Moncton is home to a lot of wonderful organizations, one of which is Fertility Matters Canada, the national resource for infertility support. I’m lucky to call the woman at the head of the organization, Carolynn (Cote) Dubé, a friend. She agreed to share some personal thoughts on the ongoing struggle fertility plays in her life, as part of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week (May 7-13, 2017).
Last week I was sitting in our hotel room. We had gone on a super-mini (one night) vacation to Halifax and stayed in a hotel, at my son Bren’s request. He loves staying in a hotel – playing office at the desk and talking on the hotel phones (because what 3 year old even knows what a wired phone is?!). His 2nd phone call of the day (after the emergency call he placed to hotel security – oops) went like this:
B: Hello, Sir! This is Bren Cote-Dube (he calls himself that on his own accord). I would like a brother or sister. Can you buy me one?
This is Canadian Infertility Awareness Week. I am the Executive Director of Fertility Matters Canada, the national fertility resource for Canadians. Every day I talk to patients who are struggling to build their families. Every day I try to support individuals with an infertility diagnosis. Every day I work to ensure patients have the information and supports they need to make informed choices about their reproductive health. Every day I advocate for equal access to fertility care in this country. And, every day I die a little inside because I may never be able to give my son something he wants.
My husband Bryan and I have (almost) always been very open about our fertility struggles. We have known from very early on that natural conception was absolutely not in the cards for us. We accepted it, we got support, we moved forward. We got lucky. Very lucky, in fact. We became patients at AART in Halifax – one of the most prestigious fertility clinics in the country. In 2012, we underwent a full cycle of IVF. We committed to spending $12k on something that guaranteed us no baby at the end. I injected myself with hormones, we spent weeks of our life in a clinic, we took time off work (J.S. you know I am forever grateful for your support and understanding!). We transferred one beautiful embryo back in to my body.
And, 16 days later, on December 18, 2012 we found out it didn’t work. I cannot describe the sense of loss I felt.
Bren was born as a result of a frozen embryo transfer we had three months later. He is a miracle made possible by the highly effective technology of assisted reproduction. His gorgeous embryo grew in a petri dish, in a lab, under the watchful eye of his first babysitters – the embryologists at AART. He is a gift that I cherish every single day.
I don’t tell you this story for your sympathy. We know how fortunate we are. I tell you this story to ensure that the 1 in 6 Canadians, who are unable to build their families the good old fashion way, have a voice. I tell you this story so that someone, somewhere, reading this won’t feel so alone, so isolated. I tell you this so that I can raise awareness and improve the conversations that are happening in Canada, and around the world.
The guilt, the shame, the stigma. That is very real. I experienced it. I know how you feel.
If you know someone who is struggling, don’t tell them to relax and it will happen. Don’t tell them that it is God’s will. Don’t tell them to adopt. Instead, tell them that you are there for them – whenever and however they need you. Don’t pretend to understand, unfortunately, you don’t. We will come to you, in our own time.
If you are reading this and you are having issues, know it is normal to feel alone, it is okay to say “no” to another family baby shower, it is okay to reach out and ask for help and support, it is okay not to know where to to turn. You don’t need to explain. It’s just okay to take care of you.
I struggle every.damn.day. If you only knew how many pregnancy announcements have sent me in to a steaming shower. Or how the anticipation of new baby arrivals makes me anxious. Still.
And, it’s not because I am not thrilled for my family and friends, because I am! I’m elated! It’s just the reality of having no control (zero, zilch, zippo) over how you grow your own family – and the fact that you need $8-$15k cash (up front) to event try, with no guarantee of a baby on the other side.
If you or someone you know has been struggling, please reach out to me, in confidence – in your own time. I get it. It’s shite. Total BS. But, we must face it head on, together. We can’t do this alone. I have so many supports I can share with you…including my own cell phone number for the nights you need a shoulder to lean on.
To the dozens of you who have reached out to me privately over the years to get advice or support, you will never know how much your confidence in me is appreciated. I promise to do everything in my power to help you build your family.
And, to Bren, Daddy and I promise to do everything we can to give you the brother or sister you want. We understand how important it is for you – in so many ways. We are working on it. Have patience with us. xo
UPDATE: We’re thrilled to share that Bren is now big brother to twin boys!