If you’re reading this, thanks already.
But let’s first make sure you’re caught up on this story before you venture any further:
And if you’ve gotten this far, please know I am incredibly grateful for your support in joining me through my story of self expression.
And if you wish to listen to this current blog via audio instead of the written format below, you can do so by clicking HERE
Now, let the journey continue…
Although Mother’s Day hit me like a ton of bricks, assuming every moment of my life revolved around getting pregnant would still be an overstatement.
I still had a life. People with infertility, they still have a life outside of sex and periods and doctors appointments. People who are grieving, they still have a life outside of prayer and tears and solo drives alone hazed with depression. The human mind could not handle the impact of these types of episodes without the ebbs and flows we all experience when deep in darkness. The world lets you sit with your shit, then like a good friend would: it softly cradles your lower back and whispers: “move along now”.
And time will move on with or without our conscious approval: one of the most encouraging and yet daunting parts of life. It doesn’t wait for our goals to be met. It doesn’t wait for us to “get over it”, or “be ready”: it just goes: and it’s our responsibility to keep up with it.
So, I kept up.
My business was still in the awkward semi-virtual transitionary phase and becoming malleable to running a small business from my cell phone was now a priority. Concerts and group gatherings, weddings, birthdays and bachelorette parties were governed like oversized house parties in high school: you cancel, you pivot, or you keep breaking the law. COVID was running rampant and a “new normal” was now looking more normal than ever.
My biggest passion and distraction from hardship was now floating in cyberspace: my job, my business, and my clients.
The bikini and fitness competitions I had been coaching since 2013 were also cancelled: leaving me with my first open schedule on May Long Weekend in over 6 years. I remember the discouragement I felt for my athletes that weekend: preparing for months for that spotlight: the suit, the shoes, the posing, the tan, the jewelry, the makeup, the hair extensions… the body. The cancellation of this event proved coaching more difficult than ever. Not only was I coaching aesthetics, I was coaching mindsets that now needed to pivot: and that shit isn’t easy (especially when you’re equally invested in the vision of having them on stage as they are).
Anyone who’s caught a glimpse of me at a fitness event likely knows the passion and excitement that resonates with me here: I’m the hype girl, spewing spit as I scream at my highest octave during an event that usually involves zero cheering whatsoever. These weekends raise my soul standard higher than most- and I hadn’t attended one since the first week of November 2019 (I allude to the happiness of this distraction in Part 2 of this blog series).
The girls, the environment, the emotional and intellectual energy and investment that went into coaching would always serve as my most productive distraction: so without it, my attention veered back to my internal focus: my need to get pregnant.
Let’s just say that focussing on getting pregnant doesn’t put the SEX in SEXY by any means. The pressure, the timelines, the “you better cum or this is a waste” puts sex-for-the-sake-of-children lower on the totem pole of my favourite things to do than I would like to admit. I am certain my husband could agree. Our child started to fuck up our sex life while she still resonated in my husbands ball sack: how about that for hot and steamy love?
Being the calculated and research driven wife I am, I always warned my husband when it was time to raise his solider in salute for this war we were going after. “Every 48 hours for 5 days babe”: and for extra good luck, “once before and once after my predicted ovulatory window“. I mean, I was handing out less-than-average sex to this man 5x per week- and it was mediocre, at it’s best.
When spontaneity is eliminated from the equation, sex feels different. You’re not really doing it for pleasure or to scratch a horny itch. It’s not fantasy driven or “drop your drawers and fuck me” kinda sex. You’re doing it to make a child. The most important yet least sexy approach to banging your man there is.
Most men (and women for that matter) assume that once the clear decision to “start trying” is made: your babe is already heading your way in a storks beak. Not always the case.
We spend the first half of our late teenage and early adult life inserting IUD sticks into our uteruses or setting daily alarms to consume our nightstand mini purple pill and hiding plastic condom wrappers in 5 layers of toilet paper praying to God our boyfriends swimmers didn’t magically find their way into our Fallopian tubes: only to find out in later life that you can track and try and pray and fuck and do everything perfectly and that moment of conception STILL might not come.
And although not normal, it’s also not uncommon for it to take women years to hold their precious babies once that decision to “try” is made: some storks are just slow as fuck, folks. So if you’re going to TRY for a baby, just know, it might require you to ACTUALLY try: and TRYING repeatedly for months on end will require more of you and your partner than simple intimacy and an urge to bang it out on the weekends.
