I have always dreamed of becoming a mom.
When I envisioned my future growing up I would see a multitude of careers – at first I was a ballerina, then I was running a non-for-profit in some part of the developing world, after that I would own my own interior design company… The list went on. But what I always saw, among those dreams, was a family of my own with little kids running around and a husband by my side. I wasn’t sure what my professional path would look like, but I was sure I would be a mom.
A few years ago, in the thick of my addiction and eating disorder, I found out I was pregnant. At that time, I was in an outpatient treatment program in Toronto and had almost strung together two months of sober time – the longest I had gone without drinking since I was 14-years-old. The news of the pregnancy crushed me; I knew I was not in a place to take care of a child when I could hardly take care of myself. Less than 24 hours later I walked out of the doctor’s office with a prescription for 25 Percocet in one hand and shortly after a vodka soda in my other hand. A few weeks after that relapse, which almost killed me, I ended up on Vancouver Island at an inpatient treatment center for five months.
Fast forward after lots and lots of therapy, three years without a drink or a drug in my system, six months successfully in eating disorder recovery, my life was looking very different. DJ and I had just gotten married, and we were sitting outside on our deck enjoying the morning view. He looked at me with his smiling eyes and said, “Hun, let’s start our family.” At first, I laughed, thinking how crazy that sounded –how it felt too soon. My head was telling me judgment after judgment but when I listened to my body, which I was learning to trust, instinct told me it was the right thing to do.
I thought it would take one or two months and voila – we’d be pregnant! This was of course, not the case. If there is any pattern in my life so far it is this: things don’t happen on my time. Despite recognizing this pattern I still fight it, every time. Even though in the end when I have some distance, I can look back and see how much better everything turned out than if it had been on my watch. Getting pregnant is one of those things.
What I didn’t factor in when we decided to start our family was how much preparation my body had to do, after addiction recovery and eating disorder recovery, to be healthy enough to carry another life.
After endless doctors’ appointments and research, I began regular acupuncture, changed my diet to include a healthy amount of all food groups, cut back on the gym, ditched hot yoga, and gained ten pounds. This was no easy feat for me. While my gynecologist kept stressing how much babies loved rest and fat, I realized how much those two things still made me feel so deeply uncomfortable. Despite not engaging in my eating disorder for over a year, I noticed how much of it mentality still lingered. Exercising allowed me to feel okay for eating regular meals, snacks and desserts and picking and choosing certain food groups over others was still a part of my daily routine. Even though I wasn’t binging and purging I had not released full control yet. As the importance of getting pregnant with a healthy body, regardless of shape or size, started to increase I began to fully let go of the painful burdens of my past.
To no surprise, my body responded positively. I started to get my period regularly for the first time in years. Yet, month after month, a negative pregnancy test result stared back at my blank face. I couldn’t help but think something was wrong with me and that I had done permanent damage to my body.
About six months after trying with no luck DJ went to the doctor and did a sperm analysis. The results came back that he was infertile and his doctor said he would never have a baby naturally. He was crushed. I was crushed.
Similarly to my life so far, DJ’s has been far from the status quo. He started using hard drugs and drinking at a young age and things only progressed from there. We’ve both been knocked down time and again, but with unconditional support from loving friends and family, we’ve learned how to get back up and find our footing. But we stumbled at the doctor’s news. After a few weeks of emotional distance between us, tears on our own and then together, and a new and profound couples counsellor, we came back steady together to kept moving forward.
After what felt like a lot of waiting, DJ went in for an ultrasound. His diagnosis improved and surgery was potentially an option. Not long after, we heard back from a fertility clinic in Vancouver and had our first consultation about the possibilities of getting pregnant. Again, the diagnosis improved – it wasn’t going to be easy but it wasn’t impossible. The doctor recommended starting IVF (In vitro fertilization) in three months. She also recommended I take a pregnancy test at the end of the week if I didn’t get my period. Naturally, I took one that night, waited five minutes, glanced at it and threw the negative result in the garbage can.
About a week later, on June 26th, while I was cleaning the house I went to empty the garbage in our bathroom. Out came the pregnancy test onto the floor in front of me. I looked at it, saw one familiar bold line, but this time with a second faint line beside it. Tears welled in my eyes as I picked it up and called out for DJ.
We were pregnant.