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Infertility: What Helps, What Doesn’t

I couldn’t believe how much it hurt. Just that one word, staring up
at me from the yellow paper I was to hand to the receptionist at the
doctor’s office:Infertility.

Infertility

I was in for a routine asthma visit and when I was asked, “Is there
any chance you’re pregnant?” I snorted and said, “I wish!” My doctor
asked me to elaborate and I told him that we had been trying for 1½
years to get pregnant, but that my period had just started again.He
looked at me and said, “You do know that trying for one year without
pregnancy automatically earns you an infertility diagnosis, right?” I
didn’t know, and for some reason, his unexpected words cut me like a
knife.

So there I was, eighteen months of failed cycles, summed up into one
neat little word: “Infertility”. Somehow that one word took all my
hope and shredded it into bits. It made our hopeful trying suddenly
become final and devastating. Without explanation, that one word,
written at the top of my chart, wrapped up all my dreams and labeled
them, “broken woman”.

For eighteen months I had not cried with each period that showed up.
That day I cried. And cried and cried and cried. I cried for a day and
then I called my OB’s office and set up an appointment with a fertility
specialist. I was one of the lucky ones. Once I made the call, the ball
got rolling pretty quickly as far as getting an official reason “why”
and being presented with solutions. It would be another almost half year
before we conceived.

During that time, I met many women through a blog I had started a few
months earlier. These women were also experiencing infertility and some
still are to this day. My friends and I have talked many times about
the things that have gotten us through and the things that made our loss
even greater.

Most of us agree, the non-stop obsessing where we are in our cycles
is one of the worst things in the whole journey. Although we don’t want
to stop tracking our temperature and cycle days and all the other things
that come with trying to conceive a child, at the same time we become
almost neurotic when analyzing every possible thing there is to analyze.

We actually find some relief from this obsession at the beginning of
every cycle. Once AF (Aunt Flo) shows up and we get over the initial
devastation of no pregnancy yet again, we find almost a relief that for
one to two weeks, there is nothing to analyze and think over. Then, we
hit mid-cycle and we begin the process of temping and recording and
charting and graphing.

We use programs like Fertility Friend and we overlay our charts and
compare last month’s chart to the current month. We check every
ovulation sign there is to check and wonder, Am I ovulating? We pee on ovulation predictor sticks and squint our eyes to see, Is that a second line or not? We wonder, Should I have tested this morning or would it show up better this evening? Then we begin to try to figure out, Would
it be better to have sex today or should we wait a day or two and hope
hubby’s sperm is better a day or two out in case my ovulation is more
noticeable then?”
In doing all these things we lose the wonder of
spontaneous love making with our husbands and can barely talk to our
co-workers because we are turning these things over and over again in
our minds.

Once the big “Ovulation” has occurred, next comes the possible-pregnancy-symptom torture:
Were my breasts this tender last month? Is that nausea I’m feeling? I think
I’m more tired than usual. It’s only five days past ovulation… I wonder
if I could test yet?

And then, with that, comes that horrible addiction of peeing on a
stick. Stick after stick after stick. By the time we’ve peed on all the
home pregnancy tests that cycle, we could probably have bought a new
Coach purse with the money we spent on the HPT’s. There is no avoiding
this craziness, but most agree, it usually hurts the process instead of
helps it.

As if we aren’t are own worst enemies during this time, there are all
the comments from other people who know we’re trying. Probably the most
hated comment that any infertile woman hates is, “Just relax and quit
thinking about it. It’ll happen. Stressing is probably keeping you from
becoming pregnant.” There really are no words that address how idiotic
and hurtful comments like this are for a woman of infertility. Whether
she is still trying the old fashioned way or her and her husband are now
in the middle of IVF, there is no possible way to “Quit thinking about
it,” and try as one might, even when taking a break for a cycle or two,
you are still always wondering, Is this the month for us?
Sally has shared that people telling her she doesn’t have enough
faith has hurt her deeply as well. “Just because I have not gotten the
most precious gift in the world does not mean I am without faith!” she
states with passion. This is so unfair for people to say. It’s as if a
woman also has to go through being judged for her spiritual condition in
addition to not getting pregnant.

