The Sorrow and Stigma of Infertility

Schwartz, Tarah. Headshot

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Apr 19, 2022

The desire to have a child came a little ‘later’ in life for Tarah Schwartz — by her own admission,

“I don’t think they tell you that when you’re getting older and you’re climbing into your early 30s,” Schwartz, a broadcast journalist told Lianne Castelino during an interview for Where Parents Talk. “No one’s sort of at your doctor’s offices [asking] ‘do want to become a mom’, because just in case you do, you should start thinking about that before you hit 35.”

Once she and her husband decided to have a baby, there was no turning back.

Click for video transcription
Welcome to where parents talk. My name is Lianne Castelino. Our guest today is a broadcast journalist, communications professional, and an author. Tara Schwartz is also a mother of one. Her first book published in April of 2022 chronicles her harrowing journey to becoming a mom. The book is called Can’t Help Falling along journey to motherhood. Tara joins us today from Montreal. Great to see you, Tara. Thanks for being here.

Hey Lianne. And thank you so much for inviting me.

So I’d like to jump right in by asking you have you always wanted to be a mom? And do you recall, when you first came to that realization?

You know what, I think I came to that realization fairly late. I think I was really heavily invested in my career. I had a wonderful career, I don’t think I’d met the right partner until my mid 30s, as well, so wasn’t quite sure. But I would say mid 30s. So I’m gonna say I came to the game late.

And, and then at that point, after you, you made that realization, when did it become a priority for you to become a parent.

I would say it almost became an obsession. Like, I want it once I realized I wanted to become a mom, I really wanted to become a mom, like really wanted, we got married, and we started trying right away. And I was really fortunate, I got pregnant, within three months of us getting married, you know, when you get married a little later in life, there’s a, there’s a feeling of certainty about your partner, something that at least for me, I felt like I knew I had found the right person that would be a great partner and a great father. And I got pregnant really quickly. And all within the scope of eight months, I had lost my first baby at almost five months pregnant. So anyone who’s made it that far, sort of, I think, understands the weight of that loss.

Absolutely. We’re going to get into a bit more about your book. But I wanted to ask you, when you talk about it becoming an obsession, quickly after you got married, you know, what would you say your goals around becoming a mom, were while you were in media and managing a career as well.

Um, I felt like maybe had waited a little bit too long. You know, when I was in media, I think that it’s funny because I remember thinking when I was trying to get pregnant that I wish I had known earlier, that it’s not always easy. And I don’t think they tell you that, you know, when you’re, you’re getting older, you’re climbing into your early 30s. No one’s sort of at your doctor’s offices do want to become a mom, because just in case you do, you should start thinking about that before you hit 35. You know, it’s something that we have to sort of pay attention to. But careers are busy, you know, but I knew that it was something that I really wanted to do. And I had to I had to prioritize it. But I didn’t. So much would change in the years to come after that, that I wasn’t thinking about it too much. until things started to get difficult.

So let’s talk about that. What was your rationale for writing your first book can’t help falling?

Oh, boy, it I honestly didn’t even think it was going to become a book. You know. I mean, there’s so much that happened between my first miscarriage and the book. So much happened, that I wrote the book after I got back from adopting our little boy in South Korea. And I wrote the book at that time, because I had so much inside of me, I had heartbreak, I had grief, I had loss, I had joy, I had love, I had guilt, I had fear, and I needed a place to put it. And for me by I would love words. So that was where it all came gushing out. And I wrote for about a year and a half after I came back from South Korea. And it was just kind of a raw manuscript at that time, that slowly evolved into what I thought could be a book.

So it’s interesting. I read the book a few weeks ago, and you know, I just moved on very many levels, because every time I thought that there was going to be a positive outcome. There was another twist and another turn. And, you know, for people who haven’t read the book, you endured three miscarriages and successful in vitro fertilization, before turning to adoption, as you mentioned, so many devastating and disheartening turns along the way. What would you say was the most difficult part of that journey for you?

