Monday, May 16, 2011

Lying Fallow

At her blog, The Writings of an Infertile Ballerina, Jen Nelson shares about the painful truth of dealing with her infertility while working as a nurse who cares for post-natal women and their babies. In reading her story, it brought me back so vividly to my own pain as a woman trying desperately to conceive.

By all accounts I was “lucky” since I already had a child when I began to experience infertility. Sitting in the waiting room at the reproductive endocrinologist’s office I was embarrassed by the fact that I went there with a toddler. I felt greedy and overprivileged to be there wanting for more than I already had, when those other women were struggling to have just one baby.

It was the only place in the world where I didn’t feel inadequate. In that waiting room, with  my son in my arms, I was the most complete I could be. Compared to those other women, I wasn’t as broken, I wasn’t as deficient, I wasn’t as pathetic. Then I would leave and set out about my days. Days where I lost friends because I couldn’t bring myself to be around a group of pregnant women or the day when I lost my best friend because I couldn’t understand the pain of her pregnancy and she couldn’t understand my not understanding. Days where I felt alone, lonely and hollow.

After all, as I told Jen this morning, it’s the one thing our bodies were made to do: have babies. It doesn’t take intelligence or sophistication or even skill, it’s something that happens to women all over the world every day by accident, and I couldn’t make it happen with a team of doctors. What kind of loser was I anyway?

And then of course, there are all the hyper-fertile women who love to tell you how they got pregnant when their husband walked in the room. “He looked at me and I was pregnant! hahahahahah” or “I don’t know how it happened!” (really? I could buy you a book about it if you need one!) or other award-winning things an infertile woman does not want to hear. But you hear them every day. And each one cuts like a scythe, deep and jagged, leaving scars on your heart and tears in your eyes.

One day, I was talking to the nurse at the RE’s office and she said to me, “If I could tell you the exact date you were going to have another baby would that make you feel better?”

“Yes,” I said, “But you can’t!”

“But I can tell you that you WILL have another baby one day. We’re going to keep at it until we get it right.”

“But what if that doesn’t happen. You can’t guarantee that!”

“I just know it. I know it.”

Turns out she was right. I got my daughter, the miracle, after almost 2 years of treatment for secondary infertility. I suffered through hundreds of shots, ultrasounds, blood tests and diagnostic tests and I lived like a science experiment for years, but I got my baby. That nurse was right.

Every time I meet a woman who is going through it I feel so conflicted about reaching out. I am so painfully aware of my blessings and also of the fact that my blessings are someone else’s painful reminders of a struggle they live with every day. Then again, who but someone who has been there can truly say, “I know how you feel” and really know? My truth is that even though I got my miracle I still feel like that barren woman who hungered and ached for a baby more than anything in the world. When I meet a similarly suffering soul, my wounds re-open just enough for the pain to become real again and I am overcome with a need to help someone else heal. As if by helping her, my pain develops meaning and morphs from anguish into some fairy tale fable in which everyone lives happily ever after.

Tonight, as I kissed my babies goodnight I sat for a moment with that strange mix of gratitude, humility and sadness. Just as I once sat and wondered why God would withhold my dream, I now sit and wonder why the gift was given to me and why other women continue to suffer this deprivation. Like an amputee feels pain in a long gone limb, the ache of the longing persists even now.


  1. Beautifully written, Lisa. I know too well what you're talking about. But I'm not as brave as you. I have my son (just turned 4), tried a second time (IVF) late last year, but lost my baby girl after only 7wks of being pregnant. I've blogged a lot about this late last year/early this year and those were VERY difficult times. I'm afraid though that I don't have the courage anymore to try further. It took a lot from me and changed a lot in me. I still question God/the Universe, whatever you want to call 'it' and I know that sometimes, there are just no answers. I will end with your last sentence too, so beautifully and aptly put---"Like an amputee feels pain in a long gone limb, the ache of the longing (and the loss, in my case), persists even now." Thank you for your words, Lisa.

  2. Joy, I didn't even talk here about my losses. My experiences did change me forever, in ways that I never could have imagined I could change. I know, as I have shared with you, the pain of loss. Although so many women have had lived through the agony of losing a baby, we all hold that pain differently. It takes so much out of us, and it feels like the world is ending. I know. My heart is with you Joy.

