After Miscarriage and Infertility, Hannah Bronfman Is Redefining What It Means to Create a Family

·9 min read

Hannah Bronfman has been documenting her fertility journey since 2019, through the highest of highs and the devastating lows. Now, nine months pregnant with her second child, she shares a deeply personal essay about wanting to break the stigmas surrounding infertility, and redefining what it means to create a family.

I’ve been asked many times over the last few years why I’ve been so public about my struggles to get pregnant. Why I’ve documented jabbing needles into myself during my multiple rounds of implantation cycles and IVF. Why I’ve spoken in detail about my miscarriages. Why I’ve shared the tears, and the exhaustion, and then ultimately my first successful pregnancy, and now my second—I am due to give birth again in less than two weeks.

I’ve done it because I’m not living on an island, suffering alone. What I was going through was the same as so many women and families, but so often—in the midst of the struggle—it’s hard to speak up. And as Black women, our experiences are far too often invisible. I didn’t set out to become a poster child of fertility struggles, but I felt strongly that just talking about it could help others in my position.

In the age of social media, we’re so used to sharing our lives. Usually it’s just the great parts. But for me, from the age of 29 to 35 (which I am now), so much of my life revolved around trying to get pregnant, and so much of my day-to-day was tracking cycles, having IUI [intrauterine insemination], trying to conceive, losing pregnancies, preparing my body for egg collections, doing IVF [in vitro fertilization]. To not show that would have been a disservice. In the end, trying to hide the emotional and physical exhaustion of my day-to-day felt harder than sharing it.

Even though recording my first video talking about it was hard (my husband, Brendan, and I first shared our journey on YouTube back in February 2019), the support both of us received has been extraordinary. In the six years of documenting our experiences, I have found a community of people I never knew I would need but have changed my life for the better.

I’ll be honest, I never thought this would be my experience. I was lucky enough to find my person in Brendan when we were both young. It never occurred to us that having a baby would be hard. I joke, but honestly, sometimes it feels like our parents didn’t give us the necessary heads-up. I certainly was never prepared for the fact I might just not be able to get pregnant. My mum had me naturally at 41, and her truth is her truth, and I definitely don’t blame her for not preparing me, but I just didn’t know that everyone’s journey isn’t linear. And even with some of my friends, the first time they found out about their own mom’s miscarriage was when they went through their own.

That’s part of a narrative I want to change too. As hard as it is to talk about the heartbreaks so many of us have suffered, I want to help prepare the future generations so that no one takes getting pregnant for granted.

My first miscarriage was four years ago. I was on a tour for my book, which I had poured so much blood, sweat, and tears into. That morning I had gone in for a routine nine-week check-up by myself—we didn’t think Brendan needed to be there. But it was during that appointment that I discovered the heartbeat had gone. It was devastating.

I took the day to be in bed. But that evening I was due at a book event, and—in the way you don’t always think straight after a trauma—I didn’t want to let the organizers down. So I tried to compartmentalize my emotions. I took a shower, put on a cute look, did my makeup, and went to the event. Brendan didn’t want me to go, but going seemed better than dealing with the trauma head-on.

But the following weeks were really tough, and I took my time to be with my thoughts and my husband. As every woman who knows this story knows all too well, after you get knocked down, you get up, get back on the horse, and try again next month. At the beginning of the journey, you assume and hope for the best. You track your cycles. You do timed intercourse.

But it wasn’t that simple for us. Life isn’t, and this was just the beginning of our three-year-long journey to having children. We tried everything we could think of—natural attempts, eating the right foods, tracking my ovulation using apps and kits, taking hormones, and finally, IUI. But nothing seemed to work. That’s when we made the decision to try IVF. In the end, it took us three years of trying to conceive before we finally welcomed our son, Preston, into the world.

During the IVF process I learned the power of positive thinking. Injecting myself with hormones daily took a toll on me both physically and emotionally, with highs and lows that often left me feeling that I had to put on a brave face for others. Brendan and I decided to share our journey as we were going through it on his YouTube channel, and although I felt crazily vulnerable, I wanted to document the process and share it with others who may be going through a similar situation.

I had mentally prepared myself for a negative outcome with the first implantation, and so when the pregnancy didn’t take, I felt strangely able to deal with it. However, my husband encouraged me to stay positive and believe in success, and our second implantation took. While I understand that positivity alone cannot alter science or change an outcome, it was crucial for my own mental well-being—and it taught me a powerful lesson about the connection between the mind and the body.

But I am acutely aware that not everyone is as fortunate in the journey of infertility. The reality is that, for some, the dream of having a baby never comes to fruition, and the pain of that loss is heart-wrenching.

Every single day I count my blessings for Preston, who was born in November 2020 in the height of COVID. I was three days overdue, and I ended up having an induction. This wasn't the plan, but nothing about having a baby in the middle of a pandemic fits a “plan.” I needed to do a lot of advocating for myself.

After experiencing the challenges of our first pregnancy journey, we knew that growing our family was still a priority. We went straight for IVF, given our experiences, and were hopeful for a successful outcome.

Unfortunately, just weeks after our implantation, I had a devastating experience that made me question if I would ever be able to control any part of my infertility journey. While away for a friend’s wedding, I was involved in an accident with a scooter—which fell on top of me. I didn’t know that I was already pregnant, and when I returned home and went for my first scan, my doctor confirmed the pregnancy but noticed a small hairline breakage on the sac of the embryo that could potentially resolve itself, but we would need to keep an eye on it. Ten days later I miscarried. It was a heartbreaking experience, and I felt that I had failed myself and my family. But I didn’t give up. After taking some time to heal, I went for another implantation in September, and thankfully, it worked.

Now, eight months pregnant with baby number two, I reflect on my infertility journey and the lessons it has taught me. Having already experienced the fulfillment of creating a family with Preston, the miscarriage didn’t feel as devastating as it could have. It may sound clichéd, but I truly believe that when you’ve prayed and manifested for a family, you have to count your lucky stars when it happens. All that hardship—the needles, the early mornings, the bad news, and each period that came month after month—became such a small part of the bigger picture once we had Preston.

We’re now looking at a different landscape. The conversation around reproductive rights and women’s health issues has shifted, but the system remains flawed, and it is stacked against Black women specifically. The US maternal mortality rate is currently at its highest level since 1965, with Black mothers the most affected. And it goes without saying that this devastating reality is something that affects Black women no matter what their socioeconomic background is. You’ve got 40 weeks to educate, talk, prep, and find the right team for you and your family, and yet when it comes to birth, the statistics are frightening in the US. If you are not comfortable with your team or your OB, I highly suggest seeking out midwifery options. Midwifery is and can be a large part of the solution for positive birth outcomes and to help solve issues we’re seeing in our hospitals.

courtesy of Hannah Bronfman
courtesy of Hannah Bronfman

There have been a lot of surprises on this journey. When I look back on trying to create life, I was shocked by how difficult it would be for someone like me, with my health profile—young, healthy, and seemingly fertile. We are brought up to believe that we’ll get pregnant so easily are and given so many scare tactics to avoid it, but when it comes time to embark on this journey, you can actually face major setbacks.

But there is hope. When you enter the world of fertility treatment, you join a community that stays with you forever. In that hospital waiting room, I found solace in the fact that others around me are experiencing the same struggles, even if we come from different walks of life. I hope that by sharing my story I can be a resource and support for others on this journey, and I hope that we can all feel less alone. Fertility struggles are more common than ever, and I want to break down the stigma and shame that can be associated with seeking help. I want my son and future daughter to know that their conception story is just as beautiful and valid as any other, regardless of the path we took to bring them into this world.

Originally Appeared on Glamour