This Canadian Fertility Awareness Week (April 23-29, 2023), I’m sharing an update to our near-decade long infertility journey and the happy ending to what had been a very long and painful chapter of our lives. Introducing our Miracle Baby: Benjimin Brown!
If this is the first time you’re reading about our infertility journey, I recommend you start at this 2018 blog post! You can find all my infertility-related blog posts here or browse my Infertility Instagram Story Highlights here, my IVF Abroad Instagram Story Highlights, and my blog post: After trying for nearly a decade—we got pregnant! Naturally. Somehow.
Note: the beautiful newborn photos featured in this blog post were gifted to us by Vintage Duck Photography—an incredibly talented newborn, baby and kids photographer based in Edmonton.
Benjimin arrived this Spring 2023 via C-section after 20 hours of labour (mostly chill thanks to the pain meds, lol), 1 hour of pushing, surgery, and well, a decade trying to conceive.
His full name is Benjimin Sen Bao Brown.
We wanted to pick a meaningful name for our Miracle Baby.
These are what the different components of his name mean:
- The Vietnamese name Sen is my moms first name and means lotus flower, Vietnam’s national flower.
- Bảo is Vietnamese for national treasure (or Bánh Bao with a slightly different intonation is a Vietnamese steamed bun, lol).
- The Jimin in Benjimin is named after my favourite member in BTS of course lol (it was actually Mike’s idea to spell it that way, and Jimin’s new single Set Me Free was actually released the day Ben came!)
- Mike’s late grandpa was named Jim and one of Mike’s favourite dogs he grew up with was named Ben.
What a wild and worthwhile wait it’s been for Ben to arrive.
He is everything we could have asked for and then some.
Seriously, we are so grateful for this beautiful, healthy baby and every day since he’s been born has been such a gift. I still can’t believe I get to be Benjimin’s mom, and Mike, his dad.
A long time coming…
Mike and I started trying to have a baby in 2014, and have been open about our struggles with Unexplained Infertility, and advocating for destigmatization of infertility since 2018.
Infertility sadly affects too many people. There is likely someone in your life who is dealing with infertility (whether they’ve chosen to share that with your not).
Roughly 16% (or 1 in 6) couples in Canada experience infertility. 90% of the time, there is a cause for infertility. Just 10% of the time there is no explanation, rhyme or reason for why a couple can’t conceive. That was the case for Mike and I.
There was no rhyme or reason, no explanation as to why we couldn’t make a baby.
Over the last ten years it felt like we had tried everything and everything failed. IUI, IVF, failed adoption, late discovery and surgery of asymptomatic endometriosis, random home techniques and odd herbal remedies (we were desperate).
We had nearly gotten to a point where kids were going to be off the table for us—we had just gone for too long without having kids that we had finally begun coming to terms with the fact that kids likely wouldn’t be part of our story, we could see a life without kids on the horizon.
And then Benjimin decided to surprise us.
We don’t know how we were able to conceive Ben naturally after trying and failing so many times for so many years before. What was different. We do credit our failed IVF procedure for helping. Although the IVF didn’t technically work as it was meant to, we think going through that process potentially signalled something in my body that showed it, hey, this is how you have a baby, this is how you get pregnant (because technically through IVF you are pregnant for a period of time after they implant your embryos, and that’s the furthest along in the process we’d ever been for pregnancy—at least that we were aware of).
Of course, IVF priming us for a natural conception is just a guess.
Since our infertility was Unexplained, it sort of makes sense that our conception is also categorized as such lol. We’ll just never know. We’re just grateful to have a baby.
Reflecting on Ben’s arrival now, we can’t imagine him joining us at any other time.
While the last 10 years trying to conceive gave us some of the hardest, saddest, desperate moments of our lives (repeatedly, each month), we also acknowledge how wonderful a life we were able to build together in that decade.
We were able to work on our careers, travel—a lot, grow our family with our two cats and two dogs Thor, Loki, Olive and Artie, move into our forever-ish home, and just generally fall into a pretty comfortable lifestyle with each passing moment without baby.
It is true what they say about things being clearer in hindsight.
Of course throughout the last ten years, in those moments of trying, had we been able to have a baby when we wanted it then, I’m sure we would have felt it was the right time at that time too.
But now that he’s here, looking back, we’re so happy we got the moments we did, and were able to build the foundation we have, in the time it took for him to arrive.
Infertility will always be part of our story.
It came up this week, for Canadian Fertility Awareness Week, whether or not it would be weird for me to attend infertility-focused events now that I have a baby.
Can we still be advocates for infertility awareness when we have kids? Yes, of course!
I remember going through the last decade feeling surprised and upset whenever someone who had kids revealed that they had also struggled to conceive. Because they had never talked about that before. I mean for most that was simply because they didn’t talk about infertility at all.
But to me, in the throws of infertility, it sort of felt disingenuous. Look at all of these families who struggled to conceive but didn’t share or say it was a struggle. That silence is what makes struggling with infertility extra hard—because you feel like you’ve done something wrong or that something is wrong with you because you don’t think or realize that others in your life, in your community, in your network, have also struggled (because they don’t talk about it!)
Because our infertility is something we have been so open about for so long, and something that was such a huge part of our lives for such a long period of our lives, it’s not something we just want to stop acknowledging.
Infertility will always be part of our story.
