Since I missed my official “one year” anniversary by a few days, I can’t help but feel like mother’s day is a good occasion to mark one year of actually committing to this blog. Some of you might be surprised to know, I don’t dread mother’s day- don’t get me wrong, I have in the past- but not anymore.
So uh, one year. Wow. It truly is hard to believe that an entire year has passed since I actively started blogging, and ‘came out’ to my family friends about the deeply personal struggle that is infertility, and at the risk of sounding cliche, what a year it has been.
When I first hit publish on this post, I was tired, stressed, beaten down, broken-hearted and just… done. I’d reached a point where there was so much looming uncertainty in my life that I didn’t think I had anything to loose when I hit that blue “publish” button (and oh boy did that ever become a lesson). I didn’t know what my friends and family would have to say about me finally coming out to pretty much everyone I knew about an issue I struggled with on a daily basis. Truthfully, this blog had been in existence even before that- but mostly in the form of drafts, sitting in a folder on the internet, waiting until I was brave enough to hit that button.
What happened after definitely changed a lot for me; my relationships, my mindset, my health. And God, what a learning experience this past year has been.
I’ve learned I have the most incredible friends in the world.
Ever heard that idiom “Blood is thicker than water?” Well what you might not know is there is more to that idiom than meets the eye. The actual phrase is “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” meaning our chosen bonds, can sometimes be as strong, or even stronger than our familial ones.
From people I met only throughout this past year, to co-workers (and now former co-workers) who have been some of my biggest cheerleaders, to my tried and true, forever and ever, see-you-in-the-nursing-home childhood friends, I’ve received incredible words and symbols of support. These people don’t owe me the love one expects from family, but have freely given it anyway and in droves, when I need it most.
I know without a doubt one day, these same incredible people will be the first to celebrate with me and my husband when we can finally welcome a little one into our life. But I also know if that doesn’t happen, these same people will be there to lend an ear or a shoulder, or even a hand to pull me up and say; “Okay, what’s next?”
I’ve learned that family relationships sometimes take more work than friendships
Our familial bonds don’t necessarily mean that family will always understand infertility itself, or the decision to talk about it any better than your chosen family will. Many will, but sometimes the people we count on the most, can also be the ones who surprise and hurt us by letting us down. Of course, often your family comes through for you in ways you had never imagined too, whether it’s phone calls and text conversations that last into wee hours of the night , sensitive pregnancy announcements, or taking a stand on my behalf against those who are being insensitive or cruel, a lot of my family has been amazing.
But I’ll be the first to admit, I wasn’t prepared to be looking at both sides of the proverbial coin. At times, I forgot that my family is human too, and just like a stranger or a friend, they were just as capable of not ‘getting it’ as anyone else. I held members of my family to a higher standard when maybe I shouldn’t have and I definitely made some mistakes along the way, just like the people who hurt me.
I’ve learned that infertility is deeply misunderstood.
And dare I say it, taboo- even though it shouldn’t be. Back in university, a friend of mine told me a bit about her struggle to have a baby. And it is only now, confronting my own struggle years later, that I truly have any perspective when it comes to how she must have been feeling. Until dealing with it myself, I never understood just how much something like this can weigh on a person, day in, day out for months, years at a time.
And maybe a little unfairly, I expected people to have compassion surrounding an issue that is seldom spoken about by couples. I expected people in my life to understand the difference in experiences between trying to have a baby for one year (and succeeding) isn’t the same as trying and waiting for years- or worse, trying and never succeeding. I expected them to know that healing from loss isn’t a universal experience for everyone. I thought I was expecting basic human compassion, but I learned that people have limits for how much they are capable of showing, due to their own life experiences.
I’ve learned that hanging on to hope can be the single hardest thing you’ve ever done.
But it can also be the most motivating, can push you into action you’d often rather not take. My husband and I have gone from being a couple so scared of this beast we could barely talk to each other about it, to a team, strong and resolute and unwilling to go down without a fight. Blood tests and sperm analysis’, drug therapies and ultrasounds, we’re going through it all together and we’re hoping to beat this beast together too.
I’ve gone from entirely blaming myself and my body, to supporting a partner who has at times felt the same about himself. I no longer look at the prospect of IVF as a scary, end of the line kind of deal. It’s a plan- a realistic one- to look forward to, if we don’t succeed some other way.
And when the day comes that I get my big fat positive (BFP), and even if I don’t, I know I can look back at this entire year with zero regret.
I’ve learned to play the mental long-game
This one took me a while to get a handle on, and those who know me well, know how far I’ve come. And anyone on this journey with me knows that we all have good days and bad days. But I truly believe your mindset is one of your biggest offensive weapons; but it takes work to wield this one. You have to actively stay positive, focused and optimistic.
Last year the stress of infertility became almost too much to bear. I wasn’t sleeping, my blood pressure was steadily climbing, I felt like I was gaining weight, and I was letting other people and circumstances out of my control determine my well-being. And you can’t do that to yourself. There comes a point where you need to make a conscious decision to let all of that go. Send all that garbage out into the universe for someone else to find, because it doesn’t belong on your doorstep.
Instead I’ve chosen to focus on the path forward. I might not be able to have kids of my own. It’s something I’m still coming to terms with. But you know what? I absolutely love my husband, and if it’s just me and him for the rest of our lives, I’m okay with that. The longing to be a mom hasn’t gone away. Instead I’ve become more attune to the incredible mom’s in my life; watching and aspiring to be as amazing as so many of them are. I’ve learned more about love and parenting in this wait and in the end, I think it will make me a better mom. And that time will come.
Over the past year…
I did my due diligence in getting myself and my partner checked out, and digging deeper into why we weren’t successfully conceiving and carrying a baby to term. We may not have always gotten the answers we wanted to hear, but having those answers, is certainly better than fumbling around in the dark.
I spoke up for myself and refused to be isolated, and I hope in doing so, I’ve encouraged other couples to start a dialogue about their journey too.
So whoever is reading this, whether your a friend or family member or complete stranger, know that I am so grateful for all of the love and encouragement you’ve offered me and my husband, and know that if you choose to share your story, you are entitled to love and respect, compassion and kindness- from yourself and others. It will be an amazing lesson you’ll definitely pass on to your child when he or she finally makes their grand arrival in your life.
Happy Mother’s Day.