My husband and I sat in the waiting room of the fertility doctor’s office waiting to get the results of the extensive testing we had endured just a few weeks before. Every single test was still fresh in my mind and I had still not recuperated from the trauma of the rounds of bloodwork and the multiple ultrasounds I had done in the weeks leading up to this day. It should not have been a surprise that we would get bad news that morning, but I still held on to hope.
We were called into the doctor’s office. For the next 45 minutes, he explained to us all the health factors that were most likely contributing to us not being able to conceive naturally. I was a complicated case. As he talked, I found myself holding back the tears and with each new medical condition he brought up, I felt my heart breaking just a little more. Endometriosis, Adenomyosis and a blocked tube meant that his only recommendation was IVF. By now, I was crumbling, and I could tell by the look of concern on the doctor’s face that my pain was starting to show. The nurse gave us a packet of paperwork and told us to go home and think about it and call back if and when we were ready to get the IVF process started. I felt all my hope leave me that morning.
That was a year ago. I did go home to process it and pray about it… but I never called back. I decided instead to face this journey of childlessness. In the first year of my journey, I’ve learned some valuable lessons that are worth reflecting on and sharing with other women who may be walking their own path of childlessness.
Two days after our doctor’s visit, I made the huge mistake of hosting a barbecue for a group of our closest friends – four of them, couples who had just recently had babies. For a few hours that afternoon, my house became a nursery full of crying babies and nursing moms. I was in total denial at that point. As soon as the company left, I crashed physically and emotionally and it took me days to get myself back together. What I had not yet learned that day was that I was starting my grieving process and that I needed to give myself time to acknowledge my loss. This is crucial but incredibly difficult. As women, we tend to want to quickly move on to the solution or to the part where we are “better”. Sometimes we want the world to think that we are fine in spite of our wounds and we put on a mask of “all is good”, when it is clearly not. It is okay to not be okay all the time. And it is certainly okay to give yourself the time and permission you need to deal with your pain. For me, that meant spending time by myself, journaling, reading, crying, meditating, listening to music, etc. Healing requires that you devote time to yourself and make yourself a priority. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Before the infertility roller coaster, my husband and I made the decision that IVF was beyond our limits. We were convinced that IVF was too invasive and I was unwilling to subject my body to the strong medications and the high level of stress that come with it.
So when IVF was suddenly the ONLY option, many well-meaning people assumed that we would be going down that path. No one seemed to understand our choice to refuse IVF as an option for us. Few have been able to accept that childlessness can be an option too. I learned that even in the middle of chaos, you must make the choices that are right for you, even if those choices are not understood or accepted by others. It has been a big relief to know that although I’m still childless, I have stood by my values and made the decisions that are right for me. Childlessness is tough enough and you do not have to let your choices be swayed by the opinions of others.
In the months following my diagnosis, I felt like a complete failure. Being made aware of all the many things that were “wrong” with my body, left me feeling like damaged goods. I started believing that my body had betrayed me by not functioning properly and doing the one thing that it was supposed to do naturally. It wasn’t until recently that I started realizing that my body has been housing me for 38 whole years! For the length of my life so far, it has awakened every morning. It has seen, tasted, touched, moved, breathed…. My body is a miracle. It is far from perfect, but it is still a temple. So I’ve started to practice mindfulness and gratitude for it. Infertility makes it so easy to get hung up on the parts of us that are “not working” that we fail to see all the many wonderful parts that are. Being present and grateful for what is working in your life (and your body) is what helps to get us through the tough times.
It is true what they say that everyone on this planet is dealing with their own type of battle. We may see other people’s lives and think they have it so much better, but we never know what they are facing. It is important to treat others with kindness and respect, even while in the middle of our own storms. It is just as important to extend that same kindness and love to Ourselves.
My first year was not easy, but even through the many ups and downs, I’ve noticed myself growing as a person. I believe that a positive and kind attitude is what determines whether we thrive or wither through this childless journey. I have hope that life can and will be much better.