November 17, 2015
Yesterday I read this Huffington Post article written by someone in the depths of despair regarding her infertility, wondering if and how she should go on trying to have a baby, and even if she did, if she was already irrevocably changed and doomed to forever carry a stone of grief in her heart.
I never got to the point of wondering if I would go on trying, only how to do it without wrecking my marriage. Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about this article, this woman, her agony. I thought about her through the night as rain pelted the windows. I thought about her during my run this morning. Then I showered, poured coffee into the Life Is Good mug I didn’t use for a long time, and wrote this in the comment section of the article:
I struggled so badly during my years of miscarriages and IVF that I titled my memoir about it What Didn’t Kill Me. I really thought it might. I now have two children who, yes, are incredibly healing, but also yes, I am changed forever.
To the author of this excruciating, poignant article, and others who see themselves in it, I am so sorry for your pain. I also offer this, with zero judgment and with exquisite awareness that I don’t know you or your whole story, that I am seeing but a pixel on the big screen of your journey.
As part of my continued healing, I have become involved as a Resolve volunteer and in a couple of online support forums, and what I am hearing are two camps of people who are struggling with the decision, or who have made the decision, to stop trying. There are those, though devastated by their journey and sorrowful about not having a child, feel a sense of bittersweet relief, a sense of re-claiming their lives. Enough. They are able to say enough, and they mean it. They can envision the ways in which they will learn to come to terms with their decision and find not only peace, but fulfillment and true happiness in their relationship, work, travel, involvement with chosen families or friends, art, animals, or myriad other things personal to them. They don’t carry regret or guilt of “giving up” or “not trying hard enough.” They don’t carry stones in their heart.
There are others who simply feel broken at the thought of life without children, and can envision only living with a hole, or stones, in their heart for the rest of their fractured lives. They are incapable of saying, Enough, even if they want to. To these people—to you—I humbly offer, don’t stop. Not, don’t ever stop. But don’t stop right now. Not because I don’t think you should stop but because you are saying you’re not ready to stop. You are conflicted. Don’t stop conflicted. Don’t stop unless or until you feel the other way. Find a way to take one more step forward. Consider one more option. Push one more time. You will either get your miracle, or you will be faced with the decision again. Which group are you in then?
If you get to where you will live a happy, fulfilled life without a child, you will still be living a happy, fulfilled life. If you can only live a happy, fulfilled life with a child, you will have a child, and live a happy, fulfilled life. Maybe—likely, even—not the way you wanted to have a child (you’ve already long passed that at least once just stepping out of the bedroom and into the doctor’s office), but you will have one. You do get to make that choice. I never used to say that. I still don’t want to say it, because I’m so afraid of hurting someone who understandably feels they don’t have a choice. But I’m afraid to not say it too, in case someone finds one last breath of hope or empowerment in it.
Though we all have different fertility journeys, the common thread is this: It is the waiting to know that is the agony. Waiting to know when you’ll ovulate, waiting to know if you’ll get your period or two pink lines. Waiting for the next doctor’s appointment, the next surgery, the next cycle to begin. Waiting to know the number of follicles, eggs, fertilization. Waiting for the beta, waiting for the beta to double. Waiting to know genetic test results, waiting for the next ultrasound. Waiting to know if there is still a heartbeat, or if there will ever be one. And the wait you find yourself in now, the worst wait of all, waiting to know how to feel and how to go on.
Don’t decide in the wait. Wait until you know. I don’t say any of this easily or lightly. This will probably be the hardest work of your life, and it’s so unfair. But your life deserves it. Tip the scale back. Only you will know how, and when. But know it. My heart is with you.