Lessons I Learned from Infertility

As much as I hate to admit that infertility has done anything good for me, there are quite a few important lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years…

A year ago, I was struggling. We were only 6 months into trying to conceive, and I was quickly losing my mind. Every day I battled tears, anxiety, fear, shame and a string of “Worst Case Scenario’s” that flipped through my brain like a never-ending rolodex on speed. There was no hope. Only heavy darkness.

And then I had an idea…what if I started an anonymous fertility Tumblr blog documenting our journey, (both the struggles and hopes). What if I didn’t tell a soul I was doing it, so there was no pressure to say the right thing…it’d be a totally safe space to crack open my infertile heart and let all the anger and resentment and fear just pour out of me.

So I started a Tumblr account and just started writing. Never did I think anyone would read my words or give a crap about what I had to say. I also never thought I’d find real friends on Tumblr. But I was blown away by the outpouring of love and support and “Me too’s!” that came out of the decision to share my story.

Here are a few lessons that I’ve learned as a TTC blogger:

  1. You’re allowed to be mad. At the beginning of 2015, I was SO HARD on myself. Anytime I felt jealous over a friend’s pregnancy announcement or heartbroken when my period came, I felt like an incredibly unevolved failure of a person. Why couldn’t I “just” be happy for all that I have? Why couldn’t I “just” be happy for other people? Why was everything all about me? Was I a bad person? Waves of guilt were drowning me every single day. But now I give myself permission to feel sad or lonely or misunderstood or jealous. Because I know that is part of being alive. So I try to recognize my feelings, write about it or talk about it, and then move on.
  2. Whatever happens, none of us are ever alone. Going through infertility can be incredibly lonely. Unless you’re an open book, most people probably don’t even know you’re going through this, which can feel so isolating. But sharing my story especially with women who have been through it before and hearing their stories has made me realize that there is an army of strong, loyal, determined ladies in this world all fighting the same battle. Let’s share with each other and confide in each other and cheer each other on. Cool?
  3. We have very little control over what happens to us. The most exasperating, crazy-making part of this journey for me has been the complete lack of control. I grew up believing that if you worked hard and tried your best, you’d be rewarded. When it came to schoolwork, staying in shape, getting a job, making money…my thinking was so linear! Hard work + determination = Money, Job, First Chair Violin, A+ on the test, or whatever the goal was. Today I am almost embarrassed at how naive this thinking is. I can’t believe I made it 30 years on this planet believing that simple formula was all that stood between your reality and your goal. Life is so much more complicated than that…sure we can try our best but that’s not always enough to please the fates. There’s a Polish saying that goes, “Pray to God and swim to shore.” I love this because it recognizes that you can’t JUST do one or the other.
  4. Being uncomfortable is OK. When you’re battling infertility, friendships, relationships and marriages get messy. Conversations can get uncomfortable in record time. You feel awkward. Vulnerable. Embarrassed. And that is part of life! Being able to sit in the discomfort and work through the muck and mess makes you a stronger, more realized person. It’s how you truly connect with the people in your life. So when people ask you, “How are you?” It’s ok to be honest and cry or break down. Let your friends be there for you. It’s ok for them to be uncomfortable for 5 minutes and listen to your story. They’re your friends and family for a reason; use them.
  5. This feeling, whatever it is, is only for now. I’m a big musical theater geek and when it comes to fertility I always think of the song from Avenue Q, “For Now.” Here are some of best lyrics:

 

Nothing lasts, life goes on, full of surprises.

You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.

You’re going to have to make a few compromises, for now…

But only for now!

For now we’re healthy. For now we’re employed.

For now we’re happy, if not overjoyed.

And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now…

But only for now!

What I love about this song is how it articulates one of the biggest comforts and anxieties of being alive; that everything is temporary. Some moments are happy. Others are crushing. And we flip flop between a million emotions every single moment. There’s comfort in knowing that all feelings, even the really dark and tragic ones are only temporary. Everything in life is only temporary.

Elyse Ash is the founder and CEO of Fruitful Fertility. She and her husband Brad have been trying to conceive since September 2014 and live in Minneapolis with their cat, Puck. Elyse loves poetry, hockey, social justice, Beyonce and pretending she’s into yoga.

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