I get this question quite frequently lately from everyone from co-workers to the check-out lady at Target and even from family members. It’s just small talk and I understand that completely. It’s one of those things that just naturally comes up in conversation. But naturally this is the second question people ask after they ask me how old Alea is and I tell them she’s “five.” My immediate thought is to walk away and pretend this conversation never began in the first place because I know the reality of the situation, but thankfully I’ve been born with the grace to smile in these difficult situations and instead use my typical, generic reply.
“Oh, I don’t know. Eventually! We’ll just have to see.” (All the while biting the inside of my cheek to keep the tears at bay.)
But the reality of the situation has me screaming inside. The truth is, we have been trying. I’ve been off of birth control since a month or two before I graduated nursing school in December of 2013. I was sick of the way it made me feel and once I ran out, I just decided I was done. We didn’t officially decide that we wanted to try to have a baby in that moment but just decided that we weren’t going to do anything to prevent it and if it happened we would be happy.
Flash forward to our wedding. We got married June 28th, 2014. I thought maybe if we just decided that we would actually try, that just like magic, two pink lines would show up in the coming months. But, as I’m sure you can guess, that wasn’t the case either. We weren’t necessarily tracking my cycle, I wasn’t measuring my basal body temperature or obsessively peeing on ovulation test strips. I just wanted it to happen. Just randomly and perfectly and maybe a little unexpectedly the way it did with Alea.
And here we are now. 19 months off of birth control, months of failed ovulation kits, dozens of negative pregnancy tests, an exhausted and overwhelmed heart, and finally one doctors visit. I finally decided “enough is enough” and spoke to my nurse practitioner about our struggles. I knew what she was going to say and I knew it wasn’t going to be what I wanted to hear. I knew what it was going to mean and I had a small inkling of what our next steps might be. But I had no idea how it would make me feel to hear “that word.” And I had no idea how it would make me feel in the weeks following that visit.
I never imagined hearing the word “infertility” would lead me into such a deep, dark sadness. I never realized it would make me feel so isolated and alone. I never thought it would make me feel “broken” and “unfixable.” I never thought it would lead to denial and two more months of trying that would ultimately just bring me down even more.
I’m so filled with worry with all of this, as well. “Secondary infertility” isn’t something that most people understand. It’s something I’m scared to even bring up for fear that people will think I’m crazy, selfish, or needy. I already have one child. It’s not like I’ve always been “infertile.” I’ve made, carried, and gave birth to a beautiful little girl and now I want more than anything to give her a sweet little sibling. I want to see how she interacts with a sibling. She wants a little brother or sister so, so bad. My heart aches when she says, “Mom, I wonder when God will give me a little brother or a sister.” And I have to fight back tears because I have absolutely no idea when that will happen or if it ever will.
I don’t expect people to understand. Secondary infertility is a concept that’s even difficult for me to grasp. I’m scared of the “just keep trying” responses, and the “you’re young, you still have time,” and the “maybe if you just stop thinking about it,” and the “well, at least you already have one little one” comments. I’m scared of what’s to come. I’m scared of failed attempts, the money that will be spent on whatever fertility treatments are needed and the emotional struggles that inevitably lie ahead. We have the options laid out before us and we’re considering trying things we probably never would have thought of trying or thought we would have to try. All of this is so foreign and so not what we expected at all trying the second time around. I’m scared of the uncertainty of it all.
I’ve written and rewritten this blog post several times. I’ve considered scrapping the entire thing and not sharing this at all. As if not sharing it in this space may mean that one aspect of my life has some sense of normalcy. This is part of my story. I refuse to keep silent and I refuse to be alone in this. This is my story, no matter how imperfect, no matter how sad, no matter how hard. This is my journey and I’m not going to let it define me.
And I know I’m not alone in this. I know that 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a viable pregnancy. I know there’s far too many of us who keep quiet and don’t talk about this because we’re scared at what others might say. But if writing this posts helps just one more woman feel like she’s not alone and helps her find her voice as well, then I’ve done my job. I wrote recently about not being perfect and owning your story, your life and your truth. Well, as much as I wish it wasn’t, this is part of my story.
There’s more to come on this. I’m hoping that this story evolves further and we find our happy ending whether it be with a baby or with acceptance. But until then, I refuse to give up. I know this can happen for us. Maybe in not the most conventional of ways, but in our way. In time.
Have you or are you battling infertility? I’d love to hear your story.
What resources, personal stories, blogs, books have helped you?
I understand infertility is a personal journey and others may not feel as comfortable sharing in a public forum.
If you have questions or would like to share more of your journey with me or any resources you’ve found helpful, I’d love for you to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.