If you have struggled to conceive, receiving a positive pregnancy test result is a moment you will have dreamt of. It may seem that you are now the same as any other pregnant woman, but in reality the experience of infertility continues to resonate during pregnancy, birth and often long afterwards.
Here, author Kate Brian tells us of her own experiences and why she wrote Precious Babies, to provide much-needed reassurance and support for women as they journey on the road to motherhood and beyond. . .
Discovering I was pregnant after four years of trying, tests and fertility treatment was exhilarating, but within minutes of that positive result I was starting to realise the need for a book like Precious Babies. The joy I felt was rapidly overshadowed by a gnawing sense of anxiety; my body had failed for so long to get pregnant, how would it possibly manage to get through the next nine months successfully? I was used to failure when it came to reproduction and accustomed to dealing with it; success was uncharted territory and I couldn’t begin to believe that it might lead to the birth of a happy, healthy baby.
The most difficult part of this was that I didn’t feel I could share my fears with friends or family. Everyone expected me to be bubbling with happiness rather than edgy, nervous and worried. I’d got used to sharing the traumas of infertility and unsuccessful treatment with a small network of others who were trying to conceive, but I could no longer turn to them for support now that I was pregnant. I didn’t feel I could discuss things with other pregnant women either because to me they were “properly pregnant” in a way that I wasn’t.
I loved being pregnant despite the constant anxiety and I had a very straightforward pregnancy, but I always felt as if I’d sneaked into a club I wasn’t entitled to join through the back door. I worried about everything and anything, and reading books about pregnancy left me convinced that I had every possible complication from a missed miscarriage to an incompetent cervix. I didn’t dare to buy anything for my baby until the last moment because, even at nine months pregnant, I was still doubting that I’d really have a child.
Since then I’ve spent years working with couples with fertility problems and have come to realise that my experiences were far from unique, as many of them had similar reactions to pregnancy and early parenthood. I’ve spoken to women who had taken dozens of pregnancy tests before accepting that a positive result could be accurate, to women who felt that their pregnancies were totally dominated by their fears and worries and who were never able to believe that they were the same as women who’d conceived naturally. As parents, they’d often been very anxious to do the right thing at all times and had set themselves impossibly high standards, feeling that they could never complain or feel tired or not enjoy every moment of the endless rounds of feeding and nappy changing.
Women who’ve had real trouble getting pregnant understand the need for a book like Precious Babies instantly, and I am truly grateful to Piatkus for recognising that need. Writing the book, I watched as clear themes emerged from my interviewees who had often felt isolated, unaware that so many other people were experiencing exactly the same worries and concerns. I have also included advice and views from many leading experts in their relative fields, and I hope Precious Babies can provide the support and reassurance that is often very hard to find.
The book starts with the positive pregnancy test and goes through birth and the early days of family life right up to the teenage years and beyond. It addresses many of the unique issues that can arise from a history of infertility such as living with just one child, the difficulties of trying for another, multiple births and donor families. By the end of the book, the benefits that parents of older children feel have sprung from their early difficulties gradually became apparent. These were parents who really appreciated their long-awaited children and children who knew how much they were wanted. Their testimonies left me convinced that infertility can sometimes have an unexpectedly positive legacy.
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