It’s Infertility Awareness Week (April 22nd – 28th). And if you’ve been reading my blog, I’m sure you are aware that my husband and I are going through infertility. But I felt like this week was a good time to share a little more about what that really means. So, I chatted with a few awesome ladies (shout out to my Infertility Posse) who are also walking this road, and we came up with some things we would like you to know about infertility.
10 Things You Should Know About Infertility
1. Infertility is lonely.
All of us agreed that there is nothing we could share that would create perfect understanding. Infertility is one of those members only kind of clubs… A sorority with just one prerequisite, but none of us wanted or asked to join. And we don’t want to be in a secret society. Our goal is to bring more awareness to what 1 in 8 couples are going through. 1 in 8! Which means, chances are, someone you know is struggling through infertility, whether they have chosen to share it or not. And they probably feel incredibly alone. (If that’s you, you can join our Infertility Posse. ☺️) Carrying this burden can be terribly isolating. We don’t know when we are going to fall apart next or who we should turn to for solace. Especially at the beginning of this journey. Often times we just try to keep it to ourselves so we don’t become a burden for someone else. It is so painfully lonely.
2. We are grieving.
Not conceiving the child you so desperately want is heart shattering. And exhausting. And so incredibly sad. Month after month… we are feeling the loss of the child that we do not have. We feel empty. And every month when the answer is still no, the grieving process begins again, a merry-go-round of grief (as heard on the Sarah’s Laughter Infertility Podcast). And every month we pick ourselves back up off the ground and we try again.
3. We have to protect our hearts.
Emotions are running high all. the. time. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the hormones and feelings brought about by medications we have to take. Some days are easier than others, but feelings of sadness, guilt, shame, hopelessness, anger… they can come crashing down at any point. So, we have to protect our hearts. Maybe that means turning down some babysitting gigs, unfollowing someone on social media (or just not logging on very often), or even skipping a baby shower. Reactions are going to vary based on the situation and where the grief merry-go-round has spun us that day. Everyone going through infertility has to guard their hearts in different ways. And not because we don’t care, but because we also have to take care of ourselves.
4. We are happy for you and sad for ourselves.
It is possible to feel an infinite number of things all at the same time. And believe us, we do. We are thrilled that you are welcoming your child into this world, but we might not be able to celebrate in person right away. We hope you can understand that. And how hard it is that we can’t singularly feel joy – try as we might. We love you, but we may not be the right people to come to about pregnancy symptoms or struggles with your newborn. While those are valid feelings that you are allowed to have and share, right now, we would give anything for morning sickness or the terrible twos. These are tough things to share because we want to support you. But sometimes, we just aren’t able to in the way we would like. We can know that we are doing the right thing for ourselves and still feel ashamed or selfish. Infertility can often become a shame spiral. But we want you to know that our sad feelings are not about you. We would never expect anyone to wait to have babies because we can’t have them. We would never ask you not to share your joy, post your photos, or celebrate with a baby shower. These are all things we dream of doing when we finally get the good news we’ve been desperately longing to hear. We would never wish for anyone else to join the sisterhood of infertility. Please know that we are so deeply happy for you. We hope you enjoy every minute of it. And we hope to experience that joy too.
5. Well meaning advice is often hurtful.
Anyone diagnosed with infertility has been trying to conceive for at least a year. Yes, there is a diagnosis. This is a medical condition. It is a disease caused by various issues that can often be treated. But it can take time. Which is difficult when we have already been waiting for our babies for so long. It’s great that your cousin’s wife’s best friend’s sister got pregnant when she just relaxed and “stopped trying.” For most of us in the Infertility Posse, the chances of that being our story are practically zero. (But, hey God! We are willing! ☺️) We need medical intervention so there is no way to “just stop trying.” Please believe that we have done all we possibly can to make this happen on our own. Yes, we’ve tracked our cycles, taken our temperatures, bought a million ovulation predictor kits, changed our diets, stood on our heads, tried acupuncture, oils, supplements and everything in between. Our doctors have done all the tests and the research. We will only be taking advice from them. We appreciate you wanting to help, but listening is probably the most helpful thing you can do for us. Also throwing “just adopt” into this category. Adoption is an amazingly beautiful thing. It is not a cure for infertility. For wanting to carry a child with your DNA. Adoption is a very personal choice, and can often times cost just as much, if not more, than the most extreme infertility treatments. Which are also not a “why don’t you just…” These choices take consideration, care, and the financial means to back them up. And finally, please don’t tell us that maybe we can’t get pregnant because we just aren’t ready yet – for spiritual reasons or otherwise. Or that maybe we just aren’t meant to be mothers. Not sure how either of those things could be considered “well meaning,” but they do get said. And it is so hurtful. We hurt enough already.