I remember Robbie saying something along the lines of “I hate that it’s so pressured, I never imagined this is how it worked to get pregnant”. Hurt but totally in alignment with his comment, I spewed back in a higher octave than I would on stage day- “well it could be this way for the next 5 years so get used to it”. Because as much as I resonated with what he was saying, it still stung.
But, unknown to me, it wasn’t 5 years.
It turns out I got pregnant the weekend I had that open schedule- you know, the weekend that had been booked solid the last 6 years- the weekend I pouted over COVID ruining my fitness fun. The weekend I had never spent with my husband in the 6 years we’d been together unless he desired to sit in a spray-tan infested hotel room while I managed water-depleted athletes in high heels. COVID cancelled my plans, but the Universe had made new ones.
And without going into INTENSE details of word produced soft-core porn, in hindsight, I believe I know the exact moment we brought our third baby into this world. I know the way my head was horizontally positioned on the bed, the orientation of my pretzel-like legs, the warmth of his body, the “I think that was the one” whisper in my cerebellum.
That sex: it wasn’t just mediocre.
And by the time my oxytocin levels got back to par, I peed, showered and added the “unprotected sex” marker to my Flo App calendar- I had moved on with my day.
But, little did I know: my whole world was beginning to grow inside me.
The 2 weeks following conception were the most emotional and trying times I had yet to experience as a hopeful mom-to-be. From the date of the unknown conception to the moment I peed on a stick: I was a fucking wreck to put it nicely. Thank you estrogen and progesterone for the mental breakdown..(s) (plural, mental breakdownS: ’cause there were many).
The first emotional catastrophe came one day when when I ventured into our Lethbridge coulees alone for a run to clear my head. This beautiful spring day called for mini LuLu shorts, a sports bra and some Dr. Beats headphones as my outfit of choice. I hustled up and down the topography of our Lethbridge landscape, dripping with sweat but totally managing my pace when I came across a group of four women and their strollers, semi-circled at the bottom of my running trail.
The ladies all had babies. Each of them nestled into their joggers, one on the hip of his mama. This mom-squad chatted amongst themselves as I huffed and puffed up and down the staircase next to them. As one song in my ear transitioned to the next, I overheard the groups conversation.
They were talking about me.
“Oh what I would give to have a body like that” one mom voiced to her friends as she hunched over to tend to her spit-smiled child.
“That’s what kids take away from you” another mama, wearing a pony and oversized hoodie voiced to the group.
“Post-baby dreams!” the lady with the babe at her hip stated with enthusiasm as she “shush-shush-shushed” the infant on her side.
My heart sunk. My eyes began to water. My breathing laboured for the first time in 8KM thinking about how these women wanted something that seemed so surface level to me when they had EVERYTHING I ever dreamed of right at their fingertips.
A tight ass?
What was any of this worth?
Nothing. In that moment, my body was worth nothing to me. My once great achievement of a fantastic physique was betraying me in every sense and these women had no idea.
I’d trade in the abs, the ass, the muscles for a glimpse at the lifestyle they were leading and yet they were oblivious to my struggle.
I tensed my lips as my head screamed at me to share this revelation with the group: but I didn’t have the heart to. I headed up the stairs for a final time and sobbed the 2KM’s back to my car playing sappy slow songs in my ear and feeling sorry for myself. Forever wishing women knew the magic and gift they’ve been given to house and hold a baby of their own.
The following few days didn’t get much better for Ashlyn’s emotional control. The first week of June rolled around and baby-triggers were flying from every direction.
The birth of my beautiful niece came in early June, 2 days prior to my angel babies due date. That entire week I carried a full, but yet heavy heart.
The dichotomy of watching the happiness of your family celebrate the welcoming of their newest member while attempting to shut-off any hurt or sadness I selfishly felt as I wiped welled up tears into a Kleenex was nothing short of a slinky of emotion. The ups and downs of excitement paralleled with “what-could-have-been” thoughts sent my heart for a tailspin.
The voices in my head jumped from pure joy for my sister, agonizing what-ifs about my own journey, to a day of an intense downright depressive episode. These baby-mourning milestones in combination with my surging pre-pregnancy hormones left me feeling a lack of control over my mental health unlike anything I had ever dealt with before.
