An infertility journey has been described as a rollercoaster, both emotionally and physically. My friends who have gone through (or are in the midst of) it have given the advice to
“roll with the punches.”
One of the things I don’t think our families and friends may realize is how insecure this whole process makes you. It changes your personality. Today I want to give some insight in to what going through infertility truly feels like. This is not in hopes of being a Debbie Downer, but in hopes of providing greater awareness to those who support us during this time and to make even one person going through this feel less alone.
In order to adequately grasp the emotional and physical change that happens during this time, I feel like I should share what life is like before infertility, first.
Before infertility you had a routine. Maybe you got up in the morning, laughed with your husband, then got out of bed to get ready for work (or the day). Then you lingered into the kitchen, pulled out something for breakfast and ate. Once you got to work (or your activity for the day) you probably got focused on what you were doing. You were consumed with what was on your workload, running your errands, visiting with friends, going shopping, you get it, right? Sometime during the middle of the day you grabbed some lunch, possibly with co-workers, a friend, or your husband talking lightly and laughing or venting about your day. When you got back to what you were doing you hammer through the rest of the afternoon until it is time to head home. On the drive home you probably turn on the radio and jam out while releasing any pent up frustration or excitement from your day. Once you get home, you decide a nice workout would be good. So you get your running shoes on and workout clothes ready. After sweating it out, you decide it’s time to plan what you will make for dinner. When your husband gets home, you eat together and talk about how your day went and what will happen tomorrow. After watching some TV and unwinding together you head to bed and maybe share some intimacy before falling asleep. Tomorrow, you will wake up and do it all over again.
You see, life before infertility was full. Full of laughs, work, activity, and peace. You had some peace. But going through infertility changes a person in the smallest ways, that add up to be the most confining hardships.
During infertility, that routine you had is thrown off kilter on a whim based on emotional states that are uncontrollable at any given moment. Here is a look at what “during the infertility” looks like.
It’s the morning and you wake up immediately thinking, “Grab the thermometer.” You fumble in the darkness for the thermometer sitting on your nightstand and shove it in your mouth. When it begins to beep you shut it off quickly, so you don’t wake up your husband. Then, quietly, you look at the temperature and record it to chart your cycle patterns. (Depending on the temperature, it could put you into a good mood or steal any hope you had for this cycle.)
Your husband wakes up and you cuddle and talk for awhile before getting out of bed and fixing yourself for the day. Before actually getting ready, you pull out your daily pee stick. Depending on the day in your cycle you will be doing an ovulation predictor kit (OPK) or a home pregnancy test (HPT). So you hold the little Dixie cup, barely peeing on yourself and then dip the strip. NOW, you can get ready. NOW, you feel comfortable enough taking a shower and putting on that makeup.
As you feel the hot water running through your hair and down your back you begin to think, “Maybe this is too hot. Maybe this is cooking my eggs/baby,” and you turn the water down slightly. As you begin to put your makeup on, your remember to use the waterproof mascara, in case you have a ‘moment’ during the day and need to stay composed.
Then you mosey on into your kitchen, deciding what to have for breakfast. Cereal sounds good! But then you remember that the nutritional diet you should be following doesn’t encourage so much sugar and actually suggests eating more eggs and whole wheats. So, you make an egg sandwich instead. Even though you HATE eggs, because, it’s for the baby! You begin to pack your lunch for the day, making sure there are all of the food groups included. Especially leafy greens and other veggies because they are packed with the vitamins your body could be deficient in. Then you fill up your water bottle (because maybe pop is the reason you can’t get pregnant) and you head out the door.
Once you get to work you begin to focus on your workload and holy crap is there a ton to do. So you put the pedal to the metal and get going, until you reach that one thing that is supposed to be presented on Friday. FRIDAY!!?!!??! NO! You have to be at your ultrasound monitoring appointment Friday. Oh gosh, now you have a dilemma. Do you cram to finish it early and have it done Thursday for someone else to present? Or do you talk to your boss and possibly just present it Monday instead? Which brings up how you are going to tell your boss, for the 3rd time in two weeks that you need to be gone again. Okay, push it aside. You will talk with your boss later and just cram to get it done early so that they are proud of you and satisfied with your work still.
