Name and partner's name: Lily and Avi Gutman
Years trying to have a baby: Two before first child, two and half trying to conceive a second.
When the "mom gene" kicked in: I am the oldest of three children and look back fondly on all the holiday and birthday gatherings we would have at our house with friends and relatives. I have always wanted my own big family to celebrate with; I planned to have three children as well.
I wanted birthday parties filled with children's laughter and Christmas mornings filled with excitement. I wanted my own kids to be able to rely on each other as I rely on my siblings now. I wanted my kids to be able to look at each other and roll their eyes when their parents did something kooky that only siblings would understand. I have always wanted to be a parent and always imagined having multiple children.
The infertility diagnosis: After trying for a year, we had our family doctor refer us to a fertility clinic to find out why we weren't getting pregnant. Little did we know our frustrations were just beginning. We were categorized as unexplained infertility.
Basically, after running all the tests they had, they couldn't find anything obvious that was preventing us from getting pregnant. It wasn't so much surprising as it was just frustrating. It never occurred to me that getting pregnant could be an issue for us.
The reaction: I had two thoughts. 1) How can we "fix" this when we have no idea what is wrong? 2) All those years of birth control for nothing!!
The plan B: We tried intrauterine insemination and then had two in vitro fertilizations (IVFs) before having our son, Ethan. With the second IVF, we added fertility acupuncture. Since having our son, we have had multiple IVFs again with fertility acupuncture and naturopathic counseling, but have been unsuccessful.
Reaction to finally conceiving her son: I couldn't believe we were pregnant. We took multiple pregnancy tests to confirm, but I still couldn't believe it. It only really sunk in during my eight-week ultrasound where I saw him for the first time on the screen. I am not someone who cries very easily, but I couldn't stop crying when I saw him. My husband was also crying. It was just so overwhelming. I think the ultrasound technician was a bit taken aback by our reactions.
Meeting their son for the first time: Honestly, when my son was first born, I felt a bit disconnected from him. I ended up suffering from postpartum anxiety. This was a complete shock to me as I had never experienced anxiety or depression before. After trying so hard to have my son, I was scared to hold him. No one had ever told me that going through fertility treatment put me at a higher risk for postpartum depression or anxiety. Fortunately, I recognized what I was going through early on and was able to seek help and recover quickly.
The hardships: The biggest challenge for us while undergoing this experience was all the uncertainty. Uncertainty about whether we would get enough eggs, whether we would get good embryos, whether the embryos would thaw OK, whether the transfers would work, whether we would ever be parents. The emotional rollercoaster of all the uncertainty in addition to being pumped full of hormones was just a lot to handle.
The bright side: After having our son, I really wanted to help other people going through the same struggles, so I reached out to Fertility Matters Canada and started volunteering for the organization. I took on the role of Chair of the Advisory Council last September and it has truly been an honour to work with so many women and men who have also struggled with their own infertility, but have committed to making sure people going through this journey do not feel alone.
How her marriage changed: My husband and I became closer. We were really in sync on what we each thought was important to us in our vision of a family and what we were willing to do to get there. It made us a team in everything we went through.
How they cope: Many bottles of wine? Joking aside, we try to spend quality time together. During some of the really tough times, we would take a trip away to try and reset ourselves and prepare for another round.
Talking about infertility: Since having our son, we've been much more open about our fertility struggles. When sharing this with others, the most frequent and annoying thing I've heard is "Just relax, don't stress about it and I'm sure it will happen."
How can one not stress about it?! How will it just happen when we've had to work so hard for it and still have nothing to show for it?! My advice is that if you've never been through it, just listen and be supportive. You don't need to have advice or solutions. Just be there for the person.
What she wants other couples to know: Prior to our first IVF, my husband and I were required to go to counselling to help prepare us for the rough journey ahead. We talked about how frustrating it was that many people who knew we were having trouble getting pregnant were always telling me to relax and not to stress, implying that my stress was preventing me from getting pregnant. I was starting to feel stressed about feeling stressed!
The counsellor reminded me that people still got pregnant and gave birth during civil wars and that this was a stressful situation and I was allowed to feel stressed about it. Just hearing that took such a weight off my shoulders. So my advice to other couples is allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel during this journey and don't feel bad about it. This journey is difficult enough without you beating yourself up for feeling what comes natural.
Final thoughts: The decision of whether or not to have children, how many children [to have], and how you have them are very personal ones. I believe that everyone has a right to make these decisions themselves and prioritize the details of those decisions as they see fit, without judgement or stigma.
As someone who has suffered through fertility treatments and not been able to conceive the way I wanted or the number of times I wanted, I need to live with this disappointment. I don't need to feel like I'm disappointing others.
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