February 27, 2012

The Gift of Infertility

I've been thinking lately. Infertility and pregnancy loss are hard. So hard. But looking back, they have also been a blessing. I know that is so strange, and possibly offensive, but let me explain.

I hope I can find the right words to tell you what I'm feeling in my heart.

Infertility and loss (IF for short) are difficult in a million ways that no one would ever expect... unless they've been through it. It touches every part of your life, your soul, your identity as a woman. It puts a barrier between you and your "normal" fertile friends/family, largely because they UNKNOWINGLY say/do things that are SO hurtful, invalidating, and just plain make you feel like  you've been slapped in the face. I know that they don't mean to, I know that they are only trying to help... but the effect is still that IF is isolating.

But the thing is, I've been thinking. And IF has really and truly blessed me so much. It has made me strong. It has made me be aware of the pain that others feel. It has given me compassion on a level that I had never believed possible. I feel such a sense of connection with almost anyone who struggles with IF. I have sat in front of my computer and sobbed over a stranger's pregnancy loss, and prayed with all my might that they would *somehow* find some peace and healing. Most recently Mo and BIBC. Oh how my heart aches for you both.

But it's more than that. IF has blessed me in ways that I never thought possible. In fact, some of the things that are the MOST difficult about IF have impossibly become strengths in my life. Isn't it funny... But it's just like they say, God can turn any weakness into strength if  you let Him. And "rock bottom is the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." (JK Rowling)

One of the most PAINFUL things about IF is the perma-hope that it takes to keep going. Every month you try, and you believe, and you hope... and you hurt... and you get back up and do it again the next month. How was I "stupid" enough to believe EVERY month that THIS time was going to be different? It gets to be so painful that I used to wish that I could just stop hoping, because then I thought it might not hurt so much.

It's so hard to put into words. But I think I started to realize it while I was taking care of my dad last year... in the final days of his struggle with cancer. I knew he was going to die. I knew he was. There was no hope. Lung and liver failure coupled with esophageal cancer. It was a very dark time. And do you know what kept me going? That same blasted perma-hope that had been SO painful during IF. I knew that dad was dying. But I also knew that I could still find light at the end of the tunnel. I knew that I would always have "next month" to look forward to. Something to hope for. A goal to reach for. A constant forward thrust deep inside me that has been so strengthened by years of IF that I knew I would never be able to give up. IF has taught me how to push forward and hold my head up and to HOPE.

Hope and faith are my good friends, and they have very little to do with getting what you want. They are quiet and steady companions, constantly whispering that everything will be all right even if... especially if... things go wrong.

And the strength to carry on alone, to pursue my own path regardless of what anyone else says or feels about it. To follow my heart. There are many people who try to "help" an IFer by telling them things like "just relax and it will happen" or "maybe you should just give up now" or "why don't you try x,y,or z?" It becomes so painful. It makes you feel so alone and misunderstood. BUT it makes you strong. It makes you stand on your own feet, and follow your own heart. You can't survive for long in the world of IF when you're doing what other people expect of you. This has definitely become a strength for me, possibly a bit too strong in this area now, ha! But I'm realizing that I really need this strength right now in my life.

I'm about to start an "alternative" treatment for my "incurable" disease. It's expensive. The program is long and difficult to complete. There is no guarantee that it will work. And many, many people have tried... in every way possible... to dissuade me... to convince me that it's a huge mistake. And really, it might be... but just like my path through IF, it's a path that I have to take, and I have to do what I feel is best. It will be a long, hard, lonely road. But I hope at the end of it, it will be worth it. And I know that if I hadn't struggled for years with IF, with the lonliness and isolation that is IF, I might not have had the strength needed to push through this next path alone.

There are many other things which IF has taught me. Because it does affect every area of your life, it also teaches you something in every area of your life. I hate IF. I hate wondering if I'll have more children, or how many more miscarriages I'll have to suffer through. I hate knowing that because I STILL want more children that there WILL be more pain ahead. Immense pain. But I am coming to realize that IF isn't my enemy. God didn't send me to earth to have an easy go of it, He sent me here to learn and grow and stretch. I no longer think of IF as the enemy, but as the very strict teacher... possibly whacking your fingers with a ruler.... possibly it's Severus Snape.  I don't like the class, I'm a bit afraid of the teacher, I'd much rather be out playing on the monkey bars... but the things I learn in that classroom change my life. I wouldn't wish infertility/loss on anyone... besides, I'm sure that everyone has their very own class with Snape, and all of them suck... but I have come to realize how very grateful I am for IF and the lessons it has taught me...
and the strength it has given me.
I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't had to struggle with IF.
For that, I am grateful.


  1. You know you're my hero, right? If I seemed unsupportive of the new treatment, I apologize. I was just throwing stuff at the wall in case something stuck. :) I got your back, Coco...100%.

  2. Good luck in your treatment! I can't tell you how I stumbling into the world of IF bloggers has changed me. I've not struggled with IF, but I have family and so many dear friends that have struggled and lost many times. I don't know if before I just I never talked about it or they never felt comfortable enough to talk to me. Getting to know the honest feelings of others that have struggled with this has helped me to be more sensitive to their feelings. Do I still say things unknowingly that might not make them feel understood or supported? Maybe, but I try more than ever not too. I now am not afraid to talk to them about it, I'm not afraid that I'm going to make them sad by asking them about what they are going through. I think about what I'm going to say before I'm going to say it and try to be sensitive to their feelings. So thank you for being honest, for helping me understand if just slightly more. You are a strong women and I have no doubt that you will give everything you have in hopes for the results you are looking for.

  3. Bravo, Coco! I love it. I totally agree with what you wrote. I, too, feel that my life has been changed for the better with IF. It sucks so bad to go through the trenches, but looking back, it absolutely makes us better people. And even as we continue down our IF paths, it's calming to know that we treasure every little step that much more because we know the ins-and-outs of how IF affects people.

    Love this post!

  4. Great post! Yes, there are definitely lessons to be learned from IF, and she isn't a gentle teacher (LOVE the Snape reference!).

    I think the biggest lesson that IF has taught me is to appreciate what I have. Before Ginny came along, I had a loving husband, a decent job, and a great family. Yes, there was a great big gap in my heart, that I knew only a child could fill. But IF taught me that I could survive without that in my life if I had to. It taught me that I am strong, in ways I never knew, and that faith and hope, while tortuous at times, are the only things that get you through the tough stuff.

    (Nice to meet a fellow hobbit! :) )

  5. I don't wish infertility on any one but like you said it has though me a lot about myself also has brought my husband and I closer.

    I am praying for you and as much as it hurts to spend the money I think you know what is best for you.

    I already get asked by family members that I should get pregnant soon. Did they forget the 4 years I struggled with? My favorite advice was from my sis when we were trying. She called me up once and said we should really work harder to get pregnant :). I could have gotten really upset but 4 years in IF land has tought me a lot.

  6. I've just been diagnosed with PCOS, got really upset and was at a bit of a loss, before I read this post. Thank You for making me look at it in a more positive light. x