  3. " My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

    You're stronger, wiser, and more compassionate now because of what you've been through. Don't let your past determine who you will be, but let it become part of the amazing women that you are...

  4. What an amazing way to look at it. I have always tried to keep in mind that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason isn't apparent to us. Thank you so much for that insight!

  5. I loved your post! You are an amazing writer. It brought me to tears. Today I went to see my doctor and it was a bit of a disappointment. It makes me feel better that someone else understands and supports me.

  6. I'm so sorry that today wasn't a good day Jen. I wish it were easy. I am happy that I've been able to make you feel supported and understood. When I was struggling through this, I felt like no one understood, not even really my husband sometimes. It was dark and lonely and I feel so much for what you are going through. Sometimes a hug is the best thing, wish I could give you one today.

  7. Hey Lisa ~ I usually refrain from making comments on posts about children for reasons you are fully aware of, but I couldn't resist this one for a reason I don't know if I've ever shared with you.
    Although I am childless by choice, I have been aware of this choice for many, many years. My heart goes out to every woman who is aching, more than any pain I have ever felt, to have a child, THEIR child, growing inside of them. I have a sister and 2 brothers and they all have children. Not all of them enjoyed the journey of being pregnant, but every one of them loves their child like no other love they have ever felt in their lives.
    When I was 23, I completed the first of 4 applications to the places that advertise about egg donation. Unfortunately, I was never contacted by any of the clinics, and I refuse to dwell on what counted me out. However, it breaks my heart that they never gave me the chance to give someone else the chance. I knew my eggs were viable due to past experiences, and the only other opportunity I knew of was surrogacy, but my point wasn't only in not wanting to be a parent, it was also about not wanting to be pregnant.
    Sorry, this should have been one of my own blog entries as it has turned out so long, but I felt the need to comment as someone with the point of view who can see, but not feel, and understands how you feel in this entry.

  8. Liz, I struggled with how to respond to this comment. I do believe in some way, that you think you understand this, but as someone who never wanted to be pregnant, you can't understand it. I am not admonishing you like your friends have in the past, I think you really DO believe you understand. But realize, for women like Joy and Jen and me, yearning to have a baby growing inside of you, and the ache to be a mom, and having that dream denied, is a pain that no one who hasn't experienced it can understand. It is like sitting at an all-you-can-eat buffet and watching people throw food away, but you can't even taste it. It's like swimming in the ocean, dying of thirst but you cannot drink. It is a feeling of emptiness and deprivation and isolation and sadness and a feeling of failure that envelopes your soul. For a woman who wants to be a mother, there is no pain greater than being denied that gift.
    But know I love you and I'm glad that you shared this with me.

  9. Your post is so heartfelt. I have a sister, niece, sister-in-law and daughter that have struggle with infertility. My daughter has adopted and we love this little addition to our family.
    I've always been on the other end of the spectrum, being made to feel guilty because I was having babies while my sister and niece couldn't. So many times I would cry because I was so sad my sister couldn't have children. I remember one time while I was expecting my first baby, calling her and telling her she could have my baby. I guess it all depends on where we're at!

  10. Lisa, I can't say I understand your feelings either and I don't know if you care to hear from me, because I have been so blessed and feel very fortunate. But even though I don't know how you feel, you are so in touch with your feelings and can so eloquently express those emotions, that I'm sure so many women are grateful for this post. Thank you.

  11. What a lovely post! I went through infertilty myslef. We had four miscarriages before our son and then went through it again when I couldn't concieve my daughter. We did the fertility doctors and the whole baby dance. Even though I now have three children my heart still aches when I read a post such as yours or talk to women who is going through it. It was a very dark place for me, thankfully I had my husband to go through it with, but, it was my body that was letting me down month after month. Your pice captured so many of the feelings I had, thank you. I found you on Voiceboks and am now a very grateful follower.

    Just have to say, love your blog title!