I would say the most difficult part was the first loss because that was the moment that I knew my life would never be the same. It was the hardest moment of my life by a landslide. You know, I was close to five months pregnant. So it’s it’s not as I don’t want to use the word easy. It’s more difficult than a miscarriage that would have And earlier, it was really, really hard. And I knew that everything would change from that moment forward, I can look at myself in a picture. And I can know immediately if it was taken before or after I lost that first pregnancy. And there was just so many losses after that, like it, it was so difficult to go through that it sort of influenced everything and influenced a walk in the park and it with friends a night out my job, my my, my relationship, my friends, it impacts everything when you’re trying to become a mom, and you can’t make it happen. You know, you live with this. The stigma, you live with a stigma of infertility, you know, and it’s a very, very lonely place to be you carry around this shameful secret. I can’t do something as simple as get pregnant and have a child. And it’s a really lonely place. It really is.

What would you say that you relied on the most to get you through each of those setbacks as they were coming at you in different ways, in unpredictable fashion, and they just seem to be just a relentless series of them.

Yeah, and I think my story is far from the only story like that, I think when you’re going through infertility, it is hard on so many levels. So I mean, it’s, it’s rarely easy, rarely, you know, have this one miscarriage and then everything’s going to be gold and moving forward when you’re suffering from infertility, which is different from if you have a miscarriage and then are able to get pregnant, because many women do have miscarriages early on, and go on to have, you know, wonderfully healthy babies. But when you’re dealing with infertility, so a long period of time, where you cannot have a child or never end up having a child. Biologically, it’s, it’s really difficult. I think I leaned on obviously my partner. But I held on to hope really tightly. Like even when I was at my darkest places where I thought maybe I saw like a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, I held on to it, because I, I felt like if I just kept going, if I kept going, I would I would get my baby in the end.

Well, it really is quite a journey in terms of just listening to you say, if you just kept going but while you’re in it, finding that strength, you know, regardless of the support system around you, and overcoming all the things you described in terms of stigma and failure, and, you know, health and all these other things to keep going, what would you say that you learned about yourself?

I changed a lot, I would have to say it changed me profoundly. I think coming face to face with grief, does something to a person. And I really did I was I was deeply deeply impacted by grief, I was grieving that first pregnancy and then everything that came after every failed IVF every following miscarriage. And I think it probably deepened my ability to feel empathetic for others. And I was I felt I felt more compassion. Maybe I was more compassionate than I had been before. I think those were the things that probably changed me the most.

Now, you mentioned that you started writing the book, when your son was a baby. And, you know, I don’t know whether your idea right away was to have this book published or if it was a therapy for you at that point in time. But how did you go from, you know, capturing these various things that were happening in your life with with wanting to become a mom, to then finally deciding to publish a book about something so intensely private, and personal, and painful, albeit with a happy ending?

I didn’t know that it was gonna It was absolutely therapeutic for me. So you hit the nail on the head right there. It was a form of therapy. And once I had this manuscript, I was sort of I sat on it for many years, like three or four years, I sat on it, and I couldn’t decide if I wanted it just to be something that was for me and for my little boy to read when he got older to to know how much he was wanted, and, and how, you know, we thought to have him, or was it something that maybe needed to be out into the world. And that’s when I started realizing that there was so little out there for people who are going through infertility issues, to lean on, you know, and I just felt like, maybe I had the opportunity and the voice and the platform and the story to offer something to women who are going through this like if even one woman reads my book and feels that her voice has been heard that every single emotion that she’s had, has is validated, that there is hope at the end of the tunnel, that whatever their journey is, whether it’s They go on to have a successful IVF. Whether they decide to go the egg donor route, a surrogate route, maybe they decide, You know what, we don’t want to go forward with this. And we’re going to try to be content. Without a child, whatever that journey is, I wanted there to be a voice because there’s not always happy endings. And I wanted there to be a voice out there to represent all of the women because there’s a lot of wit, there are a lot of women going through this. And I wanted that voice to be out there, I wanted to start, continue a conversation about infertility because I don’t feel that is discussed enough. I really feel that it is a stigma. And the only way to dispel or eradicate a stigma is by breaking the silence. And that was sort of what I felt like maybe I can make some small change by writing this book and putting it out there and getting it into the hands of people that that would benefit from it.

