OK – so the point of this post is not simply for me to feel sorry for myself. Rather it’s the best expression I can muster about something that’s hard to encapsulate… and since I’m a verbal processor (and most people in my everyday life just simply don’t get it), this is me trying to get it into words.
What is Infertility to Me?
- Infertility is a wound. It’s a gaping, bleeding, pulsing burn wound that I never expected. A few years ago I badly burned the soft inside of my arm, just near my elbow, with a high-temp curling iron. And I burned it badly. For weeks and weeks afterwards, it consumed a large part of my consciousness. The pain was persistent and distracting. The wound took a long time to heal and was VERY sore and quite tender for weeks after that… and that’s what infertility feels like to me. Even now, somebody will make an innocent comment (not realizing its effects) and it’s like someone jabbed me in the slowly-healing-super-sensitive scar of my tentatively healing wound. At times it still hurts. It comes like waves – unexpected, surprising waves of grief – that overwhelm and shock me with their ferocity. And I’m pretty certain that even once the wound has healed, the scar will stay. It’s a part of me now – part of my journey. It’s changed me, and that can’t be reversed.
- Infertility is helplessness. It’s loss of control. It can rob you of your sense of life purpose, when part of your sense of contribution to life and the world is investing in your children as a parent. Many women/couples I know who’ve experienced IF say that one of the greatest frustrations about this is how in every other arena of your life you can make responsible choices, work hard, and achieve your goals. Infertility is one thing we can’t control. It doesn’t matter how hard we work at it, how well-prepared we are, etc. We’re helpless to change something that seems so independent of everything else in our lives. Your sex life becomes timed and monotonous (no matter how hard you work to avoid that, it eventually becomes a reality). You either become isolated and suffer in silence (by not talking about it with people in your life) or feel the discomfort of those around you (because THEY don’t know how to deal with it) when you do share.
- Infertility is the death of a dream. At least for me it was… which was a shocker. I’d always said that if a doctor ever told me that I couldn’t have kids, I’d be OK with it. Then life happened and we couldn’t have kids. And it ripped my heart out, stomped on my dreams and hopes, and beat me into submission. Surprise! Didn’t see that coming. Didn’t think it would matter so much.
- Infertility is a sorority. Or sometimes a fraternity (guys walk this path too.) Maybe it’s not the sorority you’d hoped for… not the sorority of women chattering away and sharing their labour and delivery stories – laughing over the common frustrations of pregnancy and the crazy-maker of sleepless nights. But it’s a sorority. I would NOT have survived this season with any sanity if I hadn’t had the privilege of being a part of an online group of women (in the “TTC Alt” section of weddingbells.ca… holla!) who were also walking the same path. There’s something about sharing your story with others, and knowing that they ACTUALLY GET IT, that just makes the burden a little lighter. It normalizes the experience. It helps you to feel a little less like a nut-job when somebody out there ‘gets it’ and feels the same way. I am SO grateful to each of these women for the gift of their support, and the blessing of sorority… none of us ever wanted to end up in this sorority, but it sure is nice to not feel so alone when you get there.
iscan be character building. I kept saying to myself (over and over again, like a mantra); “Better – not bitter. Better – not bitter. God – please let this process make me better, and not bitter.” But the reality is that bitterness seeps in… in crawls in through the cracks like all sorts of vermin and creepy-crawly insects. Bitterness, and her sister Jealousy. They eat away at the joy in your life until everything feels like it’s painted with the brushstrokes and colours of pain and bitterness. It hardens your heart… not intentionally, mind you… but after months and months (years and years?) of disappointment, your hearts learns to protect itself from the incessant pain. The hardening is survival. BUT, infertility will come to an end. Someday, and somehow you will stop TTC. You’ll either get that (seemingly forever) elusive BFP and welcome a child into your heart and life. OR you’ll choose to be happily child-free, and bring some ‘fur-babies” into your life – and be the coolest aunt/uncle or Big Brother/Big Sister out there. OR, you’ll adopt, and welcome a child into your heart and life that way. In the end, it will end. And in the end, you get to choose how and when it will end, and what you’ll take out of this roller coaster ride. Will it be bitterness, or a tempered, gracious, humble, appreciative spirit and heart? I’m choosing the latter… even if that choice is made day by day… “Better – not bitter,” I repeat again and again. One day it will honestly be true.
What about you? What have you learned? How have you grown through this journey? What is infertility to you?