The Space Between Motherhood & Infertility
Words by Anna Rhodes
I’d always suspected that my path to motherhood may not be 100% simple. I’d experienced years of extremely heavy and painful periods, which I’d been told time and time again were completely normal. Finally, after a private gynae appointment I was immediately diagnosed with uterine polyps and a bi-cornuate uterus, which frankly was such a relief. I had an explanation and through that new-found knowledge came a palpable sense that I had a level of control over my body—what I put into it, what made it worse, and what offered me relief. I also gained a strong sense that my intuition around my health was not something to ignore.
With this knowledge in tow we started trying for a baby. One year later we’ve had one miscarriage and one ectopic pregnancy. My experience has been transformative to say the least.
Before the first miscarriage was fully confirmed I had a brief and giddy dalliance with Mumsnet. I made an account, got the app and spent 24 hours on forums desperately seeking reassurance and advice from women who’d been there before. I needed to share what was happening because none of my friends or family knew I was pregnant, or that we were even trying. After the miscarriage I hardly told anyone what had happened. Despite the pregnancy only having lasted 6 weeks the grief was real and I felt empty and alone. I quickly deleted Mumsnet feeling that I was no longer eligible to be a part of “their” conversations. I hate to admit it but, I felt embarrassed to be feeling this low. Like somehow I wasn’t entitled to this pain.
After a few months I was pregnant again. I was a bit further along when I realised something was awry. We went to hospital praying that it wasn’t another miscarriage but I experienced the fastest and most intense emotional U-Turn I’ve ever felt when we found out the pregnancy was in my fallopian tube. Essentially a natural miscarriage became the preferred alternative so this is what we now hoped for. The headfuckery of the situation was extreme to say the least.
In dramatic contrast to how I handled my first miscarriage, with the second I started telling anyone and everyone who’d listen what was going on—and I found this to be a great relief. In the weeks that followed (that were marred by multiple hospital appointments and blood tests) I front-footed conversations with news of what I was going through. I got in touch with friends of friends of friends who’d been in the same situation with wild abandon. I was trying to make connections and find people who’d had a similar experience wherever I could. I suddenly had a new-found inclination to over-share (one that I’d never experienced before), and while I suspected this new tendency was serving a purpose, I just didn’t know what that was yet.
I was shocked by how little I knew about ectopic pregnancies (and miscarriages for that matter) and I found solace through Instagram hashtags and podcasts that helped me to understand what might be happening. I desperately needed to learn more about what I was going through because knowledge is empowering, but at times I’ve found there to be a lack of inclusivity in the conversations around conceiving, motherhood and pregnancy.
What I know now is that every couples’ path to parenthood is unique—even the ones who “only did it once”. (Two of my best friends fall in to this particular category, and I know their story is not one that’s been at all easy, or without heartbreaking complications along the way). I also now know that the majority of women who are mothers will go through a miscarriage at some point in their lives.
Comparisons and labelling aren’t helpful for anyone. I’ve learnt through podcasts like Motherkind, BFN and Vicious Cycle, women’s health resources from people like Maisie Hill, and practitioners like Dr Karen Joash and Emma Cannon that if I try and limit myself only to the content that is currently “my type on paper”, I am exponentially worse off.
When my earth mother sister-in-law thrust three books about birth and motherhood in my arms after my first miscarriage, I didn’t really understand why, but now I do. The journey to motherhood is not binary and while I am not yet classed as “infertile” or as a mother, I am in preparation for something. There is so much power in knowledge exchange. What we and our bodies can achieve as women, fertile or otherwise, is astonishing, and frankly I cannot get enough information about it.
The space between motherhood and infertility is far reaching and takes many forms. It is not dogmatic and I am not defined by either. Knowledge is power, let’s just make sure the library is open to all.