Now you were writing this book, and we’re experiencing this loss and pain. And here’s the book here. You were experiencing this loss and pain behind the scenes while working in a very public job in the public eye. How did you go about balancing those two very diverging worlds?

It was tough. It was really, really difficult. But I think you know, you know this, when you’re in broadcast journalism, there is a shift that happens when you get into work, your job is to go on the air. I was a newscaster at the time longtime newscaster I’ve been reporting and anchoring the news for 18 years. And there’s just a shift that happens and you close that door and you go into work and you you have an important responsibility to report on the news and to do it unbiased and to not let you know personal problems come in and affect your work. And it’s you know, you just had to turn it off. But there were moments when I was going through really difficult times. And my father would call me at the end of a newscast. And he would say like, you know, I’m so happy you’re feeling better, you know, you seem better. And it would be like, Yeah, I’m glad I seem, you know, because as soon as the job was over, then you know, I would go back to feeling everything and you know, having because it’s it’s a long process, you know, when you go through fertility, it’s it’s usually a long process before there’s a beginning, a middle and an end, whatever your end is.

Well along those lines in 2019, after 18 years on the air at CTV, you decided to step away. I’m curious, what were the main factors that played into that decision. And where did family factor into all of that.

Family was the most important factor in that decision, my little boy had just started grade one. So anyone who has gone from kindergarten to grade one knows the monumental shift instead of like picking your child up whenever you want, and hearing all about their day and getting you know this, this wonderful explanation of how they’re how they ate and how they slept, you go into grade one and all this, you got nothing. And you can’t take them out whenever you want it serious. It begins at this time, it ends at this time. And I had a difficult schedule news anchors work at night, you know, you go in at two o’clock, you finish at 1230 in the morning, and I was missing dinner, and I was missing bedtime. And, and it was making me feel really sad. And I had done the job for so long that I thought you know, I can’t ask him to adjust to my schedule. So I’m going to adjust to his. So I decided it was it was time I had done it long enough. And I thought I was at a good age to try something new. And that’s what I did. But it was definitely because of him.

And you’ve you’ve never looked back and I you know I speak from experience, you’re bringing a lot of a lot of memories to my mind as well. And you know, all of the decisions that we’ve made in our household always had, you know, the children in mind first as well. And it isn’t easy, right? Because it is a very demanding lifestyle. When you talk about the book, though, we are we are talking about a 10 year journey from the time that you started writing because your son Sam is now 10 years old, to the time that it is now published. And I wonder, you know, what do you want readers to take away from this book?

So much I want. And I think it speaks to the point that has been 10 years and I still feel like what I was living through is very similar to what women are living through now. 10 years later, it’s still this shameful secret we carry around. I mean, because of social media. There’s more talk about it out there. I just think social media has opened that door up a little but I still think it’s open only a very, very little bit. And I I want my book and readers to take away the impact of infertility. I think that people hear about a lot Oh, she had a miscarriage you know, and they’re like, Oh, that’s too bad. I feel bad for her. But the to understand the depth of the of the sadness and the sorrow that comes along with that. It’s not just your You know, we’re having a miscarriage, it’s the whole idea of this life that was inside of us that we had built up in our heads, you know, is now gone, we had to bury that as well. And it is it is I want people to understand how heartbreaking it is. So that there will be more understanding and more compassion for the women that are going through it. And I want there to be, I would love us to reach a place where people are not uncomfortable talking about infertility, I really want there to be a conversation so that when you don’t know, God, like we’re having a baby shower, which we do, you know, she’s going through, you know, she can’t, she’s having difficulty with, like, I don’t, I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable. The best thing that we can do is have this book out there so people can read it, understand how heartbreaking it is. Understand the people that you love, who are going through it, so that you can be more compassionate, be more understanding and not pretend that it doesn’t exist, which is I think, no disrespect to anybody. I understand that it’s not easy, but pretending it doesn’t exist is, you know, is not going to help anybody. And it’s certainly not going to help dispel the stigma that goes along with being a woman struggling with infertility.

