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A Celebration of Motherhood, In All Its Forms

Author: Layan Barakat
Photographer: Syx Langemaan
1 week ago
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“As women, we have this beautiful ability to bring life into the world in some way,” says Stacey Robert-Tobin. “We nurture, love, support, guide, write books, and create – we’re all incredible human beings that should be celebrated on Mother’s Day.” Observed by over 100 countries worldwide, Mother’s Day is a celebration of our respective maternal figures, but for the 1 in 6 women struggling with infertility, this day takes on an entirely different meaning. “[1 in 6] is based on the number of people actually seeking treatment, but it could be even more common,” adds Stacey. 

In 2016, she and her husband embarked on their journey to parenthood, only to be met with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility. “That means the doctors did extensive testing, and everything came back completely normal, yet we still weren’t getting pregnant,” explains Stacey. Like many facing similar challenges, they found themselves feeling overwhelmed and defeated. Yet, from this place of uncertainty, Stacey discovered a profound calling—to create hope for those navigating similar paths.

“I knew I needed support, but I didn’t know where to start, so I went out into the community in search of support groups. I quickly realized there weren’t any in all of Windsor-Essex, so I decided to start Fertility Friends,” explains Stacey. “Fertility Friends grew to support over 600 families in the Windsor-Essex area. It’s almost overwhelming to talk about. It feels good to positively impact the community and help others”. 

Fertility Friends is a free peer support group on Facebook. It operates as a safe haven for individuals and couples navigating the emotional rollercoaster of infertility by offering online forums, in-person meetings, and invaluable resources to help those struggling. “I do a yearly tax info session to help people understand what they can claim with their medical treatments. We also provide guidance on physicians in our area and in-person support meetings,” says Stacey. At the heart of Stacey’s message is the prospect of hope, even when faced with the challenges of infertility. 

Miracles, like mothers, take many forms, and in 2018, after undergoing IVF, Stacey welcomed her daughter into the world. “I gave birth to a very healthy, beautiful baby girl, so that is a miracle right there,” says Stacey. Fate intervened with another unexpected blessing—a son welcomed through adoption last year. Proving that the path to motherhood is as diverse as the women who tread it.

Through her work with Fertility Friends, Stacey emphasizes that motherhood transcends biological bonds. “I know that it can be difficult not knowing if your dreams of having a family are ever going to come true, but one of the big things that I’ve learned going through this, running my group and meeting some of the most amazing women from this group is that there are many ways you can be a mother,” says Stacey. 

Within the supportive community of Fertility Friends, Stacey has crafted a space where individuals can engage at their own pace. “The nice thing about Fertility Friends is you can be involved as much or as little as you want,” says Stacey. “The group offers peer support to all different types of families and individuals.” By designing the group to accommodate varying levels of involvement, she ensures that each member feels respected and valued. Whether seeking a listening ear or actively participating in discussions, every member is encouraged to find their own path towards healing and support.

Through Fertility Friends, members gain access to a wealth of resources and a network of peers who understand the unique challenges of infertility. Stacey’s hands-on approach as the group’s administrator ensures that the community remains a safe and positive environment, where every post is pre-approved to maintain a supportive atmosphere. “There are lots of opportunities to be involved; it really depends on the extent that you’d like to be involved. In fact, some of my closest friends in life now are from this group. The bond that you experience is immeasurable; it’s exactly what I needed, and I’m thrilled to be able to offer that support to others,” says Stacey.

From sharing personal experiences to exchanging practical advice on medical treatments and tax information, Fertility Friends serves as a lifeline for those navigating the complexities of fertility. Moreover, the opportunity for in-person meetings further strengthens the bonds, creating friendships that go beyond the online platform to serve as pillars of support in times of need. Upon searching the group on the popular social networking platform, you’re greeted with an opening message that sets the tone: “The “I’ word will never be used in this group. It is specifically designed to focus on what we do have in our lives rather than what we don’t. Conversations about health, wellness, and support are the foundation of the group. It is our hope that open conversation will lead to a decrease in the stigma and secrecy attached to fertility issues”.

Stacey’s dedication to supporting families provides hope to those facing challenging and often isolating times. Her message resonates deeply: no one should navigate this journey alone. “That’s what I really want people to know: if you’re dealing with this or you have friends and family that are dealing with this, there is support, and we provide a safe space to share your story and obtain advice, support and guidance which I really think is something that people need when they’re dealing with something like this, but I also think its important to see that miracles can happen which is why I continue to share my story in the community,” says Stacey “I’ve been fortunate to witness some of these miracles myself.” 

So, what does Stacey’s life look like now? “Busy!” she laughs, “I love everything about it. My daughter is a great big sister who loves her little brother so much. Watching them play together, I realize there aren’t words to describe it. Beyond anything, I feel so grateful and blessed to be able to witness this”. Amid the joy and chaos of parenthood, Stacey remains grateful for her unique path to parenthood and the miracles it brought her. “I didn’t know if I’d get to have the family that I wanted to have. So, as you can imagine, this cause is really important to me.It is an honour to be able to help others and this group is a part of my soul,”says Stacey.

Those interested in joining the Fertility Friends community can find the group on Facebook. Pending their approval, potential members will be asked to answer a few questions to ensure the group remains a safe and positive space for all members involved.

As we approach Mother’s Day on May 12th, Stacey’s message of inclusivity urges us to remember that its significance extends beyond traditional notions of motherhood. It is a day to honour the strength, resilience, and boundless love of all women who embrace the role of nurturer, caregiver, and guide.”Women are incredible humans who can all be celebrated on Mother’s Day. I know that for many, this day can be challenging,” says Stacey “But it’s important to remember how valuable you are in this world, how important you are to others, and the significant impact you have on those around you.”

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