I haven’t talked a lot about our journey to getting pregnant. Infertility is a very complex world that will need explaining over many, many blog posts. Why haven’t I talked about it sooner? There’s really only one reason: I’m young. And I don’t really think that anyone would understand why someone who is only 25 years old would be actively seeking treatment rather than just “waiting for it to happen.” I have reasons, and a very long story, but that isn’t what this post is about.
Just know that we went through a little over a year of trying. We went through a lot of different medications, and we went through a lot of doctor bills, but mostly, we went through a lot of loneliness. There was only one person I was sharing our journey with in live time, and they lived states away.
The worst thing of all was pregnancy announcements. Most of my very close friends aren’t in a baby place in life, so the announcements I was getting were from more casual friends. People I do love but that I’m not very close to anymore. Facebook friends. And whenever I saw these announcements, I felt resentment. I was so jealous. It rebroke my heart every time it happened for someone else while I was struggling just to ovulate. And more than that, it made me resent myself. Who acts this way in response to a new life being created?
EXACTLY. That’s essentially how I viewed myself. A lonely witch, maybe part monster (those horns?), who never gets invited to celebrations because she cannot stand to see other people happy. I was empathizing on a deep, spiritual level with the Mistress of all Evil.
So of course, I never shared these feelings. They were dark, evil feelings that should never be shared. Sometimes, when it was someone closer to me, I felt a little different. When my cousin got pregnant, and when my one confidant herself got pregnant, it was a less evil feeling. Something more tempered with love. I felt glad for them on some level. It was an awful sort of happiness, one that hurt to feel. I’ve talked before about how much I love the movie Julie & Julia, and about one particular scene that has always stayed with me.
It’s a scene in which the happy, bubbly Julia Child receives a letter from her sister, in which she finds out her sister is expecting. She smiles a warm Julia Child smile and says “Well, isn’t that just wonderful?” But she can’t make it through this brief sentence before her voice cracks and she covers her mouth. She breaks down sobbing and her husband comforts her quietly. Through tears, she insists she’s “so happy.”
God, that’s exactly what it’s like. That moment encapsulated over a year of my life.
Now, even having been pregnant for 27 weeks, I still feel a knee-jerk reaction of negativity when I see a pregnancy announcement. I shake it off quickly, reminding myself of all the joy that had been showered on me when I announced mine. I remind myself that I don’t need to feel that way anymore, and really I ought not to ever have felt that way at all.
I have sort of shared my struggle with infertility, or at least hinted at it. I’ve shared that we tried a long time, and that it was very hard on us. And I have no problem going in to details to anyone who asks, even publicly on facebook or things like that. But I’ve never shared the feelings. I’ve said it was hard, and that I felt sad and lonely every time I got a negative. But I’ve never shared the experience of seeing my friends get positives. I was ashamed of that.
Then something extremely healing happened. One of my friends that had, in fact, gotten pregnant while I was struggling, was talking to me about pregnancy and all that. Of course, any of my friends who had recently been pregnant themselves were excited to hear all about mine. That’s such a blessing. But in the back of my mind I remember how upset I had been to hear about their pregnancy at the time, and that makes me feel like a witch again.
I mentioned that getting pregnant was difficult and she asked very politely (and with many expressions of understanding if I didn’t want to share) why. I told her about endometriosis, surgeries, PCOS, seeing fertility specialists, at home injections, the whole saga. And at the end, after merely hearing the action of the story without much talk of my feelings about everything, she said she was so sorry. She said she felt sorry for having shared so many pictures of her beautiful baby girl. She said it must have been awful to want a baby so bad, and to see your friends having what you couldn’t.
She said that by herself, I didn’t even hint at it. Someone listened to my story and imagined what I felt like. Someone put themselves in my shoes and actually apologized for something I always felt I should need no apology for. She took a second to put herself where I was, and she felt the feelings I felt so ashamed of, the feelings I thought were unhealthy and inhuman. Someone validated what I went through, someone realized that they hurt me without meaning to, someone said “I’m sorry.”
When things like infertility happen, it’s nobody’s fault. The universe, God, Satan, circumstance, and misfortune don’t apologize. There’s no one to say sorry. But I got an apology anyway. It’s so easy to feel that no one will ever know how hard it was to go through that. But people surprise you. People can imagine how you feel with accuracy.
This applies to all illness, all injury, all forms of isolation and loneliness. The times that people misjudge and misunderstand your feelings become the loudest thing in your mind. You have reason to believe no one can understand because you have come into contact with people who didn’t understand. But people can understand. It is possible for someone to step outside themselves, look through your eyes, and feel with your heart.
Let them in.
Don’t keep secrets.
Nothing was going to keep me from those emotional wounds. But by keeping the reasons secret, I kept myself from healing.
I’m not saying you should get on social media and write out every emotion you have all the time. But I could have opened the door a lot sooner. I could have said hey, I’m going through infertility and it’s hard. If you’re going through it too, let’s talk. And if you want to know more about it, let’s talk. There’s still some rather medieval stigma surrounding infertility. People do sometimes think you must have brought it on yourself somehow, or that you’re unfit or being punished. I was ashamed, and in a way that perpetuates the ideas. Why would I hide it and be ashamed if I wasn’t unfit or being punished for something? I was acting like I had a guilty conscience, which perpetuated the cycle.
But just like with invisible illness and chronic pain, if I had opened the door casually and spoken candidly, I not only could have raised awareness and contributed to the conversation about infertility, but I could have found empathy and support sooner. My confidant across the states told me that a million times. And I wrote on here all the time about the importance of sharing and not being ashamed of invisible illness. My own philosophy came easily with regard to chronic pain. It was not so natural with infertility.
So I guess I’m “coming out.” It’s long overdue. But from here on out, PCOS is going to get a lot more posts. I’ll admit to the mistakes I made, and I’ll work through these lingering feelings of guilt. Some people really do believe that keeping their health problems secret is “right for them.” I get it – I tried it. It only perpetuates isolation. I’m an introvert, I prefer working through problems myself. But some problems are too big for that. You need support. You are not an island.
People will surprise you.