It’s April, and that means it’s NIAW, National Infertility Awareness Week. So today I pulled out an old draft of a post on infertility. A list of collected thoughts, experiences, emotions sharing What Infertility Feels Like.
I’ve already shared my infertility journey, but today I’m digging a bit deeper. By sharing my thoughts on what my own experience with infertility depression, grief and isolation look like to me now – more distant from it all – as I sit in a happier space…
(TW – trigger warning – mention of pregnancy + IVF.)
NIAW Writing Time…
I’m sitting here at my desk, after a yummy lunch of beans on toast and peanutty kale – and my usual afternoon Justin’s peanut butter cup – the kitchen still a happy mess, one room away. Sochi is curled up on my desk, licking his little paws, the sound is so soothing I barely noticed it.
I’m in the mood to write. One of my favorite moods of all.
So I took a bit of a deep dive…
I took a deep dive – through the DRAFTS folder of my blog. Every blogger has one! For me, there are close to a hundred half-written, started-but-never-finished posts all cluttered together like odds and ends in a junk drawer.
Most of them are half baked ideas or recipes that never happened. But my favorite to browse are the vulnerable ones. The drafts where I basically started pouring out words, as if the screen was my diary and the keyboard a close friend.
There are so many ‘infertility’ drafts that will never see the light of day.
I read them now, with my twenty-three weeks pregnant belly and my heart aches for that girl. The girl who was drowning in grief. Who felt so alone and misunderstood. The girl who felt broken.
When No One Really Understands
During my infertility journey, the feeling of – but no one really understands what this is like – always hovered in the air for me. It seeped into conversations, friendships and everyday interactions.
And that feeling ignited a storm of depression + grief for me.
Looking back I see the connection of it all though. With every human. Different struggles in life. Even though our experiences with grief and pain are so very different – the shared feeling of struggle + fight. + sorrow unites each of us.
When I made it into my second trimester of pregnancy – in early March – nausea gone and energy back, happiness bubbling, anxiety fading — it felt like a fog had lifted. Suddenly I saw things so clearly.
The past three years. The paralyzing depression. The low self esteem because of it. The distancing. The protective reflect. The survival mode I was in to protect my heart. The dropped off friendships because of it. (I have found that anytime you go through hard shit and share it with people – the people who stay or come back with genuine love are the ones that matter most.)
And on the flip side of ‘infertility judgement’ from others — some people, just can’t do hard. Or sad. Or complicated. Or vulnerable. Maybe always. Maybe right now. And that’s ok. I can’t always do it either. We all have to preserve our own energy + mental health first.
But I did my best. Happiness is something I’ve learned to choose and make for myself. No matter what. So despite the grief, I clung to all my go-to happy things like a cat clinging to a wet plastic shower curtain. Scraping, slipping, but stupidly determined.
I mostly succeeded.
But when you’re sad. You’re sad. And that’s ok.
Infertility —– makes you sad.
To the sad girls out there: no apologizing necessary. You’re feelings are valid — and I promise, you’ll dig your way out of them. Claw and crawl if you have to. Forget all the people who make you feel worse about yourself for feeling all the feelings. When you’re in it, it’s raw and real – it’s life – find every chance you can to simply love yourself each day.
Self-compassion will free you.
My Happiness Bubbled Back
So yeah, I found my joy again. (I often worried I wouldn’t.) But after three years of forcing it during infertility treatments – (10 years aching to be pregnant + dealing with infertility issues) – now my happy comes to me instead of me chasing it. Obviously, being pregnant has that effect.
The hard parts of any pregnancy – especially one after IVF or infertility – are the anxious moments. The crazy pressure. The terrifying dread of things going wrong when SO MUCH is at stake. Our only embryo. Being 39 years old. The global pandemic shutting down IVF labs.
But honestly, I’ll take pregnancy happiness + anxiety any day over infertility depression + grief.
I know how lucky I am, and all my joy stems from gratitude.
But How Did It Really Feel?
So! The real heart of this post!… My feels.
Over the months I struggled, I would write down little quotes. Snapshots of my day. Moments. Thoughts. Feelings. And today, I am finally sharing them all.
Whether infertility touches you or not – I hope you can flex your empathy muscle for a few minutes and read along….
What infertility feels like…
(59 Things) Infertility Feels Like…
Infertility feels like you are alone even though 1 in 8 couples struggle.
Infertility feels like socially, you are stuck in between the moms and the non-moms. Your own little infertility purgatory.
Infertility feels like grief.
Infertility feels like an identity crisis. I am a mom. Without a baby.
Infertility feels like you should just stop and focus on all the HAPPY things in your life. But you can’t. Then some days you CAN. But then again, you can’t.
Infertility feels like selfishness. (I promise, it’s not.)
Infertility feels like “Trust me, I’m fine.” and “Nope, Not ok!” at the same time.
Infertility feels like skipping out on baby showers and kids parties, even though you love that stuff.
Infertility feels like being torn up and built up at the same time.
Infertility feels like wanting as many friend, work, fun, life distractions as possible. Then the next day just wanting to sob while listening to your fave infertility podcast.
Infertility feels like appreciating kindness and empathy in a whole new way.
Infertility feels like watching every infertility, pregnancy and IVF documentary you can find just to feel a little less alone.
Infertility feels like seeing pregnancy announcements and hating yourself for feeling jealous.
Infertility feels like self-loathing.
Infertility feels like tick, tick, tick, of your biological clock.
Infertility feels like a climbing a mountain, one with peaks and valleys.
Infertility feels like you would shove any size needle in your ass to fix this.
Infertility feels like having horrible period cramps while also feeling grief for not being pregnant (again.)
Infertility feels like rage when someone says.. ‘just stop worrying about it and it will happen.’
