Who We Are: Emma’s Story

I am a woman, a wife, a mentor, a dressmaker. I am curvy, I am kind, and I am passionate; I am not a mother.

That’s OK. There are plenty of women and couples my age who don’t have children, but I’m also pretty confident that there are plenty of people out there who are wishing for a family of their own too. My husband and I decided we would try for children when we got married in 2012 but we have been so far unsuccessful. If I may, I wanted to share a little bit of that journey in the hope that there are others, like me, who can get some comfort from hearing they are not alone and to see how a hobby like sewing can help to ease the struggle.

I write this from a good place, I have an amazing and understanding husband, a fantastically supportive family and a successful career. I also throw myself whole-heartedly into my dressmaking, my blogging and a masters in psychology. Trust me when I tell you that I haven’t always been in a good place (even though the above still applied).

The first two years don’t seem too bad, I wondered why it wasn’t happening for us, but I always just assumed (as most do) that it would happen eventually. We went away a lot, we enjoyed each other’s company, we built on our home. Then, it started to become quite obvious that this wasn’t going to ‘just happen’ — though many still insist that it will.

And so it began — the doctor and hospital appointments, being poked and prodded and having every sort of test. I was passed through so many doctors and never met the same one twice, every appointment meant explaining my whole story again, making the story of my life clinical and insensitive. It turns out, I don’t ovulate. They put me on tablets reluctantly as I am above the BMI by four points. They told me I was ovulating and everything was OK — I beg to differ…

BMI — this is essentially the biggest barrier I have had in being able to have children. By this I mean they will not go any further with fertility treatments until my BMI is low enough. I’m sure many people will think that if I wanted it badly enough, I would just lose the weight and have the treatment. It is the biggest struggle I have ever felt — I don’t feel fat, I am not unhappy with the way I look, I feel confident and healthy most of the time. However, I have been on and off diets for the past four years. I would get close to where I was supposed to be and face a set-back.

My lowest point was when I was sure I would weigh-in. I had worked so hard, sticking closely to a diet. However, I was seven pounds over the maximum they needed me to be. I had been having appointments every three months for a year. The head gynecologist decided that if I couldn’t lose the weight, she was discharging me until I could… I would have to go back and start the process from the beginning. That news was delivered in the most impersonal way. She didn’t understand the struggle that weight loss is to me, and I felt like her decision completely ended the chances which I had been working so hard towards. A ten minute appointment, which felt like 30 seconds, wasted four years of my life. I was sent from the consultation room, in tears, with a very firm and unemotional no.

I am not selfish. I understand the health-care system is under strain. I understand that there are others who can benefit from their time too… but I felt completely cast aside, and without sounding dramatic, it was one of the darkest times of my life. There were so many emotions going through my head at this time, I’m not actually able to explain them. I didn’t fight for that last seven pounds, I felt exhausted with it and so dejected. I promptly turned to my husband, my family and my sewing room.

My sanctuary.

Two years ago, after I had been fiddling around making a few cushions, my Mum bought me a sewing pattern. I started to make clothes. This process, took my mind away from everything, it was something I could do just for myself, to create my own identity and have clothes which could fit my figure. I love bright fabrics and making a wardrobe which reflects me as a woman. I get to choose, I get to make clothes which are me. This knowledge and the comfort which I get from sewing has been a huge component in getting through some of the tougher times. My identity is that of a woman and a wife and when I’m stood, feeling great in an outfit I made, which fits me and defines me, and someone throws the ‘when are you having children’ dagger — I feel a bit more prepared to say ‘not yet, we’re enjoying life ourselves at the moment.’ It is not everything which supports me, but it helps massively. That question though: if you can help it, please don’t ask it. It’s so tricky to navigate and you don’t know what the story is behind the answer. Some people think that it is a natural and harmless question, but to many others, it really isn’t.

Anyway, the sewing community have also been amazing, inspiring me to try different garments and learn new skills. It absorbs me when I need to be absorbed. The fact that there are more and more skills, which push me, allows me to become immersed in sewing, plans, and fabrics. My sewing room (though it drives my husband nuts) really has become my happy place and a sanctuary.