“You’re young. Don’t worry about it,” is another thing that hurts a
woman longing for a baby. Both Anna and Jeni agree on this. Being young
has nothing to do with whether or not infertility does or does not hurt a
woman’s heart. In fact, being young sometimes makes the infertility
hurt and raise up a fear factor: “If I’m struggling to get pregnant when
I’m supposed to be in my peak years, what does this mean for me when I
hit the years when pregnancy becomes harder and riskier?”

Anna also spoke of her hurt within the infertility community when
women who had been struggling with infertility for several years
invalidated her pain because she had been struggling for a much shorter
time. “I can understand how years of this can wear down a woman,” Anna
said. “However, just because I’m not in my third or sixth year of this,
doesn’t mean that every failed cycle shouldn’t hurt my heart. I should
get permission to hurt just as much as any other woman, no matter how
long I’ve been trying in relation to their journey.”

All women experiencing infertility agree on the utter frustration and
even anger when they people tell them that them not getting pregnant
might mean they aren’t supposed to have children. Then why do I have a mom’s heart? a woman wonders when hearing this.

And what about the people who have kids and tell a woman who can’t
have children how “lucky she is and she should count her blessings
because kids are a lot of hard work!” That is just an infuriating thing
to hear when unable to get pregnant. Why people think that makes us feel
better is beyond us. It not only makes us feel worse, it makes us
wonder why people who are so annoyed and resentful of their kids got the
chance at having them and we, who would love being moms, don’t! (By the
way, my baby girl is a lot of work but I would never, in a million
years, even on the worst day, go back to infertility instead of having
her!)
People aren’t the only ones to hurt us. We hurt ourselves. Jeni and I
talked about how we have walked the baby sections of stores, shopping
and daydreaming, knowing our hearts would only hurt worse afterward.
Yet, despite this knowledge, we did it anyways. We didn’t know how not to go there.

“I go one step further,” Jeni shared. “I go on YouTube and watch
pregnancy announcements. That really hurts my heart. I need a life.” She
says this with a laugh and a tear, all rolled up into one.
All that being said, there are some things that we have all found that have helped us immensely on this journey.

Many of the women, being religious, have found Bible promises to be
especially comforting during this time. Promises such as “God is making
all things work together for a better purpose in the end,” and “God
helps us carry our sorrows,” are clung to with a desperate tenacity that
help carry us through each cycle. Without my faith that God was up to
something bigger and with more eternal purpose, I wouldn’t have made it
through our time.

Many agree that building a support network of trusted friends is
crucial. Not friends who will throw clichés and hurtful comments your
way, but friends who will cry with you. Friends who know that a
Starbucks venti latte or a Cosmopolitan is the perfect thing the day AF
shows up, because up until then, you were abstaining in case this was
the month. Friends, like I had, who on mother’s day, honor your mom’s
heart, even if your arms are still empty.

There are online support groups these days via forums and blog rings.
I will never forget the day I got online, started my blog, and joined
infertility blog rings. I found more instant support and friends through
those rings than I did for any of the other causes and issues that I
had joined blog rings for. There is a camaraderie among women going
through this, and having each other to get through the highs and lows
cannot be underestimated.

Sometimes, some people just say the right things to us in our journey
and we will forever be grateful to those people. I found the most
helpful things that people said to me were simply the words, “I can’t
comprehend what you’re going through. I wish I could make it better but I
can’t. But I am praying for you.” That’s all I needed. I didn’t need
solutions or advice. I just needed a hug and a, “I’m sorry for your
pain. I’ll be praying.”

Sally said that the sweetest thing she ever heard was, “God is
holding your baby in heaven for you for just the right and perfect
time.” That was a visual picture that has been sustaining her through
her cycles.

Infertility is one of the most painful things a woman will ever go
through — the most painful for some. We can’t always avoid the things
that hurt us along the way, but we can seek out the things that help us
along the way. May heaven grant to each of us the joy of holding our
precious miracles that are, even now, waiting in heaven for the perfect
time to find their way into our arms.

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