Wow... 100 posts. When I think about that number... and think about the span of time it covers, I feel slightly saddened. I had hoped by now I'd have welcomed a beautiful little baby of my own into this world. Or perhaps at least was expecting one soon! But here, 100 posts later, I'm not much further from where I started.
Infertility is an interesting beast. And I think "beast" is an appropriate word to describe it. It's scary, it's enormous, it's powerful in its own right, and it sure as heck is unpleasant. Odd thing is, I felt doomed to experience this path long before we started trying. I can't explain that adequately to those who've never had an overwhelming gut instinct or premonition about something. But I did, and it knocked me to the ground that day. Nonetheless, I could never have imagined how consuming it would really be. How crippling, how isolating, how devastating, and how utterly frustrating the experience would feel. I also never could have imagined how much I'd learn and grow in the process.
See today is U.S. thanksgiving, and in tradition I pause to reflect on what I'm most thankful for. This is one of the first years I can place infertility and grateful in the same sentence, because in a strange way, I AM grateful for my infertility. I am, and I mean that so truthfully. I wouldn't wish infertility on my worst enemy, and I sure as heck would like to come out the other side now, but what I have gained in the process I'd never want to take back.
I'm Grateful for Better Health
Since I can remember I've struggled with my health. I was chronically fatigued, major food sensitivities that came with bloating and constipation... I had insanely painful spells where I'd be on the bathroom floor sobbing dripping in sweat trying not to vomit from abdominal cramps. Normal painkillers wouldn't help... narcotics only slightly. I'd leave social engagements and be accused of being a hypochondriac or drama queen. Sadly, I was actually chronically ill, and it sucked. Only in my university years when I became sexual active and subsequently found that intercourse was painful for me, did a diagnosis of endometriosis get tossed around. Without an openness or willingness to have diagnostic surgery, I ignored it... hoped they were wrong, that it would simply go away or magically get better on it's on. When we started trying for a family and discovered it wasn't going to be easy for us, I finally opted to make the necessary lifestyle changes to up our odds. I sought out acupuncture, naturopathy, food intolerance testing, and made substantial changes to diet. Years into our fertility journey, during a routine biopsy cells indicative of endometriosis were found, and our suspicions officially confirmed. That was the moment I started taking it even more seriously. I followed up with allergy testing (spoiler alert - I'm allergic to everything), and started making my health a priority. Now, I'm more vibrant than I ever remember being. I have more energy, I have a better appetite and all around just feel MUCH healthier. I can't say I'd be here if it weren't for this journey.
I'm Grateful for Perspective & Empathy
Ignorance is bliss isn't it? When you aren't subjected to certain experiences in your time on earth, you have the privilege of turning a blind eye. You don't have to imagine what it would be like. You probably couldn't do justice in your imagination if you tried in most instances. Cancer? PTSD? Infertility? It may be surprising, or sound unjustified to put those three together, but many experienced psychologists have drawn comparisons between them. They break you down into little pieces, and its up to you to decide to fight through it or not.... whether or when and how you will try to put those pieces back together again. And trying doesn't always lead to success. Sometimes it's outside our control... outside our capabilities. Having gone through infertility, having experienced it personally, and deeply, I've gained a tremendous amount of perspective. All those questions I used to see as perfectly acceptable, no longer made sense to me. Flaunting my successes or happinesses on social media, not so satisfying knowing it could cause others pain. It doesn't just apply to infertility. I won't ask people the age old questions like "so when are you popping the question/getting married?" for how am I to know if marriage is something they even believe in, or want? "When are you going to start having kids!?" An infertile staple I've become so sensitive to from the personal experience of being there in that moment, at a party surrounded by people I don't know, trying to choke back the flood of tears boiling beneath the surface. I know how it feels to have to excuse myself early because I feel so embarrassed, so uncomfortable, so much a failure in society's eyes. In my own eyes. Instead, I choose to carry myself through those interactions and life with compassion, and without assumption.
Research has shown that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as do women with cancer, heart disease and HIV+ status. While this may surprise some, it actually makes sense. Procreation is the strongest instinct in the animal kingdom. You are facing genetic and social pressure to have a baby. You are likely surrounded by friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and a society who conceive easily. Infertility can be very lonely.
I could probably list others.... grateful for my relationship's truest test... and passing with flying colors! I am grateful for the community I've found in women going through infertility and the relationships forged in the trenches. I am grateful for my spiritual journey through which I've also learned that these lessons and this idea of gratitude extend beyond the boundaries of infertility. My mind and heart are so much more open than they used to be. If I could go back and magically change my journey would I? I'm not so sure anymore, because I wouldn't be where I am today, wouldn't be who I am today... and I happen to like the me I am.
To all of you out there still struggling with accepting your journey, still working through the pain, the depression, the sadness. Let yourself grieve. Love yourself. Take breaks. Remember you are MORE than your infertility. But above all, learn to be grateful. Learn to find gratitude in your life wherever you can find it. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be blessed with some positive shifts as a result.
Blessings to you all. And good luck ;) I know we could all use a little extra of that too!