I quarantined harder than I had since COVID hit, both emotionally and physically. I even went out for lunch, alone, twice that week. I stopped answering text messages, I veered off social media, I naturally secluded myself away from family, friends and my husband as I attempted to wrap my head and heart around these robust emotions. No one could understand me. No one got it. No one hurt like I did. I felt lost and alone for the first time in my adult life.
On the due date of my last lost babe: my two best friends remembered. Although I never expected anyone but me to remember this milestone- my girlfriend had it noted on her calendar from back in September and knew my emotional state was lacking. Talk about best friend.
My girls showed up with flowers and a card to my office and let me absolutely lose my cool. The biggest meltdown I had yet to experience, second to Mothers Day (I speak about this in Part 4 of this blog series).
I sat back in my office recliner and over-shared my deepest fears and frustrations to my friends. They listened and let me hyperventilate my hurt. Everything that was boiling in my head all week was now spilling outside the pot and all over the oven as I refused to hold back.
“I don’t know who I’ll become if I can’t have children” I remember verbalizing the pain and conflict I was feeling internally and quickly being hit with an instant vulnerability hangover in that moment.
Never in my life had I been unsure of who I was at my core or who I’d become. I had goals and vision and direction. I coached people on having goals and vision and direction. And in that moment, I felt I had nothing.
That week rounded out the way it was brought in: with a few tears, but with the wind-of-time pressed against my back, moving me forward, as it always does.
On the Friday morning I headed to the coulees for my morning run: the same exhausting route I’d been doing for months. This time, my husband joined me. Given that 10KM’s full of hills and stairs had been MY thing since COVID hit, I was fully confident I would be the one setting the pace. But, to my surprise, as we hit the inclines, my legs began to give out. I slugged through the stairs: even stopping to catch my breath, twice. Robbie began to run past me as I genuinely could not move my ass another step.
Then, it hit me.
This fatigue wasn’t typical. THIS kind of fatigue wasn’t lack-of-conditioning. THIS kind of fatigue is the shit women talk about in their first trimester.
Could it be?
I did the mental math and confirmed with my ovulation tracker as I slugged my legs up two flights of stairs where I reached my husband at the top. Day 29. It was Day 29, and I was exhausted.
While a smirk came over my face I picked up my phone, panned the scenery for a “look at my run” Instagram story (see photo above) and kept the wishful thoughts to myself. While my husband insisted we pick up the pace to head home, I reluctantly chose to walk. And as I walked, I daydreamed. I embraced the fatigue. I let my brain wonder. I fell into the spiral of planning the next 9 months in my mind as I did every month that my period went past Day 28.
I had never bowed out so gracefully from a workout before. As always, I let the thoughts consume me for a moment, then I brushed their way out of my consciousness once again.
That evening my best friend and her fiancé came over to double date Rob and I for dinner- and in true best friend fashion, she showed up with a bottle of Prosecco and Aperol in hand. After the week from hell she just walked through with me, we negated any talk of diet soda and puff puff passed our way through happier conversations all evening.
I sat around our backyard fire that night, slightly hazed in daydreams, slightly hazed in Aperol Spritz and marijuana smoke- and again, my internal voice spoke to me,
“Tomorrow will be Day 30. Tomorrow I will officially be late for my period” – and again in that moment, I let my brain wonder the “what’s ifs”.
I remember tipping my head back in my backyard rocking swing as I sat next to my husband, simultaneously rubbing the fog off the glass that held my perfectly curated Aperol Spritz that I had spent the majority of COVID mastering. My wondering brain began imprinting hope on my heart once again:
I sat thinking,
“This could be my last drink for nearly a year”- “this could be my last non-sober moment of 2020″- “this could be my last puff puff pass and I would be so very happy for it to be”
And as much as I wanted to share this revelation with the other 3 gathered with me, voicing my excitement over whether “tomorrow was the day” seemed premature. Speaking my excitement each month followed by a “never mind I got my period” only reinforced my hurt to others.
So I kept my thoughts to myself as I let my body sink into the comfort of my husbands left shoulder. My dog jumped on the swing next to my left in a domino effect fashion- and together, my little family sat- swaying to the sound of my husbands acoustic playlist, dazed by the heat of that summer day and the lack of sobriety we all felt in that moment.
I sat mystified in the thought that this could be the last moment my little family was ever this little again.
Because in the morning, I had little white stick waiting for me, who’s contents would forever change our little families lives.
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