Killer whale

by Ashley Pittaway


I feel like a whale.

A typical comment from a woman who is 37 ½ weeks pregnant, you say? Not quite. I am not referring to the fact that I feel huge. Don’t get me wrong, I feel huge but not a day goes by where I don’t look in the mirror and marvel at my growing belly.

I am referring to the fact that I, like the average killer whale, have been pregnant for 18 months. Ok, so technically I haven’t been pregnant for that long but it sure feels like I have.

Growing up I had my life planned out. I would meet the man of my dreams young, marry in my early twenties, start a family at 24, have my fourth and last child at 30 and we would all live happily ever after.

I was 24 years old when I got engaged. No problems, we had been together for four years before marrying so surely I could just fall pregnant straight away and only be one year behind my grand plan. Or so I thought. That, however, was not the grand plan a higher being had for me and so my pregnancy story starts.

Eager to start a family as soon as possible I dragged my fiancé to the doctors for us to get tested as a niggling little feeling had been growing over the past few years that this may not be as easy as I once thought. It is not as if we had been specifically trying to have a baby for years but we hadn’t been doing anything to prevent it. The results confirmed my suspicion and we were informed that we would need IVF to conceive a child.

Ok, so it may take a little longer but I was still optimistic that it was possible. Doing IVF would surely accommodate low sperm count. My finance did not take the news as well as I did and had some reservations about IVF. With this is mind we decided to focus on the wedding and leave the conversation until later. I had a wonderful wedding and honeymoon and settled in to married life with all its trials and tribulations.

I was 26 years old when I broached the subject of babies again with my husband. He was still reluctant, partly
because of having to go through IVF and partly because he was enjoying the life we had of little responsibility. My argument was that it may take years to conceive and that if we didn’t start trying soon it may be too late.

I didn’t actually believe that. I was convinced that I would fall pregnant on the first cycle but it seemed to work on him and he agreed to look more into it. This is when the downhill spiral started.

Over the next few months and barrages of tests we learnt that it wasn’t just low sperm count against us. There was also my husband’s newly found out genetic disorder and the fibroids growing in the wall of my uterus. Still, ever the optimist, I went into the first round feeling positive.

I will spare you the details of the next two years. Of the four back-to-back cycles of IVF we powered our way through. Of the hundreds of needles I injected into myself and the many public places I had to do this in. I will spare you the details of focusing on nothing but conceiving a child. Of feeling out of control and telling my husband I hated him because he wouldn’t dress up as a carrot to my rabbit for a fancy dress party. I will spare you the details of not allowing myself to grieve after the death of my grandfather because I had just been implanted and couldn’t let my emotions hurt the possible baby I was carrying. Of watching everyone around me fall pregnant and give birth to beautiful babies while I fell pregnant and lost my baby boy at 14 weeks gestation to a miscarriage. I will spare you the details of that time of my life but will say how incredibly lucky I am to have such a supportive and loving husband and family to keep me strong.

I will, however, tell you that after five rounds of IVF and at 29 years of age I am now three days off giving birth to our precious daughter. I will tell you that the weight gain, the back pain, the crying for no reason at all, the sleepless nights have all been worth it. Feeling my daughter move inside of me is my favourite feeling and her heart beat is my favourite sound in the whole world.

I will tell you that the last nine months have been filled with anxiety and stress but I have made it through. I am not nervous about the birth. I am not scared about becoming a mother. I am not worried about the huge change that is coming.

Why? Because I am a killer whale and I have been waiting for this forever.


© Ashley Pittaway

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem