My journey through infertility was one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was hard on me emotionally, hard on me physically; it affected my marriage and my relationships with friends and family. It took a toll on my professional life. It made me doubt who I was as a person and the plan I had for my life.
It always seemed like it was another month, another negative test. There were Facebook posts with pregnancy announcements and pictures of brand new babies. I had to go to baby showers for friends and relatives. I always felt like life was moving ahead and I was spinning my wheels in the mud because the next step is supposed to be "baby" and it wasn't happening for me.
For me, loneliness was one of the hardest parts of my infertility. Although I was open about what my spouse and I were going through, I still felt alone. I had to fight my doctor to get a referral to a specialist, even though my medical history made it likely that infertility would be a problem.
While I was open about infertility, I understood why many people were and are not. All that unsolicited advice you are told comes with being a parent starts much earlier if you are struggling with pregnancy. Everyone and their aunt has an opinion, an idea, and a treatment that is sure to get you pregnant. It can range from alternative medicine, to "why not adopt? Then you are sure to get pregnant!" to recommendations for positioning. And really, who wants to listen to great aunt Edith on why missionary is best?
The advice was overwhelming, and at times hurtful. Being told to "just relax" had the opposite effect. I ended up stressing over not stressing! And the idea that adoption is a simple and easy process that always has a wonderful, happy ending, or that it is the fastest way to get pregnant, is naïve at best. All of the unsolicited advice, and then the tests, made me feel like my body and my uterus did not belong to me. After all, it's contents (or lack thereof) were everyone's business, right?
After my experience with infertility, pregnancy after infertility, and postpartum depression, I became a doula so that I could help others like me.
The important things I learned from my long journey to pregnancy were not the message board acronyms or the language of reproductive medicine. Infertility taught me compassion and awareness. I learned, the hard way, that asking about pregnancy and babies can be hurtful and even harmful. I learned how to ignore the unsolicited advice, a tool that served me well as a parent! I learned about open and honest communication with my partner and how incredibly vital that is. I learned about creating my own village of support from those all around me; a handpicked family that I could depend on no matter what. I learned about advocating for myself with doctors. Most importantly, I learned how to meet people where they are, emotionally and physically.
After my experience with infertility, pregnancy after infertility, and postpartum depression, I became a doula so that I could help others like me. Every day I use the lessons I learned through my experiences with infertility to make me a better doula and supporter of families. Now, I am often one of those who is chosen as part of someone else's village, a support person who will not given unsolicited advice or opinions.
Infertility is a hard and lonely path. And sadly it does not always have a happy ending. But surrounding yourself with a family of support, chosen because they are what you need in that moment, makes the journey a little easier.
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