“Why does everyone else have brothers and sisters except for me?” – My son
If ever there was a question that could pierce straight into my heart, this was it. We were on a long drive, just the two of us, and somehow, the topic I purposely avoid with him came up. In response, I asked him: “How does it make you feel that you don’t have brothers or sisters?”
He replied “Sad and lonely.” And then he asked me to pull the car over so that we could hug, so I did.
We both cried.
Since his first birthday, five years ago, my husband and I have been doing everything within our power to give him a sibling. We also worked really hard to make him – two years of trying, two miscarriages, and then one very lucky Clomid cycle.
But Project Sibling has been much more costly – emotionally, physically, and financially. Multiple IVF rounds, another miscarriage, new diagnoses, and so many failed embryo transfers.
Cycles upon cycles of hope then disappointment.
If you are also lucky enough to be a parent, you maybe feel like I do: that your love for your child knows no limits. To me, that’s what makes secondary infertility so difficult.
Before my son, all of my efforts to have a child were because my husband and I wanted one – it was our vision of what our family would look like. It doesn’t make it any less important because it was for the two of us. It felt monumental and all-consuming, every day. But now, I have one more person to answer to.
In this rocky journey, the driving force behind every decision has been: “What is best for my son?” The difficult decisions and sacrifices we’ve had to make, the financial investment, and the urge to keep persisting have all been because we want him to have the best possible life.
To my husband and I, that means giving him a sibling.
In my specific story, the barrier to an expanded family lies with me. My body is the reason we do not have another child. My husband and my RE frequently remind me that this is not within my control. Logically, I know this to be true. But emotionally, I can’t help but feel like even though I’m not to blame, it’s still my fault.
The immense guilt I feel is illogical, unfair, and unwarranted. I know that. But it’s strong and real and I struggle with it every day.
So how do you deal? How do you release the guilt?
I don’t know! Clearly, I’m still struggling with it. But here’s what I do when it feels like I’m drowning in it.
- Exercise: In this journey, we spend so much time being frustrated with our bodies for what they aren’t doing. We need to start celebrating what they can do. For me, I found CrossFit over a year ago and what I like the most is that I’ve started to see my body for what it can accomplish and the progress it makes; not how it fails me. It’s a way of forgiving my body for its shortcomings and focusing instead on its strength.
- Pretend you’re talking to a friend: Hands down, the best advice I’ve been given in this journey is from my RE. You know those appointments where you sob uncontrollably? Well, I was in one of those when he pointed out how burdened I seemed to be from the guilt. He said, very simply, “You’re being so hard on yourself. What would you say if you were speaking to a friend of yours who has done everything you’ve done? You wouldn’t blame her. You would tell her that she’s doing her best and that her best is enough.” I remind myself of these words all the time.
- Actually talk to a friend, and ideally, your partner: I’ve been pretty candid about our fertility journey with friends and family, but in the past few months, as our journey comes to an end, I’ve clammed up quite a bit. Even with my husband. But my silence has made the feelings of guilt, sadness, and anger even louder and more difficult to process. Don’t get lost within yourself— it’s okay to talk it all through with someone you love, even if they don’t understand it completely. There are also fertility support groups available across the country, and excellent professionals who specialize in infertility counselling who can provide the sounding board and guidance you need.
- Focus on your child: #momguilt is real. It’s very easy to focus on what you’re unable to give your child and to feel like you’re failing as a mom because of it. But above all else, above having a sibling, what your child needs is you: your smile, your laugh, your attention, your encouragement, your time, your love. Focus on what you can give your child – it’s worth more to them than you think.
I don’t know how the last page of this journey reads.
I don’t know if my son will ever have a sibling, or if the feeling of being sad and lonely because of it will ever fade for him. And I don’t know if I will ever feel less guilty for it.
But, to take the advice of my RE, if I was talking to a friend instead of myself, I would say this: “There’s no blame here. You can’t be blamed for something you have no control over. You’re doing your best, and that’s all anyone can ask of you.”
By Vidya Ledsham