I believe that everything happens for a reason. Even if you’re not sure why it’s happening at the moment it’s happening, I believe that there is a reason for it that will be revealed in time. I have to feel this way, if only to find relief from the things that have been so challenging in my life. And for some reason, I was chosen to be an infertilite and as I’ve come to discover over the last year, I’m not alone.
According to Resolve.org, infertility affects 1 out of 8 American couples. I started on this journey with the same guilt I imagine many modern educated working women might feel: Did I wait too long? Would it have been easier if I hadn’t gotten that degree, or focused on establishing a career? Is this my punishment for “being selfish” and making sure that I would be in a position to offer a child an emotionally and financially stable family life?
You can lose yourself in those arguments, and you can beat yourself up all you want – but it doesn’t change the fact that you are where you are right now not because it’s a punishment, not because you were self-centered, but because you were doing what you thought was best – as any parent would do. You are meant to be on this journey for some reason too big for you to understand right now. And I know that it’s not easy to accept that fact, to just “let it be,” so my advice to you is to seek solace in the gifts of the life that you do have. Daily, simple gratitude for the small gifts of everyday life, however silly it may seem, helps give meaning to a time during which you might feel your most helpless and unsettled.
I need a daily reminder myself to not get lost in feelings of guilt, depression, and failure. I remind myself daily that even if it doesn’t seem fair that I carry this burden of a perilously small uterine cavity, one tube, and low ovarian reserve, it is the card that I’ve been dealt and nothing can change that, except for an honest appraisal of my options and acceptance of my choices. In recognition of the strength that it takes millions of people – women and men alike – to cope with, heal, and resolve infertility, here is a list of life lessons that I am grateful to have learned since my infertility diagnosis. How many of these are also true for you?
- I celebrate being a better advocate for my health. Having a rare congenital anomaly as the primary source of my infertility plays a large part in this characteristic. I had to learn a lot about my anatomy, and quickly, to be able to keep up with doctors and explain to new practitioners the procedures I’d already been through. I’ve read a lot of medical studies in peer-reviewed journals about pregnancy outcomes in women with Mullerian anomalies. I’ve researched the pharmacology of fertility drugs trying to understand just what was happening whenever I took them. I’m dying to see what my MRI results looked like. I’m thrilled that my reproductive endocrinologist has an online patient portal where all of my medical documents are kept and that I can read for myself. I’m not thrown or surprised by terms my doctor throws around, and I’m not afraid to ask about them anyway.
- I celebrate making lifestyle changes for the better. I’m not perfect, but I have increased my whole food intake and eliminated a great deal of processed foods from my diet. The processed foods I might eat (such as soups, stocks, tomato sauces, cereals) are either organic or have very little additives to them. Over a year’s worth of abstinence from alcohol has made me a seriously cheap date, but I don’t miss it. And I read cosmetic labels as religiously as I do nutrition labels.
- I celebrate the wonderful family I do have. Even if it is just my husband and I and a chihuahua who likes to cuddle under your shirt when the temperature is below 75.
- I celebrate the life I have created for myself. I’ve paid off my student loans. I have a great career and I work with amazing people. I get to travel for my job and I am always learning something new. I can buy things that I need or want, and I live in a nice town in a home that I put a lot of work into. All things considered, I am truly blessed.
Infertility does not define me but it is an undeniable part of what makes me who I am today. It’s not something we talk about as a society. Older, successful women without children are often portrayed in stories and on television as cold, uncaring, manly, or bitter; did that stereotype develop from the thick skin you need to develop to live in a world that fails to understand the full impact of infertility? Too often we judge childless couples for not having (or wanting) children rather than consider what they may be going through, and the strength it takes to pretend like everything’s okay.
We are fortunate to live in a nation at a time when more options are open to infertilites than ever before, through better diagnoses techniques, improved medication, a range of amazing reproductive technologies, and wider acceptance of adoptive families. Do I know how my journey is going to end? Absolutely not. But I am certain that whatever path I choose, I will not be the first one to have had to walk down it.
I celebrate that I do not have to be on this path alone.
To learn more about the disease of infertility, go to http://www.resolve.org/infertility101
To learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week, go to http://www.resolve.org/national-infertility-awareness-week/about.html