Infertility: I am one in six
I have debated many times whether to share this story. It is not something commonly talked about and yet one in six women/couples will be faced with this reality. Like depression (or other mental illnesses) there is shame and isolation. You feel no one will understand. You hide behind a smile, because what else can you do.
I process my feeling internally, and journaling has always been a source of reflection for me. My notes app is filled with daily thoughts. What follows are personal reflections of the last few months.
October 30, 2022
I waited as long as I could this morning before doing a pregnancy test. I set the timer and walked away. I walked back into the bathroom, examined the stick and put it in the garbage.
I went downstairs and fell asleep on the couch. I didn’t tell Kevin.
I have one more refill at the pharmacy, if we continue this would be our sixth round. I do not have the energy to do anymore.
After breakfast I decided to clean the spare room. Then I had another nap. Sleep has always been a coping method for me, a way to avoid feeling.
I woke up and started putting together the bike trainer I had bought a couple of weeks ago. Kevin came upstairs to help me and said “I’m sorry, baby.” I replied, “I don’t want to try anymore.” We sat on the floor and cried. And cried. And cried some more, knowing our dreams of having a baby are over after 10 months of trying, including five failed IUIs.
We decided a long time ago we would not do IVF or adoption. Those that do have much more strength than me.
I can finally grieve.
November 25, 2022
Psalm 113:9 has provided much comfort over the years. In a dark time in my life a women at the church I used to attend reminded me of the many children I have.
When I got my tattoo on my arm years later, it was the serve as a daily reminder that I have been blessed. At the time I don’t know if I truly believed I was barren. I was single and thought a family would be possible if/when I met someone (Kevin and I started dating a few months later). I’ve been told so many times I look young that I took my reproductive health for granted.
Although we may not have a family of our own. We have a full and happy life.
January 12, 2023
I’m in the anger stage of grief. I have Kevin and my therapist for support, but I feel so alone. Isolated and unsure how to express myself, I am a full of rage.
February 15, 2023
I think I have reached the acceptance stage. That, or I’m just apathetic.
March 15, 2023
... I'm constantly behind on podcasts and while listening to an episode of A Slight Change of Plans, called "Lessons From a Grief Therapist", it struck me that I may never really truly "get over this." You just learn to live with the love lost and the life you thought you would have. It makes me incredibly sad.
I can't truly tell you how I am doing. Sadness comes and goes in waves. It hits me when I least expect. But also in expected ways - when I hear of other couples who happily announce their pregnancies or the birth of their child or when someone I haven't seen in months, even years asks if I have kids. I'm hit with a wave of emotion in those moments and choose my words carefully, "No I do not have kids."
At the beginning of 2021, I learned what languishing is (first hand). I had a hard time explaining, even to myself, what I was going through. It felt different than depression, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Then, when I read Adam Grant’s article in the New York Times months later, it confirmed what I had been feeling.
Something needed to change and I set out to make that uncomfortable feeling go away (before it led to depression). In searching for one thing, I ended up doing a lot of things (all within a few months of each other).
If I have been slow to respond to emails and texts, this is likely the reason why.
These things done separately bring about their own level of stress. These things are all positive. These things brought me out of my comfort zone. But together (especially for someone who does not like change or taking risks) it may have been too much for me to handle. Hello anxiety. That said I do not regret any of these things.
Now a few months removed from all of those things I have learned a few lessons firsthand:
We hit a milestone today. In a year that no one could have predicted (beside perhaps epidemiologists and other infectious diseases experts), we have been forced to live through a collective trauma.
Not in my lifetime, or those of my friends, have we dealt with such despair. We have not personally lived through a war, famine, global pandemic - such as the 1918 flu pandemic, or the like. We only know what it may have been like, through the stories we have been told in history class or accounts from grandparents. We truly can not relate to such distant memories.
Coping with such a fundamental shift in our lives has left some of us numb, hopeful for a new “normal”, tired, scared, or wishing to go back to the old “normal”. What was thought, by some, to be a short disruption to our daily lives, turned out to be a long period of:
The last few months have been the hardest for me. I often feel SAD during this time of year. But for the first time in a long time I felt depression stirring inside. I pushed the feeling down, equating it to nothing more than a few bad days. But days turned into weeks. Sleep was becoming harder and harder to come by. There was no denying it anymore. Although I had been coping rather well (by my standards) through the first 10 months, my mind was now telling my body, something is not right. I wonder if it’s “typical” situational depression or if it’s tied to the pandemic on a deeper level. Do our bodies truly know it has been a year. Are our bodies saying, "no more". No more pretending to be OK, and no more doing things on our own and not asking for help. I hope to explore these questions when I talk with my therapist next week.
After living through this trauma for one year; the one thing I know, is that empathy, patience, and kindness for oneself leads to empathy, patience, and kindness towards others. And we need that more than ever as we head into another year of uncertainty.
P.S. This year showed us that collaboration is possible. The scientific community worked tirelessly to make a vaccine. Canada has now approved four vaccines (in less than one year of the WHO declaring the COVID-19 pandemic). The fastest vaccine ever made previous to this was by a man named Maurice Hilleman. In four years Hilleman developed the mumps vaccine.
"Hilleman cranked out more than 40 other vaccines over the course of his career, including 8 of the 14 routinely given to children. He arguably saved more lives than any other single person." - Radiolab
I am a daughter, sister, auntie, wife and friend.