Many of you will know if you have followed me for any length of time or know me personally, I’m a realist and I believe in being as honest, open and genuine as humanly possible. So in the interest of keeping things real and after what's been a tough few months and past 4 years actually I wanted to share in this week's blog about what it's like after we achieve our dreams of becoming parents following IVF.
We all see posts daily, people in the street, publications and media traffic that projects and portrays how amazing the journey of being a parent is, but we seldom see the reality of the times of just how god damn hard it is and the change that happens to us as individuals as we transform into another role of becoming and being a parent. A journey I personally MASSIVELY underestimated the significant impact it would have on my life in so many ways and the person I am.
We always say there is so much information out their and advice when it comes to being a parent, but equally I think there is so much that no one tells you too, and for me it was about how do you prepare yourself into joining another “club” (The Mums Club) for a role you have so desperately wanted to perform when you have faced a road of infertility and multiple layers of medical intervention to get there?
So I have found myself asking, with parenthood being portrayed as a joyful and fulfilling experience, as opposed to the challenges and transformative moments that come with becoming a parent for the first time, how are we supposed to prepare ourselves to ensure damage limitation?
As someone who was faced with embarking on an IVF journey to become a parent, I understand firsthand the emotional rollercoaster and the profound impact that parenthood can have on every aspect of our lives. Many I will openly admit I did not anticipate or even consider before our dream became a reality. I’m going to delve into the tough challenges, the ups and downs, and the incredible rewards of being a parent after undergoing IVF treatment, and just in becoming a parent in general! Yes whilst being a parent is and will always be the most rewarding “job” or role I will ever do in my life, it is equally the toughest, hardest and most emotional role too for many reasons.
The IVF Journey Itself
In the realm of infertility, the decision to pursue IVF is often born out of a multitude of deeply personal reasons, as well as often a biological necessity. It is a journey that encompasses not only emotional struggles but also physical challenges. From the moment we embark on the IVF process as individuals, there is a rollercoaster of emotions many of us never anticipate we have to ride. From hope to uncertainty, from disappointment to resilience. It's a path that requires immense strength and resilience to navigate the uncertainties and setbacks that may arise. Yet, amidst many of these difficulties, there are also moments of incredible joy and triumph. The news of a successful pregnancy is a precious gift, but it can also bring a whole new set of emotional and physical challenges, such as anxiety, stress and serious fatigue. It's a complex tapestry of experiences, where the heart and body are tested, but often hold onto the thought that the ultimate reward of creating life makes it all worthwhile. But the anxiety, heartache, and emotional toll, not to mention the physical, are all very real on the journey to get there, and what about those of us who don’t get their happy ending? Are we just left with this permanent empty void that we then spend the rest of our lives trying to fill in some way? What else compares? I’m not sure anything does, and equally from my own experience now I am not sure a realistic expectation on what that experience will result in, is that because we become so focused on how to get there that we envisage our experience will be like a Disney fairytale ending, instead of what the true reality of being a parent is?
Now don’t get me wrong I am not sitting here writing and saying that for me parenthood is the worst thing to have ever happened to me, quite the contrary, but it does make me grieve at times for what is now lost. I’ll talk more about this later on in the post about what I think those are.
The Emotional Rollercoaster
Pregnancy after IVF is a whirlwind of emotions, ranging from profound joy to anxiety and fear. It's a rollercoaster ride filled with constant worry about the unknown. Navigating the complexities of bonding with the unborn child adds another layer of emotional depth, especially for those of us like myself who have faced Egg Donation as their only option to conceive successfully. Amidst the challenges, there are unexpected moments of pure joy and relief, reminding us of the incredible strength and resilience that come with this extraordinary journey. From the moment any of us who embark on an IVF journey will know, once that embryo is transferred back, the fear and the long agonising wait to understand if it will be a successful pregnancy is exactly that- agonising! Many who fall pregnant naturally wander around for weeks not knowing and continue to live their lives often carefree so to speak blissfully unaware that they are carrying something so precious, but for an IVF couple you are in constant fear of anything that might go wrong. That fear doesn't diminish either upon a positive pregnancy result, the anxiety continues throughout that pregnancy. Once any child is born I think any parent will then tell you that fear and anxiety turns into a different type of fear and anxiousness. The unknown, the all new you and caring for someone so small and dependant. As a parent you continuously worry about your child being ok and that changes and grows in different ways as they grow too. For me I also always had to and still do sometimes pinch myself that she was ours and she was real, and that no one was going to come and take her away from us! Crazy right!? But is it considering what we go through to get here?
