Each week Amanda [Running with Spoons] hosts Thinking Out Loud Thursday. A chance for us to do some brain-dump blogging. And to hang out with fun people.
Erm. This is my first post this week (opps). We’re doing just fine around here. I had decided last week to take this week off from blogging (working on more balance in my life – or something like that), but – then I remembered / realized that this week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and couldn’t let it pass without mention. Although, if you follow me on Instagram, you know I have been mentioning it…a lot…this week.
The theme for this year’s Infertility Awareness Week is “You Are Not Alone“. This one really hit hard for me – because sharing our Infertility journey has all been about this theme. Infertility is such a lonely, dark battle. For us, talking about it made it easier. It made it feel less shameful, less forbidden, and certainly less “alone”. Just about every time I post regarding infertility, I have a friend, or someone I don’t even know contact me with their secret journey. That is why I do this. To let you know that you are NOT alone.
For those of you who don’t know, I have endometriosis. I was diagnosed as a teenager, and given slim – to – none chances of becoming pregnant. Finding out you are (most likely) infertile as a teenager is not a fun time. I certainly wasn’t open about my disease then. It was taboo enough to discuss periods. Not to mention ones that landed you needing medical treatment.
The one luxury of an early infertility diagnosis (if I can scrape one out), is that I was able to have crucial conversations with Nathan before we started trying to get pregnant about what our options were, and what steps we were and weren’t willing to take. These are conversations that should always accompany discussion of future children, regardless of your fertility history. After you talk about if you want kids. And now many. Talk about what you would do if you couldn’t have them naturally. Make these decisions early. Trust me.
For us, we knew chances were slim – but wanted to give it a shot. We tried for two years on our own before my endo was so bad that I had to return on medication to stop my cycles. We opted to not try any further interventions or fertility treatments. The two years of trying on our own had been absolute hell. We couldn’t do any more. And, we’d made the decision before we even started trying that we didn’t want to do more. That we wanted to adopt. For us, being parents meant more than being pregnant. I’m not saying this decision is for everyone. This is just what was right for us.
This isn’t to say – that when I had my IUD put in, and we had officially “stopped trying” that it wasn’t hard. I grieved the loss of the ability to get pregnant like the loss felt with death. The death of realities we had assumed for our lives. Because, I knew the odds, but I assumed we’d be the exception. We’re good people. We’ll get pregnant.
We weren’t, and aren’t, the exception. Bad things happen to good people. And when they do, it’s okay to be sad.
It’s okay to feel a lot of things when facing infertility. For me, I often cycled between feeling numb, and feeling raw. At times, I felt as if I was watching all of this happen. I was watching each month pass, and just ticking off time on the calendar. It wasn’t really my life. This couldn’t really be my life. Other days, I felt every single emotion. I felt raw and empty. Each word, each action, each second was a wound with salt poured inside. A lot of times on these days, I felt angry. I was angry at the world for handing me these cards. And I was jealous. Of every person in the entire world who had a baby. Facebook was the most painful thing to open, but I kept doing it. For some reason, the pain made me remember that I was alive.
And then there were days that I didn’t feel the pain – in a good way. I was happy. My life was going to be okay. I often felt guilty for having these days. I can’t be happy – I am infertile.
It took me a long time to realize that all of these emotions are/were okay. Whatever emotions you feel about your infertility are okay.
This month it has been one year since we stopped trying to get pregnant. There are still days that I am not okay. And that is okay. But, overall, I am doing a lot better. I remember a time that I did not know how I could ever feel happiness without being able to get pregnant. It took a long time to not feel this way. It took time, and talking, and therapy, and now – I feel joy without feeling guilty, or without feeling hesitant, waiting for my life to fall apart again. I can see that our life will be okay – however it ends up, and that it is even some type of okay right now – before we have kids. Infertility will always be a part of our life. It is not something that will ever go away. My disease can not be cured. It will always cause me health problems. The pain that we have felt can never be erased. We can never “un do” the past three years of our life. And I don’t know if I would, given the choice. I do not ever want to relive the pain we felt. And I would never wish it upon anyone. But it has taught me to be strong. It has taught my husband and I to be strong. And I wouldn’t trade this for anything.
If you are reading this, and thinking that you do not know anyone with infertility because they would have told you, please know that most people don’t share their infertility. Because it is hard as hell to share. It’s easier to bottle it up inside, and try every single day to not explode. The raw facts? 1 in 8 couples suffer from infertility. Still don’t think you know anyone? I guarantee that you do. Unless you only know 7 people in the whole world. Then, maybe. You may wonder why it matters to know about how infertility feels. It matters because what you say to these people matters. When you ask them when they’re “gunna start popping out some kids”, it hurts. In a deep, raw, brutally painful kind of way. In a way you can never understand. In a way we could never expect you to understand. But, we can ask that you be respectful. Family plans are private. They’re not yours to ask about. And, please don’t offer me your kids “if I really want some that badly” – because I may just take them.
If you are reading this, and you do know someone with infertility, you may wonder what you can do to help. You may know you don’t want to upset them, but you aren’t really even sure what to do or say around them. That is okay. Usually, people with infertility want a break from talking about infertility. They want you to be their friend, and often, to be their distraction. Other times, they may bring it up. If they do, know that they have trusted you with their darkest secrets, and just listen. Please don’t offer advice. Relaxing does not, in fact, cure medical conditions. Listen. Give hugs. Let them cry. Tell them you’re there for them. And mean it. Include them in your life, just as you would without their disease. Invite them to your baby shower. But know that they may have a bad day, and not come. Having a bad day and choosing not to come because I don’t think I can handle it is hard. Not being invited because you don’t think I can handle it is even harder. Let me make that decision. And respect the one I make. Love them. And be their friend.
Perhaps you’re here because you are here because you know the pain I have just described. You know it first hand, in an ugly sort of way. If so, I want to wrap my arms around you in the biggest hug possible. And tell you you are not alone. If you need to talk, please reach out. The “contact me” button above can always reach me.
You are not alone.
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