Guest Writer Wednesday: Finding My Inner Warrior
It took me a long time to decide if this was a story I wanted to ever share. For me, sharing the wonderful, beautiful things in my life has always been easy. I am sure my openness about these things makes many people assume I am a completely open book. But sharing the hard stuff - that’s my real struggle. The hard stuff that leads me to that dark place that I don’t like to talk about. For me, it’s mostly challenging to share the hard stuff because of how uncomfortable it might make someone else feel. “What if they don’t know what to say?” “What if they feel awkward around me after?” “No…I better keep it locked up to myself.”
I have come to realize that although there will always be people who feel uncomfortable when I share the hard stuff, there might be one woman, one man, one couple that feels understood in a way that I didn’t. And for me, that’s worth it.
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There are moments in life that I will always remember as vividly as the second they happened. One of these moments for me was when I was told I wouldn’t have children. The exact words were, “You have a rare birth defect called a unicornuate uterus. If you were my daughter and had thousands of dollars, I would do IVF today. Otherwise, it would be advisable that you explore other means of starting a family.” Divine intervention must have taken over as I got in the car. I will never understand how I made it home that day. I have no recollection of the 45 minute drive from the clinic to my house. Learning that I wouldn't be able to have children was a pain I've never experienced before.
During my 28 years of life, I’ve lived and learned through my fair share of pain. I've lost a parent. I’ve loved people who struggle with addiction. I've dealt with my fair share of mean girls. I've had more than enough heartbreak to last a lifetime. But nothing on this planet has rocked me like those words coming out of the doctor’s mouth. The loss of a child I hadn’t even met yet was a pain I cannot express to you on paper. It was my whole life’s dreams, wrapped up and tossed in a waste basket.
A million thoughts went through my mind. "Wasn’t I born to do this?" "Am I not good enough to be a mother?” “Is this punishment for something wrong I have done?” “Maybe I could be that childless lady, the one with the really nice white furniture instead!" "Why me...why us?" "Will my husband still love me?"
It was a spiral of thoughts, questions, and blame. Trust me when I tell you that I got to a level of crazy with my thoughts that might scare other people (ha!).
"Why me...why us?"
"Will my husband still love me?"It was a spiral of thoughts, questions, and blame.
Nowhere else in life would a person be expected to experience this amount of pain and hide it. We mourn death collectively. We rally around victims of disasters. We start interventions and support groups for addiction. Infertility though...that’s a different story. I felt like I had to be be quiet. "God forbid I make someone else uncomfortable due to my sadness," I thought.
Perhaps I kept it quiet because some people's response to my pain can be hurtful. I have lost count of the number of times I was told to stay calm. "Stay calm! It will happen," people have told me. “Calm you say?" How about I fire you from your job, rob your home, and smash your car. "Now just stay calm." How does it feel for you…light or heavy? A job, a house, and a car are all replaceable things. A child is different. A child that I will never have. I am mourning a child. This is not replaceable. So, no, I will not be calm.
In fact, if you’re reading this and you’re also going through infertility, please do yourself a favor. Be the complete opposite of calm. Yell. Throw a pillow at the wall. Use a couple of words your mother will disapprove of (ha!). But really, it’s helpful. The pain from infertility can be deep, and the only way I survived is by letting it all out! When people told me to stay calm, I felt insulted. I knew people meant well and gave me this advice with so much love. I’m thankful others cared enough to say anything at all. And I know it is hard because people may not know what to say about infertility. But downplaying my emotions or asking me to stay calm doesn’t feel helpful or kind.
Another reason I didn’t share my pain related to infertility is because I would hate to have it dampen another person’s joy. I worried that maybe next week I wouldn't be invited to that baby shower or Johnny’s 1st birthday. Not being included in activities related to babies doesn’t feel good. However, I do understand people's logic. There were days where being near a child’s birthday would have done me in, but I would like to make that call for myself. On the opposite side, there were also hundreds of days that my friends and family’s children were all that kept me going. I would look into their big glassy eyes and think “I’m not giving up because this face is so worth everything I will have to do to get there.” So if you’re looking to do me a favor do this: let me hug your child a little longer, let me hold their hands when we all cross the street, let me feel the magic that is a child who looks at you like you’re the coolest person they have ever met. I was blessed by my friends and family who allowed me to love the hell out of their babies. You know who you are, and am I so thankful. Your children saved me in ways I can never thank them for.
Infertility is a long and mostly dark road full of financial stress, needles upon needles upon needles, ultrasounds and more doctor appointments than I can count. Sleepless nights of worry and prayer, tears and breaks to catch your breath. There is no right way to grieve a child that will never be. There’s no right way to mourn the struggle you face getting through each day.
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And some final words of advice.
First, to those of you who are not directly dealing with infertility in your own life, please consider this. 1 in 8 couples experience infertility issues. This means someone you know right now is struggling. Please be mindful of this statistic. Please avoid asking the newly married couple when they’re planning to have babies. (They might be actively trying right now.) Please don’t ask the man who already has children if his new spouse is the issue. Please do not tell me how amazing it is that you just decided to try for the first time ever on Friday and BOOM had a pregnancy positive test the following Monday.
But please still do tell me you’re pregnant. Trust me, behind the pain I am joyfully happy for you. Please do show me how much you love your children. It gives me something to keep fighting for. And please do as my friends did. Hug me on bad days and celebrate with me when my day to be a mother finally comes.
Now, to those of you who are dealing with fertility: allow yourself to feel every wave. The ones that have you unable to breathe and the ones that allow you to float for a little while. I don’t have the answer for why infertility happens. I only know that the person who comes out on the other side will be the most badass version of yourself you have ever seen. I know this because my biggest struggle as a mother came before my child was even born. You have a warrior inside of you that will blow your mind. I have done things in the past three years I would have never believed possible. My husband and step daughter look at me some days like I may be Wonder Woman. And then I stop and think....hell, I kind of am!
I am 1 in 8, a new mother (my daughter was born last November!), an IVF Warrior, a woman who will never be willing to take no for an answer. I am surrounded by badass women, a wise step daughter, a loving husband, some strong men, a supportive family, and one talented fertility doctor. And let’s not forget those ones above me clearly sending down some love from heaven!
I am 1 in 8...
...a new mother, an IVF Warrior, a woman who will never be willing to take no for an answer.
If you’re ever faced with an infertility diagnosis and you’re sitting in that doctor’s chair like I was, I pray you know it’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to be scared. But mostly importantly, it’s okay to share your struggle and to let people in. It is in these tough moments that we find out what our relationships are really made of. At the end of your journey, you’re going to want the people standing next you to be the ones who weathered the storm with you. I have found my people through this pain, and I have found some real beauty in this world along the way.
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