Angel Babies and Silver Linings
I never wanted to have kids. Ever. I was eight the first time I remember saying I didn’t want to ever be a mom. I had big goals and motherhood wasn’t one of them. Then I entered a relationship in my early 20’s that had me living in a new world immersed in love, affection, deep conversations, mutual support and more. I finally understood why people want to have children. We want to create an expression of the intimacy we share with someone; a joining of two to blend our love and lives forever. The idea of becoming a mother to his child took root. It felt right and wanted. We knew we would be together forever. We stopped using contraceptives and banked on our affection bearing a new love between us, of us.
But years of endometriosis, surgeries, debilitating periods, tears and frustration led us to believe that maybe we were destined to be the cool Aunt and Uncle, not the cool Mom and Dad. We made peace with my infertility. We envisioned travelling the world, sending exotic gifts to our nieces and nephews. We began to focus more heavily on a future that involved successful careers, long hours and hard work.
Fast forward to age 28. I’m in the middle of my degree and working full time. I’m standing outside Subway on Cumberland Avenue in the frigid winter sunshine, tears spilling out of my face as I call my fiancé (and now husband) to tell him I am pregnant. To say we were shocked is an understatement. We had JUST accepted our childless future six weeks prior and we had finally found peace. A baby no longer fit into our plans. But what’s that saying? Tell God your plans and you’ll hear Him laugh? So here we were, January 2013 expecting a child, unprepared for our future as parents and scared to death.
After having an easy pregnancy, we met our healthy baby girl and the future we had envisioned no longer held the appeal it once did. I didn’t know how empty my life was until she entered it. She was an exceptionally happy baby who slept through the night by 13 weeks and who showed me what unconditional love looked like. She was ecstatic to see us every day. She woke up every morning with a smile and a look of “I’m alive? I get to do this again today? Wow!” She was and still is, amazing.
As we got to know her, we wanted more kids. We wanted to grow our family and continue reveling in this newfound joy and different way of being present in the world, as individuals and as parents.
At the time of writing, the Universe seems to have made different plans for us. Or rather, an undoing of plans.
It's been four years since welcoming our daughter and I have had as many miscarriages. The first was during our daughter’s first birthday party, when I started miscarrying at 10 weeks. The second took place the day before a trip to Banff, when I was seven weeks pregnant. For the third, I made it one week more before my miscarriage started at eight weeks. My most recent was the shortest pregnancy, at five weeks it came to an end while we were camping this summer.
Sometimes I wish I had the infertility card back, not the recurrent miscarriage card. With my infertility I never learned what this kind of hope felt like. My hopes as an infertile woman were full of longing and prayers and anticipation that this treatment would work. Pregnancy after miscarriages brings a flicker of hope that never fully catches ablaze. My days of pregnancy excitement are behind me. Now, a positive test means despair, anxiety, fear and horrible thoughts. All while desperately trying to convince my body and heart that THIS pregnancy will be the one that sticks.
I spend those early days moving slowly so as not to induce bleeding. I take progesterone and vitamins and homeopathic remedies. I talk to the Universe/Spirit/God/ [insert whatever you connect with here]. I pray fervently and meditate daily. I go for acupuncture and practice yoga. I repeat mantras and affirmations incessantly. And still, I miscarry. Those spiritual exercises cause me to doubt the entire Universe. I doubt my intuition. I question every food I ate, every move I made, everything I could’ve or should’ve done but didn’t.
I don’t share this to make you feel sorry for me but to illustrate how tragic this journey has been. Not only for me either, but my husband and daughter, our family and friends. Watching someone you love suffer renders most people helpless. There’s not much anyone can do except hold space and witness as we’re grieving a loss.
I do share this because I have found so many silver linings in my dark clouded days. I started my blog, What We Don’t Do, when I was pregnant with my third angel baby. Having an outlet to share my grief and anger allowed me to release it as opposed to bottling it up and letting it fester. Blogging saved me. I used stream of consciousness while I wrote so I inevitably released a lot of thoughts, feelings and emotions I hadn’t recognized before. It was cathartic, liberating and more importantly, healing.
Another silver lining was, while I couldn’t necessarily always help myself, I was able to reach and help hundreds of women in similar circumstances. The messages and emails I’ve received since starting WWDD has made every tear shed worth it. My words have helped others cope and there’s no better feeling than knowing you are helping someone, somewhere. I am serving a community of largely voiceless women by becoming an obnoxiously loud voice for our fertility community!
Also, I had the bewildering experience to be invited on to CBC Saskatoon’s morning radio show to discuss my miscarriages and the response the miscarriage blog post received. That post was read in over 25 countries and over 7,000 times. Writing those numbers still brings tears of gratitude and awe! Through that interview, I reconnected with an old co-worker who approached me with an idea she had: she wanted to start a non-profit organization that raised money for families to help pay for fertility treatments. She asked for my help in making it a reality. From there, Dr. Adrian Gamelin, the Director of the Aurora Fertility Clinic in Saskatoon, who was co-interviewed with me on CBC, introduced us to Wendy Winiewski, a Global news anchor and fellow infertility Phoenix mama (a woman who has heroically risen from the ashes of infertility/pregnancy loss/perinatal loss). Her daughter Aeralyn was conceived through IVF and Wendy has shared her journey and reached hundreds of women through her Instagram account a.voice.of.infertility. The three of us are an unlikely combo but yet, we shine together. We’ve raised almost $10,000 in three months and will continue to raise more as we increase awareness surrounding infertility and fight for affordable treatments.
The final and most significant silver lining is how much I’ve changed. Prior to my struggle, I never knew heartbreaking loss before. I had never lost someone close to me. I had never faced death or severe illness nor knew anyone in my inner circle of friends and family who did either. I always had a roof over my head, food in my tummy, clothes on my back. I never had to struggle for basic survival like millions of people do on this planet. I didn’t know tragedy or true despair. Until four years ago, I had it pretty good. I still have it pretty good but my pieces have crumbled to nothing only to be put back together again, albeit differently. I believe that through pain comes incredible new beginnings. Sometimes we can’t appreciate the good without knowing, really knowing, the bad.
I am stronger now. I have a resiliency and emotional intelligence that was never there before. I am wiser yet softer, more forgiving and understanding. I appreciate the mundane in each day and take time to stop and take in moments more often. I find the joy in a summer thunderstorm and feel the comfort of a campfire like a warm blanket. I love harder and hug longer. I listen better and hold unwavering faith. I am not ready to back down yet. I still want another baby and I will try to have another baby. I have fight left in me.
But regardless of how my story ends, I know it has been exactly how it’s meant to go. If I never give my daughter a sibling all of these struggles were to teach me a bigger lesson than having a baby can bring. Life is unfolding and undoing exactly as it should. I’ve made peace with my recurrent miscarriages. I have four guardian angels watching out for me now and guiding me towards the Light. That’s a silver lining that can’t be denied. We need more women who are strong, resilient and rising again to become the change the world needs. I’m happily stepping forward as a Phoenix Mama and can only pray my growth doesn’t end here. The lessons are in the journey, both in the good and the bad. But whatever may come, I will rise again.