And when the dust—so to speak—settles on this period of our lives, when people see our family, or stumble across posts about our family down the road, well after the time when we did speak a lot more frequently about infertility, I want to be reassure those who are struggling, who just started or are still, that it didn’t come easy for us—that it doesn’t come easy for so many people, and that you’re not alone.
Why were we open about our infertility?
When Mike and I started talking about our infertility, it was partially done to help us cope.
It just felt really dishonest to hide such a huge part of our lives and what we were going through to our loved ones—and especially in my line of work—on social media.
To pretend that everything was good when there was a big chunk of our life that was not good, to not really share what was going on when friends and family asked us how we were, to be inundated with questions or assumptions around when we would be having kids because society is so used to asking that question without thinking, without knowing, whether the person they’re asking is struggling or even wants to conceive. That was part of it too.
We started talking about our infertility to challenge preconceived expectations of adulthood.
Just because a couple gets married doesn’t mean kids are automatically next for them. Some couples can’t have kids. Some couples don’t want kids. People are far too comfortable asking people very personal questions when they haven’t been invited to do so.
We hope that the more people talk about infertility (and/or child-free lifestyles), the more people won’t assume and ask “so when are you having a baby?” “so when are you giving me a grandchild?” If you’re not prepared for the very awkward response “I actually just had a miscarriage” or “I’ve been trying to have a baby for a decade and keep failing, thanks for reminding me”—simply don’t ask. If your friend, your family member, your co-worker, whoever, hasn’t brought up the topic with you themselves, there’s no reason you should ask.
We started talking about our infertility partially to encourage others to do the same.
It really is like a huge weight is lifted off your shoulder when you share about infertility. It’s not something that people have to be ashamed of or something that they need to go through alone. You know statistically you’re not alone, but if no one talks about it, it sure can feel isolating, especially when it feels like everyone in your life left and right are announcing pregnancies.
Knowing others are going through it like you, knowing others have been through it, knowing what worked or didn’t work, or getting recommendations on things you haven’t considered or tried yet in your journey, all of those things can be so helpful for your mental health and might even make the difference in your journey.
We started talking about our infertility to advocate for a better process, better options.
I was reminded recently by a friend in her late 30s, who is single, and is starting to think about whether she should freeze her eggs, how frustrating moving along in the healthcare system can be for those struggling with infertility.
She went to a doctor to see if she could get a referral to a gynaecologist or fertility clinic and was told by her doctor that they don’t refer unless she’s been trying to conceive for at least a year. But what if she didn’t have a partner? How many more years would that take?
It had been so long since Mike and I had been told the same thing that I had nearly forgotten how many times we were told we need to do X for this long, take X medication for that long, try X for that period of time, before we could try the next thing as part of our journey.
I remember something I had been telling anyone who inquired about our infertility once we started talking about it, was that regardless of whether they’re actively trying to conceive, if kids are something they think they want, they should start the healthcare process sooner than later. Sometimes that means lying to your doctor and saying you’ve been trying to conceive for a year already, just to get through that first hurdle in the process. I’m sure doctors don’t love to learn that their patients are lying to them (lol), and some doctors are certainly better than others when it comes to understanding infertility and trying to help move patients along in that process. But others not so much. You really have to be your biggest advocate.
Honestly, it feels like infertility awareness has gotten a lot better over the last decade.
We see more acknowledgement of infertility on social media. We see more infertility storylines in pop culture. Each year it feels like Fertility Awareness Week / Month includes bigger / more events, more voices, more frequency.
I don’t know if more people are struggling with infertility these days or simply that more people are talking about it. It’s good that more people are talking about it. I hope it continues.
We are so grateful for everyone’s love and support along our infertility journey over the last decade.
Every message, every comment, every well wish, we were so grateful for it all.
I joked to a friend that I’ve mostly repressed the infertility trauma at this point (or maybe that’s just a side effect of post partum hormones lol), but I am breathing a big sigh of emotions (not just relief, just, lots of emotions lol) now that our Miracle Baby is finally here.
Benjimin is actually sleeping on my chest in a baby wrap as I write this sentence.
Mike and I aren’t sure yet if we’ll try to have a second baby.
We also aren’t sure if we even can, since we honestly don’t know how Benjimin came to be after struggling for so long. Honestly, we’re just grateful we got the one.
If you’re struggling with infertility, I hope our story gives you hope.
I hope there’s hope that you may still conceive even if you’ve been trying for a long time.
I hope you know life can still be good despite your struggles. That maybe you don’t feel it now while you’re in the thick of it, but that when you reflect on this period of your life some time from now, you’ll see that potentially, what happened happened as it was supposed to happen.
I hope you retain your hope because I know how that hope can dim each month you learn you’re not pregnant.
I hope you know there are many ways a baby can come into your life.
And I hope you know that even if a baby doesn’t end up being part of your story, like it almost wasn’t for us, you can get to a point where you feel okay with that too. I know this is not what you want to hear if you’re still in the early stages of your journey though lol.
We certainly hated it when people told us that—but a decade later, we were much closer to being okay without a baby. You could too.
Finally, something I’ve always said is, I hope that anyone who wants a baby can have a baby.
No one should have to go through the heartbreak we did, that so many experience.
Thanks for following our story. Ben’s arrival, and this post, concludes this chapter of our lives. I’m very much looking forward to “writing” (experiencing) the next chapter of our lives with Benjimin!
If this is the first time you’re reading about our infertility journey, I recommend you start at this 2018 blog post! You can find all my infertility-related blog posts here.
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