National Infertility Awareness Week
For as long as I can remember, I’ve thought of myself as a mom. Working in the field I’ve worked in for the last few years, I’ve often wondered if this came down to the way my parents raised me. But the more I think about it, the more I realize the answer is “no”. Being a mother seems like the right thing for me. I grew up being told I could be anything I wanted to be, all I had to do was put my hopes into actions, and yet… I realize that no amount of work will change the fact that I am one of the 1 in 8 women facing infertility.
When my spouse and I first started trying to conceive it was a mix of emotions and hardships. You see, I’m also one of the 1 in 4 women who will experience a sexual assault in their lifetime. Regaining my privacy and security was everything to me and this compounded the feeling of loneliness as we struggled. I didn’t want anyone to know and frankly, I had no reason to believe we’d have any struggles. If I learned anything growing up it was that A + B always led to C. I thought within a couple of months I’d be able to share the beautiful news with our family.
Yet, the months kept coming and going. The triggers quickened in their pace, the feelings of frustration with my body, all too common feelings with both victims of sexual violence and infertility and I grew weary. I entered the age bracket where all my friends on social media were posting their happy news and I was elated for them, really, I was. But I was also sad, so very sad. I was confused, conflicted, and angry too.
About 1 ½ years in, I finally opened up to my brother and sister-in-law, broaching the subject of possibly not being able to have biological children. I was surrounded with support instantly, and that helped me speak up to the rest of my family as my spouse and I entered the next phase of our journey – confirming infertility.
Hearing the news was a blow to the gut. We learned in the beginning – though we now know more to the story – that our issues were possibly related to some injuries my spouse had while playing baseball. The surgeries he’d had to correct these injuries have reproductive consequences – something the doctors never verbally told us. The journey of finding solutions for male-factor infertility is difficult. Finding support is even more difficult because more often than not it is women facing reproductive health barriers.
My spouse started a cocktail of vitamins, partaking in old-wives-tales for boosting fertility and hanging on every granted prayer God had ever given him. We tried for several more years, finding a community where more people spoke of male-factor infertility and then found I had some barriers as well. This news effectively closed to the door to pregnancy for us, but our journey to parenthood is not over, we’re just realizing we took a detour from what our plan should have been all along.
What I have found in the last several years battling infertility is that it can be a rollercoaster of emotions that at times you hope you’ll be thrown from. There were moments of great sadness for my spouse and me. But there were also moments where our abs hurt from the laughter we allowed ourselves during this time. Our marriage has been tried and tested. Individual hopes and dreams have yo-yoed our heartstrings. Our present and our future clashed together like a violent storm, but we have survived.
Having the support from our friends and family has been one of the greatest assets for us in this journey. Being able to lean on others when we don’t have the strength to stand up anymore has given us the reprieve we’ve both needed.
Here are five of the other things I’d learned in this journey of infertility that have helped.
- Don’t put your other life goals on hold. No one knows how long infertility will impact your life. Perhaps it’ll just be a bit longer than the normal year, but it could be years. I can’t tell you the number of times we put off going on a trip because we thought, “this is the month and I don’t want to be sick!” and yet every month would come without sickness. So, take those trips, invest in those companies, start your own business! Live your life for today, responsibly of course, but live for today. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
- Don’t lose the love. In the beginning, some couples find they enjoy the practice. With every passing month, infertility soaks up the fun you two have had. It becomes an obligation. It’s on the calendar, down to the minute and second. It won’t be easy, but find time to love each other because you love each other. Take the time to laugh with each other, date each other, and romance each other.
- Talk with people! Even if it’s an online community or just a couple of trusted friends. Make sure you both have some folks you can talk to. They don’t have to know everything but having someone to send a quick text message after seeing another pregnancy announcement was a godsend for me. Having friends to lean on when my spouse and I were struggling, to help us get back to normal was a relief. We all need relationships in our lives; you decide how deep you want to go but talk to people.
- Relax on the Google searches. Goodness, if people could see the things I was googling… let go of the need to know every new situation and fix for the problem. This one is hard, but honestly, Google is never our friend, is it? It always leads down a road to the worst-case scenario. Trust the plan you’re on for the moment, and plan around how long you’ll stay with it before looking at trying another option.
- Do things for you. Treat yourself to massages not because you want them to open up the chakras to boost fertility, but because you deserve to destress the other parts of your body. Take baths, sit in saunas or hot tubs. Have that glass of wine if you enjoy drinking, and eat yummy chocolate!
If you are experiencing infertility, please know that you are not alone. We are a community of people, all from different walks of life and together we can be a support system. I have my fingers crossed for your beautiful rainbow baby. There are many walks to parenthood and I’m confident you’ll navigate them. For more information on infertility check out this website.
Until next time,
This article was originally published on April 23, 2019, but the hope remains the same: to support one another within this beautiful community of women through the journey of infertility.