Infertility feels like knowing this process could take many more years, and feeling utterly exhausted by that.
Infertility feels like grasping for hope, desperately. You kinda channel every Disney princess you’ve ever watched.
Infertility feels like waiting for yourself to emerge.
Infertility feels like being on HOLD with nurses and doctor’s office receptionists, is your new part-time job.
Infertility feels like everyone is sick of hearing about your “infertility journey.”
Infertility feels like sitting in a cold examination room, in a paper gown and mis-matched socks, just waiting for someone to tell you some more bad news.
Infertility feels like society isn’t comfortable with you talking about infertility, so you should just sit + hush. But that only makes you feel a million times worse.
Infertility feels like every time someone checks in on you with genuine care and love, you are going to explode into a million sparkles of gratitude. Like maybe you WILL actually get through this.
Infertility feels like your heart breaking – slowly.
Infertility feels like trying self compassion, but talking yourself out of it.
Infertility feels like mountains of paperwork, signing statements + decisions you’d never want to imagine. “If both you and your spouse die…”
Infertility feels like situational depression.
Infertility feels like standing in a bathroom and cringing because you just injected yourself with something that stings like hot acid.
Infertility feels like pulling out your trigger shot that you have to jam into your stomach at exactly 8:30PM, even if you’re in class/work and have to excuse yourself to the bathroom, because that’s just how things worked out.
Infertility feels like being a science experiment. But also thinking science is the coolest thing ever. Jesse from Breaking Bad level of, “Yeah Science!”
Infertility feels like growing super attached to a bundle of cells sitting in a freezer across town.
Infertility feels like sitting in a doctor’s office having two doctors ask you exactly how many kids you will want. ‘Uh, I’ll gladly take just one right about now…”
Infertility feels like a casual comments of “well-meaning” advice. (That doesn’t apply to your situation at all.)
Infertility feels like feeling like an actual crazy person when you try and describe your situation to someone who doesn’t want kids. (And for the record, I totally respect people who do and do not want to be parents. In some ways I don’t even feel it’s a choice. Your heart either wants this or it doesn’t.)
Infertility feels like hearing a doctor say, “We need to repeat the HSG.”
Infertility feels like bursting into tears, but having to assure anyone around you that, “No, really, I’m good. This is normal for me right now.”
Infertility feels like finishing up IVF and looking like you are six months pregnant because of the residual bloating. (And as a now six month pregnant person, I can attest this is 100% accurate.)
Infertility feels like you might be broken, bruised and forever changed when you finally come out of all this. Baby or not.
Infertility feels like you are going through this all alone, no matter how many people are around you.
Infertility feels like appreciating every person who gets that all you really need during this time is to feel loved, unconditionally. And that you aren’t being judged for your sadness + distance.
Infertility feels like wanting to tell people why you haven’t been yourself lately, but also not wanting to alienate them with TMI.
Infertility feels like being frustrated because you shouldn’t have to explain yourself to anyone who truly knows you.
Infertility feels like constantly putting your life on hold because you have this big thing that may or may not ever actually work.
Infertility feels like when a nurse tells you your medication total came to $10,000. And having to simply respond and say, “Ok, thanks…”
Infertility feels like knowing you get migraines from hormone fluctuations, then totally messing with your hormones because that’s the game.
Infertility feels like having to look at that extra box of Gonal-f you have in the fridge every time you just wanna grab an apple from the fruit drawer.
Infertility feels like reading memes about dumping people who have ‘bad energy,’ and feeling like “shit, do they mean me?” And just wanting to never judge anyone or gossip about anyone ever again because of that.
Infertility feels like when your pets are literally saving you – again.
Infertility feels like you might quit all this and travel the world. But you don’t.
Infertility feels like reading about the blogger who did nine IVF cycles when you are trying to get excited about your first cycle. And having the doctors say the ‘first one is always a crapshoot.’
Infertility feels like being afraid to tell your story. Even though you know that people who go through this are insanely strong and can do/create/excel/conquer just about anything after this.
Infertility feels like thinking you should actually ADD “infertility” to your resume just so people in the know, will know how badass you are.
Infertility feels like hating your phone.
Infertility feels like total frustration when people think that you should “Just adopt. Because so many kids need homes.” As if that’s an emotionally, financially and logistically easier thing to do/solution to infertility. And thanks, put saving all the world’s kids on my shoulders now too.
Infertility feels like rage when someone judges your treatment choices thus far.
Infertility feels like sharing something that society considers so “private” is awkward and hard, but forcing yourself to do it anyways because of all the people out there it may help today – or one day.
After all is done, you’ll land where you know in your heart you need to, you’ll find your path —- to survive, thrive and —- and find your happy again.
Infertility Resources + Media:
- National Infertility Awareness Week resources (start here!)
- IVF Success Estimator – CDC
- ART Success Rates – CDC
- KindBody – innovative fertility clinic
- Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology
- RESOLVE.org – Nat’l Infertility Association
Topical Articles – Categories:
- What to Say to Someone Struggling with Infertility – NY Times
- The Lasting Trauma of Infertility – NY Times
- The psychological impact of infertility – Harvard Health
- Infertility is hard to talk about. How the internet makes it harder — and easier – LA Times
- How I Found Joy in my IVF – Mother.ly
- Infertility: Other people’s pregnancies – Harvard Health
- Michelle Obama’s Story with IVF – Wash Post
- Ellen S. Glazer’s Infertility Topics – Harvard Health
- To the Mama TTC – don’t let the internet let you down – Mother.ly
- 5 Infertility Bloggers to Follow – AttainFertility
- Stop Doing These 10 Things – Very Well Family
- The Struggle of Infertility – Liz Marie Blog