Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Post for the Not-Yet-Mothers on Mothers' Day

Spent my morning today sipping a tall flat white at Starbucks, smiling at all of the cute photos people in my newsfeed on Facebook were sharing of themselves with their mothers. Photos of new mothers with freshly-born babies swaddled tight in their arms, mothers holding the hands of little ones first learning to walk, and mothers standing next to their adult children as they graduated from college or stood on the altar to exchange vows with their new spouse.

These pictures symbolize the journey of motherhood. A journey that now begins with two pink lines approximately 2 weeks after conception (or even sooner, detected by beta hCG levels for couples who are undergoing blood tests coinciding with fertility treatments). This is actually a modern marvel in terms of learning about pregnancy -- mothers used to have to wait much longer to find out if they were expecting.

The very first urine-based pregnancy test was first documented as early as 1350 BCE! "A woman who might be pregnant could urinate on wheat and barley seeds over the course of several days: “If the barley grows, it means a male child. If the wheat grows, it means a female child. If both do not grow, she will not bear at all.” Testing of this theory in 1963 found that 70 percent of the time, the urine of pregnant women did promote growth, while the urine of non-pregnant women and men did not." So, women who suspected pregnancy in those days had to wait for those seeds to grow.

It was not until the 1930s (when many of our grandparents were children themselves) that hormones were first identified as possible markers of pregnancy. And it would be several more decades before at-home pregnancy tests would be available in 1977 -- known as E.P.T. (early pregnancy test). It has only been a little over 30 years that mothers could first confirm pregnancy in the privacy of their own bathrooms.

I love thinking about this history and advancement in pregnancy testing when I am in my own TWW. Thinking about how different this process looked for my own mother and grandmothers. We can celebrate a positive test now many weeks earlier than they could. We also have significant advancements in infertility care that allows women who previously would have had no medical options in achieving pregnancy to try several different routes. We can also now have a simple blood test to look at all of our hormone levels to easily identify if something is outside of the normal range.

While all of this is fun to think about in our own journeys to achieve pregnancy, it does not take away the heartache when we stare anxiously at the test after 5 minutes and see one solitary, lonely line. A reminder that this month is not the month. That nausea we thought we detected three mornings ago was likely due to bad Mexican food consumed the night before, not the pregnancy we had hoped it was hinting toward. The tiredness we experienced over the last week was actually, as we feared, due to work stress and not due to an embryo taking up residence.

This disappointment is hard to endure month after month, looking with great hope down at that test. The hope vanishes after squinting hard at the test and determining that line we hoped and prayed hard would appear is simply not there. That barren space where it should be reminds us with sadness that the space where we hoped to learn a baby was growing is also barren, too.

I've shared all of this history to show that we have had generations of women who relied on any number of either old wives' tales, blood tests in doctor's offices or "fundal height" checks to anxiously see if they were expecting. Infertility used to be more silent and less talked about. I wonder what these women endured, as they anxiously waited many months or years to achieve a pregnancy and had very little in terms of medical procedures to try to assist in their journey.

Sending my love out into the universe today for all of you "not-yet-mothers." I know the pain of seeing that barren space where you hoped to see a second line. I know the feeling of the hot tears of disappointment that well up in your eyes as you think "well, another month of trying ahead." Know there have been generations of women before you who had these same reactions.

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