  12. Becky and Melanie, I am well aware that my struggle made other people uncomfortable. I talk about it now still knowing the pain, but no longer feeling the burden. I don't "hold it against" anyone who is blessed with children. I do, however, find myself reacting with complete venom at people who abuse (or worse) their children, taking for granted what a blessing they are. Melanie, I know what an amazing mom you are and you deserve all of your blessings and I would never begrudge you any of it. Becky, Bless your heart for offering to give your sister a baby! I'm sure she loves you very much.
    Kathy, of course I identify with you the most. It's a sisterhood we are a part of no matter how many babies we may be blessed with after the fight. I am happy that you got your happy ending too. Thank you for stopping by and letting me share with all of you. It's why I write and it means so much to me.

  13. Lisa, you have something so special to share, and your willingness to reach out to other women struggling with something so painful says a great deal about your own healing. Thank you for sharing your experience here.

    ~RJ, the HOPE Coach

  14. Lisa,
    Please keep sharing your experiences. God gave you the pain and then He gave to you those precious and beautiful gifts. You give hope and strength to those who are still dealing with the pain and longing. No one can understand completely unless one has walked in those shoes. Blessings to you and your family~

    Following you from VoiceBoks!~Lisa
    I am all a twitter about life

  15. RJ, you are right about the healing. For a long time I could not talk about it at all. The shame of it was overwhelming. Thankfully I have moved forward from that.
    Lisa, Thank you for your kind words. If something I wrote helps someone else through their struggle it would be such a blessing for me. From a selfish perspective, it would give meaning to my own painful times.
    Thank you both for your comments and for taking the time to visit.

  16. I was so moved and strangely I ended up feeling a little guilty as well. We have 6 children, although we lost one at 4 months between child 3 & 4, and I wish I knew why it's easier for some women. I've watched so many friends and my cousin go through the same trials you have and I always wonder why them?

    Heard a Priest say on the radio once that he believes our Lord lets us suffer, feel pain and loss to keep our mind focused on Him and not on sin. I can't think of a better reason that that. But I'm not God.

    Bless you and your children always.
    Hopping over from

  17. Hi! This is Kelly from I've Become My Mother and a proud member of Voice Boks. I am visiting you today to ask for your help in saving the life of a child... We as writers/bloggers are excellent at getting the word out on so many different issues and topics... We love to write and we have a passion to share the world with others... What I am asking is this - Please visit my site and link up to today's post - the link is below. Please post the post on your Facebook. We need to get word out about bone marrow donations... You and others can get tested simply by ordering your free kit and swabbing your mouth - it's that easy to save a life... Please join me to save Haley and others who need our help.. Thank you and God Bless!

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  18. Amazing site, Love it! Great Job, following you from VB!

    Rachel with, if you are interested,
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  19. Wow, I don't even know what to say. I have always had a hard time expressing my thoughts about this situation. I think we all know someone who has been through it and we always wish we knew exactly what to say. Thank you for such a great post. Becky from VB

  20. Beautiful post. As someone who missed out on having human children for various reasons, I do envy those of you with them. It's sad to know I'll never experience that joy myself but I treasure the moments I share with my own furry children, (kangaroos). Nice to meet you via the Hopper Strategised.

  21. Hey! I found you off Voiceboks and I'm so glad I did! As I was reading your post, I just wanted to reach out and hug you. I never went through "infertility", but I DID have a point where I questioned if I might be "broken". After 2 m/c, I thought I was going through secondary infertility. I won't go into the post I wrote- not here, anyway- but I wanted to say that I'm sorry you went through all of that.
    Also, I just wanted you to now that I nominated you for the Blog On Fire award. You can check it out here:
    I'm following you now, btw. I hope you'll stop by my blog sometime, too!
    Oh, and before I go, I'd love to highlight you and your blog sometime for one of my "Saturday Shout Outs". Let me know if you'd be interested!

  22. I had two miscarriages after my first kiddo, then I was told we were done. After an agonizing 6 months of coming to terms with this idea, I found out I was pregnant and held my breath throughout. When my daughter was born, I was still in a state of disbelief and thanks to some PPD, I didn't really get to enjoy her until she was about 8 months old. I count my blessings each and every day now.
    Here is my post about itL

    Thank you for sharing on such a difficult topic. XO visiting grom VB