Infertility, a word that has the power to crush dreams, alter lives, and break the strongest hearts. Sadly, infertility is on the rise. Most of us know someone who has, or is, suffering through infertility. Yet, life with infertility remains the most difficult state of being one could ever attempt to describe. As a woman who has lived with infertility for 27 years, I can attest to the rigors of daily life with not one, but many conditions that have challenged me in ways I never dreamed possible. Somehow, I have found the strength to handle each situation. I hope the information I share will help those of you are not infertile better understand those of us who are infertile.
The life of a woman who suffers from infertility is far from a normal existence. Most women with infertility mark time in unusual ways. We think of years as 12 opportunities lost for a future family. As we age, we hear a silent ticking. You’ve heard of the mythical biological clock — the one fertile people rarely think about. For an infertile woman, it can be almost audible. Every year drags an infertile woman forward as she feels her body age.
Women with infertility mark months in terms of 28-day cycles. For us, a month is that space of time when we hope we won’t have a menstrual cycle after the next 28 days. We ask ourselves: Could this be the month my dreams of becoming pregnant become a reality? We often don’t think in terms of becoming a mom first because we know pregnancies with infertility can be difficult. We tend to take it one step at a time. Then, if we don’t get a positive result, we question what went wrong if that next cycle doesn’t happen on time, or at all. Unfortunately, for some of us, erratic, unpredictable monthly cycles give us false hopes that are dashed by the negative pregnancy test. It can feel like rejection. As if your own body is rejecting your children, or as if it is betraying you. Every month is a rollercoaster of hope and hope lost.
We mark days in many ways: weeks and days between doctor’s appointments, days between ovulation predictor kits tests, days between an insemination and a pregnancy test. If a woman has PCOS, or Endometriosis, or some other physical illness that is causing her complications in conception, her weekly routine can include numerous doctors appointments and medical procedures, even surgeries. In my experience, I had at least five doctors working on me at all times. Most people don’t realize the intense medical care women may require to maintain good health conducive to conception.
We mark hours between injections, medications, and the next time we need to take our Basal body temperature. Sometimes we mark the hours by how many times we have watched the “Health Channel” loop in the doctor’s office. We mark the hours we wait for a phone call from the doctor’s office that will confirm that our positive pregnancy test.
The hours most of us enjoy the most are the ones when we don’t have to think about infertility. The hours when we can go out to lunch or a movie with a friend. We need those kinds of hours, because we often feel the hours passing. Any hour we can spend with our minds on our job, our friendships, or our family is more than welcome.
Infertility is all consuming. It is an unforgiving state of being. Once one chooses to pursue treatment it is a daily process. It can become overwhelming very quickly. The little time we get to forget about treatment is a blessing of the highest degree.
Sadly, we also mark time from our losses. Miscarriage is common among couples with infertility. Every monthly cycle after a miscarriage is a stark reminder that our hopes of conception and a successful pregnancy may be in vain; yet, we continue to hope. The child, or children that we have lost are never far from our thoughts. We mark each milestone, birthdate (or due date), and we live with the ghosts of what might have been even while continuing to attempt to achieve a healthy pregnancy.
I have talked with hundreds of women who have had miscarriages. Most them never experienced infertility, but we all appear to have one thing in common: No other child could ever replace the one or the ones we lost and time doesn’t heal all wounds; it just dulls the pain.
However, for women with lifelong infertility, each miscarriage represents something greater than death, it represents the loss of the physical ability to carry a child, which can become a life sentence of childlessness. Age is a cruel task master, it weakens the body as time marches forward, and no one on earth understands that like a woman fighting infertility. For her, aging isn’t about vanity — it’s about maintaining the health for her body to be able to carry a child well into her advanced childbearing years.
So, if you have a friend with infertility, offer to take walks with her. Support her by offering to go to the doctor with her, eat healthy around her, watch funny movies with her, laugh with her, give her your love and hugs during her losses, lend her your shoulder to cry on, and listen to her. It’s so easy to be supportive of an infertile women. All you really have to do is use your time with her wisely. I assure you — your friend with infertility will thank you.
The Fort Worth Moms Blog hosts 19 Neighbor Groups via Facebook, including the Fertility Discussion with Tarrant County Moms. These groups are free to join and offer online and offline opportunities to build relationships and gain resources from other moms in the area.