My heart has ached lately for those of us who deal with infertility. This is a topic that has been near and dear to my heart for a very long time. Since I was a kid I knew there was something different about me and never expected to be able to have kids. So for years I protected myself by saying I just didn’t want kids. So much easier to deal with people thinking I’m unwilling to have kids rather than unable. I hate to see the pity in their eyes, or worse hear the things they say that they think will be helpful. For every story you tell me about your friend so and so who got pregnant doing XYZ I have a dozen more of women who never know the beauty of pregnancy or adoption. I know the statistics backwards and forwards. I know the options. I know the cost. I know more about this topic than I ever wished to know.
I always wished a doctor would just tell me to give up, that it will never happen. That way I could grieve and try and move on, the hope is the hardest thing to deal with. How do you survive month to month not knowing if this treatment will finally work or if this time they will finally say enough is enough. When I was going through fertility treatments a few years back it was incredibly hard for me to handle the emotional roller coaster. The intense hope I would feel after an appointment the incredible despair I would feel after another failed round of treatment. But the beauty of this experience is the fact that it has given me something to offer all of you.
For those of you dealing with your own infertility journey:
1. Never go to an appointment alone, no matter how insignificant the appointment seems having someone there to hold your hand or let you cry on their shoulder will help reduce the burden. Might I suggest either someone who is also going through fertility, or someone close enough to you to know better than to offer platitudes. Make sure they can handle your grief if things go badly, the quiet comfort of just having someone hold you after the bad news helps to not feel so alone.
2. Know the line in the sand ahead of time. In the midst of treatment it is so easy to let yourself be pushed further along than you wish to go. Know your limits. For me I did not want to use in-vitro. I know with my condition it’s the ‘easiest’ way to become pregnant. But it wasn’t the right choice financially or emotionally for me. That’s the important point…For me… everyone has their own views, opinions, beliefs and limitations. Respect their decisions and demand respect for your own. If you start out knowing how far you will go it’s easier (relatively) to say no when those options are put on the table. Make sure your doctor is aware of your choices and be firm.
3. Stay healthy- the drugs, the pain, the desire to eat ice cream straight from the tub after every appointment will wreck havoc on your body. Don’t let this happen. Start or continue a regular exercise routine, eat healthy, try yoga. Keeping your body healthy will limit the bad side effects of the drugs (and they are numerous and annoying) and if you do get pregnant you’ll be in a better place to have a healthy baby. Also it will help lessen the stress of appointments and drugs and disappointments to be able to swim off the stress or hit a punching bag. Healthy outlets for the disappointment and anger integral in this journey is essential.
4. Take all advice with a grain of salt. Every body is different and every body reacts differently to treatment. Maybe you’re a lucky one and your body will respond to the first round of treatment, if so congrats. For everyone else know this is usually a long, hard, painful journey and you will hear every imaginable idea for conception. Be open to trying different things, but be cautious about setting you heart on any one idea.
5. Balance- Remember why you started this, stay close to your significant other and try to keep this journey from taking over your life. Don’t forget to enjoy time together. Be silly. Go on a picnic. Travel. Live your life. This is the hardest thing to do, but the most important. Because at the end of the day all you have is each other and when this journey ends (with or without a child) you will still have each other. Don’t let go of that. Communicate. Cry together. No one else really understands what’s going on in your journey better than the two of you.
For those of you who are friends or family of people going through infertility treatment please be kind. Recognize that certain events or announcements may be difficult. We love you very much and are genuinely happy that you’re pregnant, having a baby shower, being recognized at church on mother’s day, etc. But know that each and every time we see another pregnancy announcement on Facebook, or hear a mom complaining about her kids loudly, or walk by the parents at church mooning over their new baby it cuts to the heart. A little piece of us dies even as we praise God for your health and happiness. So please keep these things in mind:
1. Don’t surprise us, take us aside and let us know you’re pregnant. Invite us to your baby shower but understand if we decline. Give us time to process your news and don’t take it personally if our smiles don’t quite make it to our eyes. Trust me. We love you. We are happy for you. But the green eyed monster is a very real thing and some day it takes a little longer to fight down than other days.
2. Listen to us. And I mean really listen. Sometimes we just need a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear. We’re not asking for advice or for you to fix things. Just be a friend and let us vent if we need to, or just sit quietly with us as we process or grieve so that we don’t have to do it alone.
3. Don’t treat us different. This one is hard, it seems to conflict with #1, but it doesn’t. We love you and want to be involved in your life and your kids lives. Give us that opportunity. Don’t exclude us for fear of hurting us. We know when to say no or what to avoid so please don’t take that decision away from us. We’ll let you know if we would prefer to not be included in something.
4. Just because something worked for your cousins best friends sisters aunt doesn’t mean it will work for us. We appreciate your attempt to give us hope and encouragement, but trust me, we’ve read everything on fertility treatments out there. We have probably heard about or tried just about everything and hearing that relaxing and going on a cruise worked for someone else does not mean it will work for me. If I ask for ideas or stories than feel free to share. But until then please know I love you and appreciate that you want to be helpful, but that’s not the way to do it.
I’ve had a number of years to come to terms with my infertility. I adore being an Auntie and am the proudest Godmama ever, I love kids and enjoy being around them. For me the struggle comes from wondering if I will ever have the title mother. And if I do, will I be any good at it. I struggle with wondering if Dustin will ever resent me if we never have kids, or if I should just give up on this dream and focus on others. I work hard trying to never wish a day away, life is to short to miss out on enjoying the moment. But old habits die hard, and I like to imagine the future, but it’s always a bit hazy. Do I let myself day dream of the four kids running around the homestead or do I keep my expectations and hopes lower?
I have a wonderful life. Amazing fiancé. Beautiful future. But like everyone I struggle. With feelings of inadequacy. With feeling like I am being ungrateful when I wish for children. With feelings that I am giving up when I try and decide the point at which I will (if ever) give up this dream. To all my brothers and sisters out there struggling know that I am here for you, never try and take this journey alone it will swallow you up. To everyone who is on the other side of their infertility journey I am so thankful and happy for you. And to everyone who never even gave thought to infertility I thank you for taking the time to read this and know (given statistics) you do know someone going through this right now.
For some great reading on this topic I’ve really enjoyed <a href="http://Hannah’s Hope: Seeking God’s Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage, and Adoption Loss“>Hannah’s Hope by Jennifer Saake and <a href="http://Baby Hunger: Biblical Encouragement for Those Struggling with Infertility“>Baby Hunger by Beth Forbus!