Did you know that last week was Infertility Awareness Week? While I’m not ready to share our entire journey here, nor do I feel like I will ever “come out” on Facebook or the like (for various reasons), I DO feel like it’s something that needs to be discussed.
So the blog it is. Don’t you all feel so lucky? I go quiet for awhile and then come back with something like this? Truth is I have been very busy with work and travel and life (and honestly, a little lack of passion for the ole blog), but something compelled me to write about this.
Okay. So I recently read that 1 in 8 couples in the U.S. struggle with infertility. 1 in 8! I really didn’t know it was that many. That means there has to be people in our circle who must be silently, secretly struggling with it, too. And though it is a personal struggle with lots of secrecy and (sometimes awkward) silences around it, NO ONE should have to go through it alone.
When no one talks about something that you’re struggling with, it can feel like you’re the only one. But 1 in 8 is a pretty big number. I know I’m not alone. So I just wanted to take this opportunity (because they made a whole week for people like me, I better use it!) to share. To bring some awareness to this issue that affects more people than you realize. To thank my family and friends, who although they probably struggle too with how to react and how to support me, for showing me love in the best way they can. And especially my incredible husband for being so supportive and hands-down amazing. I am constantly in awe of the way he makes me feel, no matter the situation. He is pure love and I don’t know what I would do without him. And to let anyone else out there who might be silently hanging onto that four-letter word I know so well — hope — that you’re not alone, either.
And if you are wondering how infertility feels, here are ten words I would use:
1. Lonely. We see couple after couple get pregnant before us, some of our best friends included. When they tell us, we high-five them, and then we go home, and hardly know what to say to each other. We feel lost, sad, and even lonelier than before. We are excited for them; but just very sad for us. It magnifies what you want to so bad, and you wonder “why them, and not us?”
It’s okay to go home and cry your eyes out when your friends get pregnant (I’ve done this numerous times!).
2. Exposed. Everybody wants to give you advice, and some people say incredibly stupid things. My favorite: “You just need to stop trying so hard!” Some people want to know every excruciating detail of what you’re doing to get pregnant. Suddenly, your most private details are the subject of casual conversation. Once people know you’re trying, people want to know how it’s going, if you’ve done artificial insemination, if you’d consider IVF, and how it felt in that small white room with the gross leather chair & the bad magazines.
It’s okay to avoid the question, smile, and change the subject.
3. On Hold. We are always checking the calendar and our bank accounts, wondering if we should plan that vacation, or that work trip, or spend that money here, because what if we’re pregnant? Or should we be saving every penny for IVF? We need to stop doing that (and we are always trying), because we will never live if we schedule everything around a “what if.”
It’s okay to miss a month or two; you have to live your life. This is hard, but over the long haul, it will create more stress if you feel so trapped that you can’t plan anything. I’ve even found that it’s good to take a month off now and then.
4. Invaded. For women, there are so many things entering your body (probes, needles, drugs) and so many people measuring your progress. Even sex, at the mercy of a calendar or a temperature reading, can feel invasive. The loss of control can almost merge into a loss of self. But, it feels like once you’ve started down this road, there’s no stopping until you get pregnant.
It’s okay to say what you need, and it’s okay to shore up your boundaries in whatever ways you can.
5. Awkward. Many office visits, with many types of uncomfortable probings, and conversations about the state of your uterus.
It’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes.
6. Angry. Unfair is the password that gets you into the infertility club.
It’s okay to express the darkness, even the stuff you’re terribly embarrassed about, because it’s good for your soul. But in the right places, with people who can handle it and won’t judge you for random bouts of irrational thoughts of rage.
7. Stressed. Even though it seems like a stressed out couple is less likely to get pregnant, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine finds that there is no proof stress causes infertility. Besides, trying hard to “not be so stressed about it” hasn’t worked for us. It also didn’t help to “just stop trying.” Everybody has a friend who was infertile for 73 years, and the day they stopped trying, they got pregnant. Not so for everyone.
It’s okay to be stressed. Don’t stress about your stress. Trying hard not to be stressed is silly.
8. Despair. The cycle of hope and despair with infertility can take you out. The alternative is to temper your hope so that your despair doesn’t get so low. After about a hundred months of experiencing this cycle, we found that the best route is to keep hoping, and if it doesn’t happen, keep crying. It’s too hard to pretend that you’re not excited and that you’re not depressed. Be excited. Be depressed.
It’s okay to hope, and it’s okay to cry. Keep hoping and keep crying.
9. Loss. This was not how it was supposed to be. This was not what you dreamed it would be. And you don’t know how it will end.
It’s okay if you don’t know how to wrap your mind around your emotions. Be gentle with yourself for not totally having control of how you feel from moment to moment.
10. Ambivalence. Every time you have to go through another kind of treatment, you ask yourself: “Is it worth it? Do I really want it that bad?” And then in the very next breath, you are taken out by the sheer magnitude of how much you want a baby.
It’s okay to want and not want. That’s normal.
If you’re struggling with infertility, it can be such a dark time. You have to be honest with yourself and with your husband and loved ones. You have to give yourselves permission to do this journey in whatever way makes the most sense for you. And you have to have faith that whatever path to parenthood you take, it is the right one for you.
P.S.- some of the words I shared above are from some other blogs on the matter- I feel like I should “source” them but I’m not sure if I should link to them, so I’m leaving as is for now (I hope they understand!). Also, I feel like I should clarify that I by NO means want this to come off as a “woe is me” type post, as I am fully aware of how blessed and lucky in life I am. VERY LUCKY. It’s just that Bryan and I do have an awesome life, and so much love and laughter and experiences and opinions, and we want a little one (or two, or three. but I’ll settle for one for now.) to share in that life with us. And let’s face it, we need to stop giving Tilly so much attention- that dog is getting a big head:)