I was surprised by infertility. Growing up I was raised in a family of five children, and we spent a lot of time with other big families. Families with five, seven, even twelve kids! This was my norm; babies everywhere! In college and young adulthood I didn’t know anyone struggling to get pregnant, in fact most people seemed to be struggling with the opposite problem. I don’t think I even knew the word infertility.
Then I got married. My friends got married. And they all started having babies. The word infertility was no longer foreign to me: it was on my mind day and night. My story of infertility carried on over the years and continues on and off to the present moment. The story of my fertility, or lack thereof, is different than yours in many ways. There are no two paths of infertility that will look exactly the same, but there may be many facets that are similar. If you, too, are surprised by infertility, this is what I’d like you to know:
Sometimes your body will not feel like your own.
This is especially true if you pursue medical treatment, but even if you don’t, it may feel like your body has betrayed you. Here, you’ve been together for twenty or thirty plus years, and now your body is not doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s disheartening.
And if you do pursue medical intervention, there will be poking and testing and medicating. These things will make you feel fat or hormonal or sick or all of the above. It’s hard to endure the time when your body and your mind and heart are not matching up together. But this next thing is good to know when you’re feeling this way. That is…
You are not alone.
You will often feel alone. You will feel alone when pregnancy announcements start rolling in. You might feel alone at your girlfriends’ baby showers. You will feel alone each month when your cycle arrives. You may feel alone in your head, wondering why this is happening to you.
But you are not alone. Unfortunately, many women have walked down this path before you. Find them! (when you’re ready) At first you may not wish to talk to anyone about it, or it might be all you want to talk about. It’s likely your friends who aren’t struggling with infertility will be supportive and kind, but they may not truly understand. It can be very helpful to find a support group or other women who have taken this journey already. I encourage you to find someone you trust and gain wisdom from them, as well as a safe place to share your experience.
You and your spouse will not always be on the same page.
And that’s okay. Sometimes it might truly not feel okay, but give yourself permission to let it be hard. No matter how much your husband supports you and hurts with you and longs for a baby with you, his experience of infertility will be different than yours. You are two different people and you will feel different emotions at different times. The way you handle loss and disappointment will be different. Each of you will be ready for taking next steps at different times.
I encourage you to look for the similarities in your experience and focus on where you are connected. Practice patience as you wait to be on the same page. Give your husband grace if he is not handling this the way you wish. Give yourself tons of grace if you’re not handling this the way you wish. Do things for your marriage that give you a break from the stress and worry of infertility. And set up times to talk to each other to share your worries about the future of your family. Do both. Know that this will be hard. Trust in your love for each other even on days when it’s hard. Trust in God’s love for you both.
Time will give you perspective.
This is true for all grief. The pain of going through infertility will not disappear even if you are blessed with a child. It will not disappear even if you become reconciled to not having children. Pain and loss through infertility are real experiences; once you have them they will always be a part of you.
The pain and loss will not always feel sharp and stinging. Somedays it might feel like a distant memory. Time gives perspective and helps lessen the pain of infertility. Time will help you see the big picture: the highs and the lows. There will be blessings that come out of infertility that you can’t even be aware of now. Only time will give you the lenses to see all of your journey through infertility.
I’m sorry that infertility is part of your life, but I am hopeful for you!
I now know many women who have infertility woven into their story. Some of these women have chosen not to have children and focused their gifts on other aspects of life. Some women have used natural or medical treatments to conceive and give birth to lovely kids. I know women who have undertaken costly and risky adoptions and have created beautiful families. Some women have done both! There are many women with biological kids, adopted kids, and fostered kids.
I don’t know what your story will be. You probably don’t either. Depending on where you are in your infertility experience the idea of fostering or adopting or visiting a reproductive endocrinologist might be the furthest thing from your mind. You might think you never want to do any of these things. That’s okay. Be where you are today. Know that you are loved and supported by so many family and friends. Infertility will only be a part of your life, not the whole story.