Dear Fertile Friends,
To you who have never been personally touched or directly impacted by the burden of infertility, please know that I see you.
I envy the fact that you can conceive so easily, naturally, without all of the expensive and invasive tests and treatments I’ve endured for so many years. What I wouldn’t give to experience the morning sickness, the back aches, the tiredness and expanding waistline that you complain about. To know what it’s like to not only get a + on a home test, but then to actually get to see a tiny little raisin-sized being on a sonogram, to watch its heartbeat flutter on the screen, to watch and feel it grow and thrive inside of me. To feel my husband lovingly kiss my belly because of a growing baby, instead of just to comfort my bloated and bruised belly after the latest rounds of painful injections for our umpteenth failed round of fertility treatments.
Although I know your attempted advice is well-meaning, please know that I’ve already researched and/or tried whatever “new” therapy you’ve just heard about. Please trust me when I say that I’ve done absolutely exhaustive research (to the point that I’ve presented new information to our most recent specialist, who does this stuff for a living…) and have spent tens of thousands of dollars over the last 8 years chasing every so-called “miracle”, “quick-fix”, or “cure”, including acupuncture, meditation, and 14 rounds of medically assisted treatments with 3 different world-renowned fertility clinics. Trust me when I tell you that the “magic” oil, cream, or pill that you’re trying to sell me won’t help.
It’s incredibly frustrating that we’ve been told hundreds of times over the years to “just relax”. Would you give this same advice to a cancer patient? Of course not. What many people clearly don’t understand is that like cancer, infertility is a disease that a trip to St. Lucia simply can’t cure. Numerous clinical studies have proven that an infertility diagnosis is just as psychologically devastating as a cancer diagnosis. We’d have had a football team of kids by now if all that was necessary was for us to “just relax”. (But if anyone wants to pay for a trip for us to try out this “sage” advice, I can’t say that we wouldn’t take you up on it lol!)
Please stop telling us to “just adopt”. Adoption is nowhere near as simple as you seem to think it is; it is an insanely expensive and invasive process, often costing $30k or more, with reams of paperwork, interviews, and background checks, all for the government to decide if we are “worthy” of raising a child that someone else was unable or unwilling to raise. Even after spending all of that money and cutting through all of that bureaucratic red tape, adoption is still not a guaranteed happy ending. There are tons of failed adoptions every year – estimated as high as 20-25% in some instances – where the birth parents change their minds at the last minute, or the child is reunited with his or her unfit and unstable birth parent(s). After our having already lost 5 children to miscarriage, we would have an incredibly difficult time bouncing back again if we suffered another loss of this caliber. Adoption is simply not something that’s on our hearts. Children deserve to be with families who feel destined or called to adopt, and at this point, that’s just not our situation.
I know that since I’ve taken these knee-jerk reaction responses out of your arsenal, you don’t know what to say to me. I get that. It’s a hard situation, for both of us. The best thing you can do? Please just listen. Please simply allow me to cry on your shoulder, allow me to vent when I’m frustrated, and just hold space for my husband and me while we figure out our next move, whatever that might be.
I may not exactly be doing backflips when you announce the latest impending addition to your family, or when I receive yet another baby shower invite, or be the first to send congratulations when your latest addition arrives, but please know that I am truly happy for you. I’m just sad for my hubby and me, and for the renewed reminder of what’s missing in our still-empty nursery after all these years. If you only knew how many times I’ve tried to work up the nerve to attend baby showers and children’s birthday parties with a brave face, desperately trying to blink back an ocean of tears, pretending that I am ok while everyone else around me is lost in waves of excitement and giddy conversations about their babies’ names and milestones…
I wish you could truly see just how agonizingly lonely infertility is, especially when you’re literally the last ones in your circles of friends without kids. Standing by in the nosebleeds section, watching everyone else around us complete their families, while we’ve been stuck with the same childless view for the last 8 years, is harder than you can imagine. It’s a deeply rooted pain and a struggle I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
But at the same time, it’s been the most amazing journey.
It’s allowed me to tap into a strength I never knew I had, to assume leadership roles within the infertility community that I never in a million years would have thought I’d step into. It’s graced me with some of the most incredible friendships and sisterhoods with people from literally around the world whom I may never have otherwise met.
It’s lit an insatiable fire inside of me, filled me with determination and a sense of resilience I didn’t think was possible. I’ve filled this lull in time with love in other ways, through my little bakery, my painting, and quiet little bursts of philanthropy.
It’s allowed me time with my husband I wouldn’t have otherwise had; we get to have frequent date nights – sometimes several times per week – because we have the freedom (and disposable income) to do so at the moment.
Because of this journey, I’ve gotten to explore and indulge my creativity in various forms, and begin to heal old wounds through various forms of therapy and me-time that wouldn’t likely otherwise be possible.
To those who have hurt me – intentionally or otherwise – during my journey, thank you. Thank you for teaching me how not to treat people, and to see the blessings that each day brings, despite the hand I’ve been dealt. Your callous and insensitive comments have helped me locate a deeply seated resilience in myself, out of necessity and a sense of self-preservation. Thank you for that gift.
To those of you who have allowed me a role in your kiddos’ lives, thank you. You have no idea what it means to me to have the honor of being “Auntie” to your babies (especially those “babies” whom I’ve gotten to help shape into teenagers over the years!!). I love you more than you know. 😘 Over these years, I’ve gotten to watch you, fertile friend, in awe, interact with your mini-me’s, learning from your stumbles and triumphs as you navigate the perils of parenthood, silently noting for myself different things to try and things to avoid if and when our day ever comes.
Most of all, fertile friend, thank you for seeing me. Really seeing me. Please reach out to me once in a while and let me know that I still mean something to you (despite our being in very different places in our lives), or simply that you’re thinking of me, and I promise to do the same. It’s so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of life, and it’s easy to lose track of ourselves and each other, no matter which side of the fertility fence each of us may be on. Please help remind me of my worthiness and my value when I’m struggling, and I’ll help cheer you on when you’re being challenged. Please let me know that it’s ok to step back from things for a minute and catch my breath in my dark days when things are going so seemingly perfect and easy on your journey to parenthood; I promise I’m worth the wait.
With love and gratitude,
Your Fertility-Challenged Friend