National Infertility Awareness Week is going on right now, as I type this. Millions, I’m sure, of women around the globe are posting to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites, facts and personal stories about infertility. Many have “come out” as infertile to their friends and families as a sign of unity, of recognition, of raising awareness.
While I would love more than anything to be one of those women, I’m not ready. It’s as simple as that. The last year has been harder than any other struggle I’ve had in my life, and I’m not ready to expose that pain yet. I’m not ready for the questions. I’m not ready for the sympathetic looks. I’m just not ready.
One day, though—hopefully one day soon—I will join these brave women. I will be open about my infertility, my pain, and hopefully my success. I will help the rest of us, the 1 in 8’s, raise awareness about infertility. I will join in and make sure that everyone I know learns what it means to have that diagnosis. But until then, I will just have to recognize NIAW in my own way, and show support for those like me the best way I can.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve always known that I would have problems with fertility.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always said the same thing: “I want more than anything to be a mom. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t have children.” Maybe it was my mother’s endometriosis and subsequent hysterectomy, maybe it was the supposed burst ovarian cyst I was diagnosed with at the tender age of 13. Or maybe it was something inside that just knew.
In retrospect, it doesn’t matter, I guess. I went through life, expecting to have children. As I got older, I would say how nervous I was about finding out I couldn’t have kids, acknowledging my endo mother and—though I had not been diagnosed—fearing the worst. But I never really thought I would have trouble. I thought I would be one of those obnoxious people who’d say that they were worried and then magically had no problems conceiving, no problems carrying.
I verbalized my fear all the time, but I don’t think I ever really felt it.
Not until last May, when I had some spotting less than 2 weeks after getting my positive pregnancy test. Not until the nurse on the 24/7 hotline said she was recommending I go to the hospital because it was my first pregnancy and I had yet to have an ultrasound. Not until I called my parents to come pick me up, as my husband was out of the state for military duties.
Not until I was ransacking the mess in my bedroom as I looked for my medical insurance information, getting changed out of my work clothes into something more comfortable. I was sobbing hysterically and repeating, “No, no, no, this can’t be happening, no, no” to no one in particular. That fear of not being able to have a baby was realized in that moment. It became more than words, it became a reality. My reality.
The last year…I don’t know how I made it to 2014. May’s bleeding led to a diagnosis of a blighted ovum, missed miscarriage. I spent the summer trying to drag myself out of a dark, miserable hole of depression and anger. I withdrew from my friends and family. I cried…often. I got pregnant again in the fall, and with each passing week I felt more and more like that first miscarriage was a mistake. It was just a glitch in the system. Something had been wrong with the embryo, not me, and this time would be okay. The ultrasound at the halfway point between eight and nine weeks reassured me of this and I felt like I was in the clear. Everything was fine. I was fine.
Then Christmas Eve’s NT scan revealed that everything was not fine. This sweet little thing that my husband and I had created…this little being that had a heartbeat, and a head, and almost arms and legs, was gone. That little heart stopped beating. And I felt like mine would, too.
I spent the winter worse off than the summer. I didn’t leave the house save for once or twice for an entire two months. I spent my days on the couch, zoning out in front of the TV and eating whatever the hell I felt like eating—when I wasn’t incapacitated by such an intense grief that my sobbing made my throat raw. I went through the motions with my brand new Reproductive Endocrinologist, getting testing done and finding this, that, and the other thing wrong with me. With every test came bad news in one form or another: uterine polyps, a finicky thyroid, a blood clotting issue, an overactive pituitary gland. With each one I felt beat down even more, like life was taking a metal bat to my body, hitting me until I was on the ground and then hitting me some more once I was down. It was relentless.
The worst part was realizing it wasn’t a mistake. There were things wrong. I was wrong. My body was failing me at the one thing I probably would kill for, if it meant my body would do it right. The one thing I wanted more than anything else in my whole life—more than a job, more than some dream house, more than anything.
This one thing I wanted. And my body was betraying me.
But I made it through the winter. I made it out of the darkness, both literally and figuratively, and I’m on the other side of that loss. There isn’t a day that goes by that my stomach and arms don’t feel empty and aching, but I have my eyes trained on the future. And I don’t think I’d be able to do that without the amazing support system I have.
My husband and my parents are amazing. They are nothing but understanding. My husband is always telling me how strong I am, especially when I am feeling my weakest, and how much I’ve amazed him over the last year with my resilience. My parents are there for me for whatever I need. A ride to a procedure, a hand to hold at a doctor’s appointment, you name it. My mother tries not to cry when she tells me she wishes she knew how I felt so she could tell me it gets better, that she knew how to fix it.
And then, there’s you. There’s the women I’ve found on WordPress and Twitter, who’ve had miscarriages or been diagnosed with infertility, who find it in them somehow to keep moving forward, to keep trying, to keep hoping. These amazing, strong ladies who comfort me when I’m feeling lost, who encourage me when I approach a new treatment for the first time (or have to stick myself with a needle for the first time, in a bathroom stall at school), who empathize with my pain and my fear and my anger and my resentment. Women who don’t judge me when I can’t face a friend who’s accidentally pregnant and due within weeks of when my little one would’ve arrived; women who understand that sometimes, the grief and the emptiness overcome you and you just can’t be positive and upbeat that day; women who can tell you “Try to think good thoughts” and other similar phrases without sounding condescending.
It sounds mean when we say to people who aren’t infertile, “You just don’t get it.” But there’s no escaping that truth. In the same way a soldier returning from war tells his friends and family who eagerly want to know what went on over there: “You just don’t get it.” We can’t know what it is like to be overseas, on the front lines, guns blazing and bombs detonating. Just the same way people not diagnosed with infertility can’t understand what it’s like to see a negative pregnancy test over and over and over, or to feel your body changing as a life grows inside of you only to have it taken from you for unknown reasons, or to have to endure countless blood draws and needle sticks and pill schedules and painful procedures, and the waiting…and waiting…and waiting.
It’s why I’m here with my chin up today. It’s why I think I can face another year of more tests, more procedures, more methods—if I have to. I’ve found this group of women who, when my husband or my parents can’t, will understand what I’m going through. The appreciation, the gratitude, the overwhelming emotions associated with knowing I have these women to turn to—there are not enough words in the world to thank them.
I find strength in your strength. I find hope in your hope.
Thank you. ❤