I have gotten so much more from the sewing community than I thought possible. I have a great group of friends in the Sunshine Bloggers and the Sewcialists. I thought I would look to see what support there was for infertility on the web, but I found that so many people share their journey after they have come out the other side. People who have been successful, sharing their stories. It’s hard to stomach someone who is pregnant telling you how hard it was for them to conceive, no matter how well meaning they are. So I offer my story, as I still go through my journey, in hope that it can support others. The pain is still very real and it goes in waves, sometimes I feel fine and hardly think about it, other times, I feel completely lost. I just go with it and think about all the amazing things I have to be grateful for when I’m feeling sad… AND… I sew!

My advice, for what it is worth — use your loved ones, be honest with them as they only ever want to support you. My husband has been everything in this journey, he has picked me up with unwavering and dedicated love every time I’ve felt down. Secondly, don’t be scared to say to yourself ‘I don’t want to watch that pregnant lady on Instagram get more pregnant’ — press that unfollow button, there is no shame in it. Thirdly, immerse yourself in something which is just for you, that can define you not matter what!

You can follow Emma on Instagram at @emmaandhermachine.

70 thoughts on “Who We Are: Emma’s Story

  1. Thank you for this. I had never heard of BMI used as a “medical” reason not to help someone with fertility. My mind is blown, and not in a good way. I think you look wonderful.
    I totally agree that sewing for your body is awesome and the sewing community is awesome! Enjoy the journey!

    1. I think it is probably because of the likelihood of it being successful, which I do understand. I just wish it would make the battle a bit easier!
      I’ve definitely felt a lot of support from the community so thank you for your kind comment. 🙂

  2. Bravo Emma, I hate that you received that type of treatment, but love how you have ‘found’ yourself. Thank you for sharing

  3. I wish I could’ve been there to give you a hug after you were treated that way. Honestly, you’d think the doctor would have some little smidgen of empathy! You are processing all this well, although as you say, I’m sure it comes and goes in waves. You are right that family and good, honest friends are so essential to all of us, no matter the struggle. Thanks for being open and telling your story!

    1. As someone who is extremely empathetic, it was really hard to take and you would think that people in healthcare would have that within them but it would seem that it was a little lacking here.
      Being honest is the key, I wouldn’t want people to pussyfoot around me and my family and friends are essential for me. Thank you for your message.

  4. Thank you for sharing your journey. I wonder if that doctor has any idea how damaging she is to such a delicate emotional and mental time of your life. So sorry she treated you like this. I certainly do love the sewing community. I wish only the best for you and your husband.

    1. I wrote a letter to the hospital saying exactly that, if I would have been even more delicate (I’m generally quite a strong person), it may have had very severe consequences. It took quite a while for me to build back up to full strength.
      Thank you for your kind message and well wishes.

  5. Emma, I have followed you for quite a while, but never commented. You are an amazing soul. Your kindness and caring comes forth through your countenance. I admire your sewing skills and your makes encourage me to try harder.
    Thank you for being YOU. There are too many people hiding behind a facade these days.
    May God bless you abundantly.

    1. Thank you much for your message Glenda. I always try to be honest but even more so with this post. I think being as honest as possible with issues like this is the best way. I’m glad my sewing can inspire too. I really appreciate you getting in touch. x

  6. Oh Emma. You’re so brave for talking about this, I admire you so much for doing as I find it so difficult to talk about my childlessness. I think it’s an absolute travesty that you were treat in such a way by fertility services. I wish I could give you a hug lovely X

  7. Thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry that you were treated so poorly by that doctor and the medical system. We really need an overhaul with health care and the way it treats those who are curvier. I’ve always thought for myself that if a baby was meant to be, it would happen. But after 7 years of marriage and several miscarriages — I guess not. Sewing sure is comforting and loving ourselves and having a supportive partner are the best things in life. Plus, there’s always hope. ❤️❤️

    1. I know sometimes it’s hard to hear because I’ve felt it myself but you do never know and we can but hope. I feel slightly like I must be made for it, I’m such a motherly person… But who knows? It’s nice to know others use sewing as their therapy too though. All we can do is be the best versions of ourselves as much as we can. I send you the best of wishes and luck. x

