A guest post by Victoria @vic_roud
Exhausted. Feeling frazzled from trying to juggle everything – work, activities, appointments, planning and cooking healthy meals each day. Struggling with lack of sleep. All the picking up off the floor.
Most mums will understand this fraught state of being; but I’m not a mum.
This is ‘trying to be a mum life’. And yet, in the end, I don’t even know if it will even all be worth it.
Our calendar is filled with commitments, but the squares don’t read ‘football’ or ‘birthday party’ or ‘dance classes’. Instead the months list appointments at the fertility clinic – scans, procedures, follow-up meetings. Pencilled in around these are all the extra activities I’ve taken on in the last four years since I started trying to become a mother – yoga, acupuncture, a personal trainer, miscarriage support group, counselling to help me cope with it all. (At least, that’s how things were pre-lockdown).
I try to make sure we get our ‘five a day’ but I’m not trawling the recipe books for healthy dinners the kids will eat. I’m trying to find imaginative ways to incorporate more beetroot in to our diet because I’ve read it could increase blood flow to my uterus. More ways to sneak walnuts into our meals because I’ve seen somewhere that they are good for sperm quality. And there’s no large glass of red, or goblet of gin to reward me at the end of the day. All the literature leads me to worry that ‘mother’s ruin’ could ruin my chances of becoming a mother, so alcohol is off limits for now.
I struggle to get enough sleep – I’m not woken in the night by a hungry baby crying out for my milk, but by night sweats from the hormones I’ve pumped into my body in the hope that science will succeed in delivering us the baby we long for, where ‘just relaxing’ and waiting for it to happen naturally did not. My slumber isn’t interrupted by the need to check our little one is sleeping soundly in their cot, but by terrifying thoughts that this will never happen for us. And now that all fertility treatment in the UK has been halted indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic, those thoughts feel even more real. The world has stopped for COVID-19 but, as I approach my 38th birthday, my biological clock will not.
And what then? I never imagined a life without children. What will my purpose be without a little person, or people – part me, part him – to nurture and love? What do I bring to this world, if not bringing up the next generation?
And it’s not toys, or clothes, or crumbs I pick up off the floor. It is myself – and more lately my husband, who has been so strong for us both through the last four years, but for whom the strain is finally starting to show. Picking us up again, and again. After our first miscarriage, which came after almost a year of trying and when the phrase ‘at least you can get pregnant’ did bring us some comfort. After our second miscarriage, five months later, when we were faced with being one of those couples for whom it wasn’t just bad luck. We bought ourselves some relief by deciding to take a break from ‘trying’ for six months, to get to the point where we felt strong enough to deal with the heartbreak of losing another baby in case it happened again. But there wasn’t another pregnancy and, after a further year of picking ourselves up every month when my period arrived, we had to do it all over again on hearing our diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’ – and that the next step would be IVF.
I did the injections, the invasive procedures, the waiting – to hear how many follicles had grown on my ovaries, how many eggs the doctors retrieved, how many of them fertilised, how many embryos survived to ‘day five’ and the holy grail of ‘blastocyst’ stage. And I made it through the agony of the two-week wait when there is nothing you can do but watch time tick painfully slowly by, until it’s time to do your pregnancy test.
No two pink lines for us though.
We picked ourselves up again. Next up, a frozen embryo transfer, another chance and another snatch of hope. But my body didn’t respond to the hormones, my uterine lining didn’t thicken enough and our second cycle was cancelled before our embryo could be put back inside me. I had worried IVF wouldn’t work again, it never occurred to me we wouldn’t even get to try. Getting over that has been one of my darkest times. But we made it through, and the start of this year saw us attempt another cycle. Stronger drugs, more injections, more scans. We did get to transfer our embryo this time, but once again the cycle ended with a blank pregnancy test window – only the bruises from the injections in my stomach to show for what we’d been through.
And so here we are, picking ourselves up once more, with treatment on pause and no idea where we go next or what the next chapter of ‘trying to be a mum life’ will bring.
I know ‘mum life’ is hard. I am in awe of my own mother, my sister and my friends who are mothers. Mums should absolutely to be celebrated for their strength, resilience and resourcefulness. But it’s hard to see the social media posts, articles and memes championing ‘mum life’ when you’re standing on the outside of motherhood, desperate for a way in.
So, I want to champion those of us who are giving our all to one day being a mum.
When I see those ‘mum life’ posts, I feel more of a failure. How can feel I’m struggling when I don’t even have kids to look after?
But I don’t give myself enough credit for the strength it takes to get through each day on this rollercoaster ‘journey’ to what I hope will one day be my own version of ‘mum life’.
Trying to be a mum is bloody hard. It’s exhausting, it’s heart breaking, and it too requires incredible strength, resilience and resourcefulness. Especially when there is no guarantee of snuggles and smiles at the end of each day to make it all worth it.
I hope this post gives a voice to all of us fighting hard every day to hold our children we so long for. Those of us dealing with recurrent miscarriage, those of us building the strength and resilience required to try again after losing a baby, those of us trying everything we can to overcome infertility.
We are all strong mamas.