It was somewhere between the third and fourth failed IUI that I felt something in me kind of shut off. A switch that had been connecting my mind, body and feelings had flipped. I thought at first, perhaps, I had evolved into a more superior being able to accept and move on from the constant bombardment of disappointing news of the infertility world. I realized, instead, I had allowed myself to grow numb and disconnected – a coping mechanism that had kicked in without me even realizing it.
Infertility is a difficult journey that rears its ugly head in a unique way for every individual, or couple struggling to conceive.
The constant invasion of personal space, the anxiety and doubt, the waiting (and waiting), the intangible grief had all been conspiring to wear me down. Every time I received the phone call, the “I’m so sorry…” on the other end, I found it disorientating that life just continued. I had to continue to show up at work ready to teach children. I had to continue to smile and appear light-hearted to those around me because it felt shameful somehow to admit that a phone call had left my heart shattered and my soul gutted.
I felt like I needed to apologize to people around me in the weeks after our third failed IUI. I would tear up over every little thing. I felt like I needed to justify the sadness that was clinging to me like unwelcome cellophane. I felt appalled by the sharp jealousy that shot through me every time someone announced a pregnancy. I started to minimize my own feelings and I began to buy the lie I was telling myself.
I had fallen into the trap of ‘at least’ that sometimes people fall back on with infertility: at least we are both healthy, at least we don’t have cancer, at least nobody has died.
In some ways, going numb to these feelings was easier. We went through IVF and I felt, a little, like I floated through the whole thing in a dream. It wasn’t until we were gearing up for our frozen transfer and it all went sideways that the feelings I had been keeping at bay suddenly snapped back into sharp focus. I realized then that I hadn’t been allowing myself to grieve properly and that this was so crucial to enduring the long, difficult journey that is infertility. I had fallen into a numbing fog.
After our frozen embryo transfer failed, I started to spout the ‘at leasts’ again, but a friend told me I needed to give myself permission. Give myself permission to be sad, jealous, angry, disappointed, or whatever else I needed to feel in that moment without justifying it to anybody, including myself. Infertility is exhausting. It’s easy to shield yourself and go numb, to discount your grief, but being unable to build a family is gut-wrenching and cruel. It is okay to feel a kaleidoscope of feelings and to slide back and forth between them on a regular basis. It takes courage to let in all the feelings, good and bad, and to learn how to process them in a healthy way. So here I find myself trying to reconnect my body and feelings and shake off the numb, trying to continue this journey with hope and owning this great spectrum of emotions that is infertility.