In honour of International Women’s Day, we are featuring ten Hegen mums who have found strength in spite of the odds, adversity and loss. This week, we have a mother who battled with PCOS and postpartum body image issues.
Struggling with PCOS, Eunice had difficulty making peace with a disease that affected her plans to have a baby and almost destroyed her body confidence and self-worth. Being a mother had been a dream she had had for as long as she could remember.
But life works in mysterious ways. As Eunice slowly came to terms with her situation, she found the strength within and refocused her energies to serve others. And unexpectedly, a little bundle of joy called Isabel came along.
This is a story of resilience and faith, even in times of vulnerability and disappointment.
Hegen: When and how did you first discover that you have PCOS?
We discovered it when my hubby and I went to a doctor for a medical check. We had been trying to conceive but with no luck. The diagnosis came as shock as I really didn't expect to have any health difficulties. All my close friends were getting pregnant and I had just assumed that my turn would be next.
Hegen: That must have been upsetting. How did you respond to the news?
I was supposed to take medication to regulate my period. But even to do so was like a mental reminder that my body had failed me – so I stopped the meds. Emotionally I also felt shame, guilt, and like a failure to my husband and my family.
I couldn't fathom a life without children of my own. I remember crying over this every month when I see the negative pregnancy test strips after trying and hoping. It was tiring and painful. I'd think that I was pregnant because of a missed period but it turned out to be a later than normal period.
It was most difficult when I saw friends and acquaintances around me, conceiving. I struggled to rejoice with them.
Hegen: Did you eventually decide to stop trying for a baby?
Trying to get pregnant was beginning put a strain on my marriage. Every time my period came, the sense of disappointment was overwhelming for me. My husband Jonathan was so patient and never held my condition against me but even though I felt loved by him, I was also wracked by what I could not do for him.
But this whole process of trying and failing was helpful in a way. It gave me time to shift and re-evaluate the way I saw life and that a life without children was possible for me. I could still make it a fully meaningful and purposeful one. So I decided to pour my energy into helping and being with the people around me, especially the sisters and my Godchildren.
Hegen: What were some of the things you tried that helped you cope with your disappointments?
I think what helped the most was just sharing openly about my condition. Instead of suffering with my thoughts in silence, I started to have conversations with whomever was willing to listen. With some people, I didn't get the response I hoped for; they might pile me with advice and suggestions when all I wanted was understanding and a listening ear.
But with each person I opened up to, I felt less shame about myself and found more strength. I also discovered a kinship with a community of sisters who shared my infertility struggles and understood my longing to be a Mum.
Hegen: Eventually your prayers were answered and you did conceive, when you least expected! What was that like for you?
I remember calling my friend at six in the morning, in tears and disbelief! My husband insisted I do the pregnancy test again, just to be sure. But there was also a bit of guilt mixed in that I had conceived especially when I thought about the sisters around me who were still waiting.
Hegen: Tell us about your pregnancy. Was it all that you had hoped for?
When I was going through my first trimester, I had terrible nausea and couldn’t really take water or food. At my lowest point, I actually wondered if being pregnant was what I really wanted after all - and then felt tremendous guilt and shame for feeling that way! Then a friend shared with me that it’s ok to be grateful for the pregnancy and at the same time not exactly be “happy” about the discomfort that comes with it.
I also had a deep fear of labour because of all the scary stories I’ve heard. I wanted a positive birth experience of course. So I signed up for a Hypnobirthing course with Mother and Child and it was so empowering. I was also reading a book, Made for This, which helped me gain a new confidence in what my body could do during birth and that helped a lot.
Hegen: We heard that you had to deal with some postpartum challenges too...
I struggled with breastfeeding and couldn't tell if baby had a good latch or not because it was all so painful initially. Together with the labour recovery and breastfeeding, I felt like my body wasn’t mine. I felt ugly and then people would try to comfort me and say ‘but you gave birth, you should be grateful and blah blah blah…’ But it still took me a while and a lot of grace from God to accept that I have a different-looking body now.
I also had some challenges with how others interacted with Isabel. Maybe I got a little bit controlling but it came from a good place of wanting the best for her. Eventually I chose to trust and surrender, remembering that the meaning of her name is “consecrated to God”. She belongs to Him entirely and my husband and I are merely stewards in her care.
Hegen: You have certainly been through some ups and downs in this journey. Who and what was your source of strength during this time?
My faith. God was present throughout the pregnancy. He gave me strength, comfort and peace. I saw Him through my husband, family and community. During this time, I learnt to rely on them and to accept that I needed help.
Hegen: Tell us about how you view Motherhood, with all the experiences that you've had to journey through?
I think that motherhood is such a humbling process. It forces me to come face-to-face with the best and ugliest parts of myself and I’m invited to love and accept all of them. I also have a new respect and greater love for my mom. I now understand her past actions and her sacrifices. I see her resilience and capacity and passion. I hope to be at least half the mother that she is to me!
Hegen: What is your definition of strength?
It is knowing that I cannot walk this journey of motherhood on my own and that I need the support of others, especially fellow mums. In them I find identification, comfort and strength.
Hegen: What would you say to other women and mothers who are struggling with infertility?
I’d tell them to share and talk about it. Don't isolate and try to take on the burden on your own. Sharing openly with my family was the best decision that I'd made. They shared my pain and made it more bearable.
There is no shame in struggling with infertility. You are no less of a woman because of this. Your worth is more than your fertility.
I also believe that this happened in God's time. When I was waiting, I felt that God was too slow, that he wasn't moving but now on hindsight I realised that I needed to work on areas in my marriage, within myself to better prepare for Isabel and hopefully.. the other children that we will have.