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.