Book Extract: Abundantly Empty – Baby Steps, Or Try And Try Again

March 6, 2022

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Cathy Raubenheimer is a 46-year-old woman, who only started trying to start a family at 38 after travelling and building her career. “Even though I knew that biological clock was ticking, I was confident that falling pregnant was not going to be too difficult and that I would have my first child before the age of 40,” she says. But it was not to be and Raubenheimer’s journey to parenthood hit virtually every stumbling block along the way. Indeed, after 14 IVFs, three different egg donors and two surrogates, she experienced all the highs, the lows and everything in-between. Now, Raubenheimer sheds light on her personal journey in an honest, open and caring way, in her book Abundantly Empty. It took the author two and a half years to write the book, with contributions from her husband Julian, her parents, family and friends, egg donors, surrogates and medical experts. Says Raubenheimer: “Although one in six couples experience infertility issues, few talk about it, so I wrote this book to send a ‘you are not alone’ message to all those suffering from the same condition, and also to break the silence and increase the understanding of what it takes to survive infertility and retain hope and meaning.” Raubenheimer shares the daunting challenge of balancing her marriage, her friendships and her career with countless hospital visits, numerous IVFs, multiple egg donors and two surrogates, with current medical facts and several perspectives in the form of contributions from leading fertility specialists and a clinical psychologist.

 

Extract:

You pin so much hope onto each stage of the physically and emotionally demanding process and assure yourself that it will all be worth it when you’re pregnant. You imagine yourself with a rounded tummy, wonder how it will feel to carry a baby. And then, in that second when you register it’s a negative result, it all just disappears. It’s like having bleach thrown at your mind and heart and there is nothing you can do about it.

After our appointment, Jules drives us to Oude Molen, an eco-village that is nearby and has a tearoom. I don’t want to go in. I walk towards the wooden pole railings. There are horses there. I just stand watching them. I can smell the cut grass and see that the sky is bright blue, and the day is trying to be sunny, but I’m so numb I just stand there. My face is wet with tears again. Jules comes back with a spinach quiche and a coffee for me. I take a bite or two. I can’t talk. I’m just empty and hurting.  Jules is worried. I can feel it, but I can’t help him. I can’t make it better. Something is cracking inside. I can hear it.

Out of desperation, he phones Lucy my sister, who works nearby. She arrives full of love and wraps her arms around me, exchanging anxious glances with Jules. I am sorry to worry them, but I don’t have the energy to respond or to pick myself up like I normally do. I am just so empty.

Jules bundles me back into the car and tells me on the drive home that he is taking me away. We pack a few things, drop our two dogs off at the kennels and drive to Tulbagh, a picturesque village about a two-hour drive away. We stay in a self-catering cottage on a wine farm at the foot of a range of craggy mountains. Cows watch over us and the sky turns dusky pink as we light the fire. He says we can stay here as long as it takes.

It’s the middle of the week, so the days are extra quiet. I walk barefoot across the big, beautiful green lawns and take deep breaths of the clean country air. We hire two bicycles and ride around doing wine tasting. I hear myself laughing as we cycle down the main road lined with tall trees, and I am glad I’m alive. This is what I need to hold onto. I am alive and I am fine. Yes, I don’t have a baby but I am still alive and right now, I am enjoying life. We are racing each other and the beauty of the nature around me, the exercise, and the fun we are having feels so good again. I have been so immersed in this world of wanting a baby that I haven’t looked up, felt the life I am alive to be living. There is more outside of this baby-chasing dream. There is ME!

I realise I can’t lose my Jules. I can’t let this IVF process strip away what I DO have. I vow not to let my yearning for what I don’t have destroy the beautiful love we share. This man has scraped me off the floor both physically and emotionally so many times. I need him. I want him. I love him. I can’t lose him. I need to focus on him.

It takes me five days.  I turn to Jules. “I’m ready to go home,” I say. “And ready to try again.”

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