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The Journey to Motherhood A story of Three Women
Infertility can be a lonely medical condition, especially since it’s not something that you want to share with everyone. As Linda explained, one of the hardest parts of struggling to get pregnant is putting on a brave face. “When you realise that getting pregnant is not as easy for you as it is for some, you get the feeling that we live in a child-centred world and it sometimes leaves you feeling more depressed,” says Linda, a 36-year-old teacher from Arima.
“You're surrounded by families everywhere you go and it’s harder because you’re in a time of your life when all your friends are having children. And everyone is always asking you when you'll have yours. Pretending that everything is fine can consume a lot of energy.” Linda and Laura had worked together for seven years, and while they discussed many personal things with each other, their battle with infertility was never one of them.
“While there was nothing wrong with me, my husband has a low sperm count that it made it impossible to conceive naturally. Of course, when we found out, we were in denial. We tried everything from diet to drugs to help, but nothing worked,” said Linda. “We eventually sought help from the Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC) and they suggested In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and even offered us a way to use my husband’s sperm.”
With IVF, an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body and then implanted in the woman’s uterus. Recent research has shown that infertility in both men and women is on the rise globally; with statistics showing one in every six couples will have difficulty conceiving. BFC is accredited by the Joint Commission International (JCI) — the US health facility accreditation programme that sets international healthcare industry standards.
“The process itself was very difficult, especially with all the things you have to go through from the injections to the surgery; I was stressed out and ready to give up so when I bumped into Laura at the clinic, seeing her brought hope and a sense of relief that I wasn’t alone. In the end, I consider it a modern miracle because medical technology has made me a mother, and my amazing son is living proof of that. When I look at him, I am filled with an immense, empowering love. I feel I could do anything. He is my life. He is also my prize – the IVF baby I thought I would never have and all the negative aspects of IVF, including the stigma of it, does not outweigh the way I feel,” Linda said.
For 34-year-old Laura it was never an option for her to not to start a family. But she recalls how members of her family just assumed they would reshape their future without their much-wanted child. “So we were prepared to do whatever it took,” Laura recalled. While Laura is not reproductively challenged, her husband, Duane Bala, 33, an electrical engineer, suffers from a medical condition that allows his sperm to mix with his antibodies, and having been told she’d never conceive naturally made her feel like she suffered a bereavement that family and friends had little sympathy for.
“We did not tell anyone, we just kept to ourselves and tried to deal with the infertility. But on days like Mother’s Day and special holidays, we always felt like we were missing out,” she said. Laura, who had given up her dream of owning a home to undergo fertility treatments. “It was during a scheduled visit to the centre that I met Shelly-Ann. I knew her from school, (she, her husband and my husband all went to UWI at the same time), but we were just acquaintances. Because I knew her I felt like I could talk to her,” she said. Laura admitted that she was surprised to see Shelly-Ann at the clinic but grateful because they were able to share their experiences.
“Shelly-Ann was very open and not afraid to talk about anything. I think she taught me that being open about infertility and the IVF was part of dealing with it,” she said. When you are going through something like this, that support is really needed because not only does the process take a toll on your health, it takes a toll on your mental state of mind.” On July 1, 2012, Laura gave birth to a daughter Aimee and adds that if she can afford to, she would do it all over again.
Shelly-Ann, who suffered for several years with infertility, was willing to do anything to have her miracle baby. “I went through the process four times; and the last one was done at Barbados, which is where I was successful,” she said. The 33-year-old electrical engineer said it was very difficult to explain the cumulative effect of months and years of hope and disappointment.
Shelly-Ann recalled, “After a while, everything hurts... other people's bumps and babies, the failed treatments and lost babies, and every Christmas and Mothers' Day you faced with empty arms. It’s true that it can be a lonely and painful process, and after the third try and a miscarriage (on the third try), I was ready to give up and adopt. But something inside me told me to try again. I thank God I did because today I have the most amazing little girl. Yes, it came with a price. To undergo multiple treatments we had to save. When that wasn’t enough, we sought financial assistance, but it was worth it. She is worth it. Parenthood is a gift and a privilege.”
Shelly-Ann encourages women out there who may be struggling with infertility to take the time to research IVF treatment as an option. “My husband and I are both so excited to be given this opportunity in life. A lot of people take it for granted, but Gaurav and I have learned that this gift is too precious to take any part of it for granted.” She said they have all decided to raise their children together and one day sit them down and let them know the story of their birth. “They all have such a special story about how they came into this world and the bond their parents forged over this should continue for generations to come,” she said.
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