This was written around October 2014 when Zac was almost 1 year old and i thought I’d post it here to share. It covers some of our infertility journey and Zac’s initial craziness!
I’m packing a box of the things I want to keep for Zac, a special box of his first baby grows, his “Welcome to the world” cards and Dedication cards too. As I think about what I want to put in it I’m to the box, I’m overwhelmed by the journey that has come before this day.
Five years is a fairly large portion of your life when you’re only 27. Five years is an even larger portion of the eight years we’ve been married, but that’s how long this part of the journey took!
In November 2009, we thought it would be nice to have a baby, thought it was a good next step after 3 years of marriage, felt it was the right thing to do. Now, when I was growing up, if you asked me what I want to be when I grew up, I’d always say “I want to be a mum”. After we were married, I would say ‘IF we can have children….’ but I’m pretty sure I never really meant the “if” even though I was aware it doesn’t always happen! So really, I’d been kinda ready to be a mum for a long time!
Things didn’t go to plan and we spent the next 3 years and 3 months dealing with infertility. Dealing with heartbreak, shaken faith, grieving what could have been, dealing with the comments of acquaintances, friends and family, watching others have babies easily, watching others have second babies easily, losing hope, battling fears, asking “why us?”, feeling like a failure as a woman/ a wife/ a person in society, running from family events, watching from the sidelines, answering stupid questions, listening to some awful advice, crying in dedication services and about baby showers and all the other things that go with experiencing infertility. It affects your day to day life (not helped when you work with children!) and even your sleep and dreams.
A nice little tip here for those who haven’t experienced infertility – don’t ask a married couple, of child bearing age, why they haven’t had kids, or even if they’d like them!! Chances are they either aren’t interested in having them, in which case they owe you no explanation, OR they can’t have them and desperately want them and you are sticking a sharp knife into a painful hole in their hearts! Asking when they are going to provide grandchildren or nieces and nephews is also probably not going to go down all that well, although they probably won’t say anything to you. Advice such as “just stop trying so hard” is also unwelcome, as are stories of your best friend’s cousin’s daughter’s dog walking buddy who was trying for 6 months but now has twins.
Infertility is such a taboo subject. This is partially because it’s such a personal thing and some people would genuinely rather not share, and partially because people feel uncomfortable talking about it. It’s a subject that involves sex and we all know you shouldn’t talk about sex. Unless of course it’s in a book, in a film, on an advert, in songs, in a magazine, workplace banter, or down the pub as a crude joke. No, no, sex in terms of serious, procreation, married couple sex is not a topic of normal conversation.
But talk about we did! Well, more “I” than “we”!
I initially told my closest friends, we told our church small group after a year, our families around the same time, and after about 2 years, if you’d asked about my personal life I would have told you without really thinking anything of it. Infertility was a part of my (our) life and if you wanted to know how I was, you’d hear the shitty bit of my life too!
With a lot of people, telling them was the best thing I ever did. They understood a bit more about my reactions, prayed for us and with us, supported us, loved us, encouraged us and loved us. With others, they were just as insensitive and hurtful but the support gained by telling more often than not out-weighed the option to bottle up, especially as they’d have said the hurtful things anyway! We had a lot of support from people, but some people went out of their way to make us feel loved. I can’t imagine what I would have done without my friends Carol, Ali and Ellie and without the love of my sister in law, Kirsty! They were there, they listened, they encouraged, they prayed, they wiped tears and they cared. Ali even lent me her child for days out!
We were blessed and unfortunate in equal measures to not have to go through too much medical intervention. We had initial tests but due to my weight we couldn’t go any further. My weight wasn’t a problem with fertility for us but the NHS hoops to jump through include weight! Now the logical answer to this problem would have been to lose weight. Logical – yes; realistic for me – no! I am a comfort eater, about 3 weeks a month I could eat well and lose weight. But then there was the one week a month, possibly even 2 or 3 days where the heartbreak was all too much. Feeling like a failure month after month is a hard burden to carry and a much easier one to eat through! Another tip for those parents of young children, especially girls. If your child is sad, don’t give them food to cheer them up, or just after they’ve been upset – it teaches them to look to food for comfort. (Pretty sure that’s not what happened with me, but I see it happening and fear for the outcome!)
Anyway, during those years I never understood how having a baby could feel like the right thing to happen but that it didn’t happen. I had many arguments about it with God and it definitely shook my faith and trust in Him. While this was going on we also had encouragement. This came through things like books (I HIGHLY recommend both Hannah’s Hope and Baby Hunger), songs, quotes and prophecies (where people heard from God about our lives and shared it with us). The biggest one of these was back in October 2011 when our friends Gav and Ali felt that God was highlighting the date 5th November when they prayed for us. There were also prophecies we never heard at the time but have done since such as our friend Stephanie telling our friend Anna to give us a children’s craft that said “God gave Sarah a baby” on it and our friend Charlotte feeling that February 2013 was important. There’s so many bible verses and encouragements and quotes I could list here but it would be crazy long on top of an already crazy long story! (If you want to hear more of them get in touch!)
