The morning my hundredth or so pregnancy finally showed two lines, I was confused…then thrilled…then secretly disappointed. While my heart galloped happily with the prospect of adding to our family, it stalled when I considered that I was betraying my sisters in the tribe of infertility.
Infertility was something I had fought through for nearly 7 years. The sharp pains of childlessness had been eased 5 months earlier when we adopted our daughter Coco. But I had fought a quiet war to find my children, alongside women I revered, and I didn’t want to add to their pain or surrender my identity as one of them.
I related with these women: with the pain of grieving children I might never know, the hurt of feeling broken, the ache of feeling helpless. I knew what it was like to sit exposed in doctors offices feeling like a broken piece of machinery. I knew how it felt to be so full of unnatural hormones that you would cry when your toast burnt. I knew what it was like to try anything from blue lasers to acupuncture, (which was peaceful until they hooked up electricity to it, and tried to jump start my ovaries.) I knew what it was like to have a miscarriage that nearly killed me, and I knew what it was like to feel so hopeful and then get your period and weep in a public bathroom.
I have four beautiful children now. And they are worth every effort I made to find them, but I wanted to share my experience with others, whether they have been struggling for 6 months or 6 years. So that we can all feel a little less alone.
- Find others to Love
While you are seeking motherhood with the whole purpose of your being, you may be missing opportunities to mother right now. Pregnancy is not a prerequisite to nurturing. There are hungry father-in-laws, and overwhelmed sisters, there are friends suffering from too little clean laundry, and husbands who need foot rubs. People need to be prayed for, listened to, and looked after. Someone you know is hurt, lonely, and exhausted, and regardless of whether they are minors, they need mothers. Even mothers need mothers.
Ardeth G. Kapp wrote, “You need not possess children to love them. Loving is not synonymous with possessing, and possessing is not necessarily loving. The world is filled with people to be loved, guided, taught, lifted, and inspired.”
- Find Other Wins
Pregnancy is not something you have complete control over. And the more determinedly you pursue it, the farther it can sometimes seem to slip away. While I applaud dedication to finding family, I also advocate living the life you have in front of you now. You can start by setting other goals to pursue: start training for a marathon, plan a trip abroad, take on a new project at work, look into ways to serve your community. Having a variety of interest and pursuits will keep you healthy and strong enough to pursue your fertility goal to its fullest. And remember pregnancy isn’t going to solve every problem you have. And the more you invest in yourself, the better mother you will be. Meeting with a counselor alone or with your spouse may be the best thing you can do to prepare for parenthood. Someday you may even be able to look back on these childless days as a blessing.
- Trust Yourself
You may need additional help to find your children, but you are the captain of your fertility team. You are the expert on your body, your circumstances, and your family. If you feel off-track, do your own research, and discuss your findings and feelings with your team. Don’t be afraid to explore a different path or just take a break. You know what you need best.
- Set a Budget
Even if you are lucky enough to possess an unlimited monetary budget, we all have a limit on our emotional, spiritual, and physical energy. Decide before you start, how far you will go. How many rounds of IVF can you commit too? How many different doctors and treatments will you explore? How many rounds of surrogacy or adoption can you afford? Discuss with your partner their limits as well. One of you may be committed at a stronger level, and one or both of you will need to compromise to keep your relationship healthy throughout the process. Remember that it’s ok to decide that you can’t afford the financial, emotional, or spiritual costs of pursuing children further. Don’t feel pressure to drive yourself to personal ruin, consider and abide by your own limits.
- Be Open to Other Options
There is more than one way to start a family. Two years into infertility, we looked into adoption and decided it wasn’t right for us. We weren’t ready and our daughter wasn’t ready. But three years later, we knew it was the path for us. Adoption has been one of the sweetest blessings in our life. Finding Coco through a selfless birth mother was nothing less than a miracle. And she is just as much a part of us as any of our biological children. Whether you explore donated eggs, donor sperm, surrogacy or decide that it’s time to find purpose with people and projects outside of parenting. The most important thing connecting families isn’t biology. Families are connected by love and commitment.
I hope this tips helped you, but what I believe helped me the most was talking to others who I felt like understood my situation. Feel free to add to the comments below to share your story, questions, or encouragement.
Photos by The Jadeite Shutter