What’s it like to want to start a family but not be able to? Introducing Kat McKenzie, the author of a new Spinoff Parents column on the hopes, fears and medical practicalities of trying to be a mother.
For years I used to read anything I could about parenting. I was so desperate to have a child. I was in all of the groups, I knew the lingo – TTC, 2WW, BFN, BFP. But I never quite felt like there was a home for the Forever Hopeful Club. The parents who want to be parents but aren’t yet through the wretched unfairness of fertility.
I want Parents-in-Waiting to feel like they have a home at The Spinoff too. And so does the beautiful Kat McKenzie. She has taken the brave step of sharing her journey and representing the Trying To Conceive community here. Her writing is stunning – gentle, considered, passionate. Thank you Kat for giving voice to this particular sadness, for sharing your hopes and dreams for a family with all of us. – Emily Writes, The Spinoff Parents editor
As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mum. All of my Barbie scenarios involved parenting, and I loved baby dolls. My mother went through a stage of painting porcelain doll faces in the early 90s and made a boy doll once that was very newborn-like, complete with a realistic amount of weight to his wee body, and he became my favourite. I used to go through all the motions of caring for him, and exasperated my older sister by also pretending to be pregnant all the time.
This maternal instinct became useful later when I became an aunt for the first time aged 16. Over the last almost 16 years I’ve loved being my young relatives’ friend and babysitter. I’ve done everything from nappies to overnights from the day they were born. I knew it surely wouldn’t be too long before I had my own children.
I met my husband when I was 24. He was tall and lanky and very, very silly. His smile lit up my world and I wanted just to be near him all of the time. It didn’t take long for it to come up that having a family was important to both of us. My heart almost burst every time I thought about having his babies. He made me laugh so hard and we spent many nights talking ’til 6:30am. He inspired me and pushed me and lifted me in so many ways and so I followed him, all the way to Scotland.
We’ve made our home there for the last seven and a half years. We bought a house and made improvements and took trips and – because we’ve both got a traditional streak – we talked about getting married first, but our kids were always next. We had them in our minds from the start and spent the last several years deciding their names and where we’d like to raise them. We’ve talked about how we’d manage it financially and dreamed about what they could look like, or what skills they might inherit. They’ve always been there.
I approached future parenthood like I approach everything – with a lot of research. I’ve always drifted to parenting blogs and sites, even before we were married. I read parenting books years before I needed to, and soaked as much in as possible from my sister. I am a preparer. I feel made for this. All we want is this.
But sadly, like around 15% of couples, it’s not up to us.
When we started trying I subscribed to a lot of apps, blogs, and websites on conception, pregnancy, and parenting, Over the last 18 months, they’ve gone from making me hopeful and excited to filling me with anxiety and an aching sadness. Months of failing to make a baby has made me feel more and more isolated, anxious and like I’ve been left out of a club that everyone else seems able to join so easily.
We went to our GPs and then ultimately to the hospital. We obviously needed help.
I’ve never felt that welcome on standard parenting blogs. There’s a certain feeling you get from mums sometimes about how you don’t really “get it” until you are one. I feel that way about infertility too. If you haven’t struggled to get pregnant, then it’s tough to understand the pain of it. Infertility seems to exist in its own subsection of the internet. The stories most people see are about celebrities who are struggling to conceive, or tales of IVF costs and developments, but I’ve always felt like there aren’t enough places on parenting sites for those who are in-between – for those “parents in waiting”. Whether they need treatment like us, they’re still trying, or they’re on a waiting list for donor sperm or eggs, they – we – are all feeling the struggle. Forever hopeful.
So that’s why I’m here. My husband and I can’t make babies naturally. But we’re making the big move home from Scotland and will be having treatment soon in Wellington; we’re trying to remain optimistic that we still have a chance to get our family. I know how terrifying and devastating it is to be in this position and if you’re in this boat with me, I wanted The Spinoff Parents to be a place for you too.
I’ll be writing about the process and also looking back over the last 18 months of this quest for parenthood. I want you to feel welcome here, even if you’re not a parent – yet. It’s almost like we’re in the parenting waiting room. We can see the “Parents Club” through glass doors but we don’t have our cards yet. We’ll keep peeking through and waiting to be invited in.
If you’re in the waiting room with me I want you to feel less alone. If you’re not, hopefully you’ll still drop by – and maybe you’ll open the door more often to see us, or hear a new perspective.
Either way: Hi. I’m Kat.
Kat McKenzie will be writing for The Spinoff Parents about trying to have a family the unconventional way. You can find her on Twitter at @koruandthistle, and on her blog at koruandthistle.com. When she’s not writing, Kat is a singer/songwriter, Netflix-binger, and talks to every baby and dog she sees.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.