Fertility Awareness

As a Full Spectrum Doula, I wanted to share my experience with what I call “fertility journeys.”

I began my fertility journey at 18 years of age when I was told that due to my medical condition, I would be unable to get pregnant and have any children.

I was blessed enough to be able to go on and give birth to five amazing children that are now in their adult years.

I did not have to adopt, do IUI, IVF, use surrogacy or foster.

Yet I have had friends and family that have done this at their own personal expense, as many of these procedures and processes are not covered or funded by most Canadian health plans.

According to our stats in Canada, 1 in 6 couples is affected by a fertility journey.

Male factors can be attributed to ⅓ of cases

Female factors can be attributed to ⅓ of cases

And ⅓ of cases are a combination of both male and female factors

Through my years as a Full Spectrum Doula, I have been blessed to walk alongside many families that have navigated the fertility journey and came out the other side with their desired goal. But I have also supported many that have experienced the loss, difficulty and hardship that many times accompanies this difficult road.

Last month I attended three Fertility Journey births.

I assist many families from pre-conception all the way into parenthood. My specialty is women transitioning in various areas of life, but this also means supporting their partners, family members and even their pets to navigate the unchartered territory of fertility, pregnancy, bereavement, loss, labour, and birth.

The first birth I attended was a beautiful couple that had tried multiple times for 7 years to conceive, and magically, right before their final IVF treatment, they found out they were expecting.

The next couple’s journey took them to travel to a faraway land where they made a choice to adopt an embryo and successfully implant it in the mother.

The third couple had multiple losses before 22 weeks due to a genetic condition, and after special genetic treatment, they conceived and were expecting a healthy baby boy.

All three couples were birthing baby boys, and that was not the only similarity. 

They all had 7-year-plus journeys. They all had experienced multiple losses and grief. They all had a hard time really believing that they were pregnant and about to give birth. They had undealt with fear and anxiety about the birthing process and a nagging sense of something going wrong. They also had the dichotomy of being so joyful that the dream they had carried for so long was about to come true finally. This cocktail mix of emotions and feelings can be overwhelming to deal with and can make it extremely difficult when you must make multiple decisions surrounding the birth process.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy being a Full Spectrum Doula. Being able to equip and assist each couple with the practical aspects of birthing a baby, as well as holding space and creating a positive atmosphere where these emotions can be felt and used to bring clarity, focus, and build expectation and joy of a realized dream.

Through my training in trauma-informed care, I get to share with each couple that their birth story can be unique and not like anyone else’s. When it comes to having a baby, you may have the same ingredients but how you mix it up and serve it is all up to you. Through meditation, hypnosis, and exercises, each couple learns how to deal with the deep underlying fear and anxiety. They learn how to make medical informed choices that they can live with, and partners learn how to advocate within the medical system so that birth trauma isn’t added into the final mix.

Each pregnancy these mothers experienced was healthy and without special circumstances. Though each of them was induced in the hospital, their birth process was different in many ways. Each couple’s ongoing decisions led them down a different path, yet the outcome of all three of these births was the same. A healthy mom and healthy baby helped to equal a healthy family. This was the underlying intent of why they all had chosen to go on this fertility journey in the first place. Everything these couples had gone through was all worth it when they had their healthy, beautiful baby boy breathing softly, looking up into their eyes while laying on their chest.

 When the dust finally cleared, they had learned a major lesson that is often carried out throughout parenthood as well. There is only one thing you can count on with pregnancy, birth, or even a fertility journey, and that is …unpredictability. With all the medical advancements that have been made and information that we know about birth, this fact remains true.

The fertility journey is not for the faint of heart. It can be misunderstood, painful, isolating and full of fear and emotions that many avoid all of their lives. This is a journey of navigating love, using courage, mustering hope, experiencing loss and being vulnerable as you continue to try, try and try again.

For many reasons, we tend to judge and shame those that are on this journey, whether they have chosen it or not. We need to be more aware and mindful of what these families are going through and the destination they are hoping to get to. Compassion, understanding, care and consideration should be our initial and continued response in every circumstance.

During this time, it would be amazing if we could all just take a moment and be mindful and respectful of each individual’s choices and limitations surrounding their specific fertility challenges.

Charmaine is a Full Spectrum Doula and Childbirth Educator with over 25 years of experience.

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