What infertility taught me about motherhood

I have never struggled with infertility or loss, and at times I have taken my womb for granted. I didn't really think about it much, until one by one, I was surrounded by infertility, the 1 in 8, those with empty arms, and those whose journeys to motherhood were costly and came after many years and tears shed. infertility

Infertility and the cost of selfishness

I remember when I was pregnant with my first, I was one of those people who just "didn't get it." I didn't love pregnancy and when friends who were struggling to conceive would ask me how I was doing, I would blurt out how uncomfortable, in pain, and sick I was. I wanted so desperately for someone to notice and care about me, and in exchange for my selfishness I hurt those around me. One friend even took me aside to tell me how hurtful it was, and I still didn't understand. I was indignant. Didn't I have the right to feel how I did? I stammered an apology, but thought, "How dare she hold up a mirror to me!" Since that moment I have wished many a time with a broken heart that I could go back and say, "You are right. You are so right. I am so sorry. I shouldn't have complained like that to you." I wish I would have hugged her and cried with her, and gotten off of my pedestal of self-importance to meet her in her pain. 

It took me a long time before I was able to let go of being so absorbed in myself that I couldn't see what was going on around me. I had such a complaining spirit. I loved my children, but I struggled with motherhood, with depression, with anxiety, with chronic illness and exhaustion. My pain was very real and valid, but I failed to see how the way I spoke came across as total disregard and ingratitude to those around me who would give anything to be struggling with MY problems if it meant that their arms could be full, too. I spent so much time fretting about getting pregnant again and not being able to afford it right now, as if a full womb was the worst thing that could happen to me, as if the blessing of another child was the one thing that was going to do me in.

Attitude adjustment

I watched a woman hold my baby and sob and it hit me: I will never know that pain. I will never know that emptiness, that deep, primal, guttural cry that comes when everything in you screams to be a mother, but no baby comes. I was convicted of my complaining, of the times that I resented these beautiful gifts. I looked at both my children with renewed gratitude that night. I hugged them, I kissed them, and I felt the fullness in my own arms and allowed myself to feel a little of the pain of others. I cried, alone, but with them and for them. Yes, my struggles matter, but I can choose places to put those struggles that do not add to the pain and compound the grief of others.

No, I don't have to savor every moment, but I can choose to be grateful. I can choose a different perspective. I can remind myself that these temporary sleepness nights, the push and pull on my sanity that is being a mom, the times where I long for a moment's peace... those are still gifts. They are my gifts and I can choose to see that my blessing far outweighs my burden.

If you are struggling or have struggled with infertility, I want you to know that I see you. That your pain matters. I see the sacrifice you make of your bodies, your dignity, your pride as you search for answers. May you always find safety with me, a warm cup of coffee, a place where I put myself aside and meet you as you are. You are loved and you are cared for. Thank you for what you have taught me about motherhood.

 

If only I had a doula while dealing with infertility (a ProDoula challenge)

This is part 2 of a two-part blog series titled, “If only I had a doula.” ProDoula, the certification agency used by Doulas of Memphis, issued a blog challenge to write about a time where we could have used the support of a doula. Today, our own Lindsey Hanna talks about her struggle with infertility. Lindsey and Thor, sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes the baby in the baby carriage... I remember singing that song as a child, don’t you? That’s how I expected life to go, but as things often happen that’s not how my life worked out.

infertility, baby carriage

Infertility

Even the sight of the word hurts my heart. I vividly remember every negative pregnancy test, every office visit, and every question as to why we hadn’t had kids yet. Every month my heart would break as the period didn’t come but the tests screamed NEGATIVE. I was barely keeping it together as everyone told me to “just relax” or to start the adoption paperwork and it would all work out.

In it for the long haul

After two years of trying, I was finally referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. Numerous tests later I finally got a diagnosis: PCOS. It explained everything, the lack of periods, the extra weight around the middle, and most of all the infertility. I thought getting the answer would fix it, and it did help that I knew what was wrong, but even then the treatments weren’t working. I felt like my body had failed me. Another test, you need to try IUI… failed. Another IUI...failed. Another test, you need surgery…

I was ready to give up

Thankfully my husband wasn’t ready to throw in the towel quite yet. IUI number three worked. It had taken another 8 months to finally see this...

pregnant after infertility

 

If I’d only had a doula

My husband tried to understand the best he could, but he never really understood how deeply it cut me each month. My mom even tried to step in and help. They both spent many an hour with me as I cried. I needed a doula to get me through not only the months, but the hours. A doula would have recommended a reproductive endocrinologist long before I thought to see one two years in. She would have sat with me as I cried so I wasn’t alone on the floor of my bathroom each month. She would have reminded me that I wasn’t alone, even though more than anything that’s how I felt. My doula would have reminded me that just because I couldn’t have a baby it didn’t mean I was a horrible wife and worthless woman. Oh, how I wish I’d known a doula for my infertility journey!

My journey through infertility was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go though and it’s still not over. A part of me wishes that I didn’t have that in my past, but another part is glad I do, because it has helped to make me the person I am. Because of my experience with infertility, I have so much more compassion for other women, no matter their situation. I’ve learned to be more careful of the words I speak, because you never know what the person on the other end of those words is dealing with.

Authored by Lindsey Hanna

If you are dealing with infertility, please know that you are not alone. Doulas of Memphis is here for you if you’d like to reach out for support and/or resources.