Who We Are: Emma’s Story

I am a woman, a wife, a mentor, a dressmaker. I am curvy, I am kind, and I am passionate; I am not a mother.

That’s OK. There are plenty of women and couples my age who don’t have children, but I’m also pretty confident that there are plenty of people out there who are wishing for a family of their own too. My husband and I decided we would try for children when we got married in 2012 but we have been so far unsuccessful. If I may, I wanted to share a little bit of that journey in the hope that there are others, like me, who can get some comfort from hearing they are not alone and to see how a hobby like sewing can help to ease the struggle.

I write this from a good place, I have an amazing and understanding husband, a fantastically supportive family and a successful career. I also throw myself whole-heartedly into my dressmaking, my blogging and a masters in psychology. Trust me when I tell you that I haven’t always been in a good place (even though the above still applied).

The first two years don’t seem too bad, I wondered why it wasn’t happening for us, but I always just assumed (as most do) that it would happen eventually. We went away a lot, we enjoyed each other’s company, we built on our home. Then, it started to become quite obvious that this wasn’t going to ‘just happen’ — though many still insist that it will.

And so it began — the doctor and hospital appointments, being poked and prodded and having every sort of test. I was passed through so many doctors and never met the same one twice, every appointment meant explaining my whole story again, making the story of my life clinical and insensitive. It turns out, I don’t ovulate. They put me on tablets reluctantly as I am above the BMI by four points. They told me I was ovulating and everything was OK — I beg to differ…

BMI — this is essentially the biggest barrier I have had in being able to have children. By this I mean they will not go any further with fertility treatments until my BMI is low enough. I’m sure many people will think that if I wanted it badly enough, I would just lose the weight and have the treatment. It is the biggest struggle I have ever felt — I don’t feel fat, I am not unhappy with the way I look, I feel confident and healthy most of the time. However, I have been on and off diets for the past four years. I would get close to where I was supposed to be and face a set-back.

My lowest point was when I was sure I would weigh-in. I had worked so hard, sticking closely to a diet. However, I was seven pounds over the maximum they needed me to be. I had been having appointments every three months for a year. The head gynecologist decided that if I couldn’t lose the weight, she was discharging me until I could… I would have to go back and start the process from the beginning. That news was delivered in the most impersonal way. She didn’t understand the struggle that weight loss is to me, and I felt like her decision completely ended the chances which I had been working so hard towards. A ten minute appointment, which felt like 30 seconds, wasted four years of my life. I was sent from the consultation room, in tears, with a very firm and unemotional no.

I am not selfish. I understand the health-care system is under strain. I understand that there are others who can benefit from their time too… but I felt completely cast aside, and without sounding dramatic, it was one of the darkest times of my life. There were so many emotions going through my head at this time, I’m not actually able to explain them. I didn’t fight for that last seven pounds, I felt exhausted with it and so dejected. I promptly turned to my husband, my family and my sewing room.

My sanctuary.

Two years ago, after I had been fiddling around making a few cushions, my Mum bought me a sewing pattern. I started to make clothes. This process, took my mind away from everything, it was something I could do just for myself, to create my own identity and have clothes which could fit my figure. I love bright fabrics and making a wardrobe which reflects me as a woman. I get to choose, I get to make clothes which are me. This knowledge and the comfort which I get from sewing has been a huge component in getting through some of the tougher times. My identity is that of a woman and a wife and when I’m stood, feeling great in an outfit I made, which fits me and defines me, and someone throws the ‘when are you having children’ dagger — I feel a bit more prepared to say ‘not yet, we’re enjoying life ourselves at the moment.’ It is not everything which supports me, but it helps massively. That question though: if you can help it, please don’t ask it. It’s so tricky to navigate and you don’t know what the story is behind the answer. Some people think that it is a natural and harmless question, but to many others, it really isn’t.

Anyway, the sewing community have also been amazing, inspiring me to try different garments and learn new skills. It absorbs me when I need to be absorbed. The fact that there are more and more skills, which push me, allows me to become immersed in sewing, plans, and fabrics. My sewing room (though it drives my husband nuts) really has become my happy place and a sanctuary.

I have gotten so much more from the sewing community than I thought possible. I have a great group of friends in the Sunshine Bloggers and the Sewcialists. I thought I would look to see what support there was for infertility on the web, but I found that so many people share their journey after they have come out the other side. People who have been successful, sharing their stories. It’s hard to stomach someone who is pregnant telling you how hard it was for them to conceive, no matter how well meaning they are. So I offer my story, as I still go through my journey, in hope that it can support others. The pain is still very real and it goes in waves, sometimes I feel fine and hardly think about it, other times, I feel completely lost. I just go with it and think about all the amazing things I have to be grateful for when I’m feeling sad… AND… I sew!

My advice, for what it is worth — use your loved ones, be honest with them as they only ever want to support you. My husband has been everything in this journey, he has picked me up with unwavering and dedicated love every time I’ve felt down. Secondly, don’t be scared to say to yourself ‘I don’t want to watch that pregnant lady on Instagram get more pregnant’ — press that unfollow button, there is no shame in it. Thirdly, immerse yourself in something which is just for you, that can define you not matter what!

You can follow Emma on Instagram at @emmaandhermachine.