I struggle with Infertility. For a long time, that phrase made me feel ashamed. I thought there was something wrong with me as a woman because I couldn’t do the very thing I was created to do, carry a child. I would dread the inevitable and highly personal question, “When are you guys going to have a baby?” At the beginning of our marriage, I would deflect it with something about us wanting to enjoy being a couple. Then as the years progressed I would answer with, “Once Matt is finished with school.” Once those excuses didn’t apply anymore I’d simply say, “oh you know, one day.” Each time that question was aimed at me it was like a dagger to my heart and I felt like they must know my dirty little secret, I couldn’t have a baby.
It was about a year before I became pregnant with Addie when I started to realize that I had nothing to be ashamed of. I struggle with Infertility. The first time I really spoke about it to more than a few close friends and family I felt a release of so much pain and shame. I of course also got the completely clueless, though well meaning, “if you just relax and stop thinking about it, it’ll happen.” That phrase used to make my blood boil, but I know now that it’s not meant to be hurtful. It comes from a place of not understanding and just wanting to say something that can be perceived as helpful. 1 in 8 couples have trouble conceiving, yet Infertility is still perceived as something that we shouldn’t talk about. What’s more is that often people assume it’s always a woman’s issue. In reality, 30% of infertility is attributed to male factors, 30 % is attributed to female factors, 20% is unexplained infertility and 10% is a combination of both partners. We, as women, have nothing to be ashamed of.
I will not pretend that my journey from shame to shameless was quick, or even easy. It would take me quite a few years to truly get to a point of acceptance and comfort with my Infertility. I did get there, though. I began by sharing with people that I trusted and felt safe with. Their support and love are what truly helped me get through and gave me strength. If you don’t have family or friends that you feel safe confiding in then seek infertility support groups online. A simple Google search will return many results for groups and other women who suffer as you do and who truly understand what you are going through. Find one that speaks to you and your situation and start sharing. You will be amazed at the relief you feel from this one step.
The next important step is forgiving yourself and your body. First, realize that you are not less of a woman because you have not been able to conceive. Your body did not fail you, God is not punishing you and you are not worthless. Every couple’s Infertility situation is different but please remember this one thing, that I learned from Gabriela Rosa, any couple, if paired up with a different partner may be able to easily conceive. It is not simply a matter of it’s her fault or it’s his fault, this is something that has to do with you as a couple and how your biology interacts together. So stop blaming yourself and find a way to forgive yourself because without that you won’t be able to let go of the shame. Once I was able to forgive my body for my self-inflicted anger and shame I was able to move on to the next step towards healing.
My final step in releasing the shame around my Infertility was finding a way to be thankful for it. You heard me right, I am thankful for my Infertility. Let me tell you why. Without my Infertility, I may not have had my Endometriosis diagnosed when I did. I did not want to accept my Unexplained Infertility diagnosis and that need for an answer drove me to push and search for a doctor who would listen to me when my symptoms appeared. I knew my body and that there was something wrong.
Without my Infertility, I would not be able to understand and be the support that my friends who are also living with Infertility need. Having close friends and family who are there to listen and be a shoulder to cry on is essential, but to truly give the support needed you have to live Infertility. My closest friends are the ones who have journeyed through Infertility with me and I am forever grateful for them. It’s not a tribe I’m happy my friends or I belong to but I’m thankful that I can be an understanding ear for them when they have no one else.
I’m thankful for my Infertility because it has taught me to never take anything for granted. When I was pregnant with Addie I cherished every moment and I believe that it has made me a better parent because I don’t take for granted the gift of her presence in our lives. I’m thankful for my Infertility because it has taught me how strong I truly can be in the face of adversity. Infertility has tested me emotionally, mentally, physically, financially and in my relationship. Through all of the hardships,I discovered what my limit was and that even when I think I’ve reached my breaking point I can pick myself back up and keep moving forward. Infertility has made my relationship with Matt stronger and taught us how to communicate better. Infertility has made me a better person.
Do I wish that I didn’t have to experience some of the things I have as I’ve navigated through my Infertility, of course. Would I change anything about these past 8 years, I can honestly say no. Everything happens for a reason, even if we never truly understand that reason. I’m currently working through what I feel is the final stage of Infertility, letting it go and I think this will be the toughest part, should another child not be in our future. I don’t know the answers to what is the best way to let go of your Infertility but should I get to that point I will happily share my experiences and insights with you.
Are you ashamed of your Infertility and afraid to share it with someone? I would be happy to be that support for you if you need it. Remember, none of this is your fault.