Becoming a parent brings about a profound transformation in life. Priorities and lifestyle undergo a seismic shift as we embrace the arrival of a child. It requires adjusting and making sacrifices to meet the demands of parenthood while striving to balance work and personal aspirations. We discover a newfound strength and resilience within ourselves we never knew existed, enabling us to navigate the challenges and embrace the joys of raising a child. Some days I find myself to be completely unrecognisable and I have changed in so many ways since our daughter was born. I had a misconception that I would remain the person I have always been and that I would just now be complete once she arrived. The reality is actually I had to change, I had found a peace with myself in the person I was, had become and am yet to be in order to feel complete. Becoming a Mum didn't give me my identity I thought becoming a Mum would do, the identity I was searching for. Instead it allowed me to become accepting of who I was and that I was ok with that, and that gave me identity, because only then was I truly comfortable in my own skin and accepting able to be the person I really was, a sense of purpose I suppose, and not hiding behind a mask of who I thought I was supposed to be as my priorities now were no longer how others saw me, but how I was to stand up and be there for my daughter and be the Mum she deserved, needed and could be proud of, look up to as she grows and take lessons on how to be. Prior to that I didn’t have to think, I wasn’t a role model for anyone other then me. You become very aware of your own actions and behaviours when raising a child as you want the best for them and them to be the best versions of themselves they can possibly be. There is also that profound and extreme sense of Love, I have always been a person who has so much love to give and for me that means also giving my time to those I love, when a small person is thrown into that mix who you couldn't possibly love anymore and who absorbs all of your time and focus, finding time to love others who are important to you becomes tough, and at what sacrifice, loving and taking care of yourself?
Parenthood has a profound impact on our relationships, especially with our partners. It brings about changes in roles, responsibilities, and dynamics that require careful navigation.
We spent such a long time together just us with no one else to worry about and going about our lives as we pleased, enjoying and doing things at the drop of a hat that I think for us the biggest impact came here to our marriage. Suddenly we were projected into this whirlwind role of Mum & Dad and were no longer Husband and Wife, no longer a couple navigating their way through a journey of IVF to get here, something that had consumed our lives and relationship together for years!
Finding time for one another became and at times continues to be impossible. You become unrecognisable to one another, amongst the bleary eyed days and nights of sleep deprivation, nappy changing, feeding and so on. Your days and nights become about surviving your way through those hours, getting sleep, rest and food where possible there is little focus on anything else. Before you know it you can only remember each other as Mum and Dad and not anything else, and it is here that your relationship is impacted, suffers and the love you have for one another I believe truly changes. The demand on parents is real, and so your demands on one another become very real. You follow a set of survival steps to get you through your days and find the time to enjoy the moments with your beautiful growing child, you reflect and feel your heart fill with love and joy as you see your child shaping into their own person, them giggling and playing with your respective other half and suddenly the strain and the grief you feel for the relationship you feel you have lost,is replaced by joy and a sense of happiness, pride and relief that the two of you created something so precious.
As your child grows the strain becomes very real in the day to day juggle of everything that life encompasses, finding a way to navigate it together isn’t always easy or synced. But remembering to communicate, support and ensuring to call on your resiliency skills you found during the IVF process are called upon can help you navigate your way through and find new phases of your relationship. It is only now that our daughter is 2 that I feel some of the challenges we faced in the earlier days are a little more manageable.
Trying to cultivate a resilient and continued loving relationship that withstands the challenges and thrives in the beautiful chaos that is parenthood isn’t easy, and having a realistic expectation around that is essential to success.
Self-Care and Personal Identity
Amidst the all-encompassing nature of parenthood, maintaining a sense of self can be a struggle. Recognising the significance of self-care and carving out moments for rejuvenation become essential. It's a journey of rediscovering personal passions and hobbies, allowing us to nurture our individuality. I will openly admit I really struggled and still do at times with this. But it is also this aspect that helped to drive me in setting up Rain 2 Rainbow. Embracing our evolving identities that come with being a parent while staying true to ourselves is a beautiful process of self-discovery and growth. It is only now on reflection am I able to say that it has been a process I have really enjoyed, it allowed me as I have already said to discover who I really am, a completeness I always felt was missing.
