Before I had children, I always thought that conquering infertility would make me feel empowered and strong. I imagined throwing a party with banners explicitly telling infertility what I thought about it. I’d invite my support system and we would throw a party, never looking back again. But it’s not like that. It’s nothing like what I thought it would be.
I STILL FEEL THE PAIN OF NOT BEING ABLE TO CONCEIVE
Some people call this jealousy. Are they wrong? Not entirely. I think we all feel pangs of jealousy from time to time when we long so much for something and it seems like everyone has it but us, especially when it seems like a God-given right to be able to reproduce. Am I bitter? I’ll be honest, yup. But the word that blares over the loud speaker most often is pain. It’s painful when you don’t have a choice in the matter. I know, I know. It seems trite. Infertility is free birth control, right? Not so much. I always dreamed about being surprised by a pregnancy. Celebrating by handing my husband a stick that I peed on (Yes, I consider that a gift!), but when you do IVF and there are 38 people involved in the conception of a child and your pregnancy test results are left as a secure voicemail message, you grieve the loss of that dream. And it is just… painful.
MY HEART HURTS FOR STRANGERS
I never considered myself a terribly compassionate person, but when I hear about someone who is facing infertility, my heart skips a beat and I lose my breath over and over again. When someone I know (or even someone I don’t know) eho loses a child, it brings back waves of nausea as I remember losing my own babies. I used to wonder where this deep empathetic compassion came from, but I know now that it’s from suffering. I am ever-so-grateful for my children, but having the perspective of suffering for so long is an experience that I will never forget. And even though it hurts to the core of my being, I am thankful that I ache so deeply for others facing infertility.
I never thought I would, but I know now where all those women were coming from when they told me they were on the other side. “Yeah right,” I thought, “you have your children. You have NO idea what it feels like to remain childless.” ….a little perspective goes a long way. I see you, mamas: The ones who run past the pregnancy tests crying. I get it. In those moments, I want to reach out and hug you, buy you a cup of coffee, and let you know that you’re not alone. You’re never alone. My heart aches knowing that I made it through, while there are others still out there fighting this battle. Some people call it survivor’s guilt. I call it solidarity.
SO MANY DATES
There are dates that I dread and celebrate, mostly in my head, because no one knows them. No one keeps track of a due date when you miscarry. No one keeps track of the day you go into labor and birth your child who is already gone. No one celebrates “conception day” when you did your IVF cycle. Few people even know the date when you got the news that your baby wasn’t going to make it. I know them all. They’re stored in my head and I carry them in my heart. Sometimes, the day passes and I’m not sure why I’m on edge and then I remember that it was the day that my baby was supposed to be born. Some years, that day passes and I don’t realize until it’s gone. It gets better, but it never goes away, at least not for me.
THERE IS STRENGTH IN THE PAIN
I’ve met some of the strongest, most courageous women on the planet through my infertility and loss journey. Looking back, I’d like to say that I have displayed an incredible amount of courage and strength. It takes guts and grit to wake up the day after you lose a child and keep moving. There were days where I thought that I should probably throw in the towel because I wasn’t made for this kind of brutality. But I did it! I am resilient because of it. If you would have told me, in the midst of gonal-f injections and trigger shots, that I would be stronger and more courageous, I probably would have laughed you right off the planet and told you where you could go. But looking back, I am proud that I walked this road. There are moments that I’m not proud of–plenty of those, don’t get me wrong–but when I sit down and take it all in, I would not be who I am today without the pain the shaped me.
GRATITUDE MEANS MORE
A response that I often get when I share my story of feeling pangs of jealousy is that I’m not grateful for the children that I do have on earth. While I get where well-meaning individuals are coming from, I think that taking that stance is dangerous to couples facing infertility. There’s so much depth and intimacy in losing hopes and dreams and babies that it actually instills a sense of deeper gratitude for what we have. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look at my children and know that I am blessed beyond all measure (even on the days where they drive me bonkers). I don’t know that I could have loved and appreciated not only my kids, but my husband so deeply without having lost so much. I lost my dreams of having a child the way I thought it was supposed to happen, I lost 3 children, I’m pretty sure I lost a brand new SUV in the deal because fertility treatments cost that much, but I’ve gained so much more. I know that sounds all gooey and cliché, but life means so much more to me after experiencing loss. I can love more deeply than I ever thought possible.
There’s so much life beyond the hurt of infertility. I wish that I could take that pain away from every couple who walks the face of the earth, but I’d be taking away the chance for them to look at each other and appreciate the layers upon layers of tears, sweat, blood, and strength. I know that I said I still hurt, ache, and feel all the feels, but I can also appreciate life beyond trying for and losing children. In the throes of the hormones and daily doctor’s appointments, I never saw my husband the way I do now. It’s not just our children that changed my perception. When I look at him, I see his grace, his kindness, his affection, his longing to take away my pain, our sorrow, our joy, our future. So, while I look upon my future with hope, there is deep knowledge that the pain of the past has brought me here. I will never be the same person that I was before infertility. Infertility shattered me like a fragile piece of china falling onto tile. Although the cracks and fractures are still there as evidence of the pain and the fall, I’m still whole. I’m complete, but in a different way now, and that’s something that infertility and loss can never take away from me.