My relationship with infertility is a tumultuous one.
Difficult as my road to motherhood was, in the scheme of things it was relatively short. Six months of trying on our own, seven months of IUIs and success after one round of IVF.
Throughout this struggle to conceive I, sadly, encountered people that dismissed my struggles because of this brevity – comparing my “short” journey to their own, unfortunately, longer ones.
But I don’t believe in ranking people’s challenges – particularly when it comes to creating a family. Whether you struggle with infertility for seven months or seven years is irrelevant in my mind- it is an impossible pain to want to create a life and, for whatever reason, struggle to do so.
But boy, the fight is so worth it.
And whether you’re in the thick of it, or its in the rear view mirror; whether you struggle for months or years- infertility is nothing if not a learning experience.
Through my own journey, here are 5 things I learned about infertility:
1. It can feel so lonely, when it is anything but.
Infertility can make you feel abundantly alone – particularly in those moments when you are sneaking pregnancy tests between treatments; abashedly hiding the failed ones from your partner. But in reality, we aren’t alone. We, most often, have a partner who is also on this journey. We have loved ones rooting for us- whose hearts privately break for us each month. We have doctors and nurses that live and breath for our success. And we have a strong community of women who have gone through it too- use their stories, successes, and lessons to your advantage. It can be a lonely road, but it doesn’t have to be.
2. It strengthens the friendships that matter.
Infertility temporarily changes a person. It can make you selfish; it can make you shamefully jealous; it can make you irritated when friends complain about their own kids; it can make you reclusive, and unable to participate in other people’s joys – particularly surrounding children. And your good friends will forgive you for this, and will be compassionate rather than angry. The ones that matter will remember that you aren’t a selfish asshole – but instead are a vulnerable person in the thick of a devastating and trying time. And those are the ones that you want, and who deserve to be, by your side in the end.
3. It is all-consuming.
And understandably so. You learn a new language on this journey- one consisting of hormone levels, treatments names and body parts. And if you failed biology like me, you’ll finally learn precisely how babies are made. Surround yourself with people who are OK with this topic intruding upon your conversations; ones who won’t roll their eyes when you turn down a third glass of wine, or who tell you to “relax” when you share your fears on a Friday night. Because right now, jumping over this hurdle feels like more than a full-time job.
4. It will make you do, well, anything.
There is nothing you won’t do to overcome this hurdle to get to your child:
Drink warm soup nightly in the middle of summer; eat the hard rind of a pineapple daily.
Wear socks at all times to keep those toes warm.
Try acupuncture, meditation, yoga.
Dip out of a wedding for a few quick shots- and not the fun kind.
Go dry during a cycle that overlaps with a trip to wine country- this one stung a little.
And if you had told me to lock myself in a dark room and listen to the most painful of songs on repeat- I would have done that too.
Anything in the name of passing that test.
5. It will test your strength.
But you can win.
There will be bad days. There will be horrible days. But there will be good days, too. There were days I laughed with my nurses, and days I cried with them- sometimes those days were the same. Infertility is a worthy opponent- as a woman it can make you feel less than, insecure, and weak.
But in the end, it is the mama bear within that takes us on this journey- and you don’t want to mess with that animal. She is strong, and fierce, and will do anything to protect her baby cubs- no matter what it takes.
And don’t ever forget that.