In the myriad emotions that wash over those of us who never get the precious gift of conceiving and delivering a child, the emotion I guard against more than any other is bitterness. It’s a state of mind that buys me nothing. And, let’s face it, who wants to listen to harsh rants?
My situation is what it is. Life isn’t fair. Most everyone must deal with some form of adversity or another, but rarely does adversity brings such waves of loss.
Working through the loss and emotions associated with it has taught me a great deal. First I had to understand the dimensions of loss to grieve properly. Below are just a few types of loss that infertile couples encounter – some of these don’t apply to those who adopt. (But lest you think otherwise, adoption is not for everyone and it is not a sure thing. It can involve a huge amount of financial hurdles, red tape and heartache in its own right.)
- Loss of innocence when you first realize that lovemaking alone will never result in conception
- Loss of spontaneity…“hey, let’s make a baby tonight” for the very same reason as that listed above…
- Loss of surprise when you miss a cycle and rush to the drugstore for your first at-home pregnancy test (infertiles are too busy counting days, taking basal body temperatures and investing in ovulation kits — everything is planned down to the second)
- Loss of delight in springing the happy news on your partner, reveling in the idea that together you’re making a new life
- Loss of feeling the baby move or kick for the first time
- Loss of the miracle of seeing your baby’s face for the first time
- Loss of bonding with those who move on to become parents … infertility is fundamentally hard on many friendships — the frame of reference for those on either side is impossible to fully understand
- Loss of seeing your spouse, sibling’s, parent’s traits or talents live on in your offspring
- Loss of life’s little milestones (your child’s first day of school, graduation, wedding, you get the idea)
And, perhaps the hardest one for me, the loss in your spouse’s eyes when you both realize that you’ll never be pregnant together.
These and many other losses run from ordinary to profound. They are the backdrop of the book I’m writing about living with infertility. It is only in sharing some of these losses that I think those in the fertile world will begin to understand what we face. Infertility is not something you ever “get over.”
I shared the genesis of my book with a (fertile) colleague, and her first reaction once she got over the shock of me acknowledging my infertility was, “but won’t it be a sad story?”
Does a story have to be inherently happy to be a good story? No, I think the best stories are the ones that cause us to reflect and understand the world and our place in it.