This post is the second in our Year of the Family 2014 series, a celebration of families.
The pain and loneliness of infertility
It took 3 years, 2 pregnancy losses and 4 intrauterine insemination (IUI) cycles for my husband and me to conceive our daughter.
During those three years I ever so slowly distanced myself from friends and family. Normally I am a very open person, but hearing pregnancy announcements along with painful words meant to comfort; “maybe it’s stress” and “everything happens for a reason” made me withdraw in self-preservation. I had a hard time relating to anyone. If I could just get pregnant and make it past the first trimester, I figured, I would go back to normal and not feel so alone.
The only people that seemed to understand me and what I was going through were a small group of women I met in an infertility support group. I also found solace in other women through social media chat boards and an anonymous Twitter account. (Twitter linked me to a whole world of infertility battlers and survivors who cheered me on while waiting for a 6:30 a.m. fertility monitoring appointment, and “held my hand” when I got bad news.) In addition to my supportive husband, these supports kept me (barely) sane and gave me the strength to keep trying.
Pregnancy after infertility
It worked. We got pregnant and made it past the first trimester. But after months and years of receiving bad news it was as though I couldn’t believe the good news. There was this feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. This made it really hard to prepare for a baby. My husband and I did it anyways, with a “fake it ‘til you make it” mentality. We refused to believe we could jinx things. We tried to do all the things we figured “normal, fertile & pregnant” people did. We shopped, set up a baby registry, and decorated the nursery. It was the act of going through a prenatal class that made it real; we were really, finally going to be parents.
Finally, a mom..
When Pumpkin was born, “normal” did not come back easily. It turned out (for me, anyway) that having a baby does not cure the pain of infertility. No one was more shocked than I was that I felt this way. Some even said to me, “You beat infertility!” Ha. It felt like infertility had beaten me. I felt traumatized, and it affected me in two ways; our journey wasn’t over as we knew we wanted another child, and I had set super high expectations of myself.
All those months spent waiting to become a mom left me with waaaaay too much time on my hands to think about what kind of mom I wanted to be, what things I wanted to do, and lots of time to swear I would never do x, y and z with my child (I subsequently broke pretty much all of my own rules within Pumpkin’s first 2 years of life). I wanted to do everything exactly right. Maybe this was to prove to myself and the world that I “deserved” to be a mother. When I failed to live up to my standards, I needed someone who “got it.” Someone who knew the pain of infertility and loss, who could normalize my guilt and listen to me talk about sleep woes and understand that I was not complaining.
The support system I had found for infertility pretty much fell away the day we found out we were expecting. I understood that while they were happy for me (and perhaps I even gave them hope), they were experiencing their own pain and other complex emotions and didn’t have anything left to support a pregnant friend, much less a new mom. I desperately needed to find other infertility survivors.
As chance would have it, I found another survivor with a baby on my very own street. (Many times I wondered, where were you when I was suffering?? We could have helped each other!! Alas, the silence of infertility deserves its own blog post. But I digress.) The two of us were able to relate on so many levels… No longer did talking about sleepless nights feel like ungrateful complaining. We found ways to laugh at ourselves, to not take ourselves so seriously; it’s about keeping our babies happy and safe, not taking anything for granted, and enjoying the ride.
Despite having a couple diagnoses between us which caused our infertility, my husband and I managed to conceive again without treatment. We are expecting our second child, and we’re relieved to put infertility in our past. In our hearts we have a now-cherished spot for our infertility journey that we will never forget.
For anyone going through infertility, I don’t have any words of wisdom to impart – we all cope with things differently. I just wish I didn’t wait so long to find others going through the same thing I was. If you are looking for support or further information, see the links below:
- Infertility support groups in Canada (Infertility Awareness Association of Canada)
- Helpful information for friends and family (Resolve)
Pregnancy after infertility:
- Pregnancy after infertility (Resolve)
- Halton Region’s Prenatal Classes
- If a face to face prenatal class is not what you want or need at this time you can take an interactive online prenatal course
- If fertility treatments were extra successful and you’re carrying more than one baby, the Region now offers prenatal classes for multiples
Although over twenty years has passed now, and my two children are now adults, this post resonated powerfully with me. The experience of infertility is brutal and life-changing. Successful births don’t make it all go away – it’s defining. I related to all you said and to the emotions in the clip. Thank you for such an apt expression of your experience.
Mary, thanks for your lovely comment and for relating – even twenty years later. 🙂
Awesome of you to share your story Andrea! I was touched and so happy for you & your family. Miss you all these days…
Thank you, Karen!
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