Ariel's Story about Loss: "Not everything has a perfect fairy tale ending and that is okay!"
In honour of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, AFI interviews Ariel Ng, co-founder of The 16 Percent, a movement dedicated to removing the stigma and shame surrounding infertility and pregnancy loss.
Athena: What is the path that led to your family?
Ariel: It was a long and winding road! Originally, I wanted to have a baby and started trying to do so at thirty-one. After nine months, I was pregnant! Unfortunately, eight weeks later, we found out that our baby’s growth was only six weeks along. An ultrasound a week after that indicated no further growth. I could wait to miscarry or book a D&C. I went ahead with the D&C and thought the worst was over; my healing could begin. I was wrong. A week after the D&C, I experienced what I refer to as the second part of the miscarriage. I felt my insides fall out. The hospital emergency staff advised me there was leftover tissue stuck on the top of my heart-shaped uterus. This heart-shaped uterus was news to me! Until that moment, I thought I had a normal shaped one. This could have been a factor in my miscarriage but I’ll never know for sure.
I went home and was told the rest of the tissue would be expelled by my body. Twelve weeks later, still no period. My doctor confirmed there was still tissue and my HCG levels were still high. She prescribed me medication to expel the tissue. The first round didn't work. We did it again and a tissue mass fell out of me nearly five months after I first found out I was pregnant.
At thirty-three, after taking six months off from 'trying to conceive', and then trying for another six months, I found out I have low AMH, meaning low egg reserve for my age (very low). I went through fertility treatments (artificial insemination/IVF) - nothing worked. I gave up all hope on being a genetic mother. Once I finally felt like I was coming to terms with it, I got pregnant again at thirty-five. I thought it was a miracle as we again conceived naturally. Unfortunately, there was no heartbeat again at my eight week ultrasound. The baby didn't develop further and I had to take medication to expel the tissue. This time, it was the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt within a couple of hours. I bled for eight weeks after.
A year after that and I’ve accepted that I’m not meant to be a genetic mother. My family is my husband and two dogs and I’m happy! We haven’t made any grand decisions about what we want in the future. We have thought about adoption, but we are happy with our family the way it is right now. However, you never know, everything changes with time.
Athena: How is your family different? How are you the same?
Ariel: Our family is obviously smaller than I imagined it would be but it is the same as many other families. I’m thankful to live in Toronto where there are many more non-traditional families and ways of living (than where I’m from originally).
Athena: How has it made your life worse? How has it made it better? What has been the most surprising?
Ariel: At thirty-six, I am (mostly) okay with knowing I'm not likely meant to have a genetic baby. There are good days and bad days obviously but the pain has slowly subsided. Co-founding The 16 Percent has allowed me to heal in a way I never thought possible. There is so much power in sharing these kinds of stories and removing the shame associated with infertility. I'm thankful more and more people are sharing their stories. It makes me feel a little less alone.
Athena: What gets you through the tough times?
Ariel: Writing, yoga, talking about my experience, The 16 Percent endeavours, long walks with the doggies, travelling with my husband (or remembering the fun travelling times, if it’s during a period where we can’t), and focusing on self-care on the bad days.
Athena: What have you learned from these experiences and/or how have you grown?
Ariel: If you asked me five years ago, if I thought I would be in this place (infertile and advocating to talk more about it), I would have laughed. This entire experience has made me much more patient (with myself and others) and has really given me a focus in life I didn’t have before. I’m proud of The 16 Percent and I’m proud of the stories we share and of the people who share them. I’m thankful to be in this position now which I never thought possible a few years ago.
Athena: If you could go back in time, what would you say to your future self?
Ariel: Give yourself time and be patient with yourself. Your feelings are valid. Don’t be ashamed. This isn’t your fault. You are loved no matter what. Don’t let infertility define you in a negative way.
Athena: In 3 words, describe your family.
Ariel: Warm, funny, and loving.
Athena: Who is your favourite TV/movie family and why? What kind of family is misrepresented or missing from media?
Ariel: The parents in “Call Me by Your Name” are so cool, sweet, funny, and accepting. I loved the movie, the message, and the love! What’s missing? Good question! When do you see a tv or movie that showcases a happy infertile person? Generally, we see the sadness, the anger, but rarely do we get to see someone who has accepted their situation for what it is. Someone who decides not to have children or adopt. Not everything has a perfect fairy tale ending and that is okay!
About Ariel Ng
Ariel Ng Bourbonnais is co-founder of The 16 Percent, a movement dedicated to removing the stigma and shame surrounding infertility and pregnancy loss. She is co-editor and author or Through Not Around, a collection of essays on infertility and pregnancy loss, to be published by Dundurn Press in January 2019. “Through Not Around” is available for pre-order on Amazon