We are in the middle of national infertility awareness week so I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on this ongoing issue in my life.
I came across a post the other day from a fellow endo sister who shared how she was never able to have children and that she had to mourn this loss.
I thought this was a great way to put it, and in looking deeper into the five stages of grief and mourning, I realized that I can very much relate to this.
The Stages of Grief
In traditional psychology there are five stages of grief in the mourning process. This process was first proposed in the book On Death and Dying by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
While infertility is not death, per se, I think that it in a way it is similar. Especially if successful pregnancy never happens. This can be a great loss.
The five stages do not necessarily occur in a specific order, but we move through them before finally coming to a more peaceful acceptance.
The stages of grief are as follows…
- Denial & Isolation
In review of these, I see that I’ve passed through these stages of grief on my infertility journey…
Denial & Isolation
I got off of birth control when I was 27 years old and had thoughts that I would just get pregnant. As years passed and this didn’t happen, I just thought that maybe our timing was off. It would happen. It just hadn’t yet.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis at 29 and this was when I started paying more attention to the fact that I still hadn’t gotten pregnant. Seems I’d found a reason why.
In the year following this diagnosis I was invited to half a dozen baby showers. It felt like everyone around me was getting pregnant, like a sick joke from the universe, a grand reminder of my own shortcomings.
I struggled to be around new babies. It broke my heart.
As more and more of the ladies in my life got pregnant, my life definitely became much more isolated.
When I did connect with the new moms I felt like I had little to contribute to the conversation, which were dominated by discussion of their little ones, who consumed them… understandably.
Why me? When each unsuccessful cycle ended (and began anew) with horrible, excruciating pain, instead of a positive pregnancy test, I began to hate my broken body.
I looked for things to blame. I was angry at all the medical procedures and synthetic hormones I consumed for most of my fertile years. I was angry at the disease ripping apart my insides.
I think there was a point when I started to get angry hearing new pregnancy announcements especially from those with multiple children. Why couldn’t I have one? It was unfair. I’d been dealt a really crappy hand.
This stage involved the need to regain control of the situation. It also involved rehashing past regrets….
- If only I’d not taken the pill…
- If only I’d started trying earlier in my twenties…
- If only the miscarriage had not happened, if only it stuck…
This stage included a lot of prayers and hopeful encounters with different herbal remedies.
If I take this… or do that… then I’ll get pregnant. If I follow all the advice then it will happen… feet in the air… 🙂
If only I eat squeaky clean, chart my cycle consistently and connect on ovulation then it will happen…
This stage lingered…
It’s never going to be me. I am broken. Undeserving.
What kind of woman is unable to do that which her body was designed to do?
Sadness. Unrelenting. Tears that flow over and don’t stop.
Pain that I wanted to cut out of me.
Worry… no money for treatments. Time is running out.
I’m not going to be able to give my husband his dream of having his own child. I will never experience the miracle of growing life in me.
The words “mother” broke my heart. Mother’s Day became a day where I wanted to crawl under my covers and not come out.
And don’t check social media. For heaven’s sake.
Facebook had the ability to set me off to a pit of tears – pregnancy announcements, ultrasound pictures, pregnant bellies…
As years passed those images turned to smiling babies… to young children… to…
Crap. How much time has passed?
Tick tock. I’m not getting any younger.
It’s been six years! I’m 33 years old now.
With each new cycle, I can’t help but count forward 9 months. I’ve been conditioned to fear that 35 year marker, where pregnancy chances decline further.
Some time in the not too distant past, I think I stepped closer to this final stage of grief and mourning. Of late, my future vision has shifted, in consideration of a different one then I thought would be true.
One free of children.
While I am still holding onto hope, I must admit that this is not as strong as it once was. As each cycle passes, with no success, I get closer to the reality that bearing a child may never happen.
I had lunch the other day with a lovely gal I connected with through IIN. We chatted a bit about our stories and future intentions. I admitted to her that I was really not that clear on my future intentions.
Within her response she reminded me of a golden question often posed by the great Danielle LaPorte:
How do you want to FEEL?
The first word that popped out of my mouth was freedom.
Maybe this was a strong message from my subconscious. Perhaps it relates to my infertility journey and a life unfolding without children.
Perhaps there is a different plan for me, something unexpected.
I think that acceptance and freedom go hand in hand.
As is with death, I don’t think you ever really lose the lingering pain, but moving to a place of acceptance accompanies a stronger place of peace.
On the Positive Side?
One of the struggles with the thought of infinite infertility is that my husband and I will not have a young life that is made from us; A young life to inspire and influence; To see what we could help create and bring to this world.
In growing acceptance of a life without children of our own, I look to two childless women who have inspired and influenced me on my own healing journey: Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Love Pray).
While these women do not have children, they’ve definitely made a mark on the world in a positive way. I remember listening to Oprah say that while she never had children of her own, she was still a teacher. She sought to inspire and “mother” a wider audience of women.
Both my husband and I are creators in a different manner and seek to inspire a greater number of people. He is a talented musician who writes beautiful lyrics and music.
I’ve always had a love for the written word and am grateful for being able to share that with you here. I hope that by sharing my stories and struggle that somehow it will light your way.
You are not alone.
I leave you with inspiring words I saw the other day in expression of National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW):
Regardless of how this chapter ends, I’ll be OK.
What about you? Have you struggled with infertility? What’s your story? I’d love to hear from you…
I am now going through the last stage-acceptance. It has taken me almost 8 years to get here. It dawned on me just the other day that maybe I am not supposed to be a mom- or maybe I’m not willing to risk everything to have one. I have endometriosis, the MTFR genetic mutation, and low progesterone. I have miscarried twice. We tried Clomid, HCG and progesterone. That’s our limit and that’s okay. I realized that doing an IUI or IVF would not be our decision but our friends and families desicion. Thank you for writing this article! It is exactly what I have went through and what I am going through.
Thanks for sharing Melissa. Sending you love.