I was 18 when I was first told I may not be able to carry a baby to term. I had been diagnosed with a rare blood condition that would make it harder for me to do so. Impossible? They weren’t sure. It was news I distanced myself from; I was in my senior year of high school and it seemed irrelevant to the time and space I was in, but something which continued to bubble under the surface in the years that followed.
When diagnosed with another serious autoimmune disease in my mid-20s, I heard it again; “You may never be able to have children”. The news was crushing but shrank when compared to all of the other statistics and potentialities that were being thrown my way at the time. A terrifying time to be honest. While I focused fiercely on recovering my health in the years afterwards, the question loomed; would children be an option for me? It’s a strange reality when the choice of children comes down to more than simply a lifestyle decision. For some, that is tragically taken away. For many reasons. For my husband and I, it was something discussed on and off over the years. If we can’t have a child would our lives be enough?
It wasn’t until the last couple of years, when I was running around the world, travelling full-time that I knew these questions were creeping up again quickly; brought to the surface when I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, yet another autoimmune issue, last year. This time I was given explicit instructions; if we wanted the chance for a child, I needed to slow down immediately. Not in three or six months; it may be too late then. I needed to sit still and give my body the best chance it could to recover and then possibly carry a child. I had once again been pushing my luck and I was confronted by the stereotype of the ticking clock in combination with yet another health scare and the kicker was that I was also told for the first time that I wasn’t a candidate for IVF. The decision was made in an instant; “Now or never” were the words used – enough to shock anyone into action. I had to put my health first. That was last November.
My mindset and lifestyle shifted dramatically and immediately. I cancelled trips, despite the risk to my business. I changed my training from high-intensity sessions with a focus on weight loss to instead walking, jogging and Pilates to nurture. I stripped back my diet and gave up alcohol, caffeine and sugar, moved to non-toxic beauty products and cleaning products. I booked intensive acupuncture treatments, followed a strict supplement regime, and I slept, more than ever before. There were many other small changes I made to give my body the best chance at getting pregnant. These seem like such simple things to do for many. To live and work in such moderation has never been something that has come easily to me. All this was done while avoiding questions about where I was travelling to next and my plans for the next six months. The reality was, I had absolutely no idea how to make plans.
About six months later, when I began to reveal to friends and family we were expecting, one of my closest friends simply burst into tears. She explained that of course she was happy about the news but she also knew how hard it must have been for me to get to this point; both physically and emotionally. I broke down in that moment as well; she has been with me through the years of health woes and it was such a touching moment for me that she had remembered my story and picked up on what I must have been feeling too. It’s something I will never forget.
In many ways pregnancy hasn’t been a comfortable time for me. I have been cautious to relax or attach myself to it for fear something may still happen. I have been anxious before each appointment where I have been told it is “high-risk”, with a team of doctors looking over my chart, releasing deep sighs each time they came back with good news. I have been holding on to receipts for baby clothes and toys saying awkwardly at the counter “in case we have to return them”.
For me, the milestones aren’t those simple few scans; they are each kick, hunger pang or hormonal breakdown over someone putting mayonnaise on my chicken sandwich (never mess with a pregnant woman and her food). I am slowly allowing myself to recognise that this is real and letting myself fall in love with her, in spite of any risk that we may never meet. I am embracing my growing body, grateful to it for proving to me what it is capable of, even after its struggles. I’m fascinated by the way it is changing, daily. The wait to meet the baby we have nicknamed Peanut seems glacial; near impossible for someone as impatient as I am. That in itself has been a lesson in patience.
I’m sharing my story, not because it’s particularly special or a tragic one. In fact, we are on the road to receiving the biggest gift of our lives and we couldn’t be more thankful. However, I have found enormous comfort throughout this process in the generosity in other women (and men) in sharing their personal stories with me. From those who have had babies, tragically lost babies, welcomed their babies early or like me, aren’t sure what their fate will be just yet. It has become clear that the fertility and pregnancy experience is nothing like a Hollywood movie and I wish people would share these real experiences more. The uncertainly, the fragility and the endless anticipation; none of this is easy for anyone and becoming a parent begins way before the birth. I am also acutely aware that for many, becoming parents is much more difficult than it has been for us, with many unable to do so at all and I can’t imagine the magnitude of the pain that comes with that experience.
For these many reasons and more, we feel very fortunate right now. As I sit here aged 36, seven months pregnant with my baby girl, tears well in my eyes; not out of fear or sadness as they did almost a decade ago, battling with my body. Now, there is no room for anything else but gratitude. In truth, I wasn’t sure we would ever see this day and I cannot wait to meet you, Peanut.
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health.
As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her appetite for adventure.
Read more about Skye’s story here.