It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned this, mainly because it’s too hard to write about. It hurts.
And it sucks. Infertility SUCKS. It sucks the life out of you, depletes you of your energy, your time, your joy, your femininity or masculinity, your confidence, your self-love, and most of all your hope. It drains the intimacy out of intimacy and the excitement out of trying for a baby. It becomes a job, even when you’re trying SO hard to not let it be. It makes joyful occasions difficult to attend and the green eyed monster of jealousy to rear it’s ugly head even when you don’t intend it to. It makes what is supposed to be one of the most exciting times of your life into one of the most trying and difficult.
We’ve been facing secondary infertility for 19 months now. I know that my journey is short compared to others who have been trying for a lot longer, but I’m not comparing my pain to theirs, and neither should you. I’m talking about my pain. My journey. My experience with the heart break that is the death of a dream over and over and over again, every month, without fail. And even when we did get a positive a few times, they were quickly followed by negatives.
We’ve done all the testing. The inside of my arms have been bruised black and yellow from multiple blood draws, searching for answers that haven’t been found.
We’ve tried all the tricks. Eat sweet potatoes, try not to think about it, read this book, chart using this app, use this, try that. Nothing.
We’ve seen several doctors. My OB finally gave up and sent me to look for a specialist, which is who I’ve been working with the past few months without results.
We’ve tried fertility drugs. You know you’re dedicated when you willingly agree to stab yourself in the butt with a needle and take medications with very unpleasant side effects.
We’ve gotten no answers and no results, just negatives.
This morning, I took a test that I knew would probably be negative, but I had this small glimmer of hope that maybe it wouldn’t. After all, I’d taken pills and injections and had ultrasounds and there was PROOF that everything was where it was supposed to be, when it was supposed to be there. And, still….negative.
And see, everyone seems to hate that word, “negative.” We live in a world where we are expected to be positive, to have hope, to smile, to be optimistic, to only show the best of our lives, a highlight reel, for all to see. And when I started sharing the reality of what we were facing last fall, do you know what I got?
“You should stop posting about it. No one knows what to say to you.”
No one wanted to hear my negativity. No one wanted to hear me complain that I couldn’t get pregnant. No one wanted me to make them feel uneasy. And even though when those words were said to me directly and in the awkward silence I received from friends, and it took the breath from my body and dropped my heart to my feet, it didn’t stop me. It didn’t silence me. Because I knew that being silent was not an option, that others needed to see, needed to know that they are not alone.
And I know it’s hard to know what to say, so let me tell you a few things that aren’t helpful and what you should say instead.
“It’ll happen. / Your time will come. / It happened before; it’ll happen again.” You don’t know that. Don’t get my hopes up for something you have NO control over and NO way of knowing. And just because it happened before, doesn’t mean it will happen again. If you want me to be hopeful, say, “I have hope for you still,” instead.
“Just stop trying.” I know you’re trying to help me relax, but don’t you see? Even if I try to “stop trying” I’m still thinking about my baby, the one not with me, every hour of every day. Because even though she’s not here yet, I feel her with me somewhere on the other side…and that’s why I can feel her absence here. She’s here in my heart before she’s in my arms. Instead, say something like, “I know you are so stressed out about this, and I can understand why. I’m so sorry.” Or if you want to help me relax, offer to watch my kid while I go to fertility appointments (because trying to keep my 2.5 year old entertained while getting an ultrasound isn’t fun) or while I go on a date with my husband.
“Just adopt.” If you haven’t been following along with this month’s featured stories of adoption, the truth is, it’s not always that simple or easy. Adoption can be as full of heartbreak as trying to conceive. Not to mention, it might not be in my heart to adopt. It might not be something I feel called to do. That’s a huge decision to undertake and not one I’m likely to jump into just because you think it’s the easier route. I know you’re saying this because you want me to stop feeling hurt and get what I ultimately want (a child) in the process, but over-simplifying my devastation with a “quick fix” solution is short sighted. Instead, empathize with me and let me know you’re there for me; tell me, “I know you want a baby so badly, and I’m sorry that you aren’t able to right now. That must be so frustrating. I wish there was any easy answer for you, but I know there isn’t. I’m here for you if you want to talk about it.”
The very definition of negative does not only focus on darkness:
“Negative: a total inversion, in which light areas appear dark and visa versa.”
So while I am struggling with this continued battle of infertility, I will not be afraid to share the darkness that I face, that I may be the light for others. In the end, it’s about showing compassion and empathy. Don’t silence those who are brave enough to share their struggle. If someone is reaching out and sharing their pain with you, take a minute to care. Let them know you’re thinking of them or praying for them, that you’re sorry they are hurting. That you’re there to help if you can. You don’t have to have the answers; they know they don’t, and they don’t expect you to. You just have to be there.