I didn’t end up with the happy ending I had always envisioned – of 2 so close in age they could be mistaken for twins. After 5 years of fertility treatments, my husband and I decided to focus on our family of 3, feeling grateful to have had one kid amidst all the heartbreak of infertility while still wishing things had “worked out differently” for us.
My story isn’t uncommon though.
It’s just one you don’t hear much about. Because talking about infertility is often too difficult for those experiencing it.
When my husband and I started trying to expand our family, we were excited. I gladly told girlfriends that we “pulled the goalie”. As months passed, I felt like everyone was waiting for a baby announcement. I constantly caught people looking at my mid-section – bump watch. I felt the burden of this – like I was not only letting my husband and myself down, but others too.
In the worst of days, I had trouble getting out of bed.
I ate my feelings and gained weight. I avoided social gatherings, friends and family. I had trouble watching t.v. because shows use surprise pregnancies to fuel storylines and it would remind me of my own failings. I was afraid to play sports because what if I fell during my two week wait? I wasn’t sleeping well because I felt anxious all the time.
My fertility or lack thereof was on my mind all day, every day. I felt alone and isolated. I felt hopeless. I felt like I wasn’t enough. In hindsight, I had situational depression, but I didn’t know that when I was in it. And, on top of that, I felt like I shouldn’t talk about.
Because unless you’ve experienced infertility yourself, it would be incredibly difficult to understand that infertility is a cycle of grief, hope, loss, and resilience, all compounded onto itself over and over again.
Years and years ago, I remember watching Sex and the City (not to date myself), and I could not for the life of me understand why Charlotte got so upset when Miranda announced she was pregnant. Fast forward a number of years and my perspective was much different. Because once I couldn’t have a baby when I wanted to have one, I understood the complicated feelings that don’t even make sense to ourselves.
Additionally, to talk about fertility means to talk about sex – and not the glamourous, hormone-driven, sexy side of sex.
I’m talking about the monotonous, mechanical sex that has to happen on a schedule, sometimes after you’re told to by a stranger, and despite how you or your partner feel about it. Hearing about the mechanics of ovulation, semen samples, legs in stirrups, and vaginal discharge and bleeding – well, when I put it that way, we can see how some may get uncomfortable, right?
So how do you talk about infertility when it’s painful for you and potentially uncomfortable for others?
For me, I just talked about it anyway. The only thing that helped pull me out of my darkness was to continue to open up about my experience. It helped me sort through my own feelings – acknowledge them out loud and accept them as part of my experience. But also, I was surprised by those who came forward with their own experiences with infertility. My talking about it helped others talk about it.
Did I sometimes make others uncomfortable? Well, yes. But a few people who were uncomfortable at the outset were the same people who connected me to others in their network who were looking for support in their own journeys.
Even after my journey ended 2 years ago, without the happy ending I so wanted, I’m still talking about it. I’m blogging about it. I’m volunteering for Fertility Matters and trying to make meaning out of something so painful. By talking about it, still, I’m giving back to a community of those who feel unseen and unheard.
The theme of CIAW is “Hear Us”.
We can’t expect others to hear us unless we talk. I encourage you, whole-heartedly and based on 7 years of experience trying to have babies, to talk about it. By talking about it, you will discover quite quickly that you are not alone.