The full, happy life my husband and I now share with our four boys often makes me feel like our journey with infertility was a lifetime ago. There was a time not so long ago that I was told I would probably never have kids. If someone had told me twelve years ago that I would have four beautiful little people calling me Mommy, I wouldn’t have believed them.
My husband and I married as teenagers, but we always knew we wanted a house-full of kids. Six years later I had finished college, we both had good jobs, and we purchased our first home. It was finally time to have a baby! I had never known anyone who struggled to get pregnant, and had no reason to think we wouldn’t be pregnant within a few months. Over a year later, I sat in the room with a doctor who coldly told me that I had “unexplained infertility” and might not ever have a baby. I’m pretty sure my heart shattered into a million pieces right there in that exam room.
As time passed, I became painfully aware of every pregnant woman I encountered. It seemed like everyone else was getting their happily ever afters, and ours would never come. It’s painful to admit it now, but I was jealous and judgmental of teenage mothers, friends who were having babies while unmarried, and people who I deemed “unfit” to be parents. I always painted on a smile, but the thoughts that filled my mind were not loving, kind, or faithful.
If you’ve never personally struggled with infertility, it might be hard to imagine what that journey can be like. For me it was the one of the lowest points in my life. Not knowing if I would ever be able to carry a baby was a struggle that took a toll on my mental health, my faith, my relationships, and my marriage.
Infertility is a life-changing journey.
Photo by Three Bees Photography
It’s doctor’s visit after doctor’s visit.
It’s expensive. Like, empty-your-life-savings expensive.
It’s a calendar marked with stars each month so your husband will know which night you “have to” try.
It’s crying in the morning because you missed a “trying night” because you were so mentally and emotionally exhausted it just didn’t happen.
It’s hating yourself because you cried when your best friend/sister/co-worker announced her pregnancy.
It’s getting painful injections.
It’s lying on the bathroom floor in agony because of the side-effects of the medication.
It’s hundreds of negative pregnancy tests.
It’s asking God what you did to deserve this.
It’s hating your body for failing you.
It’s having horrible mood swings and feeling out of control of your emotions.
It’s seeing the pain in your husband’s eyes, and even thinking deep down somewhere that he should be with someone else who can give him the child he’s always wanted.
It’s being afraid you’ll get pregnant with multiples.
It’s getting pregnant with multiples and then losing them.
It’s being confused because you got pregnant easily the first time, and now you are unable to give your child a sibling.
It’s people asking you “why don’t you just adopt?”
It’s thinking that with the money you’ve spent, you could have given a beautiful baby a home through adoption.
It’s wondering if anyone will ever say “Mom” and be talking about you.
Sadly, this list offers only a small glimpse into what infertility is like. Each person struggling to conceive walks a unique path filled with different trials and emotions. There just isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide for navigating this type of journey.
If your friend is struggling with infertility:
Show up. Like really show up. Be there when they are at their lowest point. Yeah, they might be grouchy and depressing to be around, but that’s when they need you the most. They need to know that no matter how tough things are, you aren’t going anywhere. Don’t accept “no” for an answer when you ask them to go see a funny movie or when you invite them over to binge watch your favorite sitcom. Invite them to the park with you and your kids. Don’t be afraid that seeing you parent will cause them pain. It may not be their time to be a parent yet, but being around little kids is just good for the soul.
Listen when they need to complain or cry. Don’t pass judgment. Don’t feel like you have to offer advice or tell them how it will “all work out just fine.” Being a good listener is the greatest gift you can give them. Just like anyone going through a difficult time, they simply need to know they are loved and supported.
If you are struggling with infertility:
Remember this is your story. Even though you likely feel out of control, it is up to you to decide how you will handle the trials laid before you. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and understanding. It helped me immensely to have a couple of close friends who would let me vent during the process. Talking to your spouse is great, but sometimes it helps to talk it out with someone who isn’t in the middle of it with you. They never judged me, but they also didn’t try to make it all better. For us, finding the right doctor was huge. We met a man who understood our passion to become parents, and walked us through the medical side of the process with kindness and optimism.
I can’t stress enough the importance of focusing on the good in your life. It is so easy to be filled with despair and hopelessness and forget the blessing you do have. Be thankful for your partner. Don’t forget to be attentive to their needs and feelings as well as your own. Find things to do that bring you joy. Take up a new hobby, focus on getting in better shape, or plan some weekend trips. It is all too easy to drown in the fatigue and exhaustion of fertility treatments. Giving yourself little things to look forward to can make all the difference.
Most importantly give yourself permission to feel whatever you need to feel. Give yourself a little grace. You will not handle every struggle perfectly. Don’t hold it all in. Find a healthy way to express your emotions. If you need to take a break from trying, do it. Don’t be afraid to stop and evaluate your journey to make sure you are still on the course that is right for you.
I wish I could promise that if you want a child bad enough it will happen. Unfortunately, all stories have their own unique endings. What I do know is that your journey with infertility will change you. It will shape you into a person you never knew you could be. You will find a strength inside of you that you never knew existed. For now, take a deep breath and keep moving forward.