  8. Thank you for sharing your story. My own struggle with fertility is at the same point (no success to date, but life is otherwise good!), and although my path differs slightly (my husband cannot provide what is required for creating a pregnancy, and donors have not provided success either), the feelings related to wanting a family and not being able to have one are the same, I think. As you mentioned, childfree couples exist and that is wonderful, but my husband and I are child-less (we would like to raise children but have not had the opportunity) and it can make “normal” interactions with pregnant friends and relatives very painful. So I just wanted to echo some of your thoughts, as they resonated with me. I have also found sewing to be a great help; it has provided fulfillment when I have felt like I could accomplish nothing. I posted a short synopsis of my story on Instagram for #smyly2018 and have also found the sewing community to be full of empathy and good vibes 🙂
    I wish you the very best for the future

    1. Thanks for being so honest with your response. As much as I hate to hear that you are having the same pain, it is nice to know that I’m not alone. I completely understand what you mean about the pain that can be felt but I would not have others feel like I do for the world and that’s how I comfort myself. This community is amazing and really does inspire me to keep learning and using sewing as my therapy. I wish you luck with it. x

      1. Thank you, you are absolutely correct, it would be worse to have someone go through the same journey instead of having success! I do think it is wonderful for them, so I need to remind myself in difficult times that I wouldn’t want it otherwise! 🙂

        1. Yes, exactly, it’s not the best comfort in the world if we’re honest but it’s completely true. When you know of the heart-ache you have to be happy for others who do not have to feel it. x

  9. The medical community can be so shitty about weight stuff and I’m very sorry you’ve been made to suffer for this. It’s unfair and cruel, and doctors of all people should know better.
    It’s good that you’ve found an outlet in sewing. I think it’s good also that you’re talking about it even without it being over, for the reasons that you say. When you are going through rough time, it can hurt a lot to hear that things get better after… But there’s a comfort in the acknowledgement that things are hard at the moment (and it makes it easier to appreciate those moments when you feel the hardship a little less)
    So thanks for sharing, and may things be good for you, no matter what form that goodness takes 😊

    1. I do understand the reasoning behind it but at the same time, it really is an issue that requires compassion.
      That is exactly why I shared my story because it’s OK that it is a journey that isn’t finished yet.
      Thank you for your lovely message. x

  10. Oh Emma. How brave of you to share your story. I have tears in my eyes, even after so many years of living a very similar story. We too were not able to have children on our own, went the route of doctors poking and prodding, being treated like a number instead of a person by very insensitive physicians, tried unsuccessfully to adopt…and are now in the first stages of retirement and still childless. Years ago the question about whether I have children brought so much pain and tears, and it still does….although often now the question is whether I have grandchildren. It is a hard question to answer politely, and although generally it is an innocent question, people don’t realize how much it can hurt. The answer that I have come up with that seems to have worked the best is “no, that didn’t work out for us”. It seems to tell people to mind their own business, without having to say anything else. Cudos for you for finding things that make you happy and fill your soul. I chose to let my career take a back seat, in the hopes that less stress would make conception more likely. In the end, that didn’t happen, and I didn’t have the career I wanted either. I also avoided volunteering opportunities and situations with children, as the pain was too great….and missed out on so many chances to be around children. Creating a happy life without children is possible, although well-meaning family and friends don’t always understand that. My advice….continue doing things that fill your soul, continue being brave and sharing your story, and create a family that works for you. The definition of family doesn’t have to mean mom-dad-child-pet….it can be great friends and extended family members. I am now the “cool aunt” to 10 nieces and nephews, assorted spouses of those “kids”, and 3 great-nieces and nephews…and consider myself to be very rich in family.

