Anyone who has been on the journey of infertility can tell you: it is not an easy road.
It is tiring. Every day is ripe with new challenges, emotional and physical. Each time you’re faced with Not Pregnant feels harder than the last. Month after month passes and you struggle to remember what happened other than worrying about doing the right things to get pregnant and then finding out that your efforts did not produce the result you were hoping. For some of us, entire years can be summed up as one long, exhausting, Groundhog Day of disappointment that just. will. not. end.
It’s also the busiest I have ever been. I’m juggling ultrasounds, blood tests, acupuncture, therapy (I can’t recommend this enough), injections, timed medications, procedures, and “day ones.” That doesn’t include, of course, all the regular life things that also need attention and time – like having a job and occasionally taking a shower. There are not enough hours in the day. I could go on, but who’s got the time?
It’s expensive and stressful and time-consuming and physically/emotionally exhausting. It’s an understatement of the highest order, but to sum it up:
Infertility is hard.
(Like, really super freaking hard. Ok. That feels more honest.)
On top of all of this juggling and exhaustion – some of us are also parenting. This juxtaposition can come about many different ways – some of us are parenting children that didn’t spring from our loins (for lack of a better turn-of-phrase) and some of us are desperate to offer our firstborn a sibling. Whatever your story and however you got there, let me offer another understatement:
Dealing with infertility & parenting at the same time is even harder.
We want to be champions for our kids. Heroes. Amazing, Pinterest-inspired parents who never forget a snack or a permission slip or snow boots, never say no to a play date. Perfect in the eyes of in-laws and teachers; inspiring awe from our partners. We all want this. And if infertility is happening on the sidelines, these ideals teeter on the border of impossible.
Parenting through infertility means maybe your kid is in the waiting room of countless aforementioned appointments you are juggling, eating a snack and trying to finish their homework. It means having to explain why you’re crying when the answer is “because these meds are making me insane” or “my period just started,” neither of which are child-appropriate answers. It means that these endless loops of years of your life are also years of your child’s little life, years that you’re praying don’t bring the memory of Mommy sobbing in the bathroom or perpetually sitting in waiting rooms. It means that even when you are so tired and so sad you would give anything to go to bed at 5pm, you have to pick yourself up and make dinner, supervise homework, and also it’s a bath night.
There is no sugarcoating this – no real bow to tie on the end, yet. Eventually, we hope we’ll be on the other side – bearing the literal fruit of these busy, tiring times – introducing our children to their new baby sibling. But there is no guarantee of just exactly how long it will take for that bow to be tied. So in the meantime, I hope the following for us all:
I hope that we would have a partner, parents, and a community of dear friends and family who will be there for us to pick up the slack when the hard truth of this season is most acute. I also hope you have the strength (yes, strength) to ask for said help when you need it. Husband, please take bedtime. Friend, please come and take my kid for a few hours while I have this appointment. Mom, please come take care of me. It’s in these times the people who love us can really shine – let them.
Be so gracious with yourself. Whatever this looks like. A massage, a manicure, a walk, a coffee (decaf of course, because infertility is so fun), lunch with a friend. Time alone. Sleeping in on a Saturday when you really should be up doing whatever. Take it where you can get it and lavish it on yourself. You are doing a hard thing. A couple of hard things. Give yourself all the grace. And also? Accept it. Accept the forgiveness of your child or your partner when you didn’t deal as well as you could have. Ask for it, and then accept it. You may be tempted to beat yourself to smithereens – try to choose grace instead.
I often find that in the most difficult moments, when I am the most racked by sadness and disappointment and guilt and pain, that spending time with my child is the only source of comfort I can find. When I want nothing more than to do the most natural thing a mother is supposed to be able to do and find I cannot – doing the physical act of being a mom helps me. Reading before bed. Singing a couple of extra lullabies. Snuggling on the couch. Going for a bike ride. It reminds me of what I have, and grounds me more than decaf coffee ever could. It is a reminder of good things. In these moments, hope feels less scary, less risky, and more possible. Hope becomes dangerous, at a certain point in this journey, but I think we cannot let it go – not totally. It is what will keep us getting out of bed, scheduling another cycle, giving ourselves one more injection, packing another school lunch. With hope, we press on.
In the end, as with any difficult season of life, I hope we come out of the other side stronger. More confident in our support system, closer to our spouses, more grateful for our children than we ever thought possible. We will be available (perhaps in a way we weren’t before) to hold hands with those we love when they go through something similar, or just something similarly hard. We’ll know what it meant to us when our people showed up for us, and we’ll show up in kind for our people.
Whatever and whenever the outcome of this journey, there will be a day when it stings less. There will be a day when this is just a part of our story, and not our entire lives.