Lately I have had quite a few discussions with many new people about infertility, and many of whom are struggling in the midst of it. I've actually been shocked by how many people I've talked to recently about this considering how few I knew when I was in the middle of dealing with it myself, and also by how few most of them are connected to as well. It's such a lonely experience and most don't have anyone else to relate to who has experienced the same thing. I know I wrote here and there throughout my infertility struggles, but reading back I didn't express as much as I could have during the most painful times. I didn't share some of the hardest aspects or the feelings I felt because during that time I wasn't sure how it would be accepted and didn't feel able to completely open up about everything I was feeling. I hope to encourage others with this sharing now and relate to both those going through infertility and also those who know others going through it.
During some of my darkest and worst hours of wanting to be a mom and have children, I felt I had no one who I could truly and completely relate to or open up to safely. I'm not saying this was correct or true, but that's how the cloud of infertility enveloping me felt like. Sometimes it was exacerbated by conversations with others that pierced my heart and seemed to punch me in the stomach, and other times it was my own insecurities or inability to convey my feelings. Either way it was one of the loneliest, if not the loneliest time of my entire life. Yes I had many people around me. My husband was of course by my side (as much as he, a man not experiencing the desire to be pregnant himself, could be). I had my sweet understanding friend who I had gone through infertility with for years before who by then had gotten pregnant (and, heartbreakingly, it just wasn't the same any longer...it couldn't be). I had many people who were hopeful and loving and wanting the best for me, but no one I felt that could truly understand and relate to the unimaginable pain and confusion that comes with wanting a baby and to be a mom and not being able to do that.
No one who understood that the romance and spontaneity of sex with my husband, had instead turned into a scheduled event on a calendar that ended with me laying on my back with my legs in the air for 30 minutes (sorry if that's too much info), and sometimes shaking my butt around thinking that would surely get the sperm and egg to connect! No one to understand the chaos and turmoil that pregnancy announcements caused on me because the joy I felt for them was crippled by the paralyzing desire for my own. Or the hatred and guilt I felt towards myself for not being able to be more ecstatic for my friends in their pregnancies. Or the surprise and disgust I felt at myself for the jealousy that crept in at seeing baby pictures or easy pregnancy announcements. The inability to attend friends baby showers because of the intense pain it caused me, which somehow made me feel even more left out at the same time. The sadness over random conversations with new people asking if I had children and telling me in a chipper fleeting voice that, "Oh you will some day!" after hearing that I didn't. The intense frustration I felt from all the well meaning advice to relax, go on vacation, or try a new sex trick. I fully know that people meant well in their words and wishes, but the way it fell on my empty womb and heart was painful to say the least, and made me feel even more alone and more misunderstood. I'm not proud of any of these thoughts or emotions, but they were real and they were mine. And they are oh so common with those struggling with infertility.
That's a term I hated to use for years. Infertility. But for anyone wanting a baby or to be a mom and not being able to...it is heartbreaking no matter what you call it or where you are in the process. No matter how long you've waited, what a doctor says, or what the so called average time frame "should" be. It's like a piece of you crumples up and dies with every passing period. It's physically painful. I've realized since talking to multiple women over the past few months that this is such a more common experience than people realize and that people don't know how to respond or help people dealing with this. It is one of the hardest things on relationships between spouses as well as between friends and family. I know because I've experienced it between all of those relationships. Some of whom know, and others who have no idea how drastically our relationships changed during that season of time because I didn't know what to say, or how to say it, and so I stayed quiet and alone.
I'm writing this for those going through infertility to know that you are absolutely not alone, and to give yourself grace in whatever you feel regardless of what it is. To know that there are others that have been there and have felt the exact same terribly shocking things that you are. That some days you will feel anger. Somedays sadness. Other days hurt. Most days loneliness and confusion. And occasionally those joyful peace filled days that are a breath of fresh air. Give yourself grace in whatever you're feeling, and let yourself feel. It's your journey and sometimes feeling is the only thing you can do.
I'm also writing this to help those who haven't gone through infertility to realize what to say and especially what not to say to someone going through it. To know that it's ok not to know what to say and often that's much better than advise or well wishes of outcomes that can't possibly be known. We know you mean well, but there is so much that can be said and done to help the loneliness and I hope to help and bless your relationships and friendships with those going through this devastating time. I also hope to give you an inside glance at most likely what they are experiencing without saying.
Here are a few things you can say to someone going through infertility:
1) I'm so sorry you're experiencing this.
2) I have no idea what to say.
3) I love you.
4) I'm praying for you.
5) Can I do anything for you?
Things to please not say to someone going through infertility (and if you have, go back to them and apologize and let them know you didn't realize the impact. I promise it will help them feel better & be helpful in your relationship):
1) Relax and it'll happen.
2) My friend did "blah blah" and got pregnant. You should try that.
3) Have you tried X...Y....Z?
4) Go on a vacation and it'll happen.
5) There's always adoption.
6) Have you thought about adoption or fertility treatments?
7) It'll happen don't worry.
8) You're just stressing and thinking about it too much.
9) Everything happens for a reason.
10) You can have my kids!
Even though I'm not in the throws of the despair and hurting of infertility any longer, every time I hear a new story my heart squeezes with pain and compassion for those still dealing with this heart break. The loneliness and misunderstandings surrounding it only add to the pain and suffering this terrible experience encompasses. So many people struggle silently on their own and that is one of the hardest parts of infertility. By sharing my struggles I hope to help others realize they're not alone, and also help those not dealing with it relate better to others who are. Please feel free to forward this to anyone who you think may benefit from reading this and also feel free to email me directly if you have questions or want to talk to someone who has been down this road whether you have, are currently, or know someone who is. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Always be humble and gentle.
Be patient with each other, making allowance for
each other's faults because of your love.