I Am Not Broken: My Infertility Story
I sat down on the toilet in a musty old building at Columbia University, where I was a graduate student, and buried my head in my hands, weeping. Yet again, I’d gotten my period. Yet again, what I yearned for with all my heart, a baby, seemed impossibly out of reach.
No matter what I tried – ovulation kits, diets, exercise, thermometers, acupuncture, yoga, you name it – I could not get pregnant. As the months passed, my feelings of despair, shame and failure deepened.
As anyone who’s ever struggled to procreate can tell you, infertility can be devastating. It can also put tremendous strain on a marriage. I was afraid my husband was disappointed in me because my body was, at least in my mind, broken. I felt like I was letting his parents down by not giving them a grandchild.
As often as five times a week, people would ask me when I was going to have a baby. Friends and family checked out my belly and raised eyebrows when I ordered a glass of wine at dinner. It was agonizing.
I cried a lot over the year we tried to have a baby. There were many times I felt worthless, alone and without hope.
But I got through it and went on, with the help of a great therapist and doctor, to give birth to a beautiful daughter in 2006. It’s funny how I mention the therapist first. Sure, I needed medical treatment. But just as importantly, I needed a place to vent, cry, feel jealous of my friends, and develop useful tools to get me through the really tough times. I needed to know I was not broken or crazy or failing as a woman.
If you are having trouble getting or staying pregnant, there are a few things you need to know. Take it from me, because I’ve been there, as have so many other women and couples.
1. You are not broken.
You have done nothing wrong. Do not read articles about how you should have had children in your 20s. Do not read pregnancy statistics. Wrap yourself in a cocoon of love with people who make you feel safe. Don’t worry that you’re pulling away from friends and that they’ll be upset with you. Take care of yourself.
2. Talk to a mental health care professional who has experience treating women and men struggling with infertility.
I cannot stress enough how much it helped to talk to a professional trained specifically in this area. Reach out to your friends and ask if they know someone. Or call a place like The Blossom Method, a Chicago-based practice that helps women and couples experiencing infertility, pregnancy loss, genetic complications, complicated medical diagnoses, preemies, and postpartum depression.
Even if you are not currently experiencing infertility, someone in your life probably is. Whether it’s this article or another, share an infertility story on your Facebook wall this week. Tweet it. If someone has shared her pain with you, tell her you love her, she is amazing, and that you are there for her in any way she needs, even if that means standing quietly along the sidelines until she’s ready to reconnect.
Years ago, my doctor said something I will never forget. He said he didn’t know what the outcome of my fertility struggles would be, but he did know that someday this would all be behind me. Those words provided just enough hope and strength to move forward.
(A version of this article originally appeared onCheekyChicago.)
This post is in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week.