I’ve interviewed politicians, Hollywood A-listers and criminals. My toughest assignment? Interviewing my colleagues. In a strange coincidence, four of my fellow reporters at CityNews were all pregnant at the same time, and they’d done a beautiful photo spread for this very magazine. As the issue was hitting newsstands, it fell to me to interview them, two of them with their newborns, on our 5 p.m. newscast.
My stomach was in knots and my heart raced with each question I asked. I smiled and overcompensated with oohs and ahs, and those few minutes felt like hours. It wasn’t until the show was over that I allowed my eyes to well up in a washroom where I knew no one would find me.
I am your typical Type A personality. I zone in on what I want, and I work hard until I see results. If I don’t succeed at first, I try even harder. It’s a formula that has done the trick my entire life. That is, until I tried to conceive. The one thing I really wanted—to have a baby—was completely out of my control.
I never thought that at 29 years old I’d have a problem getting pregnant. I was married, had a clean bill of health and was ready. We moved from our small townhouse to a detached home in anticipation of a growing family. I told myself I couldn’t buy that expensive dress because it wouldn’t fit in six months. I cut out alcohol and caffeine, peed on sticks every morning to monitor my ovulation cycle—I did everything. But after each unsuccessful month, our excitement deteriorated.
After a year, we were ready for some outside help. My husband, Scott, and I were put through a battery of tests at a clinic. I was actually hoping the fertility specialist would find something—that with a quick diagnosis and a treatment plan, we’d soon be on our way to the maternity ward. But maddeningly, there was no clear cause; it just wasn’t working. The recommendation: intrauterine insemination. The next several months were filled with tests and checkups (too many to count) and even minor surgery to remove a polyp found on my uterus.
Almost every day, before I even had coffee, I’d head to the packed clinic for blood work and an internal ultrasound. The crowded waiting room, the constant testing, the ungodly hour—it wasn’t a pleasant way to start the day by any stretch of the imagination, but I told myself that each visit was just another step toward reaching my goal of motherhood. We were on our way, and I could feel my old Type A perseverance kicking in again. After three failed cycles, however, that feeling started to fade.
We decided to try in vitro fertilization, which proved expensive and much more intrusive. With all the drugs I had to inject every night, I became a human pin cushion—so much so that I soon had to find new places to poke. Plus, my arms were all bruised from having blood drawn almost every day. Just when I felt a flutter of hope that these interventions would help, I was told my body had not reacted properly to the drugs and the few eggs they retrieved were “abnormal.” The clinic didn’t bother fertilizing them, confident they would either not survive or result in a baby with severe health issues. The doctors had no answers, and we had no eggs to freeze.
For the first time in my life, I had no idea how to fix the problem. The process and the drugs were taking a toll: I was often emotional, zoning out of conversations and tearing up when I was alone. It was as if I was watching my life from a distance, on high highs and low lows. There was no middle ground, and that scared me.
To make matters worse, there was no place I could hide. As a news anchor, you have hundreds of thousands of eyes on you. Once, I got a call from a nurse with negative results before I was supposed to go on-air. I immediately lost feeling in my legs and had to find the closest empty room to let out a good cry; a co-worker thankfully covered for me. Another time, I again found out just minutes before air time; I forced a smile when the camera’s red light came on, and for an hour I pretended that nothing was wrong.
Viewers would comment whenever I wore looser-fitting clothing or looked bloated, inquiring if I had a “secret to share.” Every time, it felt like a dagger to the heart.
There was nothing anyone could say to make it better, and my upset turned to anger and resentment. I stopped going to baby showers. I had to look away when I saw pregnant women on the street. I cut out anything that reminded me of my own failures, including pulling back on some friendships. Scott and I avoided talking about our trouble conceiving to each other, but of course it was the only thing we could think about. He had always wanted to be a father, and it was hard for him to mask the disappointment. It was tearing us apart.
After months off, we decided to switch clinics and start IVF treatment all over again. This time, I responded well to the drugs and—a major relief—my eggs looked “normal.” We ended up with four embryos that survived, and hope bubbled up once again. But then the first transfer didn’t take. Neither did the second or third. The devastation returned. We were down to our last “frozen chance,” but I expected nothing. I was ready to accept that perhaps I wasn’t going to have biological kids.
So I was completely caught off guard when the nurse called with my results: “You’re pregnant!” They were the most incredible two words I’d ever heard, but being so used to hearing “sorry, it’s negative,” I couldn’t even process what she said. I’ll never forget calling my husband immediately after. He, too, couldn’t comprehend. “It’s positive,” I said. He responded with, “Positive what?”
I began writing this article with a bulging belly sitting between me and my laptop. Now I am holding my newborn son. For more than four years, having a baby was all I thought about, and now I am finally a mother. It still feels surreal. I spend countless hours staring at him—his chubby cheeks, his little toes, his inquisitive eyes. I know I’m stronger and my heart is bigger than I could’ve ever imagined. But as happy as I am, I will never forget what it took to get here. Watching that footage of my colleagues, the heartbreak and the hopelessness are still fresh. I can’t stop thinking about those who, unlike me, won’t get their happy ending and continue to put up a front, secretly struggling.
Melanie Ng has been an anchor and reporter with CityNews and Breakfast Television Toronto since 2010. Melanie, Scott, baby Josh and their dog, Brian, live in Toronto.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2016 issue with the headline, “I’m a mom at last,” p. 36.