Krista Neill – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


As far back as I can remember, being a mother was always my heart’s deepest desire. I may not have realized it then, but from an early age, I started making big life decisions based on the unquestioned belief that I would someday have a little life to love and call my own. Being a mother was so embedded in my future identity that planning and preparing for my one-day baby was the fuel to my life’s fire.

When the day did come to start trying for my long-awaited baby, I was well aware that my biological clock was ticking but, I found reassurance in celebrity news headlines that I was well within the normal age range to miraculously get pregnant. However, after several months of negative pregnancy tests, it became increasingly obvious that I was not going to be as lucky as those who graced the glossy magazine covers and so, I sought professional advice. At that time, I still felt extremely optimistic, believing that it was only a matter of time before my long-awaited dream of being a mom would come true. Surely, hope, love, and a little bit of science would be the magic ingredients I needed.  

It wasn’t until I was sitting at the desk of my third fertility doctor that doubt started to creep in. After reviewing my file, which was now over three years deep with disappointments, he looked up at me and asked, “What defines motherhood to you?” At that moment, I knew the truth that he was cradling in his question, but I was not yet ready to accept it. At that time, not being able to have a biological child was an unfathomable thought because, for me, a life without that little bundle of DNA was not a life worth living. Thus, despite the implanted seed of hopelessness, I was not prepared to give up on the only dream I had ever had. Instead, I went into overdrive getting my name on the waitlists of the best fertility doctors with the highest success rates, abundantly devouring fertility-boosting foods and supplements, booking weekly appointments with every type of healing practitioner imaginable, trying new non-toxic lotions and potions, as well as altering any other variable that I could think of in a desperate attempt to control the forewarned outcome. My endeavours took me to multiple clinics across North America, exploring various avenues to motherhood and enduring countless pokes, prods, and procedures until a melanoma diagnosis put a (temporary) pause on my pursuit. Thankfully, I caught the cancer at an early stage and underwent a successful removal; however, the news post-surgery was not all positive. My doctors informed me that not only was there emerging evidence regarding the correlation between melanoma and estrogen but that melanoma is one of the few forms of cancer that can cross the placenta during pregnancy. 

Balancing my desire for motherhood with the need to prioritize both my health and the health of my future baby became an intricate dance of emotions and decisions. The differing opinions I was given about the statistics and probabilities of comparable cases added to my twirling thoughts of Should I or shouldn’t I? Although I so desperately wanted to deny the truth that was once again being delivered to me, I knew the choice I had to make. I stopped all attempts at becoming pregnant because, to me, a motherless child is far more tragic than a childless woman. Not willing to give up entirely on being a mom, I spent the following years exploring other avenues to motherhood, including surrogacy, third-party reproduction, and the possibility of adoption. As I feared, those years were filled with more heartbreak, disappointments, tough decisions, and hard truths, which finally pushed me to my breaking point. I no longer recognized myself as the years of my relentless pursuit of motherhood had finally caught up to me. I knew that to save myself, I had to step back, re-evaluate the meaning of life, and begin to mourn the death of my dream.  

Letting go of the life I had meticulously curated in my mind required strength I never knew I had. The resiliency that I needed to endure the seven years of various forms of fertility treatments was just the beginning because although I had decided to stop trying for a baby physically, the emotional yearning never resigned. 

What many people do not realize is that infertility gives you a lifetime membership to a club you never asked to be a part of. A club that puts your life on hold for years, one that tests all of your relationships, makes you second guess your purpose, doubt your self-worth, and shatters your self-esteem. For those of us who are never promoted to the exclusive #MomClub, we are left with a permanent, invisible wound that reopens with every pregnancy announcement, diaper commercial, baby shower invitation, or the subsequent kids’ birthday parties that we (and our non-existent child) never get invited to but see on social media. Girls’ nights become playdates, catch-up conversations revolve around daycare dilemmas and commonalities with dear friends start to disappear.  

As the years march on and the stages of life change, so does the nature of the daily reminders. The ‘birth announcement babies’ turn into the ‘kindergarten graduate kids’ who will continue to be the reminding sources that I will never get to witness my child reaching life milestones, celebrate holidays with, or become a grandma. Thus, although the passage of time does help in some ways, there will always be little pokes that will reopen the wound that will never fully heal. My story of resiliency is learning how to live a happy and fulfilling life despite this.  

Almost a decade since my journey began, resiliency continues to be a daily practice for me. It is grounded in radical acceptance, which allows me the grace to still have sad days, to feel sorry for myself, to miss and yearn for the life I once dreamt of, and to be happy and grateful for the life I do have. I now prioritize self-love, set boundaries around triggering situations, seek opportunities that bring me joy, and put my energy and attention into things I can control. I regularly set new, fluid life goals and have shifted my focus from creating a life to creating a life that I love. In doing this, I have learned that painful challenges can be transformed into opportunities for growth and empowerment. 

For me, this meant leaving behind a teaching career and becoming a clinical counselor specializing in relational living, couples counseling, and infertility support. Turning pain into purpose has helped me heal by helping others and trying to make sense of a situation I do not fully understand. And even though I stopped looking for motherhood a few years ago, I keep my heart open that one day it will find me; it might just look different than what I had always imagined it to be.  

Looking back at my journey, I realize what a pivotal moment it was when the doctor asked me that question so many years ago; a source of doubt then has become my source of hope now. As I travel down this unexpected path of life, I am hopeful for the opportunities still awaiting me as I continue to learn and redefine not only myself but also what motherhood means to me.My advice for anyone else facing infertility challenges or living a childless-not-by-choice life is to be vulnerable, honour your feelings, and speak your truth. Know that you do not have to suffer in silence. Create a network of people who can help support you. During my years of treatments, I found other women on Instagram who were also experiencing fertility challenges who knew exactly what I was going through. Having this emotional camaraderie of empathetic support not only helped me but inspired my career change. My online sisterhood of warriors (as we liked to call ourselves) taught me the power of story-sharing and made me feel less alone and broken during what was arguably the most challenging time of my life. To this day, some of those women continue to be dear friends of mine. Also, learn how to set boundaries to protect your heart and, perhaps most importantly, do not compare yourself or your journey with others. We all have our own paths to walk in this lifetime; embrace yours and love yourself no matter what. Fertility does not define you.  

Are you ready to share your story of RESILIENCE? You can do that HERE.