An important lesson I’ve learned in recovering from infertility’s trauma and loss is that the grieving process cannot be rushed. It’s not linear and it’s not something that we can prescribe with an artificial time line. There can be no easy “to-do” list (such as the following that most people would casually suggest) to be implemented over night:
- Stop thinking about infertility (that’s all but impossible as every day brings a new pregnant woman appearing randomly in places ranging from the workplace to the library to the grocery store, or another story about parenthood).
- Embrace other’s newborns and children unconditionally (It works until I start thinking again … comparing them to the ages our children might be today).
- Move on and be the bigger person (easier said than done amid the latest cult of mommy and the ignorance that exists among those who assume that fertility can be bought with the right amount of time and money).
I’ve also learned that the pain of infertility can only be managed, not eliminated. On those days when I find myself longing for what might have been or feel acutely the losses we’ve endured I search for peace and strength in the little (and sometimes humorous) things that bring comfort:
- The closeness with my husband after years of fighting side by side the demons that come with infertility.
- The satisfaction that comes from knowing that that which didn’t kill me has made me stronger.
- Random acts of retail therapy that come with knowing we’ll never have to save for a college fund.
- Helping to save the planet by not buying copious amounts of petroleum-based plastics molded into children’s play toys that will end up filling landfills for eons to come.
- Waking up after a delicious impromptu nap or a long, uninterrupted night of sleep.
- Knowing the raw honesty and difficulty of disclosing my experiences has elicited warm support that has all but eliminated the feelings of failure that colored my world for far too long.
- Having a trimmer figure and firmer ta tas than fertile myrtles.
- Appreciating more deeply that families are forged from more than pure biological connections, and that just because someone can conceive and deliver a child doesn’t necessarily mean they are deserving of the name mother or father. The best prove it every day through their actions, compassion and sacrifice.
- Helping others who are also struggling with infertility has made me feel less alone and brought a different sort of bonding and reward.
- The connection I have with kids from never having to utter the words, “because I said, so!” and instead delighting them with unexpected treats and the words, “okay you can have that extra xxx and stay up late, but this is our secret!”
What are some of the ways you find peace and strength?
January 5, 2008 11:21 pm
lovely post, and insightful realizations for pain management.
I can’t say I’ve found peace but definitely strength. this is the hardest struggle I’ve ever endured. yet the result of my loss and journey has been more empathy and compassion for others. would I rather be a blissfully ignorant mother? sure, maybe, but like I said I haven’t found peace yet. guess I’ll have to keep working on that one. something with more staying power than a nice long vacation… thanks for the post. ~luna
January 6, 2008 12:52 am
I love the spontaneous, uninterrupted naps!
Hours of quiet time with my husband reading books.
Going out to dinner on a whim
Helping other people deal with infertility
Remembering the strength we found while ttc
Appreciating that we are so much closer to a little one than we have ever been before.
Thank you, PJ, for this post. It was very timely for me.
January 6, 2008 3:07 am
That is a lovely list.
Reminding myself that most women really don’t like being pregnant, so missing it isn’t so bad 🙂 (Hopefully no one will take this the wrong way).
January 6, 2008 4:15 am
My mom told me just the other day that she never thought much about couples that don’t have children. She always assumed that they just didn’t want them. But now that she has seen infertility first hand through me, she realizes that is not the case. Granted, my mom is 70 and not part of the fertility treatment generation, but even so, I think this sentiment is wide. People just don’t know what people go through.
In the last few years she’s become friends with a couple who never had children and she’d assumed they didn’t want them. “I’m realizing how much people talk about their children, old and young alike, and that they politely listen but never participate. Now I wonder if they tried and couldn’t and how hard that must be and how hard that must be for you.”
When my mom shared her empathy with that observation it gave me great comfort.
January 6, 2008 1:02 pm
I’m going to print out this post of yours and paste it to a wall where I can read it often. This sentence struck home and is on it’s way to becoming one of my favorite quotes: “I’ve also learned that the pain of infertility can only be managed, not eliminated.”
Thanks PJ, for the umpteenth time!
January 6, 2008 2:55 pm
Thank you for this brilliant post…I’m starting to get there myself…like you say, it’s not a nice, neat projectile…in the meantime, I will start my own list and review at those tough times….
January 6, 2008 11:54 pm
While I am just now finding your blog (just now getting to everyone in the braces bunch), I want to thank you for this post. IF is a hard journey, but we can find strength with each other. I haven’t found complete peace as of yet, but I am so thankful for those that I’ve met along the way.