Absolutely. Tara, what would you say that you learned about your husband along this journey?
It’s so funny, because a couple of people who have read the book, men, two men that have read this book, said to me, my goodness, he’s a good man. And I think that the men who sort of see my husband reflecting and thinking, like, how would I have reacted? Had I gone through this, this journey with my wife, you know, he’s a pillar, he really is a pillar. And, and it’s funny, when the men were sort of talked to him, they’re like, you know, you know, what, what would you suggest if I was? And I’m always like, the thing that he did for me that I convinced, you know, helped us through this entire process is he never, I’m sorry. It’s okay. Erica was a job. Oh, he never pushed me to get over my grief. That was the key. He never said to me, like, you know, are you moving on yet? Like, can we put this behind this? Can we he never did that. He let me grieve for as long as I needed. He was there if I needed him, but he never pushed me to get over it. And I, I think for me, that was key to everything.

That is a really powerful point, right? Because nobody knows how you’re going to react at any point. And the number of times that things happened, as you recall, and recount them in the story. It is really quite striking. And you don’t know whether it gets does it ever get easier? The more times it happens? I doubt it. Certainly, you know, the pain really comes through as you read the story. The other thing that’s really interesting about your about your journey, Tarah is when it became clear that there was going to have to be another option outside of of the traditional options. Turning to adoption, was that option for you, too. That’s a separate kettle of fish, right? For a lot of people, a lot of people don’t get there on their journey, because it requires a different mindset, I would think so how did you and your husband go about preparing for that option?

I think that it is one possible ending to women who are going through and couples who are going through infertility, it’s one possible ending, you know, being in the news business. For me, it’s always about being informed. And I thought, Well, when I was when I had my first not long after my first major miscarriage, the child that was, you know, five months, I thought, well, just in case things don’t work out. Let me look into what other options are. And I looked around and I saw that adoption was possibly so I put my name on a whole bunch of lists. And I didn’t get called back for years. So it was just for me like a like a like a failsafe, like, Okay, let me just keep this as option B or Option C, I always wanted to adopt a child and have a child. So I got sort of 50% of that want. And I always tell people like women who were going through it, I’m like, Look, if this is something you would consider, put your name on lists now, because it doesn’t cost you anything. No one’s gonna call you tomorrow, no one’s gonna call you for probably two or three years. And by then you might say, actually, this is not what we want to do. Or it might be the phone call that comes at the exact perfect time for you. So that was how it worked for us that the phone call came and I had gone through multiple rounds of IVF. I had one more that I had scheduled, and I cancelled it. And we decided to go this route instead. So but it’s a choice. It’s a big decision adoption. That’s a whole different kettle of fish, but you have to you have to mourn certain things and be open to a different path.

Absolutely. And have your partner along with you as well as you make that decision. Tarah, what would you say that has surprised you most about motherhood?

Oh my goodness. I guess I’d probably shaved, but I guess sometimes cliche there for a reason how much I love him, like, I love him so, so, so much. And I would I would do anything for him, you know, like I just it brings, like, it brings me so much joy, like it really does, you know, and that’s why I like it, it I say that. But at the same time, all of the hurt and heartbreak that I went through, is still in my in me, which is kind of interesting. Like it’ll, i It’ll never go away, like the hurt and the heartbreak and the pain and the sadness is still there. And I when I’m talking to other women who are going through what I’ve gone through, I know that it’s there for them as well, I can see it, like I can see that it’s just this interesting balance that you live with is immense joy, because I know that not every woman who’s going through infertility will have the ending that they want, and it breaks my heart. And I mean, the books been out in stores for about, I guess, you know, three weeks now. And the number of emails or social messages I’ve gotten has been astounding and humbling, like the women who are saying thank you, you know, for giving how I’m feeling a voice. And they’ll tell me right away, you know, we ended up adopting, or we decided that we were going to move forward with it, or we decided to go the egg donor surrogate route or like everybody is sharing their stories, whatever their ending was. And I’m so happy for the ones that continued on. And I’m happy for the ones that decided that they weren’t going to go through it anymore. And I hope that they they found their own acceptance as well.
Because it’s all about that it’s accepting what you know, the path that you’re on.

