I’ve written before about my personal experience with infertility and loss, and the lessons I took away from it. The statistics are clear. Odds are that someone you know has been, is or will be walking through their own experience with infertility and/or pregnancy loss. It seems to be all around us, and yet it can feel so isolating for those currently going through it.
So much of what makes life meaningful is found in relationships. Some are lifelong and immediate…the unwavering love of my parents, the steadfastness of my brother, the bonds of dearest cousins, the childhood friend with whom the passing of time never seems to matter. Some are short-lived, but fondly remembered, like the college classmates who shared an achingly long-winded history professor. The most meaningful relationships of my adulthood have usually started from a common ground…noticing my future husband because of the band patches on his backpack…training for a half marathon with a neighbor, who became a close friend…hiking buddies turned unshakeable fixtures in my life…fellow volunteers who recognized each other as kindred spirits and morphed into bffs. Common ground can forge a path for meaningful connection.
When I was struggling to get pregnant, I found it difficult to talk with anyone about what I was experiencing. I watched my friends become pregnant, and then become parents…birthing babies and shared lexicons I did not yet have an understanding of. I felt like a pause button had been hit on the course I had visualized for my life. I was unsure of myself and of the future. I needed a way to feel like the ground beneath me was standing still again. I wanted to talk to someone with whom I had a common experience.
My first experiences of sharing an open conversation about what infertility feels like came in the form of online support groups. I found myself reading and replying to threads on the subject, and finding comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone. I also gained some knowledge of things to expect, a heads up on the physical toll certain meds can take, different treatments and what they entail, etcetera. I also had the chance to talk to a friend’s sister who had been to the same clinic I had an appointment with. She did not hold back from telling me how I would feel like I was being poked and prodded incessantly, while they did everything they could to figure out what was hindering me from getting pregnant. I was thankful for her candor. I felt an immediate connection to anyone who could relate to me in that moment of uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
The sisterhood of those who have struggled to get pregnant, gone through infertility treatments, suffered miscarriage, preterm loss or stillbirth is large and deeply caring and accepting of anyone who has walked the same path. No one asked to join it, and none of us can walk away from it. It marks you. I consider this both heartbreaking and beautiful. There is power in going through something that you thought would completely break you, and finding yourself on the other side of it…scarred, but still standing. There is beauty in feeling seen by those who have been bent under that same weight.
Since walking through everything I have experienced, I’ve been known to those on the inside or outskirts of my life as a poster child for infertility and loss. Over the years, I have had several people reach out to me when they find themselves in a similar heartache. When things were fresh, it sometimes felt awkward. I did not know how to respond when someone would ask how I was doing, or share their experiences with me. Time has shifted this feeling from awkwardness to openness. Now I embrace that I am often approached about the subject. If anything I have been through can be used to help anyone else feel less alone, then I will journey into hard memories to meet them where they are. It is always an honor to sit with someone who trusts me enough to share their story.