    1. Thank you so much for such an open and honest reply. I really appreciate it. I’m sorry you have had to go through such pain. I imagine I only know a little of how you feel. I have been encouraged to continue my life child-free and sometimes feel that might be possible. I am lucky that I get to work with children every day and I don’t know why but I don’t find it painful at all, they’re a joy. I also have a niece and nephew who I’m very lucky to be very active with. I am grateful for what I have, I still have hope that it might happen one day but I love my life as much as I can for now. Thanks for your advice, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. xx

  11. Emma, I can’t believe what you’ve been through. I’m really sorry you’ve been treated this way, as if monthly heartache wasn’t enough. It’s amazing how much comfort sewing has brought to our lives. I would’ve never guessed as you always look happy and fabulous xxx Big hugs xxx Monika xxx

    1. Thank you, I think that’s the point, we wouldn’t know that some people have pain underneath. It is a monthly heartache but I try to throw myself in to everything else. Thank you for a lovely message. xx

  12. Oh my. (((HUGS))) That Dr was terrible! I am in the USA and we never had BMI as an issue for fertility help. Yes the “dumb” Drs suggested weight loss to “cure” fertility. But seriously? They do not know if that is the answer.

    I was diagnosed with PCOS at age 16 and told I’d never have children. At 13 I ballooned into a chubby body so fast (hormones) I had stretch marks. So I stopped eating.

    Back in the day they said they thought PCOS was caused by being fat. Now they know it causes metabolic disorder- it makes you heavier!

    At 18 I got pregnant. Not planned of course. But you better believe this baby (my daughter) meant everything to me. (She died in a car accident at 28) I thought she’d be my only child. The Drs helped me as I tried to get pregnant again after her. And at 22 I did have my 2nd daughter and then “surprise” I had a son at 24. We never used birth control and I never got pregnant again until I was 46 and my son was born when I was 47. No one thought we’d live, I have bad health. I also weighed 238 pounds at 46 when I conceived. My total surprise baby/son was 6 months old when my 28 year old daughter died. It was hell. I was so happy with my son, and beyond sad wanting to die to be with my daughter. I understand grief too well.

    We also adopted 17 children. I wanted a big family :o) Altho who plans for 17! LOL! My son I had at 47 is 14 and I’m 61. :o)

    I have a 27 year old daughter, who is celebrating her 5th wedding anniversary. She has been desperately trying to have a baby. All her friends have babies. Her last resort is losing weight. My daughter is adopted, and we are very very close. She fears being told that she can’t have children. She knows my story. And you are so right, I did get pregnant, I did have children. That does not help my daughter feel better. I am heartbroken for her. So I listen. And we only discuss it when she wants to. Oh but my heart hurts for her. When she asks I sew her baby things, she hates sewing. :o) She has a wonderful husband, sounds like you do too!

    ((((HUGS)))) Thank You for sharing, I’m going to share your post with my daughter.

    1. Thank you for such a lovely, heartfelt reply. It’s both sad and nice to hear other people’s stories. Your family sounds amazing, but I was so sad to hear about your daughter. My mum is very similar and listens to me whenever I want to talk about it and read this post before it was published. It is so reassuring to have a supportive family. I hope my post can help your daughter too.

  13. Big hugs!!! I’ve had weight loss struggles and I’ve had fertility issues and while each is hard to deal with on their own, this is just double whammy! Thanks for sharing your story and I’m so glad sewing helps you!

  14. Thank you for sharing your challenges and what you do to take your mind off things. Having worked in the medical field my entire adult life, I am appalled by the way you were treated. I think you look wonderful. My prayers are with you – hope that is okay,

    1. Thank you, that is kind. I find most people who work in the medical profession to be empathetic and kind, including my own best friend who is a nurse and so amazingly caring. Sadly, this lady didn’t appear so and I hope she doesn’t damage others in the same way. Thank you for your prayers, I appreciate it. x

  15. Thank you so much for sharing this story. Like others above I am astounded that you received such treatment – pretty sure compassion doesn’t cost anything 😦 I hope everything goes well for you, whatever comes next, and am happy that sewing helps! All the sewing people have your back 🙂

    1. Thank you so much. I feel so supported and buoyed. I was very nervous about putting myself out there and the reaction has amazed me so once again I was right to turn to the sewing community! x

  16. Wow Emma. What a gut punch. I’m so sorry. That doctor has no business practicing medicine on anyone or anything living. They obviously went into it for the science and need to stay in that arena, away from the service side of medicine. I’m sorry you dealt with such an emotional vacuum of a human. I’m sure it’s her coping mechanism or a crap day for her, but it doesn’t make it right. It seems at times like these, no country has the medical care system worked out.

