The struggle is real. Often, trendy teenagers and college students whip this statement around, whether it be because their English teacher assigned too much homework, or because they have an 8am class after a long night of half-priced Long Island’s. Mom’s may use it when their toddler decides that eating dog food is better than the dinner she slaved away at, or when their teenagers roll their eyes for the fifteenth time in an hour.
But what about the people in between? The ones who are past their Rumplemintz shots days, but not quite to the Mommy-and-Me class. The women who have been in a relationship for years, but keep fielding the “So when are you having a baby?” questions. Or the same-sex couple who are turned down for adoption time and time again? I’d like to think of this as the limbo level. Parental purgatory. Adults, yes, but not quite seen as a “family” because of their lack of little ones according to 90% of the world. The “you’ll understand when you have kids” cohort.
What many people don’t understand, is that for a handful (or more) of those limbo level people, these questions and assumptions are salt in a wound. Many times, I myself, have physically cringed in the face of someone who asked me, “So do you and Peter think you’ll start trying for a baby soon?” Instead of firing back with a “If you had any brains, you’d know that we had been trying unsuccessfully for a year and a half”, I’d give a cheerful, shiny smile and respond with an “I hope so!” Since being diagnosed with PCOS in 2015, this has been the story of my life. Luckily, after a boatload of appointments and medicine that made me violently ill, we were able after two years to conceive our daughter, Siena.
We are the lucky ones. The ones that have been able to escape the Parental Purgatory. But others? Not as much. Two years doesn’t sound too bad now, after we have been out of it. But as we dive headfirst into trying for baby #2, the familiarity of the sting of defeat, disappointment, and sheer sadness comes washing back like waves on a beach. I am reminded of those dark spaces I found myself in two years ago. The questions that kept me awake at night, “What’s my purpose in the world if I can’t have a baby? Isn’t that my BIOLOGICAL DUTY?! What kind of a wife cannot give her husband a child?” Fighting off those thoughts is three- quarters of the battle of infertility. The silent struggle. And the struggle is real.
Not enough is said for people who have to endure this. Growing up in a Catholic family, we often heard about adoption, the horrors of abortion, and the opposition to IVF. But what about the fact that adoption is not an option for many because of the price tag? Or that IVF is sometimes the only way to a family? Or what about praying for those families struggling, along with the babies whose parents chose to not continue with their pregnancies? In my most humble opinion, I feel not enough is being said for those in so-called Parental Purgatory.
So to those of you who have struggled: I stand beside you in solidarity. It sucks. There’s no sugar coating it, but know that you are not alone in your battle. I hear you, even if you don’t say anything. Your struggle is not unnoticed. As someone who has seen the light, the struggle is eventually worth it; I promise.
And to those of you have not had to endure this situation, please be cognizant. We are not mad because you don’t struggle with this. Do we envy your situations? Yes, at times. Please forgive and excuse us if we pull away and act secluded. We don’t mean to not be happy about your recent pregnancy or unempathetic about how your baby hasn’t slept a full night in the three months of their existence. To some, it may be a constant reminder of what they can’t do. Instead of saying, “It will happen! Just be patient” or saying the dreaded, “If you stop stressing out, it will happen”, be empathetic to people; whether you know their struggle or not. We don’t want the advice. Instead give them a hug and say, “I’m sorry. That’s a really crappy situation.” Offering them an alcoholic beverage may be a good option as well. And be open to talking to them about it--or not saying anything about it.
Bringing a light to this situation, and sharing my struggle and thoughts may not change anything, but hopefully it widens the lens on the unspoken. Because truly, the struggle, silent or not, is very, very real.