Fertility & Motherhood Themes: Through The Looking Glass
I met Erin through our husbands; they are close friends and business partners. Erin and her husband Justin were the first couple to reach out to my husband David and me after our second miscarriage. They had one child at the time and shared their fertility journey with us. They told us how isolating the experience felt to them and how they didn’t want that for us. Erin introduced me to many local resources, checked in with me often, and was a gift to me during my fertility journey.
Today Erin has two beautiful and vibrant daughters, Clara and Thea. Her fertility journey began 8 years ago, when Erin and her husband Justin planned to start trying for a baby the following year. Erin began preparing by reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility, going off the pill, and charting her cycle. After a few months Erin noticed that her charts didn’t align with what she expected to see - she felt anxious about the process and feared she had a condition called PCOS, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Those who have PCOS struggle with consistent and regular ovulation as well as small cysts on the ovaries, both of which can impact fertility. Erin met with her midwife and later an OB that ordered an ultrasound, and after finding cysts on her ovaries diagnosed Erin with PCOS. Erin recalled this being one of the hardest times in her journey - “the worst of my depression was before we even tried to conceive” - when she didn’t know if she could get pregnant.
Per her OBs recommendation, Erin got back on birth control, decided to schedule a meeting with a local fertility clinic, and moved up her and Justin’s start date for trying to conceive. After getting off the pill, they got pregnant relatively quickly; however, the pregnancy ended soon after in an early miscarriage. They tried again and became pregnant shortly thereafter with their first child Clara. During Erin’s pregnancy, she began to question her PCOS diagnosis, and after Clara’s arrival Erin no longer thought she had PCOS. A few years after Clara was born Erin and Justin decided to try for a second child, had another early miscarriage, and went on to later have a healthy pregnancy and welcome their daughter Thea into the family. Their girls are now 5 and 2 years old and they have settled into life as a family of four with Erin spending her days with the girls.
I asked Erin if there’s anything that would have made her fertility journey easier for her while she was going through it. Like many women, anxiety has been something Erin wrestled with, she explained,
“I’ve always struggled with anxiety. I wish it didn’t have such a strong hold on me. It would make so many things much easier. I feel like I’ve gotten better dealing with it, but it would have been helpful to have some of the anxiety dealt with before [my fertility journey].”
Erin reflects on how she and her husband Justin each individually navigated their fertility journey. She compares her fertility journey experience to her current experience with motherhood and parenting as a stay at home parent. She recalls her fertility journey feeling more consuming to her than to her husband Justin, partially due to the physical aspects of her experience, including her two miscarriages and her responsibility to monitor her cycle, identify the proper window to try, and communicate this information to Justin.
“Although we’re feeling many of the same feelings, we’re vastly different in our experiences of them. It’s nearly impossible for him to truly relate to and understand what I was going through, and the things that I had to think about that he just doesn’t have to think about, which is oddly similar to parenting. As a stay at home parent there are so many little details that I have to hold in my head and think and worry about and obsess over. I know Justin wants to be, and is as helpful as he can be, but our brains operate in different ways.”
Erin also reflects on how she felt during her fertility journey and how she remembers it now, looking back 8 years.
“Once you get it, you just get it. You’ve been there, you’ve felt the intensity of that obsession. Now it doesn’t feel like a part of my every day anymore. I’m just obsessed with the problem of the day. Once I became pregnant and started down the motherhood journey, I just kind of forgot all those details and how stressful it was in the moment, and that’s been the journey of parenthood too. Every new stage you just get so wrapped up and consumed. There’s only so much room in your brain learning all the tricks of parenting - you need to deal with what’s in front of you. But going through all the stress of these experiences makes me able to better handle the next challenge that comes my way. I'm still working on getting through the pressure of parenting without so much anxiety but all I can do is keep trying to do better each day. And my hope is that my girls can learn from that.”