It is by prioritising self-care and embracing our multifaceted identities, that we can find balance, fulfilment, and a renewed sense of purpose in both parenthood and our personal lives.
The Joys and Rewards
Parenthood is a journey filled with countless joys and rewards. It's about cherishing the small victories and finding delight in the everyday moments. Watching our children grow, develop, and reach milestones brings an immeasurable sense of pride and joy. I had absolutely no idea the profound effect this aspect would have on me, seeing our daughter flourish and grow into the person she is becoming is completely indescribable how incredible that feeling is.The love and bond we share with our children deepen with each passing day, creating an indescribable connection. Being a parent brings a sense of fulfilment and purpose like no other, as we have the privilege of shaping and nurturing a precious life. In the end, it's the simple joys, the unconditional love, and the profound meaning found in being a parent that make this journey truly extraordinary. I had absolutely no idea I would ever feel the way I do.
But it is also important to note that not every day is filled with elation and such love and joy. Equally not everyone feels this way about becoming a parent. I can say now first hand that you can have no pre-expectation of what being a parent will feel like, it is a journey we all each individually go on and everyone's experience I believe is different. Like with any situation and certainly any life impacting situation we don’t know how we are going to react until we are in the moment. Parenthood is really one of those life impacting events that you really can never prepare for!
Support and Community
Seeking support is crucial both during the IVF journey and as a new parent. Connecting with individuals who have walked a similar path can provide immense comfort and understanding. Online forums, support groups, and local communities offer solace and a safe space to share experiences. I found a great deal of comfort through my years of treatment in a number of these places, and from speaking with others who have walked the same path. This is why now I feel incredibly passionate about supporting others on this same path. The power of shared experiences cannot be underestimated, as it brings validation and a sense of belonging. Together, we can find strength, gain knowledge, and find solace in the collective support of a community that truly understands the challenges and triumphs of the IVF journey and parenthood.
Overcoming Parental Guilt
Parental guilt is a common struggle that accompanies the journey of parenthood. It's about navigating the self-doubt and the weight of expectations. Learning to prioritise self-care becomes essential, without feeling selfish or guilty, and don’t get me wrong this isn't easy! Mum guilt is VERY real!. But I often feel when I do take this time out and focus on myself a little it has a positive impact as it makes me a better parent and a better partner to support my husband. Embracing imperfections and understanding that mistakes are part of the learning process allows us to grow as parents. Cultivating self-compassion and letting go of unrealistic expectations enable us to find peace and embrace the imperfectly beautiful journey of raising children. By releasing ourselves from the burden of guilt, we can become more present, nurturing, and confident parents, a child needs nothing more than those 3 things accompanied with love.
Raising a Child Born through IVF
Raising a child born through IVF involves navigating unique conversations around conception and birth. As the child grows older, addressing their questions becomes important. Fostering an environment of openness, honesty, and love allows for healthy communication. It's about celebrating the uniqueness of their journey into this world, embracing their story with pride and ensuring they feel supported and cherished every step of the way. We should stand and be proud of what we have achieved to get to this point, how we bought them into this world. I plan to ensure our daughter is well educated on how she became to be, and for her to be proud of that. I am proud that she is the result of a journey of hope, courage, determination, endurance and resilience. A journey that was filled with love, support and true longing.
Cherishing the Journey
Cherishing the journey of parenthood means embracing the fleeting moments and finding joy in the present. It's a true reminder to always be present in life as those moments really are fleeting!
Parenthood following an IVF journey is a profound and transformative experience, marked by resilience, love, and growth. It challenges us in ways we never anticipated and brings forth a strength we didn't know we possessed. Through the emotional rollercoaster, the impact on relationships, and the shifts in our identity, we emerge as parents who have embraced the challenges, overcome the obstacles, and discovered the immense rewards that come with raising a child. As we navigate this journey, let us remember to cherish the precious moments, seek support when needed, and find solace in the knowledge that we are not alone. Together, we can navigate the path of parenthood after IVF, celebrating the miracles that have brought us here and embracing the beautiful journey that lies ahead. As I reflect on my own journey, I am filled with gratitude for the precious gift of parenthood and the profound love that fills my heart, for both my daughter and my husband and for the village that it takes to raise her. I am incredibly grateful for the journey I have been on to get here and know it was the journey I was destined to take. It is the acceptance of this that has allowed me to truly enjoy it, even on the days when it is extremely tough…..as nothing is perfect ever, and as I always say there is no rainbow without a little rain!