Fertility-challenged women like myself start out on the road to motherhood with one mission: to birth a baby.
We enter this journey with a clear and (mostly) level head. But for those who don’t get pregnant on that first try, the road quickly morphs into so much more than a path to a baby. Infertility rocks your world. It’s a challenge in its own right and the longer you deal with infertility the more you become familiar with the other unfortunate types of challenges it holds, especially emotionally.
1. Finding Emotional Balance
The roller coaster of emotions that comes with fertility treatments literally make you feel like you’re losing your mind at times. Keeping these emotions in check is key — but incredibly difficult. One day you’re hopeful and excited about trying to get pregnant, telling yourself that this cycle will be the cycle. You happily take your injections and suppositories because you know this is what will bring you a baby. Then you’re nervous at your appointment to get pregnant because you know there’s no guarantee. Not even when you’ve done everything you’re supposed to.
But then the excitement hits again during the two-week wait, though it quickly subsides to feelings of total insanity while you wait for the results. Then the negative results come. Again. All of your efforts, for nothing. Square one, again. No baby this month.
I’ve been at this for nearly four full years and I still struggle with finding my emotional balance. The best I’ve come so far is simply to recognize that this roller coaster will continue until I either have a baby or I call it quits on this journey. All the meditation in the world hasn’t been able to keep me emotionally balanced through this. Sure, it has helped a great deal. But there’s just no escaping this huge emotional challenge.
2. Keeping Your Sense of Humor
When I look back at how hopeful I was at the beginning of this journey, I’m embarrassed by how naive I was. Fertility-challenged women are put through the wringer and the struggle to become and stay pregnant hardens you. Things that are supposed to be funny just aren’t anymore.
I know you’re joking when you’re frustrated with your kids and tell me, “You can take mine for the weekend!” Or when you tell me how much you wish you could sleep through the night like me because you haven’t had that in like three years thanks to your baby. I know you mean well, but if you offer me your kids one more time I might just take them for good. I’ll happily trade sleepless nights for a family.
The cruelty of infertility will destroy you if you let it — and it’s so hard not to let it. Sometimes you have to laugh at the bigger picture, all of it — the cruel ironies, the unfairness, all of it — or you might actually lose your mind.
3. Maintaining Self-Identity
I entered this journey one certain, strong-willed woman. Now, I barely recognize myself most days. I have more grey hairs, more wrinkles, more jiggly places, and much darker bags under my eyes than I did four years ago. And it’s not simply regular ol’ aging. The worst part: that’s just the physical.
I know that we are all so much more than our infertility and it’s hard to remember that this one aspect doesn’t define who you are as a whole, but over the years I’ve lost so much of myself. I barely do many of the things I used to enjoy. We’ve had to cancel and/or miss important events with family and friends because of treatments. Forget about travelling. I know I’m more than this journey — I’m just not sure who that is anymore.
4. Forgiving Your Body
This is one of the toughest struggles. There are so many times that I hate my body for failing me and I struggle so hard with forgiving my body. It’s hard to reconcile self-worth with a body that won’t do the one thing you want it most to do. It becomes hard to care for that body when it continues to fail you time and time again.
5. Letting Go of Control
I’ve always been a bit of a control freak. I can’t tell you how much this journey has actually helped me with that. The dishes can wait. So can the laundry. Why? Because none of that crap really matters when you’re faced with real problems.
But letting go of my life plan has not been easy. I’ll be 38 years old in a few months. How do I still not have children? I should be on a second or even third child by now. Will I be forced to be a 40-year-old first-time mother? There’s nothing wrong with that for the people who choose to begin their families then. But that wasn’t my plan.
Letting go of any personal control you think you have during fertility treatments isn’t easy, either. Even if you do everything as you should, follow all guidelines and recommendations, this is still out of our hands. You have no choice but to give up control because it’s taken from you anyway.