    I’m thrilled sewing gives you that zen place to feel in control and self-love.

    It’s huge to be able to hit that “unfollow” button, literally and figuratively. I’ve also found it’s ok to say, “I don’t participate in X.” I’ve said things like: “I don’t drink. I don’t sew (x-brand’s) patterns. I don’t follow ____.” and reasons are my business. Period. A token “it’s not my thing” will suffice and subject is dropped. Anyone uncouth enough not to let it drop can be added to the “not my thing” category. 😀 I prefer a “carefully curated” life! lol.

    1. That’s exactly how I felt, all the education and no social skills. I’m actually quite interested in it as there’s actually online campaigns to remind doctors to just say hello and introduce themselves to patients and I think that it is very sad that has to be so.
      I completely agree, you have to protect yourself and if sewing is going to relax me then I’m going to do it my way. I only make things I’m excited about and I mostly do it all for me!!

  17. Thanks Emma for sharing your story. You’re very brave. I’m not really “out” but a few close people know I’ve struggled with this too. It’s not due to weight but to being “too old”. It was nobody’s fault that we didn’t meet until later in life, but this is the only regret I have about that. I’ve certainly unfollowed people on social media too, and sewing has also been really therapeutic for me as well. I go upstairs and tell my partner that I’m off to “get my rage on” – by cutting fabric and revving up the sewing machine. Lol. Hugs to you. Thanks again.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you have the same pain. I obviously know it’s not a nice feeling but you aren’t alone. I think that it is the best way. It’s do easy to get trapped in what you ‘should be’ doing and not realise it’s actually hurting you.
      The way you look at sewing is inspirational, let’s all get our rage on and let sewing do it’s thing!!

  18. Emma thank you for sharing your story, sounds like you were treated very poorly within the healthcare system and not given very much support at all. Can’t imagine what it’s like to go through everything you’ve been through but thank goodness for sewing and I wish you all the best for the future 😚 x

    1. Thank you, I don’t feel this represents the health care profession at all, just a very clever but perhaps misunderstanding woman. Thank goodness for sewing indeed and thank you for your message. x

  19. I’m there as well. Trying to get pregnant but failing for the 6th-7th year now(?), I lost count 🙂. But life is otherwise fine, and although I do envy the pregnant women around me a little, I’m always happy for them and have no problem following their belly grow and loving their children when they arrive. I have mentally accepted (although the hope lives on) that it might never happen to me, partly also because stressing about it doesn’t help the situation.
    Thank you for bravely sharing your story, I wish you happiness regardless where it comes from ❤ (and if you have the money, go have a consultation in Denmark, they’re big on this 😉). All the best Emma! You rock!

    1. Thanks so much for your message. It sounds like you feel exactly the same as me. You couldn’t have expressed it better. My sister has just had a boy and whilst I thought I’d find it difficult but it was a joy and we are very lucky to have him! I wish you the best too. ☺ xx

  20. Thanks for sharing your story – I admire you being so honest and vulnerable. I too find solace and escape in my sewing room! And I really like that multi-colored dress (with pockets!).

    1. Thank you. I figured the best thing to do would be to be honest because there isn’t a way to make it sound nice. It definitely seems to support a lot of people. Thanks for your nice message. ☺

  21. We struggled to conceive for a few years. Staying pregnant was another issue. I know you pain and frustration. Happily for us, we did eventually have three healthy babies, who are now teenagers. And yes, I too remember my BMI was an issue for the fertility specialists, who were lovely about telling me. Science is often brutal to emotions.

    Wishing you well.

  22. Thank you for sharing your story and sorry you were treated that way. The NHS cut offs can sometimes seem very arbitrary and unfair, especially if you’ve worked really hard to meet the requirements. Wishing you all the best for the future xx

  23. Hello Emma, thank you for sharing your story. It’s great that sewing is a help through your bad times. been there, got the t.shirt. Please look up Jody Day and her support group “gateway women” I think this is a fantastic group for the childless especially. she also has a book which is amazing. this childless issue is not talked about in our society very much and is handled very poorly by most ‘professionals’ and possibly-well-meaning (sometimes I’m not sure) folk with the ‘when is the baby happening questions’, I’m at the end of the trying cycle – still without the child, which is some ways a relief that I don’t have to deflect the baby questions any more, unfortunately we are starting to get the ‘do you have grand kids’ questions now. WTF, as if going through the last 20 odd years has not been hard enough. I think a group like Jody’s would have been hugely helpful when I was younger. good luck on your journey.

