Outside of the basic mechanics of baby-making, it turns out that I didn’t know all that much about my own fertility. The process of getting pregnant seemed so very straight-forward. For a long time, you try not to do it; then you decide you want to have a baby, you get busy, you pee on a stick and you wait 9 months. Voila – a baby! What else is there to know? Then you throw the word ‘infertility’ into the mix and I am actually embarrassed about how little I knew about the process of making babies. I was also surprised how long I stumbled around in the dark without finding resources that I felt spoke to my experience.
The big medical sites were general and lacked the details and personal experience I was looking for. Message boards had the personal experience but were full of infertility abbreviations and acronyms and questionable advice. I tried to dive right into research papers on my own and I just didn’t have the expertise to appropriately contextualize the information. Lastly, were the dreaded baby sites that had small sections focused primarily on trying to conceive and less so on infertility. Who doesn’t want to research infertility while looking at pictures of adorable babies and pregnant bumps? Me. And likely you, too.
On my journey to parenthood, there is a lot that I learned about my own fertility, but these stood out as lessons that I should have already known or at the very least that I should have clued into quicker than I did:
You don’t just ‘do’ IVF
I felt an odd sense of comfort for a while thinking that if it came to it, we’d just ‘do’ IVF and everything would be OK. Anyone who has ever been through this process can tell you how this is simply not true. The multi-step process of IVF is complex, expensive, emotionally draining, and most of all – not a guarantee.
Getting pregnant is not the same as staying pregnant
Your goal is simply to get pregnant and then you might be unfortunate enough to realize that you can get pregnant only to end up not pregnant again. I had no concept of the physical and emotional aftermath experiencing a miscarriage could leave in its wake – especially after struggling to conceive in the first place. I don’t know how I hadn’t ever heard about the options to treat a miscarriage or that my grief was valid.
Infertility is not a single experience
There is no right way to experience infertility. I had assumed that there was an if A then B approach when it comes to infertility. There certainly are common aspects, but there is no linear path to walk down because the options available vary and the decisions required to be made are so deeply personal. There are choices that are right for you but not for others. Because of this, there is no ‘best path’ to walk – only what works for you as an individual or couple. You know your situation better than anyone else.
Infertility messes with what you know about yourself
Experiencing infertility can mess with what you think you know about yourself and make you feel ways that you didn’t think were possible. I had some seriously rage-y thoughts when other people got pregnant that were so real and true down to my core. This wasn’t common jealousy that I had experienced before – it was something more. I knew that their pregnancy had no impact on my situation, but I absolutely could not shake the icky thoughts. I know now that this isn’t that uncommon. This is one of the reasons why infertility blogs can be an amazing resource. Bloggers openly and honestly share a wide variety of experiences and opinions that help to normalize infertility and the feelings that come with it.
I feel like I took the long way round to learn these lessons and I don’t think that was necessary. There was a lot of emotional energy wasted and wheels spun over an experience that is relatively common. What I needed was a middle-of-the-road option for information that offered accessible yet detailed information on infertility, along with exposure to a variety of experiences and opinions. This is why I started fertilitysmarts.com. The goal of this site is to offer information and profile varied experiences to help you get smart about your fertility.
I don’t know if there is a way to truly reduce the burden of infertility, but hopefully the ability to access information and the experiences of others can help to reduce the unnecessary mental runaround. Also, you won’t have to stare at baby bumps while you click away. That’s a double bonus in my books.