There is powerful healing from telling your story. Here is mine...
Meet me, Nicolene Watson, Y.A.N.A.'s current Facilitator of Saskatoon's only infertility support group. Our five year infertility journey came to a close in December of 2017 (without a baby), and only now do I feel ready to release our story outside of the infertility community.
Infertility a trauma that occurs monthly (in my opinion) and more often than not, year after year for one in every six couples. There is very little sense of control when trying to conceive and for some, trying to bring a baby to term can seem impossible. The emotional roller coaster from a diagnosis of infertility steals moments away like meeting your new niece or nephew, baby showers, weddings, family dinners, birthday parties, vacations, an unrecognizable reflection in the mirror, friendships and family become distant, all as a result from the constant and continual heart ache that comes on a regular basis, lasting for years.
We feel like horrible human beings for suddenly feeling jealous, angry, and sad for others getting pregnant, when we used to feel excited and happy for them.
Infertility also comes with an overwhelming state of desperation. We become desperate to find answers, any sort of diagnosis that can be resolved, a miracle pill or supplement or herb, or an alternative treatment that will bring us our baby once and for all. We’re desperate to join the “mom club” and when it doesn't happen, we’re constantly reminded of what we don't have every time we leave the house or turn on the t.v. The world becomes infested with baby bumps, endless amounts of pregnancy announcements, baby and ultrasound pictures on social media, baby showers, gender parties and the list goes on and on.
Most girls grow up knowing they’ll have children, especially me. Ask anyone I dated and they’ll tell you, “Nicolene was always looking for her knight in shining armour. She wasn’t just wanting a boyfriend, she was looking for the father of her children”. At sixteen years young I knew I wanted to be married with three kids by the age of 23, while being the boss-lady at my own company. Little did I know, my greatest fear of running out of time to have kids would eventually become my reality.
When you realize you’re unable to conceive (or carry to term) you hide your story and your reality becomes a secret to most. As a woman you feel embarrassed, or feel broken, like some sort of faulty incapable woman. You feel like a failure. You quickly learn that no one knows how to support you, not even your family or close friends.
Heck, you don’t even know how to support yourself in the beginning!
People who are on the road of infertility are often misunderstood, and unable to relate to or connect with anyone as easily as they once could, and don’t get me started on the damage infertility does to a marriage and your sex life. No longer is lovemaking for enjoyment, but rather a chore that needs to get done before the end of the day and lasts for years. In the end, the only person most of us have are our partners (if we’re lucky), so the burden they bear is heavy.
When we try to find support from others, we’re often left more hurt than before. We’re on the fast track of infertility education and desperate to share our knowledge with anyone who will ask or listen in hopes that by educating themselves they’ll be able to walk on this isolating road with us more easily…but people are so busy running their own lives to take the time to learn while dealing with their own issues, and understandably so.
And it’s hard for us to be supportive to others during our constant and continual pain each month, year after year. So consequently, the distance between your relationships grow further and further apart.
So on you go in hiding under the “veil of infertility” with the hope that next month you’ll conceive and it’ll all go away. Months turn into years, and you’re left feeling more alone than you ever thought possible. People will ask if you’re still trying maybe on the same day that you found out that your baby’s heart beat has stopped, as was the case with me a couple times. Years into your struggles and your sister or friends ask “Have you thought about adoption”? A valid question you would think, but a question that made the top three list of “what NOT to say to your infertile loved one”. Miscarriages and failed attempts to conceive come and go, and so do the comments. “You were only 9 weeks pregnant? Well my friend’s friend lost hers at six months! Can you imagine THAT”!?
Losing a baby at any point in a pregnancy, regardless of when, remains a loss of life.
In order for infertility wounds to heal sometimes we need space, and that is OK. When undergoing any difficult time in life, it’s easier to relate to others who have experienced the same thing. Family and friends may admit that they’re unsure of how to support us and don’t have time to learn about what we’re going through, or worse yet, they act as though it’s not happening and avoid the topic pretending it’s not happening. But when it’s the only reality we know, it’s very hard for us to ignore.