Maybe today you aren’t working and instead you are running errands and shopping around town. Today you need to get groceries, so you go to the local grocery store and walk around. As you head to the feminine aisle you make sure to hide the 88 cent collection of HPTs that you just picked up under the other groceries so people don’t notice how desperate you look. As you reach the checkout line there is a sweet little family in front of you. A little boy, probably 2, and his beautifully round pregnant momma. You say a little prayer that one day this will be you too and you begin to tear up, right there in the checkout lane number 12. It’s your turn and you suck in the tears as you place your items on the conveyor. The worker begins to ring up the pregnancy tests, 1 after another, by the 4th one her eyes get big and you just know she is thinking, “What the hell lady?” You smile and nod and quickly pay for your items because you just want out of there!
Then it’s lunchtime. Whether you go out with co-workers or meet up with a friend or two the conversation always stays similarly the same. You talk about their families, their lives beyond work. “Ugh, my kids are just such a pain,” they complain. As they talk about the challenges of parenthood you fight the feelings to just shout, “I WANT THAT! I WOULD GIVE ANYTHING FOR THAT!” Then the conversation turns to you. “When will you have kids?” They ask. “You should wait and savor all of your you time while you can!” They suggest. All you want to do is cry. You hold it together and change the topic, or tell them you need to get back to your work/errands and you get the hell out of there. Lately you feel so alone, like you are the 5th wheel when hanging out with your friends because they all already have kids and you can’t contribute to the conversation anymore.
You head back to work, remembering all that you need to get accomplished by tomorrow in order to go to your appointment Friday. So you bust your ass getting it finished and go to talk with your boss. She’s starting to get suspicious about all these absences and although she appreciates that you got your work done before it was due, you can tell she’s a little irritated and disappointed. You want to tell her so bad, but fear what her reaction will be and the vulnerability you will feel confiding in her about this hardship in your life.
As you get home you think about going to work out, because it just sounds so good. You remember when you used to work out and feel so strong and thin. It made you feel so good! Then your mind remembers what your OB and RE said about excessive exercise and how it can lower pregnancy rates. So, instead of going for a run you grab a few snacks and park it in front of the TV. Your body image is lacking right now. You feel like you are gaining weight left and right but can’t do anything about it. Your clothes are fitting tighter and you wonder how the hell your husband still finds you attractive. After all this, how can he look at me and think I’m beautiful anymore? I don’t feel beautiful or strong. I feel weak.
A while later you decide to cook some dinner. You love cooking! When your husband gets home you sit down to eat together and update him on the latest appointment you have made. The both of you are nervous for the unknown and what will come of the appointment so you try to soak up the awkwardness and emotion by changing the subject to something completely random.
Side note–On certain special nights, you also ask your husband to inject you with a needle full of hormones before cleaning up the kitchen from dinner.
As you head to bed, you think about what day in your cycle you are on and if it’s essential you have sex tonight to get that good timing in. In an attempt to keep the romance alive, you try to turn him on and get him in the mood but really he knows what this is about and you do too. This is about making a baby. This isn’t about fun, carefree, intimate sex, this is for a purpose. Eventually you get the job done and feel a bit guilty that this feels like a job. You never wanted to lose that spark that you had with your husband. It just kind of, happened.
Before falling asleep, you begin thinking all sorts of thoughts. Oh vacation sounds so amazing right now! Even just a long weekend away would be nice. But wait, you have no idea when your next appointments will be. What if you have to have your IUI that weekend? Vacation will have to be postponed and you are disappointed at that thought. You roll over, make sure your thermometer is easily accessible, and drift off to sleep knowing you will do this all over again tomorrow.
My point of this long anecdote is not to depress or seek pity from anyone. The point of this post is to emulate how all encompassing and secluding an infertility journey can be. This process effects literally ALL aspects of your life. From your self image to your marriage, friendships and career. It is hard and it is real. It’s not something we need pity for, but we need understanding and empathy during this time. For those of you who are reading this because you have a friend dealing with infertility, know that this is when your friend needs your friendship most. If they have chosen to share with you, they trust that you will be a pillar of strength and understanding for them. They don’t expect you to fix or suggest solutions to the problems, they simply need a safe place to feel and process all the emotions that come with infertility. If you are reading this because you are going through infertility, I hope you feel less alone. I hope you know that you are not the only one going through the confinement and seclusion that is infertility. Your emotions are normal and you are learning how to deal with this one day, hour, or minute at time. Give yourself permission to feel what you need to and reach out to others for support.
If you feel alone, frustrated, or like you are jailed in your own body right now feel free to reach out at any time. I would love to support you through this troubling time.
Feel comfortable to email firstname.lastname@example.org