    1. Thank you for your response, sorry I am taking a while to reply, my notifications have not been working. I will definitely check that out, it’s good to know there is support out there. Sadly, people can really misunderstand and hopefully talking about it will help some to think before they ask these questions, as well meaning as they are. Thanks for your well wishes. x

  24. Thank you for sharing! While I don’t share your struggle, my partner and I are in our mid 30s and don’t have children (yet) by choice. It really bothers me when people bother me about it because it’s really none of their business, and like you said, they don’t know the story behind it. What if I was struggling to get pregnant the last 5 years? I’m of the opinion that our uteruses are nobody’s business but our own! (And maybe our mom’s) 😉 stay strong!

    1. Thank you, well yes. I am only just 30 so it doesn’t seem too strange that I don’t have children yet but people don’t think. I find that the older generation do not ask the same and I think this is because it was considered rude in their time and a subject that could not be fixed by science. Thanks for your message.

  25. I’m so sorry that you (and so many others) have been going through so much difficulty with fertility. I don’t know what those people were on about but BMI has been debunked as inaccurate and misleading. My doctor removed the poster he used to have in his examining room years ago! I sure wish the rest of the medical system would get with the program. Random numbers on a chart are not a measure of health. Wishing you all the best – which ever way things turn out for you. Remember you are strong and beautiful just the way you are. Don’t give up hope but don’t let longing sour what you already have. Hugs!!

    1. I completely agree. I was looking back at some photos the other day and even when I was 16/17 I was this size. I don’t feel it represents a healthy me at all, which is a real shame. It isn’t a one size it’s all statistic is it? I really appreciate your kind words. I’m just living my very lucky life the best I know for now. ☺ x

  26. Hey Emma! I read your story and wanted to say how brave you are for sharing your testimony! I have worked with a lot of women in your shoes you are not alone! Before my rainbow baby Easton, I had a miscarriage and I longed for motherhood I too had to find a happy space. You’re on point with using that unfollow button! You may find encouragement in my friend crystals story, I shared a little of it in my last post, last paragraph. Sending love!

    1. Thanks for your message. I’m so happy you got your rainbow baby. It’s been nice to hear I’m not alone though I feel for the people in similar positions. Thanks for the tip, I’ll check it out. ☺ x

      1. Thank you, my heart goes out to all
        Women battling fertility and miscarriage. Big prayers for you, and remember healthy doesn’t mean a number on a scale and doctors sometimes say stupid things!

  27. I’m sorry this is happening to you. I struggled to get pregnant with my daughter, but thankfully Clomid did the trick for me & we didn’t have to pursue more complex treatments. I got pregnant again, by accident, a few years later. I caught it late due to weird bleeding & didn’t have my first prenatal until I was almost three months along. They didn’t have an ultrasound machine up that day so they couldn’t get measurements & estimate weeks. The OB tried to do an abdomen palpation & gauge the size that way, but said he “couldn’t feel anything because [I was] too overweight”. I cried for a long time in the exam room after that. He made me feel like I didn’t deserve to be pregnant because I was too fat or something. & I miscarried the very next day (which was also my birthday).

    I’m so thankful to have my daughter, but I do still get regular questions from other parents asking when we’re going to have another. I’ve started just telling them the truth: “I had a late miscarriage & was diagnosed with endocervical cancer shortly thereafter. Treatment necessitated a hysterectomy, so I can’t have any more children. You seem uncomfortable. Maybe you shouldn’t have asked such an invasive & personal question.”

    1. I’m both happy and sad that you shared your story. It is an amazing privilege that you have you daughter but sad that you have suffered so much pain. I have had a year of clomid to no effect sadly.
      You are very brave to give people an answer like that, I’m not quite ready to stand up to questions like this but I hope I will develop my own response one day. Thanks for your message, I appreciate it. ☺

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