What one needs seems simple when experiencing any sort of trauma. We need a shoulder to cry on, for people to show interest and to realize and respect that our actions are out of pain and not out of spite, we ask for empathy, and we ask that our responses not be taken personally.
People need to understand that how one reacts during infertility is normal, whether they understand it or not.
How we hope people will support us seems simple. Just by saying "I don't know what to say", "I can't imagine how you must feel", "I empathize with how you must feel", "I'm willing to try to understand", "I can't imagine life without my children" "my heart hurts for you" “How are you doing with trying to conceive, where are you at" "teach me about what you've been going through", "What medications are you taking", "Are there any side effects", "Tell me how you’re feeling" "how hard it must be for you", "how cruel life can be", "I'm not going anywhere", "I'm here for you" "when can I come over”, “How can I get your mind off of things”? Sadly, these simple questions do not come natural for most.
YANA has become Saskatoon’s only infertility support group which stands for You Are Not Alone. A friend and I formed this group in January 2017 in hopes of no longer feeling alone on our journey. After our final procedure in December of 2017 I was convinced I would stop facilitating this group regardless of our results. Infertility came with more pain than I ever thought possible, so I assumed leaving the community behind would help me to move on and heal. Boy was I wrong!
What was our final procedure? In 2015 I met a woman at Saskatoon's fertility clinic during our IVF procedure and we formed an immediate bond. This was the first person I felt I could relate to since our first loss in 2012. As fate would have it, this woman was a nurse to my mother who had passed away five years earlier from her six year battle with lymphoma. Was this nurse/friend heaven sent or what!?!
Both of us and our husband's proceeded with IVF and became pregnant. After nine weeks Ryan and I discovered that our baby's heart stopped beating, however the other couples pregnancy carried on to be a success. Shortly after the birth of their baby girl, the couples remaining embryos were signed over for us to use if all other attempts failed.
Two years later, in November 2017 and after both us and our husband's endured thorough psychological evaluations, and a ton of legalities, their remaining frozen embryos were legally ours. November was a heavily medicated month for me and consisted of probably the most painful test I had yet to experience in order to determine receptivity for our first embryo transfer in December. SIDE NOTE: shouldn't psychological examinations be mandatory for every parent-to-be, especially those who have an "oops"?!? Anyway........
The morning of the single embryo transfer in December we were given the gut wrenching news that the first two embryos didn't survive the thawing process. What does this mean? no potential siblings down the road, and only one final shot left at becoming parents, ever. So our one and only adopted embryo was transferred and two weeks later and just before Christmas, we received the dreaded call from the fertility clinic with the news that it too had failed. My initial thought was “How would I face my family during what would be my nieces first Christmas”. But at the same time, I experienced the longest exhale ever in my life.
And so goes the roller coaster of mixed emotions. Up and down and all around, the conflict of opposite feelings all at once.
After the call I decided to transform our baby room which had been ready and waiting for the last five years and turned it into my very own Zen Den. I realized that day that YANA was where I belonged, but not for lack of self-care and a dedicated daily practice. To prepare for our final year and life sentence of either a) becoming parents or b) never being parents, I committed to quieting my mind with guided or Vipassana meditation and gentle yoga, along with a house full of crystals, herbs and alternative remedies. I studied teachings by Eckhart Tolle specifically The Power of Now, and instead of listening to music at work or while driving, I listened to mass amounts of Law of Attraction video’s by Abraham Hicks on youtube.
It was also very important that I respectively distance myself from people who couldn’t offer the support I so desperately needed leading up to our last treatment.
The thing is, after five years of trying to conceive one tends to forget who they are with losing all interest in anything except baby making. This might sound fun to many men, but trust me, ask any man who has been trying for more than a year and they’ll tell you otherwise. So after all sorts of preparation for our final negative result, I hung up the phone and even I was surprised! I knew with all of my being that I was finally able to truly leave that road after many years of on-going mental preparation, with a clear understanding that where I am today, is exactly where I'm supposed to be.
