I remember all too well taking a pregnancy test, having it come out negative – as always – and frantically taking it apart, layer upon layer, sure that somewhere within its recesses would be the faintest of lines. Holding the sodden strip up to the brightest light in the house and praying for what I knew, logically, that my eyes wouldn’t see. Finally bringing myself to throw it away, but furtively digging it out of the trash fifteen, then thirty minutes later to see if by some miracle the second line was just slow to appear. Feeling crazy and out of control for even taking the test in the first place, for letting my obsession get this far.
I remember steeling my nerves, or trying to, before getting out of the car to go shopping on a Sunday, when it seemed all the pregnant women in the world were out and about. The jealousy and searing pain when one would waddle by me like an emotional landmine. The sadness and animosity I felt toward women I didn’t even know – and the overwhelming self-pity that consumed me.
I remember the sting of hearing about babies thrown in dumpsters, of pregnant 12-year-olds and crack addicts. Why them and not me? Why was it “their time” and not mine? Even announcements of friends’ and family members’ pregnancies: reacting with apparent joy, then breaking down completely in private. Avoiding baby showers and christenings. Sending a gift instead – a children’s book, so I wouldn’t have to shop in the baby department. Thinking there was something seriously wrong with me because I couldn’t even be happy for the people I loved any more, and feeling so petty and ashamed. Wondering WHY I couldn’t share their joy. Asking God to please, PLEASE let me be a mother, so this pain would go away.
I remember each new treatment: the pain, hassle, and embarrassment – but also the sweet glimmer of much-needed hope. The nasty and uncomfortable side effects of the drugs. The two weeks of excruciating wait – did it work this time? The flutter of excitement, against my better judgment, as my morning temperature stayed up. The despair of my temperature plummeting suddenly during the last day or two of each cycle. The denial, maybe it will go back up. Endlessly searching the Internet for success stories. The crushing blow when my period finally started, signaling yet another failure.
I remember the look on my husband’s face when our friends excitedly told us they were pregnant – I’ve never seen him look like that, so hurt, trying to mask the pain with a smile. Seeing daddies out pushing their babies in strollers or playing catch with older kids, and feeling the ache of the unknown: would I ever get to give my sweet husband that gift? Having to tell him every cycle, over and over and over again, “Not this time, Honey” … and feeling his helplessness as he tried to comfort me while I sobbed and sobbed.
I remember Mother’s Day, the worst day of the year for anyone who longs for children the way I did. The commercials on TV, the cards, the sentimental celebration of a bond that I so desperately wanted, yet was unsure that I’d ever have. Vowing each year that this would be my last childless Mother’s Day … and then laughing bitterly at my foolishness when I was still childless by that time next year.
I remember feeling worthless as a female, because I couldn’t seem to do what my body was biologically designed to do. Feeling like a desert when everyone else was a rainforest, a square when everyone else was a circle. Like an outcast, someone people felt sorry for, the poor infertile woman. So angry with myself and with my body for not living up to its potential, for not doing what it was supposed to do. So broken and hopeless.
I remember the well-meaning comments that were better left unsaid: “Give it time, you’re young,” “Just relax and it will happen,” “Why don’t you try to adopt?” “Maybe it just isn’t meant to be.” The unsolicited advice to just go on vacation, or get drunk and screw in the backseat of the car. The miracle stories about so-and-so’s second cousin who was infertile and then as soon as she adopted, bam! She got pregnant. The unintentionally hurtful jokes: “Take my kids for a while, then you won’t want kids any more,” “Are you sure you’re doing it right?” The women who would try to make their super-fertility seem like a curse: “Ugh, all my husband has to do is LOOK at me and I get pregnant.” Why couldn’t someone just hug me, and try to sympathize?
I remember all this because it was a part of my life for years. The BIGGEST part of my life. It was all-consuming, overwhelming, permeating every aspect of my day-to-day existence and every relationship I had. Because of our infertility, I lost friends, I withdrew, I hurt more than I had ever hurt before. I took it all very hard. Even now, there are parts of myself that I feel I can never reclaim. I think I will always consider myself infertile, strangely enough, as little sense as that makes. If there’s one thing I wish for, it’s words to comfort those who are still on this long, arduous journey.
But, really, there are no words to make it any better.
Keep plugging along, sisters. You have reserves of strength that you aren’t even aware of. Sometimes you’ll feel like you can’t do it any more, but you can – whether it’s immediately, with each new cycle, or after a break. Don’t put yourself through unnecessary stress just to do the “right” thing: if you don’t want to go to that baby shower, don’t go. Do what you can to protect yourself, because infertility is painful enough without rubbing salt in the wound. Know that you aren’t a bad, selfish, or defective person. And remember this, the one thing that I clung to during my journey:
Every failed cycle is a cycle closer to success.