Poet Anne Sexton once wrote “pain engraves a deeper memory.” This has certainly been true for me. It has now been seven years since my infertility was “resolved” which is the same amount of time it took me to conceive my first child. I have now been a mother (or expectant mother) as long as I was first trying to become one and I can say, without a doubt, that my infertility is still very much a part of me.
Of course, it’s not the same. I’m not lost in the haze of doctor’s appointments, injections, procedures, and month after month of crushing disappointment. I no longer lay awake at night wondering if I will ever get to experience motherhood or what my future will look like. I’m very busy raising my two young sons but my infertility pops up from time to time and serves to remind me that my difficult journey to motherhood has left a permanent mark.
The times when I feel it the most are when people announce spontaneous pregnancies.
Sometimes it still amazes me that people get pregnant the good old-fashioned way and not with a team of doctors helping them. When friends tell me that they’re “trying” and then a few months later whisper excitedly “I’m pregnant,” I often think to myself, how does that happen? Or even more potent the sting, are those friends and acquaintances with two children of the same sex who want to try for their boy or girl and it actually works out. I can’t help but wonder, do these people realize how fortunate they are?
But it doesn’t last long.
I can’t fault them for their good fortune just as I wouldn’t want them to fault me for mine—in whatever form it takes. There is also the fact that I’m very content with my family and have no desire for more children. But infertility is so unfair. Reproduction is a biological system of which we have no control. Why it comes so easily to some and not to others is very hard for us infertiles to wrap our heads around.
Another way infertility has left its mark is that I’m five to ten years older than most of the moms I interact with on a daily basis. Our lives mirror one another’s in that we discuss the best places to buy skates or tricks to get our picky eaters to eat their fruits and veggies but in other ways I feel very distanced from them. Whether it’s our musical tastes or discussing pop culture moments (I was an actual teen when Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit topped the charts), I’m very aware that we are from different eras. My peers, on the other hand, have teens and pre-teens so our parenting experiences don’t always line up.
I’m not even close to worrying about my kids not wanting to spend time with me, holed up in their rooms on their electronics— I’m always looking for a free moment when they can entertain themselves.
Our social lives differ as well.
While they spent their 40th birthdays on kid-free trips to Vegas or the Caribbean, my wild milestone birthday involved traveling back and forth from the hospital monitoring contractions and preparing for my induction that would take place the following day.
Infertility has also left me with many gifts, the most important of them being patience and gratitude. As hard as raising children is, and it can be very hard, I’m grateful for all of it—even the most trying aspects. I try to be so patient with them even when they are testing me to my limits because I know what it took to get them here and that I almost didn’t get to experience it.
To say that I appreciate the miracle of human conception would be an understatement.
Just holding my sons’ hands as we walk up the path to their school often creates a swell in my chest. Taking them to birthday parties, watching them stuff cake in their faces while wearing party hats, can make me blink back tears. How do I want to spend my birthday or New Year’s Eve?– with my kids, always, because I had so many without them.
A fitting way to describe my life post-infertility would be that it has left me with scars. While that may be true, I’d like to think of my path to parenthood more like the way others have described the process of getting a tattoo. While going through it, the pain can be excruciating, but when the surrounding area heals, what’s left, is a beautiful work of art.
By Lori Sebastianutti, www.lorisebastianutti.com