—By Tori Rotter, Creator, Little + Free
My journey into motherhood was bumpy, to say the least. Like many others, I struggled with infertility. Perhaps not like many others, though, I had been worried that I would have challenges getting pregnant since I was young. I can’t explain exactly why I always felt this way, but I knew I wanted to be a mother, and for some reason I just felt that I would struggle to get there. Because of that sense of worry, after trying to conceive for about six months (which is somewhat sooner than most doctors recommend waiting), I decided to see a specialist. I am thankful that I listened to my intuition because it was determined in that specialist visit that I had been living with undiagnosed (and somewhat asymptomatic) Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I can remember a sort of relief washing over me the moment I found out. The part of me that had always been worried finally got to hear it out loud and have some sort of validation. I hadn’t been worried for no reason; I just knew my body.
That relief, however, was short-lived. I then had to face the fact that my fears were confirmed, and that I would indeed struggle to get pregnant. I had watched so many friends, relatives and coworkers get pregnant quickly and easily (or so it seemed) and the emergence of social media as an announcement platform made everything even harder. Every day I was bombarded by adorable baby announcements where couples would joyfully hold out their sonogram images and announce their due date. I found myself jealous, disheartened and struggling to even use social media for a period of time. For me personally, experiencing infertility was not only isolating and lonely, but it made me feel like I was broken in a way. The well wishes, encouragement and general sympathies of others who never struggled to conceive, often left me feeling worse because they just couldn't begin to understand.
If I were to try to explain, I would start by saying that going through infertility treatments is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. You are given a myriad of prescriptions and strict schedules (some that must be met to the hour or day exactly, lest they ruin the process). You are constantly poked, prodded, having blood drawn, and told to “wait one moment, the doctor will be in shortly.” I am very lucky to have a loving and supportive partner, but for so much of the process there is nothing anyone else can do and you must rely solely on yourself. One of the things I remember most vividly about my journey was the feeling of staring up at the neon lights that so quintessentially exist in every doctor’s office. Something about those lights made the process seem so clinical and impersonal. As if I were just a patient seeing a doctor, not a woman trying to create a child. Some of my loneliest and hardest moments happened right beneath those lights. Just laying or sitting on the table, staring upward, and wondering if there was anyone else who could possibly understand how defeated, desperate, and alone I felt.
Thankfully, several months into the process I discovered that a family friend was also undergoing infertility treatments, and the two of us were able to start a dialogue that I truly believe got me through some of my darkest moments. Having someone to share the struggle with, who truly understood, was invaluable. And her eventual success with the process gave me a renewed sense of hope that I might also be successful.
And then those feelings of hope became feelings of happiness and gratitude. After many treatments, failures, and new processes, I was finally able to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization (IVF). I was beyond ecstatic and incredibly grateful, but I’m ashamed to say that when the time came to share the news, I was also thrilled that I finally got to make my own announcement on social media. I had firmly decided to make my pregnancy post inclusive of my fertility issues to share my experience, but also to let others out there may be facing fertility issues, that they weren’t alone.
But then something changed. I thought about it long and hard, and ultimately came to the decision that I wanted my post to be “normal.” I had spent the past year undergoing treatments and many years prior worrying about infertility, and it felt like it had started to consume my life. Now that I was finally past that part of the process, I wanted to just move forward, as a “regular person” who was excited to announce their pregnancy. While it was right for me at the time, and therefore hard to regret, I think I was naïve to believe that not talking about my experience was the right thing to do. I’ve since realized that sense of community and being open and honest about our experiences is the only way to avoid feelings of isolation when facing hardship.
As such, I created Little and Free not only to provide comfortable baby clothing, but also in the hopes of creating a community where the joys, trials and tribulations of becoming, being, and/or supporting parents can be discussed openly, honestly and maybe sometimes with a little humor.