In February 2013 we made the decision to use the money we had been saving to pay for baby items (pushchairs, cots etc) to pay for private medical investigations in March 2013 – after all, what was the point in the money sitting there when we didn’t have a baby to buy things for? We never had to use those savings, as on 22nd February 2013, we found out I was pregnant. I cried, Ross read the pregnancy test leaflet several times and then we went to work. So many times I had taken pregnancy tests and watched them be as white as snow (negative). The deep joy and disbelief of the red line appearing on that test that morning will never leave me.
Now logically this would be the end of a story about infertility, but the journey we’ve been on only seems to be coming to a bit of close as our little bear is about to turn one!
Pregnancy was hard. I had a few bleeds, I had few times where I couldn’t feel the baby moving, one time when even the hospital struggled to get the baby to move. I spent the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (as most mums to be do) fearing my baby wouldn’t make it, maybe I’d imagined it, maybe something would be wrong. Actually I think I spent 41 weeks thinking maybe I’d made it up, maybe I’d wake up from this dream at some point! It was only when I went into labour on November 5th (see prophecy above!!) that I realised this was really happening.
My labour was hard, a total of 37 hours! He was back to back and face first and after 17 hours at 5cm Zac was delivered by emergency csection. He was HUGE, amazing but huge – 10lb8oz of lovely squidginess! I was unwell after he was born and just as I was reaching being well enough to go home little bear got jaundice and was put on a sun bed. I was so frustrated that I was stuck in the hospital and not at home with my husband and baby living the newborn dream!
Day 5 of Zac’s life and we got to go home! It was such a surreal experience. I remember almost panicking that this little baby was depending on us and we couldn’t just send him back – what had I been thinking!?!
Zac had lost 10% of his body weight in 5 days – 1lb – but it was within the allowed amount. We were bombarded with midwives for 2 weeks seeing 8 different women in that time, each giving different advice, wanting me to do different things and prodding and poking me. After 2 weeks the health visitor instructed the midwives to hand us over to them. I cried with joy that I would be dealing with one person who would be consistent! Zac didn’t gain weight for weeks. He fed and fed, baffled medical professionals, didn’t have any allergies, and no tongue tie to prevent him from feeding. Adding in expressed or forumla bottles didn’t make any difference, he just wouldn’t grow. He was content, healthy and developing perfectly in every other area apart from his weight.
We headed to America for 3 weeks when he was 6 weeks old. Two days before we left he gained 2oz, and so a referral to the hospital was put on hold! For 3 weeks we had fun, we rested, we explored, we ate and we spent time with Kirsty and Seth who looked after us and loved us! It was the best thing we could have done after the stress of the 4 years before! We escaped everyday life and enjoyed just being a family of three and with spending time with loved ones!
When we returned, despite having fed for 1 hour every 3 hours every day, Zac had not gained weight and a referral was made to the hospital. He was still a content and well developing baby. The hospital could see no problems with him and Zac started to gain tiny amounts of weight each week. At 16 weeks old Zac hit birth weight again. I sobbed! Another visit to the hospital confirmed our baby was probably fine and as we weaned him at 5 months old he suddenly gained weight. I’m fact, in 9 weeks, Zac gained a crazy 7lb!
While all this was going on, the same people who had supported us through our infertility were there beside us supporting us and loving us. But in the background of all of this we had people telling me to stop breast feeing, contrary to doctors’ advice, and comparing our son to other children around us! To be built up by some but pulled down by others was heart breaking! Your words have the power to build up or break down and you choose how you use them – do it wisely! Finally in May, I could start enjoying my 6 month old without weekly weigh ins and the stress of his weight!
The past 6 months have had their ups and downs. Dedicating our little boy at church was such a special emotional day with so many friends and family coming to join us to celebrate him . The next day, I returned to work 3 days a week for 13 weeks. I desperately missed my little boy, felt I’d been robbed of 6 months of my maternity leave with all the stress, and was sure that leaving was the right thing to do so it was hard to go back to leave! I was blessed by working with some people who kept me going, and by friends and family who took time out of their lives to look after Zac on those days! Leaving work was a sad but exciting day. Starting a new job nannying for Ali’s two lovely children and taking Zac with me has been a joy and seeing how God has worked his timings to be perfect – faith affirming!
Zac continues to grow well (he’s gone from being born on the 99.6th centile, dropping to below the 0.4th centile back up to the 98th centile!) He is developing in his abilities and strengths, and his character and facial expressions bring us joy. We thank God for him daily, sometimes several times a day! We cherish the moments we have with him and are in awe of this child of God we are responsible for!