I have a daughter. She’s three and she’s perfect. Her ridiculous sense of humor makes it impossible to not have a smile plastered to your face when she’s around, and her bouncy red curls can keep my gaze immured for hours on end. She was born at 37 weeks, with scores of 9 on both Apgar’s. She was conceived with more ease than the blink of an eye, and because of my ripe young age at her conception, I am now left with several years ahead of me before I get “AMA (Advanced Maternal Age)” stamped on my chart. I tell you these things because when I reflect on my journey to create a family, I would imagine these facts make it difficult for most women struggling with infertility to relate to me.
And that brings me to where I am now. To the part of the story where I tell these women that I can’t imagine what they go through each and every day. To the scene where I hug my daughter in my hospital bed, moments after being told I may lose my entire reproductive system. To the moment when I felt more self-pity than I have ever allowed myself to feel. It was that same moment that I felt like the luckiest woman on earth. And I cried. And smiled. And laughed…and I bawled. Because there was so much to be grateful for, and too much to be angry about. There it was all laid before me: the diagnosis, my daughter, my pain, and my happiness. It was life coming, once again, to bite my ass and kiss my check.
There is a part of infertility that no one talks about, but it’s also one of the most significant aspects of living with a uterus that hates you. It’s the part of the journey where you wake up one day, sign onto Facebook (just as you have done the for the previous decade), scroll down your feed and realize, officially, that you can’t relate to anyone. Or at least that’s how it seems. Because no one posts pictures of their negative pregnancy test, or the images of their burst fallopian tube. Nor do they post pictures of themselves, holding their partners hand and donning a tee-shirt that says “Baby X, coming to you, probably NEVER!” Or the quote from their daughter asking, “where is my baby sister?” And that’s all good and grand that we don’t see these things, because they are sad. We know that Facebook is all about happiness, feigning happiness, and bringing attention to social causes that, in reality, we do nothing tangibly helpful to fix. And you can’t fix my uterus anyway: that’s exactly why I’m talking about it.
It’s this part of infertility that I get. It’s the part of no one understanding. The “why don’t you adopt?” or the “just get a surrogate” or the “there are worse things in life.” And this last point is one that I find myself uniquely qualified to object to. I have spent the past ten years of my life in and out of surgeries, receiving dire diagnoses, and calling a hospital my second home. And there was no darker day of my life than the day I lost my baby.
Those of us struggling with infertility may be short on eggs, or a functional uterus, but we have a lot on our plate. We experience loss in many forms. Whether it be a miscarriage, IUD, a stillborn, or simply the millionth month in a row that our heart breaks from seeing one line instead of two, we are beaten down with each cycle and, with each loss, we are expected to find hope again. Hope, or acceptance of our prognosis. But most of us fall somewhere in between, struggling to find hope or acceptance. And most of us struggle alone.
I neither can, nor want, to urge other women to come out with their stories. “Coming out” means having even more people question you on adoption, or asking you to get over yourself. And that just isn’t helpful. But what I can do is ask a few simple things of those of you that haven’t experienced the same struggle:
- Know that surrogacy is well over 100,000 out-of-pocket dollars. This is clearly not only financially infeasible for the vast majority of families, but comes with a host of legal and personal issues.
- Know that adoption is prohibitively expensive as well, and that we probably are considering it (and that it is also so far from being your business).
- Most of you that have opinions on my fertility (or lack thereof), have adoring children at home. Why don’t you take a look at them, and ask yourself if they’d be worth years of struggle, fear, pain and depression. Because I don’t know about you, but I can with all my heart say there isn’t anything in this world more worth fighting for.
- Just give me a hug, keep your pregnant belly or baby far from me, and then STFU. (I know, aggressive, but dire times call for extreme measures…)
Now that Facebook, Instagram and all other forms of modern communication are an extreme psychological liability for me, I would like to sign off by telling you other infertile folks to come knock on my door. Let me sit with you while we wait, together, for our miracles. Because for us, that’s exactly what we’ll spend our reproductive lives hoping for: a miracle (for those of you gazing into the eyes of your babe that was conceived with one thrust, you’re looking at the opposite. You’re looking at what, in all likelihood, would happen in short order when you don’t wrap things up. Let’s not confuse the word “incredible” with “miraculous”).
And just to clarify, I am happy for you. But, for an infertile woman, a facebook feed full of babies and pregnancy announcements is akin to dangling a donut in front of someone being fed through a PICC line.
Best I don’t smell your donuts, for now…