If you read my first post on infertility, you know it is very emotionally charged. There was a lot of frustration and heartache tied up with my initial experiences of trying to get pregnant. I think that for everyone trying for the first time, there is so much unknown and so much uncertainty. When will I get pregnant? What will it take for me to get pregnant? How long will it take? How much will it cost? Can I even get pregnant? Who do I talk to to start looking at the process for adoption? You feel like every day, every week, every month is a lifetime of waiting without the answers you need.
I remember that a friend of a friend reached out to me to pick my brain on fertility issues. She was trying to get pregnant with her first, and what she didn’t know is that we were three IUIs deep in trying for our second. And I remember telling her that the real kicker with infertility is that it doesn’t necessarily end. If you are lucky enough to get pregnant, you are beyond grateful, but that doesn’t always solve everything. Especially if you want more than one child. I will say that trying to get pregnant with our second child was probably more emotionally taxing than even the first time around. And the third time wasn’t as bad, but still crazy frustrating. So it just keeps being every level of terrible, you know?
But here’s the thing, time and perspective help.
While I can’t diminish the frustration that women understandably feel in this process, because I remember those feelings, I was definitely blessed with a good dose of perspective. While we were in the thick of trying for baby number one and baby number two, I learned that it wasn’t helpful for me to be upset at others who were having successes that I wasn’t. So when my coworker that I adored decided that they were going to try that month and got pregnant, did it make my situation better to be mad at her? Nope. Not at all. She was already a fantastic mom and would raise another baby to be a wonderful little human. Good for her, I was actually happy. And it took me by surprise. But in a good and healing way.
Another thing that helped my perspective is recognizing that while infertility is difficult, there are indeed worse things. I may get some backlash for this, but sometimes I feel like people in trying times feel like they own grief. And I’ve seen it again and again in different infertility forums or groups, where women will say that nobody can ever know the pain they’ve experienced, and that it is the worst kind of pain. And while they have every right to feel that pain, they aren’t alone in it.
When I posted my initial blog post about infertility back in 2012, I had a friend comment to me something along the lines of, “While I don’t know this pain, I do know pain, and I’m sorry you are experiencing it.” WOW. What an angel. She was going through a horrible divorce at the time and was so hurt and frustrated by situations out of her control, and yet she still buoyed me up in my sorrow. I realized that while nobody could understand my pain, I also couldn’t understand or imagine their’s.
Don’t get me wrong, infertility super sucks. Hands down. But for me, it is manageable. And here’s how: when I look around at others that I love and admire that have very real sorrows and trials, I realize that none of us are alone in our sorrow. Maybe they don’t struggle to get pregnant, but I’ve known amazing people who have lost children, friends who have husbands deployed in the military, loved ones who deal with chronic illnesses, people who, despite their best efforts and hard work, have financial stresses. A friend of mine lost her dad very suddenly and unexpectedly, another family member watched their mom die slowly from cancer, and I know multiple wonderful people who have children with physical and/or developmental disabilities that affect every aspect of their lives. You guys, life is hard. So so hard. And as I get older I realize that there is a bigger picture here, and that helping those around me in their struggles will forever make me grateful what I do have, rotten eggs and all.
So what advice do I have for those on the front end of this journey? Almost none that will actually be helpful, or that you probably want to hear. I say take a vacation, work like crazy to save money, surprise friends with thoughtful little gifts or cards, spend time with those you love, and say you are sorry to people who are also in pain. Nothing you say is going to make their situation change and be better, but everybody likes to hear that they have a cheerleader. Let them know how much you admire how they are doing their daily tasks despite being overwhelmed. Time has helped me see the importance of these things, even if I wasn’t always the best at them. And am I great at them now? Not always, no. But I can tell a difference in my stress-levels, my patience with myself, and my overall happiness when I do.
If you take just one thing from this very long winded blog post, let it be this. BE SWEET. To yourself and to others, be sweet. It makes a difference, I promise.