Looking back and reflecting, as I’m sure you have many times over the course of this journey with Is there anything that you would do differently?

Oh, boy, I am going to have to go with a hard no on that. Because the amount of twists and turns and roadblocks that led me to this baby boy was immeasurable like I cannot there’s so many. And I feel like if I twisted or turned in one way differently, I wouldn’t be with him. So I have to welcome all the tough parts because it led me to to my little boy.

Finally, Tara, just wondering if you have any final thoughts for people who might be on this journey? On right now listening to this and wondering trying to find the silver lining in you know, what can be just painful, devastating, you talk about loss, there’s so many different elements to a journey like this. Any final thoughts that you’d like to share with those people?

Yes, so many, I want to tell these women that it is okay to grieve and cry and not want to get up all day, every day for as how many days that you need that if you can, to reach out to people. And I know that it’s not easy, because people need to be educated, like telling a woman who’s going through infertility, maybe you should just relax and they’ll happen. Or things happen for a reason you can just try again. Or you know, any of those kinds of things that you think you’re helping, don’t say those don’t say those instead say, I know that must be really hard for you, how can I help, because then it opens the door to a conversation. So try try as much as you can to with the people that you love to let them know how hard it is. Because I’m sure that they don’t always know. And I know that was the case for me. So so try to let them know how hard it is so that you can have a support system because it helps so much reach out to other women. Because I think they’re you know, now we’re in a place where other women are speaking more about it. So try to find, you know, a support system there because I think it would help immensely. And I encourage other people to read the book so that they’ll know how hard it is for women so that understanding and support will be there. And again, like we have to break the stigma. We have to help people to understand so that the compassion will be there. Because it really is like when I say it’s heartbreaking it is it’s heartbreaking to go through it.

Lots of helpful and hopeful tips Tara Schwartz, broadcast journalist communications professional mother of one and author of Can’t Help Falling along road to motherhood. Thank you so much for your time today.

Thank you so much land such a pleasure to talk with you.

Thank you

“I would say it almost became an obsession,” the former anchor and reporter at CTV Montreal recounts. “Once I realized I wanted to become a mom, I really wanted to become a mom, like really wanted. We got married and we started trying right away. And I was really fortunate. I got pregnant within three months of us getting married.”

The joy of conceiving for the first time touched off a years-long journey to heartache, pain and grief — searing details all chronicled in her first book entitled, ‘Can’t Help Falling: A Long Road to Motherhood‘.

“…the most difficult part was the first loss because that was the moment that I knew my life would never be the same,” Schwartz shares from her home in Montreal. “It was the hardest moment of my life by a landslide. I was close to five months pregnant.”

She eventually suffered a miscarriage — one of several wrenching losses Schwartz and her husband would endure along an agonizing path to parenthood.

“I can look at myself in a picture and I can know immediately if it was taken before or after I lost that first pregnancy,” she says. “And there was just so many losses after that. It was so difficult to go through that. It sort of influenced everything. It influenced a walk in the park, a night out, my job, my relationships, my friends. It impacts everything when you’re trying to become a mom, and you can’t make it happen.”

Her journey to becoming a parent was laden with overcoming stigma, a sense of failure and yearning for hope — along with multiple pregnancies, miscarriages, and undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.

“You live with this,” she says. “The stigma. You live with a stigma of infertility, and it’s a very, very lonely place to be. You carry around this shameful secret. I can’t do something as simple as get pregnant and have a child. And it’s a really lonely place. It really is terrible.”

Book cover. Can't Help FallingFortunately, Schwartz’ story has an ending that not all infertile couples experience.

During her interview with Where Parents Talk, Tarah Schwartz describes:

  • When she prioritized motherhood
  • What prevented her from wanting to become a mother earlier
  • The catalyst for writing her first book
  • What helped her endure and survive numerous challenges
  • Her journey to adoption
  • Coping with personal pain while in a public job
  • Her family’s happy ending

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