What a lot of people didn't know, though, was that off camera -- for many years -- my husband and I were burying a lot of pain and heartache with infertility.
I'm open about our struggle now, as well as our journey to meeting our two beautiful daughters. But before we pursued adoption, we felt broken, lost, confused and angry at the world.
When you begin the process of starting a family, you don't expect to hit roadblocks.
There's all sorts of books about "What to Expect When You're Expecting," but there's no guidebook for "What to Expect When You're NOT Expecting."
I don't have a bestselling book [hey, maybe someday...], but I do have this corner of the world wide web...and this week during National Infertility Awareness Week, I've decided to use this space to share personal stories of infertility that I hope will encourage you and offer insight you'll find valuable.
Please check back daily for stories of women who have courageously allowed to let you all into what can be an extremely painful time in their lives.
Before guest posts begin, I'm going to share what I shared at this weekend's Voices of Infertility event in Waterloo:
10 Things to Expect When You're [NOT] Expecting
1. Expect this time in your life to be a roller coaster.
You'll go from a hopeful heart to picking up a broken pregnancy test after slamming it against the wall when you see the 238440th negative sign. [Not saying this has ever happened...eh hem...]
2. Expect to be angry.
Sometimes it may feel like no one understands what you're going through and that your thoughts about others seem cruel.
But infertility is painful and isolating.
It's okay to be mad at the fact that you're struggling to achieve what so many people get to experience freely.
3. Expect to restrain yourself when people complain about being pregnant.
There's nothing worse than women who appear to be ungrateful for an opportunity that's been so difficult for you to experience.
I know you'd happily waddle around in swollen ankles and smile [okay, maybe not smile...but gracefully cope] with morning sickness if it meant you could experience pregnancy.
4. Expect to nod and smile.
People will think they have all the answers.
"Just relax." "Go on a vacation." "Adopt." "Try this position." "Try that diet." "Try acupuncture." "Try this herb or that supplement..."
You may want to practice nodding and saying, "Okay," for every absurd piece of advice from well-intentioned people who think they're experts.
5. Expect to feel broken.
I can't tell you how many times I curled up in a fetal position on my bathroom floor and begged God to fix me.
But hear this from me: As broken as you may be feeling right now, you do not deserve to experience what you are going through. Infertility is not your fault.
6. Expect infertility to consume you.
There are dozens of message boards and Facebook groups where you can chat about cycle days and upcoming procedures.
It may become your life.
You can easily be consumed in learning about others' experiences and comparing them to your own.
While sometimes these situations allow you to second guess your path and decisions, these types of avenues can be really great at reminding you that you're not alone.
7. Expect to grieve.
Infertility is the loss of a dream.
While there's no tangible baby you're sad about, it's okay to cry about the loss of the future you planned for your family.
It's also completely normal to grieve differently than your spouse or partner.
Allow yourself time and grace to heal.
8. Expect to be anxious.
If you're dealing with infertility, you likely have about five calendars for different cycle days and appointments and procedures.
It's hard to not be anxious when it seems like your body has turned into a human pin cushion and revolves around a monthly calendar.
And dare I say the phrase, "Two-week wait?"
When you have no control over your future or the outcome of what you're trying to achieve, it's terrifying and completely okay to be anxious.
Don't allow yourself to drown in anxiety, though. It may be a good option to seek professional help (a lot of people who struggle with infertility do).
9. Expect to blame yourself.
It's completely normal to feel like infertility is your fault.
But, friends...It's not true.
We don't blame ourselves for cancer or diabetes or any other health diagnosis.
Don't blame yourself for infertility either.
You didn't choose to be infertile.
If it hasn't already, infertility will change you, and it will change you forever.
I tell people all the time that I'm not grateful for going through what we went through, but I am grateful for what it taught me.
I'm grateful for it strengthening my marriage.
I'm grateful for our experiences because they reshaped the vision we had of our family.
I'm grateful for all the chaos that motherhood brings because I waited so long and worked so hard to get here.
And I'm grateful for the people I've met along the way -- the bond of shared heartache is a strong one, and we infertility warriors have to stick together.
|Infertility Warriors. Love that we've made it to the "other side" via different ways, but we still continue advocating and supporting others on their infertility journeys!|
National Infertility Awareness Week is April 19-25. This post was submitted as part NIAW's theme: "You Are Not Alone." If you are an infertility warrior and willing to keep this conversation going, please contact me.