Friday, December 10, 2010

Reflections on Infertility

I want to start this post off with saying, point blank, that if you have never experienced infertility, you have no idea how it feels or how it affects a person.

We live in a society and a time that endorses the idea of family planning.  I mean, sure there are plenty of people that have children before they're ready for them, but the enforced ideal is that, when we're ready for them, when our time is right, when we're prepared enough and stable enough to care for children and we decide that we are indeed ready for them, we'll have them.  That is, unless you're infertile.  And there are a lot (and I mean, A LOT) of very ignorant and arrogant opinions out there concerning infertility.

Women grow up assuming and expecting that when they're ready to become mothers (if that's their choice) that they'll be able to.  They go into the process of trying to become mothers with high hopes and excitement.  A new stage in their life is about to unfold!  And then month after month after month of trying and failing passes.  Turns into years.  People who weren't even in relationships before the infertile couple started trying to conceive now have babies of their own.  You begin to wonder what's wrong with you, how you're defective, and what you've done to deserve this.  Every woman should be able to procreate, I mean, isn't this what our prime purpose in being a woman at all is?  There must be something wrong with you.  You feel guilty for being in a committed relationship and not being able to supply that special someone with an heir to call their own.  In some of the worst moments, you consider leaving them, to set them free in order to find another woman who is not broken.  There is guilt, and tears, and disappointment deeper than most fertile people could possibly imagine.  It becomes almost an obsession, there is nothing you want more in this entire world than to become a parent.  And then, on top of all this, there is another layer of guilt because we do have so many things to be thankful for and this is all we can focus on.  Why can't we just focus on the things that are positive in our lives instead of the things that we can't have?  But that doesn't stop us from wanting to be parents, dreaming and wishing and . . . crying about it.

And to top it all off, we are ashamed.  We are defective and broken.  So we find a few close people to hold us up in our weakest moments and let them in our secrets, and then we do our very best to hide it from the rest of the world.  Because surely they would look down us for it.  Surely they would see us as lesser beings.  I mean, if we are unable to conceive, that must mean that's God's way of saying, "No more!" for our bloodlines!  At least, that's what we assume people would think of us, so we don't let them see the inside.  We ward their questions off with some vague response:  "When are you going to have children?"  "Oh, when we're ready . . ."  But really, the question tears your heart out, because the real answer is, "We've been trying for three years and suffered two miscarriages.  We want nothing more in the world than to be parents.  But really?  Maybe never.  And, quite frankly, it's none of your business."

And, oh goodness, don't get me started on listening to fertile couples talk about their conception struggles.  We may have been trying for years, gone through many failed fertility medications and treatments, and then you expect to listen and sympathize with how agonizing it was that it took you three whole months to conceive your beautiful baby?  You have a beautiful baby.  We have piles of doctor's bills and less hope then we had in the beginning that this is ever going to work.

And there is nothing, I repeat, nothing that can resort an infertile woman to tears so quickly as someone else's pregnancy announcement.  It's not that we're not happy for you.  If this is what you want, we are happy for you.  But we are sad and bitter and jealous and jaded for ourselves.  We want that happiness for ourselves and we don't know if it's something that we're ever going to be able to experience and it hurts, more than you could possibly imagine.  And if the pregnancy is unwanted?  That hurts even worse.  It just doesn't make sense and it's so beyond unfair that someone who doesn't even want it, can have our deepest heart's desire without even trying.

I cannot possibly put into words that feeling of disappointment when your period shows up again after another month of trying and failing for that positive pregnancy test, those moments in the dark when you're sobbing into your pillow feeling guilty and horrible and trying not to wake your husband up because you know he would try to fix it and it's SO not his fault . . . it's yours, the anger and the resentment and the bitterness and the humiliation.  There aren't words to describe any of these.  Being infertile is one of the biggest emotional roller coasters that a woman could ever possibly ride.  And they usually ride it in silence because they are ashamed, which makes the burden that much heavier to bear.

So, I plead with you now, never chastise a woman for not jumping for joy at your pregnancy announcement, never tell a couple to 'just relax' and it will happen (pretty darn impossible if you don't even ovulate!), never tell a couple they should 'just adopt' (if you want children of your own, why should an infertile couple not be allowed to have the same want?), and for the love of all that is holy, keep your snide comments to yourself when it comes to pregnancy and babies.  Because you have no idea what may be going on inside that woman's head and the impact that your negative actions and comments are having on her.  If you haven't been there, you cannot possibly understand, but you CAN be tactful.

And with that, I cannot even express how grateful I am that my husband and I have come this far on our infertility journey.  For us, all it took was a proper diagnosis and three months of proper medication to balance my hormones enough to kick-start my ovaries back into ovulating.  Many other women are not as lucky.  There are others that have gone through medications that make them a raging ball of emotions, painful injections, and, when all else fails, in vitro fertilization that comes with a $10,000 price tag and no guarantee of success.  This whole thing has been harder on my emotions than I could even begin to describe, but it could have been worse, and for that, I am so incredibly grateful.  And I extend my hope and my sympathy to the women who are still trying.  Most of them will finally achieve that positive pregnancy test, experience a pregnancy of their own, and finally, FINALLY get the opportunity to hold their baby in their arms.  A small percentage will not, and my heart breaks for them.  I wish them all the luck and baby dust and what modern medicine has to offer in the world.

And, if there are actually individuals out there who have the audacity to assume that a diagnosis of infertility is God's way of bringing an end to a bloodline, I call you out.  For one, how ridiculous that you could possibly think that you were intelligent or 'special' enough to be privy to the will of God and, for two, God helps those who help themselves.  Perhaps this is God's way of ensuring that the children borne from infertile couples will be born into a home that loves them and appreciates every second with them, because I fully believe that there is no one who is loved quite so much as a child that was believed might never exist.


  1. Becky!! WOW! Well said m'dear!

    You really hit the nail on the head! :)

    I am thinking I'd love to post this on the new website in the new year :)

  2. So perfectly well-put. You had me in tears for a moment as it almost felt like you were reading my life story, though we can all relate, yes?

    I cannot tell you how much I HATE the idea that infertility is God's way of saying don't have kids. Having a (rather noticeable) disability, I get this from society all the time. I can only imagine the words that will be tossed around once I am blessed with a baby bump. But in the end it's not about them, and I can walk away knowing that their ignorance only makes me stronger. I've always believed that's why God made me the way I am in the first place.