The story of our battle with infertility has a lot to do with love. Love for each other, the baby we wanted, the family and friends who supported us, and the healthcare team who took care of us.
But the story isn’t complete without the confession of the resentment and loneliness I felt. At times I was mad at my body for the betrayal. I resented my doctors for visit after visit of bad news, or even worse, no news. I often had to look away at the round, blossoming bellies of the women sitting next to me in the doctor’s office. I cringed at the stories of those that “weren’t even trying.” I dreaded baby showers and Mother’s Day. Instead of cooing at tiny toes peeking out of carriages, I bit my lip to keep back the tears. I felt shame taking family pictures, where I was the only woman with empty arms, and I even resented other women who had struggled with infertility. The keyword being “HAD.” How could they possibly try to relate to and comfort me? They had won. Their journey ended with love and new life and cupid-bow lips and butterfly-breaths and sweet baby smell and warm fat cheeks resting on thankful momma shoulders.
The physical bones of my story are more straightforward. After a year of trying on our own with no results, I started our fertility journey with my doctor in August of 2011. In January 2012, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. In some ways, this was a relief. For more than ten years, I struggled with excruciating menstrual pain. The pain was bad enough to cause fainting spells and days wasted in bed. So the thought of finding relief from the pain was a comfort. But like every other person on the planet with internet access, I quickly got lost down the rabbit hole of my own Google “research” and spent hours reading tale after sad tale of others with Endo who were not able to have biological children.
In April of 2012, I underwent laparoscopic surgery in order to clean out the years’ worth of Endo scarring that clogged up my reproductive system. I remember at my follow up appointment when my doctor showed me what they found inside. The damage was so bad that they even had to open up my ovary and remove an Endo cyst the size of a quail’s egg. The walls of my uterus were covered in black smears, as if some sort of mold had grown inside of me. I thought at the time, “How could something ever grow inside that hostile and broken environment?”
But my body proved me wrong, and in September of 2012, we found ourselves staring in shock at a positive pregnancy test. After two years of bad news, we could not believe how well the pregnancy went. But I never stopped worrying. Infertility had taught me to hold my metaphorical breath, and until that baby was in my arms, I took none of the process for granted.
And then there she was. Born in a dramatic fashion that fits her all too well; she came to us on May 22nd, 2013 after a quick labor and emergency C-section. A year and a month after I was wheeled out of the operating room for my Endo surgery, I was wheeled out of a similar room, but this time with my baby girl.
Looking back, I am aware that our infertility struggle was mercifully short compared to many others. And now I too was a “HAD.” I was the one holding my baby, pushing her in our stroller with her tiny feet peeking out and wiggling.
But now my perspective has changed, and I humbly share with you the lesson I learned. Just because I conceived, carried, and delivered a healthy, biological child, does not mean I completely laid down the burden of infertility. I am a former student of the hard lessons that infertility will teach you. I watch others in the midst of their own struggles, and I do not feel pity for them, only a desire to help. It is hard to see those I care about bashing their heads, hearts, and uteruses against the often painful and cryptic wall of infertility. And selfishly, relating to others’ struggles brings back my own infertility memories with a clarity that frightens.
For those of you that are longing for a baby, here’s what I learned about the resentment I felt towards the women who beat the odds. They do not pity you. They do not feel better than you. We all remember how lonely it feels. And we are all outraged on your behalf.
So step away from the cold comfort of the internet message boards and find a living, breathing friend who has shared in this same dark experience and come out on the other side of it. Go to coffee or get a drink and cry about the loss and try to laugh about the rest. Infertility is a club no one signs up for, but once you are a member, it’s for life. So if you are new to the club, or been around for much longer than you care to remember, please know that you aren’t alone. You are loved and celebrated, and everyday that you wake up and try is a victory. Good luck, and let me know if you ever want to get that drink.
In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, we are dedicated to raising awareness and educating our community about the varying types of infertility and the many options available. Our hope is that this series will open your eyes and inspire you in a really dynamic way, so please join us as real local moms open up and share their stories all throughout the week. To read more, please click here.
About Karen C.
Karen is a native New Orleanian who began her teaching career in Houston. She and her husband James were married in 2008 and welcomed their daughter Laura Ray in 2013. Karen is now a stay at home mother in the Timbergrove area and enjoys wine nights with friends, traveling with her family, and lots of backyard time with her daughter.