and over again to patients of mine who had gone through infertility. I knew that infertility would change me forever, hopefully for the better.
By some miracle I fell pregnant on our very first round of IVF and even more surprising was the discovery that it was identical twins. It seems cliche, but things like that really didn’t happen to people like me. Seeing two little babies squirming around the screen and knowing how very special they were made me overwhelmed with emotions.
I was very anxious during my pregnancy – constantly worrying that something would go wrong, and my identical twin babies would be taken away from me. I struggled through debilitating morning sickness, reflux, pelvic pain and by twenty weeks was trying to tell myself that it would all be worth it the minute I held my babies in my arms.
At our anatomy scan it was discovered one of our babies had talipes (a club foot). I was floored. Despite being identical, I was worried that this would mean one twin could potentially be bullied for their difference.
In hindsight, this was wasted energy, as devastatingly a week later I went into very premature labour, and gave birth to two beautiful boys who we named Cecil and Wilfred.
After saying goodbye to my baby boys, the ‘Have you got children?’ question hurt even more. Yes, I did understand the hip pain, the morning sickness, the reflux. Yes, I had gone through labour, twice. But no one wants to hear about it if the outcome isn’t a healthy, happy ever after story. I tried to use my experiences to my advantage at work. I developed a new level of empathy that I hadn’t been able to access before. I suddenly understood just how anxiety-inducing pregnancy can be. That you all of a sudden don’t understand what is going on inside your body, and that you feel solely responsible for keeping a tiny baby alive.
Six further rounds of IVF, several operations, thirty seven tense weeks, and one rather dramatic birth later we brought home our baby boy, Percy.
Bringing home our smiling baby boy has been the most wonderful experience, but after four years of heartache, it is difficult to forget everything that went before. Surprisingly, Percy has made me miss Cecil and Wilfred even more, as it has become clear exactly what we have missed out on. Cecil and Wilfred have taught me to savour every moment with Percy, and I’ll spend a lifetime loving all three of my boys.