Seven years ago, the word “infertile” was used to describe me for the very first time. I was only 26 years old, still single, and still living under the delusion that I had all the time in the world to figure my future out.
Until the day I was told my fertility had become a now or never proposition.
In the year that followed, I pursued two rounds of IVF, banking on the hope offered to me by doctors and the sperm donor I had chosen with care. Both rounds failed, and by 27, I was broke, heartsick, and facing the painful reality that I had very few options left.
It was the most devastating time of my life. All I had ever wanted was to be a mother, and now, I wasn’t sure that dream would ever come to fruition. I felt lost and alone, convinced that I now had nothing to offer a future partner. There were times when I felt so destroyed by infertility, I honestly wasn’t sure I wanted to wake up another day.
But if I could reach across time, this is what I wish I could say to that girl today …
Dear Infertile Me,
I thought about you this morning, as my little girl leapt into my arms at daycare pickup and shouted, “You missed me!” It’s her standard greeting these days, a smile spread from cheek to cheek as she beats me to the punch.
“You missed me,” she repeats. And I can’t help but think, she has no idea how much.
You’re often on my mind during these moments of motherhood — the ones I know you once feared you’d never have. My heart breaks when I think of you, huddled in a corner of your closet, crying so hard that you couldn’t breathe. Sobbing alone, with no one in arms reach to comfort you. Living a life where it seemed as though everyone around you was getting the very thing you wanted so desperately.
Growing bellies became the backdrop of your world; even as your own stomach remained unwaveringly flat.
I think of you when my daughter sits and lets me braid her hair — something I am admittedly not the best at. I think of you when she learns something new and shares it with me with glee, and when she wakes up from a nightmare and can be comforted only by me.
I think of you in both the good times and the bad, and often wish that I could somehow reach back to you through time, and give you a preview of what’s to come.
Of the life you were so afraid you would never have.
I know this isn’t how you necessarily want it to be. You want to carry your baby beneath your heart — not because you believe in the superiority of your genetics, but because you want to be the one protecting that little life from the start. You want to feel the kicks, to watch as your body changes, and to be the one experiencing that intimate connection that comes with creating another life.
You’re still angry that you can’t have that; so much so, that for a long time, you’ll discount the idea of adoption entirely. And I get that. I understand.
But I wish you could see what your life is like today. And I wish you could know that the love you will feel for this little girl couldn’t possibly be any greater than it is.
All your fears about adoption, and all your worries for the future … they’ll turn out to be unwarranted. Because this life you now lead? It is more than you ever could have dreamed it would be.
Still, I know that what you’re going through is just part of the process. I know you have to cry. You have to ache. You have to mourn. Because you have every right to grieve.
If I had one wish though, it would be for the ability to somehow reach back and show you that the place you’re in now is as bad as it will ever get. It is the worst of the worst. I wish I could help you to understand that, if only because it might make these days easier to get through.
Because maybe knowing that it’ll get better will help you breathe again.
Yes, there will still be times when the sight of a growing baby bump will sting. Times when you’ll wish that you could have been the one to carry your girl beneath your heart. Times when you will hurt over the fact that her other mama is hurting, or that your daughter might hurt, simply because adoption is complicated and there will be times when she struggles to process where she fits into that equation.
But even if it hadn’t been adoption, I truly believe that somehow, some way, things were going to take a turn for you. You were already headed in a direction of healing, even before this little girl came along. You were redefining yourself and your life, determined to find some way around the pain. Determined to get up from off that closet floor.
So please know, infertility will not steal your happiness forever.
It will not destroy your life the way I know you currently fear it might.
Yes, it will always be a part of you. Even if you had gotten pregnant through IVF, infertility would have continued to be a piece of who you are. But it isn’t everything anymore. And it hasn’t been the one thing capable of bringing you to your knees in grief in a very long time.
It gets better. You get better. Right now, where you are, is the most painful part. Because you can’t see the future and you can’t see a way around all the hurdles. So don’t even force yourself to try. Accept that right now, this just sucks. And it’s not fair. And you deserve better.
But know that with time, you’ll have it. Know that the future laid out before you will make all of this seem so worth it in the end.
I wish that I could hug you. Or listen to you. I wish that I could be the person who held you and understood, and allowed you to bury all your grief in someone else. But I can’t, because I’m too far removed from it now. Because I know how it all turns out.
So instead, I’ll just tell you … It gets better. You’ll get better.
Until then, cry all the tears you need to cry. Because this sucks. And it’s not fair. But soon, you’ll be out of the tunnel. You just need to look for the light.
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