The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backward but it must be lived forward.”
I always thought that everything in life would go according to my plans. I would finish school, choose a degree, study for a few years and after that, I would marry the man of my dreams. We would then spend the first two years of our marriage planning for children and once I went off the pill, I would fall pregnant. Just like that!
Little did I know, Hashem had other plans! I think in the back of my mind, I always knew I would struggle to fall pregnant but at the same time, I didn’t want to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
At school, my period started before all my friends, but then I didn’t menstruate again for another 4 years. I guess knowing what I know now, that was pretty abnormal. At the time, we did question it and check it out but not much attention was paid because I was young? The doctor decided the best option was the pill, which I quite enjoyed as a teenager, as it meant that the timing of my period was controlled and I could plan around that. My A type personality shining through even then.
My father passed away suddenly when I was in Matric and I decided then that I would always try to control the outcomes of my life. I tried to live my life always knowing what to expect, which direction to go, where to turn. I needed to control this! One of the things I could control was when we were ready to start a family. Two years into my marriage, we were ready and we figured it would take about 6 months and in the January of the following year we would have a baby. A year into that first year of trying, we thought it was time to explore the reality of what was really going on. Everyone around me seemed to be falling pregnant and I felt like I was being left behind in a race in which I hadn’t even got to the starting point. I was going to take control and find out what was happening.
My first appointment at my gynaecologist revealed nothing wrong. He told me to be patient and just keep trying. I was 28 years old, nothing to be concerned about he told me! He continued to say that at every appointment thereafter, month after month after month and so our journey of never ending cycles began. Days, months, cycles, years, tears and more tears, many of those blur into one.
The infertility journey as we call it, can only be described as the most difficult journey of my life. Those three years challenged us on every possible level. Financially, the challenges were enormous. Physically, although you do what you have to do to get through it, each injection, each scan, and each blood test is torture. The hardest part for me was the emotional and spiritual impact of the journey. There is nothing like infertility to unravel you as a person. Emotional pain is so much greater than the physical pain. The physical pain disappears eventually but the emotional longing for a child, that endless hope, desire, wish, want and intangible dream lasts forever! The hope with each month and each treatment that this was THE one, coupled with the absolute devastation that this in fact wasn’t the one!
Hope is the cruelest of them all because it holds your hand each time but it lets you down each time too. Its empty promises keep you going time and time again. And why shouldn’t they, it’s only the hope that this cycle might be THE cycle that works. That this method might be THE method that works. This new protocol might be THE protocol that works. It breaks you down into a millions pieces, time and time again and somehow inadvertently, builds you up time and time again and keeps you going. The irony is that without the hope, we wouldn’t be able to pick ourselves up and try again.
At some point in my journey, after searching in every direction, from reflexology to iridology, to astrology, to psychics, to tissue salts and more, looking for signs wherever I could find them, I turned to prayer and Hashem. One day someone told me to watch a programme on infertility on TV. While watching, Suzanne Sackstein was on representing The Malka Ella Fertility Fund. There was a number to call at the end of the show if you needed someone to talk to. Completely out of character for me, I picked up the phone and dialed the number. When Suzanne answered that call, she represented light at the end of a very dark tunnel! She was there to guide me through this journey. With her patience and sound advice, she managed to put so many things into perspective and I told her that one day, when my journey was complete, I would in turn do this for someone else!
One sentence seemed to change my perspective and swing my thoughts in a different direction. After distancing myself from everyone around me, family, friends and mostly people who could fall pregnant and who were what seemed to me to be “the privileged” few, I couldn’t isolate myself any further. My mom gave me what turned out to be the greatest lesson in this journey, one sentence that allowed me to finally give in to the process and allow what was meant to be, to be……
She told me “To let go and let G-d”. With those 6 simple words, I somehow managed to shift and instead of trying to control the process with every fibre of my being, I slowly started to loosen the reigns, pray a little more, breathe a little slower and somehow hand over to Hashem since we are not able to control this and we really do need the help and the power of prayer to get through.
I learnt many lessons in my journey, I learnt to breathe slowly. I learnt to take each step as it comes, each moment as it is. I learnt to be more open and share my story. It is the most painful journey but it also showed me how resilient I was.
But mostly I learnt how to let go and hold onto my faith. Although we have to put our trust in the amazing doctors we work with, and the medicines that we are lucky to have in this day and age, without trust in our own Higher Power, this journey can be a very lonely and difficult one to navigate. Sometimes we need a little help from others!
Today I am privileged to look at my two beautiful blessings with absolute awe and gratitude and know that my journey was not in vain. The countless couples that I am privileged to work with and give back to on a daily basis touch my life in so many ways. Their stories of hope and fear, great sadness and even greater joy allow me to inspire so many people around me in this journey of infertility and life! I am grateful beyond measure!