Infertility is really hard. I think any of us who have been through it would agree. We go through stress, endure pressure from family and friends (often unwitting), society, and ourselves, we deal with month after month of disappointment, we have to find resources – physical, emotional, and maybe financial – that we didn’t know we had to cope with this. We feel broken, damaged, and lose confidence. We grieve. We cry a lot. A lot! We feel weak. Yet so often, we endure all this and put on a bright face to the world.
Whether our infertility journey ends with children or not, we have come through one of life’s major stresses. Research has shown that the stress associated with fertility treatment can be at a level comparable to the stress associated with serious illness. But unlike a serious illness, we often go through this without much support, sometimes feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
The grief born of infertility and loss helped me – ultimately - understand just how strong I was. The only problem is that I didn’t realise it at the time! Strength to me is not finding something easy that we breeze through. (Just as it isn’t brave to jump off a cliff if you aren’t scared.) Strength is finding something hard, but still facing up to it, working through it, living with it day in and day out. Even when we don’t want to. Strength is accepting that life doesn’t always deliver what we want or expect.
Strength too is learning how to ask for help. That’s perhaps another post, but I feel it deserves to be here too.
When my father died, a few years after we had ended our fertility journey, I actually realised what a gift I had been given. I wrote then that my infertility and loss experiences
“helped me get through this. … But having been through my (ectopics) and - my biggest loss - learning I would not have children, I knew that I would get through this. And so the grieving did not scare me, in the way I thought it would. Crying did not scare me - so I was the teary one of the daughters, though often laughing at the same time.”
“My losses gave me yet another wonderful gift, one for which I am very grateful, and that was the gift of being able to help my mother, to focus on her through such a difficult time.”
Grief is horrible, painful, and it can feel relentless. But I know now I can get through it, even when I wonder why I should continue. Strength is not being afraid to lose, not being afraid of grief, because the having, the love, the hope – they are all worth going through that pain. The strength I have as a result of my losses gave me the courage to face a life I didn’t choose. The strength I have as a result of my losses and living a life I didn’t choose now gives me the courage to face up to whatever might come – including inevitably more grief in life. For that, I am thankful.