6. Infertility is uncomfortable.
Never have we ever had so many people know and track our cycles. We have been poked and prodded and gone through a number of interesting and invasive procedures that you’d probably rather not hear about. We have taken medicine that makes us feel crazy. We have peed on countless stupid sticks and had to keep our legs in those hateful stirrups for ridiculous amounts of time (Personally, I always bring my favorite Harry Potter socks to wear when I know the stirrups will be part of my day). We also can’t really plan to go out of town or anything because of treatments. Even if we could schedule a vacation, we probably won’t because all of our money is going toward conceiving our child. We have to be ready to move schedules around at any time to accommodate our clinics or our bodies. We are in a constant state of waiting. The really uncomfortable kind.
7. We have to pay to get pregnant. And that sucks.
Everyone knows that having kids is expensive, but we always assumed that would be once they arrived. Getting pregnant should be free. It’s what our bodies are made to do. But that isn’t true for all of us. It’s stressful to know that we need to spend money to make a baby. Money we’d like to be saving for when that baby arrives. “Sorry, sweetie… we spent your college fund to get you here!” 🤦🏻♀️ Thank goodness there are so many wonderful programs, funding, grants, and people that want to stand in the gap for those suffering from infertility, but not everyone is lucky enough to have help. Choices have to be made, and sometimes that choice is to decide that we can’t do this anymore. Which is a fear we all share. Fertility treatments and adoption cost thousands upon thousands of dollars. That is the ugly truth. It is one of the bitterest pills to swallow.
8. It means the world when you check in.
Thank you so much for asking how we are doing. Thank you for telling us that you are praying, thinking of us, supporting us. Thank you for walking beside us during the hardest battle we’ve ever faced. Some days we may be ready to share that our most recent cycle failed or that we are afraid that this will never happen for us. Others, we might shut down and say nothing. Please be patient with us. Try again. No matter the reply, we will always be grateful that you asked. Some people imagine talking about infertility might hurt our feelings or make us sad. But, to be honest, we’re already thinking about it. We would rather have someone ask the question and check in on us than pretend like everything is just fine. The silence is so much worse. It makes us feel unseen and unimportant. Thank you for caring enough to ask. We are so blessed by the supportive people in our circle. Thank you.
These last two are from me personally (but I’m sure my Infertility Posse is with me).
9. Just because I write about the heartache doesn’t mean I don’t have hope.
Please don’t ever mistake me sharing the hard stuff as a loss of hope. I am expectantly and excitedly hopeful about our baby. We believe that God is writing this story, that He will use it for a purpose, and that His timing is perfect. While we may not understand (or like!) why this is our story, we are choosing to believe in our good, good Father. That His strength will be displayed through our weakness. He has called on us to be enthusiastically hopeful, and we believe Him. And despite it being a difficult and painful journey, we have been so blessed by our family, friends, and my Infertility Posse. They hold us up and we are forever grateful. We are believing big that we will have a baby. Maybe two – right, babe? 😉 I would love it if you would believe with us and pray that over us.
10. I am going to keep sharing my story.
The good, bad, and ugly. I am sharing it for the women just like me who feel isolated and lonely because of infertility. I am sharing it for the couples who are grieving. I am sharing it for the Hopeful Mama that is facing the two week wait for what feels like the hundredth time. I am sharing it for the devastated couple who thought this was going to be their month, but just found out it was another failed cycle. I am sharing it because my story might make someone else feel understood and championed. I am sharing it because it’s brought many wonderful people into my life. I am sharing it because infertility should not be something we are ashamed to talk about. It is the very present reality of countless people. Maybe even someone you know, someone you love. Maybe you didn’t realize just how deep the hurt goes. If you haven’t experienced infertility, you can’t quite comprehend what it really means, what it feels like… but it doesn’t need to be a secret and it especially doesn’t mean, dear Loved One of Someone Going Through Infertility, that you can’t try. I believe there needs to be more awareness for the 1 in 8. More stories need to be shared. Even when we have our baby (thank you, God! We are believing for, fighting for our child to come home!), this will still be our story. For a while I imagined that once we had our baby, I would just brush infertility off and be done with it. The sad part of the story you skip over. But that just isn’t the case. Infertility is a defining season in our life. It is now part of us. I truly believe this community needs voices to speak up. I believe God has called me to stand for this community, and so I am going to keep on sharing. I will always share because I believe my story is one of hope.
Won’t you hope with me? With us?
Thank you for reading, for caring. If you know someone struggling with infertility, I hope you squeeze them a little tighter and let them know you are thinking of them. If you are part of the 1 in 8, I hope you feel seen. I hope you feel empowered. I hope that if you want to, you will share your story. You don’t have to do this alone. Reach out. We are here for you.
To my Infertility Posse, God gave me you. I am so thankful to walk this road by your side. I can’t wait to celebrate our babies together!