P.S. And when that’s not available, I at least get some time to “forget” when I sit down and watch Days of our Lives and General Hospital:)
January 7, 2008 12:38 am
Brilliant!! I love your list, & every point on it rings true for me too. Like Luna, I’m not sure I can say I’ve found peace… perhaps more like “detente,” lol. I tend to think of things like the points on your list as “compensation” for not having kids, or “benefits” of being childless. Not that there is anything that ever compensates for not having children — but I feel like we deserve to enjoy SOME benefits, after what we’ve put ourselves through!
January 7, 2008 1:54 am
Great post – managed, but not eliminated.
The first part reminds me of an Onion article: Go-getter reduces grieving time to three days by eliminating denial and anger. Or something like that. But like all satire, it’s funny because it’s true – people do expect you to keep on schedule and “get over it” in what they consider to be a timely fashion.
January 7, 2008 3:44 am
Adoptive mothers keep telling me that when I get a child, she or he will be my own child…. and yet they still have to acknowledge that their own pain of infertility is not magically resolved. So I’m assuming that your heart may be full of love for that child, but it’s the complications of adoption that constantly remind you that things are still “different”. I still miss my innocence but I have gained great empathy and understanding. I never imagined I was strong enough to withstand having my heart broken over and over. Having been haunted by what could have been, I’m not afraid of ghosts anymore.
So, as it stands now, I really enjoy sleeping in having a coffee and reading the paper in peace. I putter around unencumbered by strollers and diaper bags. I stay out late. I go away once a year by myself for 2 days. I go for pedicures and massages. My husband and I go to movies and easily satisfy the needs of our dog. I pursue my artistic endeavours with nary a thought about someone else’s schedule.
January 7, 2008 5:10 am
I like being able to indulge whatever random “adult” interests/topics of conversation I want, whenever I want.
January 7, 2008 2:52 pm
Hmmm. I find strength in the times Mr. Sassy and I go out to a nice, drawn out dinner, just the two of us. I find peace in the times I have to surf IF blogland, uninterrupted by a baby’s cry, or read a book that has been callling my name.
Thanks for this.
January 7, 2008 4:39 pm
Excellent post. This is more a list of potential strengths and pleasures, but if IVF doesn’t work, I expect to delight in the following:
– Plenty of time for taking care of my mind, body, and sensuality (the latter being a huge plus)
– Financial security for retirement, travel, more fulfilling career changes, and philanthropy/inheritances to nieces and nephews
– Minimized environmental impact and the greater opportunity to help (see above, philanthropy)
– Dogs dogs dogs dogs maybe a cat dogs
January 8, 2008 2:56 am
Brilliant, as usual:-)
For me, right now, my list is similar:
-The closeness with the husband. This really has brought us closer and I appreciate how good he is to me that much more.
-The new friends I’ve made both online and IRL. I have a closeness with them I haven’t had with many people in the last two years who have no clue, or who do and treat me like I’m crazy.
-The ability to focus on what I want, when I want, how I want. Like right now, with my focus on training for a run, skiing my brains out, getting my body back – I can do that cuz I have nothing else I’m obligated to. And while I wish I didn’t have this “me” time, in some ways I’m glad I do. I have a post coming about how I really am ok with this delay, cuz it’s about me for awhile, which is nice to get back to.
-Last, feeling like sometimes, I am really freakin tough. I can make jokes with the best of them, even when things are sucking their worstest (not real word, I know, but it works here).
January 8, 2008 6:15 am
Oh, you make some great points here, in particular about what makes a family. That one in particular helps me in my moments of doubt… fyi, saw this site and thought of you, maybe you’ve seen it, but it’s an author’s site, known and unknown which is the interesting twist. Maybe there is some good info there for you: http://www.redroom.com/ Glad to know you are back safe and sound. I think we have the same cough though… hack, hack… 😛
January 8, 2008 5:46 pm
I wouldn’t have chosen to be infertile, but having time to pursue my art the way I have.
But if I wasn’t infertile, I would have an entirely other life, and it probably wouldn’t include the commitment I’ve been able to make to writing.
In addition, after 5 years of actively not trying, having a calm lovely holiday with my husband was a tremendous source of joy, calm and peace for me.
My life is very full and even without children, I feel, after 5 years, lucky and blessed. Happy to be alive on a good day.
January 9, 2008 1:52 pm
Surprise days of 70 degree weather in January in the Midwest.
Sipping coffee next to the fireplace the weekend after Christmas, listing to my sister complain about the constant closet cleaning associated with children’s ever changing size.
Contributing to my job in a capacity I would not have if I was up for hours at a time every night with an infant.
Laying in bed with my husband at 10 am on the weekends wondering if we should fix eggs and bacon or head out to the buffet on the other side of town.
February 3, 2011 12:30 am
Hey I am new in the world of childlessness. I found this post helpful although I have to admit pain refuses to die. I don’t want to become bitter or jealous of my friends. I hope God helps me in staying sane.