I finally knew in my heart that I was done trying to conceive. I was no longer pretending that I was done, I was done. It was time to get my life back, but I knew that it was still my duty to help others on their journey. I didn't go through hell and back trying to have a baby for nothing. Sure I was exhausted, but at the same time I was exhilarated! I knew I’d be doing a dis-service to the YANA community if I walked away from them. I wasn’t going to leave our five year journey without a child to just become a D.I.N.K., "dual income, no kids" a popular acronym describing a childless couple in which both partners work. A rather insensitive nickname I might add to those of us who certainly didn't choose this way of life.
Infertility taught me to accept what is, just as it is, in each and every moment. I have not perfected that yet, but I'm better at it today than I was yesterday. I now have a different perspective in relation to my feelings, and understand that healthy boundaries need to be set in order to live within the journey of infertility, or any challenge in life for that matter. How I feel is my choice and I choose to be happy. Who I spend my time with is up to me regardless of how anyone feels about my decision.
I understand fully that it is not my responsibility for other people’s happiness regardless of our history together or relation, just as it is not their responsibility for mine.
As the ups and downs of life come at me, I’ll be ready! Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always carry a deep sadness in my heart for what we were never able to achieve, but I know that we left no stone unturned, and gave it all that we had. My strength is a product of infertility along with everything else I've gone through; the good, the bad, and the ugly. I stand proud of the 43 year old woman I’ve become and am excited to live each day to the best of my ability. I have a fulfilling career that keeps me on my toes, a forever home on three acres, and an extremely loyal, hardworking and loving husband by my side, and a couple fur-babies who light up my life and make us laugh daily.
Although we were never blessed with babies, we were blessed with a true fine love, one that some can only dream of.
Last week I learned that through telling my story I was able to inspire one of the Founders of Saskatchewan’s Family Fertility Fund and blogger at “What We Don’t Do” to keep going. She was also ready to walk away from supporting others through infertility, but not anymore. Even though I will never have the three kids I once dreamed of when I was 16, I now have the wisdom, courage, strength, willingness and ability to walk alongside others in hopes that someday their dreams of motherhood will come true. As I release this story, I also release my embarrassment and fear of judgement and can leave my infertility journey without children feeling a new sense of empowerment as I enter this new chapter in 2018.
In summary, after six years of marriage, five years of actively trying to conceive a baby, losing five pregnancies in the first three years of our marriage, eleven intrauterine insemination (I.U.I’s), super-ovulation, invitro (I.V.F.), our frozen embryo transferred from IVF, the adoption process and transfer of another couples embryo's, daily hormone injections and drugs, several investigative surgeries leaving us diagnosed with unexplained infertility, second opinions, out of province tests paid for out of pocket, every alternative treatment known to man, most of which were either not covered, or maxed out my health benefit coverage after one month, over $20,000 in fertility debt since fertility procedures are not covered through Sask Health, two years with zero pregnancies, and last but not least, our three adopted embryos failing leaves us without a child, I leave you with this…
I am not a sad person, or jealous, envious, angry, scared, anxiety-ridden, overwhelmed, anti-social, depressed, introverted, nervous, shy, terrified, argumentative, self-centered or selfish, THE ROAD OF INFERTILITY IS!
All of those feelings are normal when living with infertility and it doesn’t define who you are as a person. I am determined, strong as hell, braver than I realized, intelligent, powerful, romantic, committed, loving, hilarious, truthful, invincible, dedicated, proactive, loyal, grateful, charismatic, fun to be around, strong willed, helpful, supportive, an amazing listener, and a dedicated and loyal friend, sister, daughter and auntie.
After all is said and done my life is what I choose to make it, and knowing what’s around the corner is impossible for any of us. We must keep the hope and faith alive knowing that everything will work out just as it’s supposed to. And live each day as if it were our last inspiring others to do the same along the way.
We all have the power of choice, and happiness is what I choose.
May my life and yours be seasoned with love where ever you’re story finds you. ~With sharing, comes healing~