Is it just me or does it feel like infertility is on the rise? It seems we all know someone or friends of someone struggling to conceive these days, right? I sure do. I have friends who thought as soon as they went off birth control, it would happen. And for some, it did. But for others, it’s been troubling and scary. I have friends who have done IVF and IUI and friends of friends who are on Clomid and taking their basal temperature and vitamins and avoiding alcohol and completely. 100%. changing. their. lives. to have a baby. Some people don’t get it. But I do. God, do I ever get it.
When I was in my early 20’s I was told that because of my endometriosis and related surgery scar tissue that conceiving would be hard for me and that as I aged, especially after 28, it would become increasingly more difficult to have a baby. At that point in my life, I didn’t give a shit because I was a college student living on her own for the first time and not factoring my future baby making potential into my day-to-day living. When I met my future husband (who is five years older than me) and we became serious, it didn’t take long for the conception conversation to catch up with me. My husband comes from a big family and wanted to have a least 3 or 4 kids. I come from a family of three girls (and a whack load of step/half siblings) so I was on board with at least 3. So when I was around 24 we consciously started the whole “not-not trying” re: we didn’t use protection. This was actually pretty silly because we had NEVER ever used protection so I don’t know how we thought we’d somehow become pregnant once we acknowledged our indiscretions!
At first I was really only interested in having a baby because that is “what you do” in our society and I had seen the many negative reactions when it would come up in conversation that I wasn’t particularly interested in having kids or that I didn’t feel that maternal tug many other women did. I didn’t connect with kids the way my mom friends did and I had no desire to lose sleep, change diapers and essentially raise a respectable member of society. Talk about pressure! But I was deeply in love and somehow making a baby together seemed like the right thing to do for us. After not-not trying for about a year, in December 2012, we resigned ourselves to being the best aunt and uncle to our siblings/family friend’s children and we began plotting a future as a forever duo. But the Universe had other plans and I discovered at the end of January I was pregnant. To say we were floored is a massive understatement. I cried and cried: I wasn’t ready to be a parent. A future filled with sleepless nights and shitty diapers was imminent and I wasn’t ready. My husband, on the other hand, was ecstatic (once his shock wore off too). 8 Months later, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl via C-section on a rainy, shitty day. Because of my past feelings on children it took me about 12 hours to feel a bond with my baby. That may not seem like long but most mothers fall in love the second that baby is placed upon their body. I didn’t have that. For twelve long hours. But fall in love I did. Irrevocably and unconditionally.
I remember reading a parenting book that mentioned how, from the point of conception to delivery, a mothers brain actually re-wires itself to prepare for motherhood. This made sense to me because a lot of women had told me I’d never understand that love until I had my own. After having our daughter, I finally knew what they meant. Being a mother means having the biggest part of your heart suddenly become external to your body. It’s transferred into another being: a stubborn, ever-learning, constantly changing, button pushing being. Everyday is a day to rejoice in the love that fills the remaining heart inside me while also trembling in fear because that piece I gave away has now grown 1000 times the initial size. My love, joys, hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, values are all placed upon this tiny human who only cares about basic survival. But what makes it harder too is that my external heart also has a mind of her own. She’s going to have her own joys, dreams, fears and values. Finding the balance of nourishing and teaching, encouraging and guiding is the dance of life in parenting. I can only hope, at the end of my days, I’m proud of who my heart chose. My love for her is unlike anything I have EVER experienced. She has brought tremendous love and joy as well as growth and change into our home. I couldn’t imagine not having her now. I look back at my college self and scold that girl who never wanted kids because the gift is so immeasurable and amazing.
Knowing all this now, I hope you can see why wanting a sibling for my daughter became so important to me. I knew what it felt like to grow a life inside my body and I wanted that again (ok, except minus the all day sickness for six months straight!). But more than that, I wanted to give my daughter a sibling; a playmate, a confidant, a teacher, a friend, another piece of mommy’s heart for us all to grow alongside with. When I miscarried twice in two years it almost broke me. Did you know that 1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility? I wasn’t alone in not getting pregnant despite all the steps we were taking. But I felt alone. People don’t talk about miscarriages. “Don’t tell people until you’re three months pregnant” is the societal rule. But why? Why wouldn’t I want the love and support that will come if I lose a baby prior to that supposed safe week? Why wouldn’t speaking out about my miscarriage help others? Why should I have to suffer in silence?
In my many years of trying to conceive and having one healthy daughter and two angel babies, I know a few things now. Here’s a few I want to share with you if you’re struggling:
1.YOU ARE NOT ALONE
There are many women struggling. There’s women with secondary infertility (like us- we have one but are struggling with a second). There’s women who are infertile or have PCOS. There’s women who’s husbands having low sperm counts. And seemingly the most common to me, there’s women with idiopathic infertility (also us- doctors can’t find anything wrong). I could go on and on. Don’t be shy to reach out for an ear, advice or a hug. There’s many women who will be your light when yours has dimmed. You’re not alone.
2. NO ONE WILL SAY THE “RIGHT” THING
Everyone will have something to say and more often than not, they’ll say the exact opposite of what you want or need to hear. It will be said with love and good intentions but when you’re wallowing in sorrow or pain or period misery, there’s nothing anyone can say to make you feel better. It’s a terrible, soul deep loss or it’s another unsuccessful month and a sign of another month ahead of joyless sex, a million supplements/vitamins and more thoughtless comments from clueless people wondering when the next one (or first one) is coming.(Our local Chinese restaurant owner constantly tells me how I need to hurry up because my kid is almost too old for a sibling. (Umm what? You don’t know me and my struggles woman!)
3. TAKE TIME TO GRIEVE
It doesn’t matter if you got pregnant for 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks or 22. If you lose your baby, take the time to grieve that loss. So often, especially in early pregnancy losses, women think or will have it said to them that it didn’t count because it was too early. There is no such thing. When you want a baby and you get a positive pregnancy test, the clock for hope and joy starts RIGHT THEN. Grieve the loss. If you’re trying to get pregnant and it’s not happening, month after month, grieve that too. There’s no shame in wallowing once in awhile. Take a bath, have a good cry and let the feelings flow through you. Suppressing them won’t help anyone. Embrace the dark side of this journey so you may full appreciate the light when it shines.
4. DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Knowledge is power. Learn about the reproductive system. I highly suggest Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup for this. Learn what your options are for fertility treatments. Invest in the natural remedies before moving onto the next stage of pharmaceuticals. Join a women’s infertility and loss group. Listen to your body. Watch your mucus. Educate yourself on side effects of fertility medicines. Explore non-mainstream options such as acupuncture or reiki.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Your emotional well-being is going to be tested time and again. Be kind to yourself. Don’t blame yourself. Know that there are many options and many more medical discoveries all the time. Be gentle with your body. It is a beautiful vessel that has a mind of its own most days. Don’t be afraid to speak out about your struggles. You never know who is relating and feeling slightly better knowing they aren’t alone. Cry. Cry whenever the fuck you want. Infertility is a sad situation. Don’t belittle it with bumper sticker quotes and fake smiles. Don’t compare yourself to others. The Facebook friend with four kids may not have it all together like you think she does. Jealousy and envy won’t help you get pregnant quicker. Don’t give up until you feel like you’ve done everything you possibly can. Hope can surprise you. You’re on your own special journey. Take it one day at a time and know that the Universe always has your back, even on the days you can’t believe it does. It truly does.