Stopping

This is the time of year when people start to talk about hope and inspiration and miracles. It’s a lot of “Don’t give up/lose hope/stop trying/lose faith” or “Your rainbow baby will come” or “I didn’t give up because I knew we would be parents”.

Bah humbug.

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The reality is it is ok to stop.  It doesn’t mean you lost hope or faith or that you aren’t meant to be a parent and it doesn’t mean that you “gave up” and all the negative connotations that come with those words.

It means that you made a decision that was right for you. A very wise friend once told me “you will know when it is time to stop” and while those words seem simple, she is right.  You, and only you, will know when it is time.

There is so much guilt surrounding the decision to stop trying.  The self-doubt (should I have done more? Treatments/weight loss/clean eating/meditation/whatever), the shame (I failed. We failed) and the isolation (where do we fit in the world now?!)

But when you push all of those feelings aside, you will know.  My husband got there faster than I did, but when I really looked inside my heart and shut out all the noise that comes with abandoning a lifelong dream of being a mother, I knew. It was time.

Making the decision to stop does not make the guilt or the grief any easier but it does give you back something you haven’t had for a while – control.  You regain control over your life, your path (and your sex life!)

We hear so many miracle stories and we don’t hear our story.  The story of trying and stopping and learning to move on. Because nobody wants a bad news story. Especially not during the holidays.

But it does get easier. Day by day. I promise.

All the Triggers

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I wonder when, if ever, it will stop.  The triggers.  The ones that catch you off guard – it might be a word, an image, a conversation overheard – and then your eyes are filling with tears and someone has driven a white hot dagger through your heart. 

Triggers are visceral things made of raw emotion and in my experience, very hard to control your reaction to.  They can also build on each other. One after the other.

There were a couple of them this past week or so.  Starting with watching a friend’s little one at their first hockey game, wobbling around on the ice. Yet all I could see were the “coaches” (Dads) on the ice, knowing that my husband won’t get to do that with his kid.  A few days later it was overhearing “congratulations, you will be a wonderful Dad” to a person that I am so happy they are expecting – their journey has been full of challenges – but in that moment all I could think is that no one will ever say that to my husband.  Something else that has been taken from him, and with that thought it was all too much and I was trying to hide the tears until I could ugly cry in the car alone. And ugly cry I did.

But I survived.  I survived that moment, and I promise you will too. We will survive them and the ones that come after because to get to this place, this childless not by choice place, you are so much stronger than you realize.

It was Thanksgiving in the US this week and holidays are full of moments that highlight your losses and/or your situation so much more.  I hope my sisters down south were able to make it through, but I know it isn’t easy.

I try to find ways to fend off the triggers when I am in public since it can be very embarrassing – my triggers always result in angry tears – and sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

My usual go to is to think about work. Ha. Isn’t that boring? But like most of us, there is an inevitable never ending “To Do” list that can distract me for a little while.

If not work, I go for escapism. I love romantic stories – especially ones where the guy pines for the lady a la Mr. Darcy style – and I try to transport to myself to another world. Temporarily escape my own mind and my own sadness.

My final act of desperate distraction is whipping out Pinterest and going for funny animal memes.  I know, I know.  But it works.  Follow my Pinterest link below to see for yourself!

We are not the same.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”  - Audre Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

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Full disclosure, I know that Audre Lorde’s poems are speaking about racial tensions, sexuality and surviving cancer but when I saw this quote for the first time it resonated with me for the infertility community as well.

I had 4 miscarriages. A friend had a stillborn. Another got pregnant with her first round of IVF and another went multiple miscarriages before conceiving with medication.  Some stopped without pursuing fertility treatments and others are going on ten unsuccessful rounds of IVF.  All these experiences put us in the same community but they do not make us the same.

I want to see us recognize differences and be empathetic to the person and their experiences rather than just apply the general sympathy that comes with fertility challenges.  We need to celebrate what makes us the same while honoring that our journeys are different.  The infertility community is made up of many stories and is there to provide hope for those still in the trenches whatever their circumstances may be.

But if there is one thing that really gets under my skin it is when someone with children calls themselves infertile.

If you have kids, you aren’t infertile.  You had fertility issues or maybe you have a child and are still having fertility issues (secondary infertility is a very real thing) but you are not infertile. 

I am infertile and when people with children say that they are infertile – not only is that nonsense - they make my journey into one of failure.  In trying to feel a sense of belonging we can inadvertently brush over the experiences of others.

I miss my babies every damn day, but I didn’t hold them forever sleeping in my arms and I don’t ever want to take that away from someone else.  Just like I don’t want the person who hasn’t been pregnant to take away my feelings of loss nor I would I want to belittle their pain in never having the joy (however fleeting) that comes with a positive pregnancy test.

Yes, we are all in this together, but we will make our community so much stronger by acknowledging not only what makes us the same but also what makes us different.  Much love.

Hello from The Other Side

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I remember the moment it occurred to me that we might never have a (biological) baby (or babies) of our own.  That the fertility treatments might not actually work.  That no matter what we did, this was something we couldn’t control. It was terrifying. One of those suffocating moments where you are suddenly reminded that life is a finite existence and “holy shit this is it and what if it doesn’t work?!”

Then it became reality.

After seven years of fertility treatments, miscarriages, second opinions and heartbreak, we stopped.  We stopped fertility treatment without success. We don’t have children and we aren’t going to have children.

I know a hundred things went through your mind at the last sentence. Things like “you don’t know that, maybe you will get pregnant on your own, maybe you will decide to adopt, maybe you will try IVF again” and so on and so on.  That’s a natural human reaction, to deflect from things that are too difficult or too uncomfortable to consider.

Nobody wants to talk about the people who didn’t get their happy ending, and this is how we became part of The Other Side.  The Other Side is those of us who wanted children but for whatever reason, we do not have them.  There are lots of paths to the Other Side but however you got there, here you are.

It’s lonely and it’s scary over here.  Realizing that your life isn’t going to turn out how you thought it would be a very difficult thing to accept.  It hurts, it makes you angry (oh so angry), it is lonely, and it changes you.  Yes, you are forever changed. You might not know it yet, but you are not the same person you were when you began the journey and there is no turning back. I am sorry, my friend but it is true.

But you don’t have to go through it alone. This site, this blog, is here to create a community. You don’t have to be alone anymore.

Welcome to the Other Side.