I don’t know how to write this blog. I have read so many blogs, articles, journal entries, and more on infertility. I am not sure I can fill a hand with the number of friends who did NOT experience a miscarriage during their first pregnancy. While I deeply desire to be a mother, I am terrified of the fertility process. A large part of me feels like this part of life *should* be kept private. But, there’s that word. Should. Should usually leads to shame, and shame grows in silence. Maybe I am writing for my own sanity. Maybe these words will help someone else. I don’t know. I just know that we need to talk about these things, so I will start here.
I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) before it had a name. When I was 18, my doctor put me on synthetic hormones and birth control to manage the symptoms. PCOS is a “thing” now, and lots of people talk about it. It has gotten to the point, though, the term is thrown around so much that I think people perceive it isn’t a big deal. Well, it is. And it makes life pretty horrible sometimes. And I hate it right now.
In addition to the more common symptoms of PCOS – acne, weight gain, inability to lose weight, high levels of testosterone, insulin resistance, depression, anxiety, unusual hair growth, etc – infertility is also a common issue for women who have been diagnosed with PCOS. Having PCOS means that eggs don’t fully develop in my ovaries, so the undeveloped eggs can become cysts. Sometimes these cysts create a lot of pain. Sometimes they burst. Most importantly, these cysts mean that I don’t naturally ovulate. (For those of you who slept through 9th grade biology, ovulation is required in order to get pregnant.)
When Tim and I were dating, I told him that I had health issues that could potentially prevent pregnancy. We had many conversations about fertility, children, and our different options for becoming parents even before we got married. I wanted to be honest, and he wanted to be understanding. I know people who have broken up relationships due to infertility, and I was grateful to have met a man who was willing to walk this road, whatever it looks like.
But those were just conversations. The rubber had not met the road yet. Now we are in the game, and it is painful – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually painful. We are early in the TTC process (Trying To Conceive). Since getting off of birth control, I have felt absolutely horrible. I continue to experience extreme mood swings, a tremendous amount of physical pain, drastically decreased then increased appetite, and other side effects.
We knew this was coming. Tim is phenomenally compassionate and kind, trying to understand and asking great questions when things are murky. (He’s a male only-child, he’s never dealt with this stuff before!) I am working closely with my doctors to track, learn, and make good choices. I don’t need advice. I don’t need another book. I don’t need another at-home remedy. I need the space to just be afraid and sometimes, just to cry.
I have walked with friends through miscarriages, infertility, infant loss, and more, but I never thought about what it would feel like if faced with one of these tragedies myself. It’s too early to deem me “infertile”, but I have always known this struggle would come and now it is here. I think I am mostly scared to be honest about where I am because I don’t want the barrage of false encouragement. I don’t want the memes, quotes, or Bible verses people send to try to alleviate their own discomfort and make things “feel better”. Nothing makes fear feel better other than empathy.
Remember the movie Inside Out? Remember the scene where Bing Bong is crying, and Joy keeps dancing around him obnoxiously trying to “cheer him up” and he just becomes more despondent? Remember when Sadness sits down beside him, exhibits a comfort with silence, cries with him, and then he feels the freedom to stand up and keep moving?
We (I) don’t need more false encouragement. We (I) need empathy. In case you haven’t read a Brene Brown book yet (why the heck not?!?), empathy is the ability to crawl down into someone’s mess with them and just feel with them. Empathy isn’t a quote, or an “at least” statement, or a carb loaded meal, or more energy. Empathy is a person’s willingness to be uncomfortable in an uncomfortable situation. Empathy is compassion lived out in relationship.
Everyone is struggling with something. Whether it is health issues, financial issues, unemployment, grief, anger, infertility, parenthood, childhood, depression, anxiety, body image, weight loss, weight gain, or any of the other myriad issues that plague our human-ness, the person sitting next to you is struggling with something. That is the one thing we all have in common.
When someone is drowning, you don’t throw them a self-help book or a pretty calligraphy quote on a mountain range background. You jump into the water – the same water that is drowning them – and provide a calm presence and, in some cases, strength for a rescue.
I guess this post is more of a plea than anything. I know there are people out there who mean well but who are uncomfortable with discomfort. I am pleading with you to stop trying to “fix” the issue, and wrestle with wading into the discomfort. Sometimes the best words are “This really sucks. Nothing I can say will make it better.” A dear friend said those words to me last week over coffee, and my heart melted. It meant so much to me that she was willing to just stand in the discomfort of the situation and be with me.
Sometimes the best words are no words at all.
I don’t know where the Fertility Road will take us. Like I said, we are just getting to the TTC party, but I can tell you that I am afraid, and I am grateful for those who are willing to jump in the dark and not be afraid of my fear. I hope I am able to extend that same gift to others.