I hope you never really understand
I started this blog back in April asking for love, support and friendship. Along the way, I have tried to break down some of the infertility myths and educate people on what is and is not true about infertility. Back in April, I thought I wanted people to understand what Jeremy and I are going through. Our story is not unique-millions of folks are going through the exact same things right now- but our story is ours and the only one I can tell. I thought sharing our journey would open a door into what infertility feels like, while giving me a place to put my feelings on "paper". But, what I have realized is that unless you are going through it, the best I will ever do is pull back the curtains on the window of infertility. I can show you a glimpse of this world but, in truth, unless you endure it, you will never understand it.
Some people believe infertility can be compared to the grief one feels when losing a loved one. Others would say there is no way it feels like that. I can tell you first hand, losing someone you love dearly is a different type of grief than dealing with the failures of infertility. My mother died shortly after I turned 24. On the outside, most people thought that I did just fine dealing with her loss. I delivered the eulogy at her funeral and had a hand in making all of the arrangements. I was fine, until it all stopped. Suddenly, she wasn't there, and there was nothing else in her spot to take my mind off of it.
For many months, everyone thought I was still doing ok. But, my then new husband Jeremy, as well as my sister and my grandmother, began to see the cracks in the facade. I was depressed, no way around it. I couldn't get through the day without losing my concentration because of my grief. I was lost. Eventually, my family forced me to get the help I desperately needed. I shied away from it because of the stigma associated with mental health issues. But, honestly, I needed that help, temporarily, to get out of a very bad place. I lost my mom, one of my closest friends, and I had no idea how to cope. The help I received allowed me to realize it was a process of learning how to deal with a world in which my mother was no longer a part. It let me see there was no shame in taking the time I needed to really heal and to process the fact that she was gone forever.
So, how does this relate to my struggle with infertility? Months ago, I realized I once again needed help. I couldn't concentrate and my anxiety was non-stop. But, this time, no one had to force me to seek help. I asked. So, off to Dr. S I went. He was aware of my history with depression and was able to see right away that once again I was dealing with what he called "situational" depression that was triggered by a trauma. I needed help because I was dealing with something bigger than me... once again, I was dealing with the world in which someone I loved dearly was missing from. It just so happens this person doesn't yet exist.
Dr. S's words allowed me to truly believe that infertility is more than just a set back or a bump in the road. It's a trauma- something that changes us and sometimes defines us. It is out of our hands and hurts us in fundamental ways. Just like any other trauma, it doesn't mean I'll never recover. But, it means it is a real and devastating part of my life. In all my time trying to start a family, I can tell you the monthly failure is truly traumatic.
So, when I think about my initial goal of fostering understanding for infertiles with this blog, I've decided I've changed my mind. I genuinely hope none of you ever understand. I hope you have empathy and are able to hear the pain of those going down this road, but I hope you never personally know the pain. Because, in my opinion, the only way you will truly ever understand is to walk this path as well. I wish that on no one, ever.
Dealing with the difficulties of infertility is unlike grieving for a lost loved one because, in truth, most people don't understand the sense of loss that surrounds infertility. They don't "get" why you are sad when you can just try again. There is no memorial, because you hold out hope each month that you'll find your "solution." You pray that the feeling of an incomplete family is not the end-- but rather the preface before your journey as a parent begins. But, there is true grief each time you fail.
So, when someone you love tells you about their struggles with infertility, I still beg you not to offer up a "just relax" or other "conventional wisdom." Don't tell them you understand because you didn't get something you wanted once. I beg you, don't tell them to adopt because they may have ventured down that path and been hurt there, too. Just listen if they need to talk, and understand that, for your infertile friend, the world isn't quite right. It isn't that they don't have the corner office or the beach house, but their life has been shaped by the inability to have a family-- a family they desperately want. There is someone perpetually missing from their lives, someone they feel like they might already know in their heart, but they can't seem to find in this life.