Keep Your Hope Alive. Survive Fertility.

Author’s Note

My period arrived today after my fourth IUI. Another failed cycle! Usually I’m down for a few days, but now I feel pure, fiery rage. What people don’t understand is, my down-moods aren’t about the baby anymore… I’ve known for some time I can be happy without one. I’m exhausted! 3.5 years is a looong time. I don’t want to do this anymore. Thinking about calling the fertility clinic to start another cycle fills me with dread. I don’t want them to stick me with any more needles. I don’t want any more ultrasounds, or waiting around all day for medications in the mail I have to sign for that have no delivery window, or IUI’s (they hurt!), but it would be stupid for me to give up now after we burned through our insurance deductible, especially when I still want a baby (I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t). If my uterus is still empty come 2021, that’s another story.

To cope, I spent today writing this post to remind myself of all the things in life to be grateful for, even when I’m hurting. If you’re “adventuring” through a fertility journey as well, I hope everything I share below helps you survive like it helped me.

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Fertility is the hardest thing I’ve ever talked about. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. And I’ve been through my share of some serious crap, just like everybody else. When we experience the death of a loved one, financial trouble, our dreams crashing down around us, or [insert bad thing here], there’s usually someone, whether in real life or on the internet, to talk to. Someone who understands. This is not the case with fertility.

When it comes to fertility, there are three kinds of women:

  • The woman who won’t talk about it
    • I think she doesn’t speak up because of fear (I’m talking from my personal experience here). I was very open about my fertility with family and friends, and I got the standard “Just relax, it’ll happen,” and, “Why don’t you just adopt?” among other incredibly unhelpful comments. As much as these statements come from either the person’s own life, from their love for you, or trying to “fix” the situation, to a woman’s heart bleeding for a child, these comments seem dismissive, eye-roll-inducing, and like our pain doesn’t matter. We stop talking about our pain to avoid these comments, and having to acknowledge them with our own carefully-constructed responses that unfortunately do not involve slapping you.
    • What we see of other people’s lives is only a window. Not just on the internet, but in real life, too. People show you what they want you to see, and they want to be seen in a good light… They don’t want to be labelled as complainers. In only the last few months, I’ve been more open about my fertility journey online, when I’ve already been dealing with this for almost 3.5 years. I’m an author, and I want to keep my presence online as professional, and as positive, as possible. But, I’m only human. This journey is a part of me, whether I get a baby at the end of it or not. And you know what? It’s okay to vent when we’re hurt and drowning, especially when we’re looking for a little help, just as long as we don’t become a broken record.
  • The woman who screams into the wind
    • …and drags you down with her into her black hole, never to see the light of day again. In the first half of my journey, I used to look for women on Instagram/forums/blogs to (hopefully) talk to, and I mostly found women who obsessively whined and expected someone to save them from their pain. No, thank you. I was looking for a woman with whom we could mutually lift each other up. I wish I could tell you I found her, but I didn’t. I dug myself out of my feelings on my own (with my husband’s and family’s help, as much as they could without experiencing a fertility journey for themselves), and I continue to whenever I get low.
    • There are women on Instagram and YouTube who share the entire play-by-play of their journeys — the bloodwork, ultrasounds, medications, pregnancy tests, every thought, every feeling… I personally believe this is too much. I couldn’t put my monthly heartbreak on public display each month, and I don’t want to watch someone else’s. To each their own. 🤷‍♀️
  • The woman who’s already experienced the journey and pretends it didn’t happen
    • It isn’t very often that you find a woman who is completely open about her experience if she struggled to conceive. I understand everyone heals in their own way, but why wouldn’t you want to support other women now in the shoes you discarded? You went through it for a reason, and you made it out alive. Show us how you survived!

For the reasons above, I’ve been “alone” this whole time. My husband doesn’t completely understand what I’m going through, nor my friends, nor my family. This is why I feel it’s important for me to share my experiences, my thoughts, my feelings… anything relevant I can think of. If I comfort even just one woman, if she feels vindicated and less alone, this exhausting journey might contain a little bit more light than I originally thought.

How I got this far might carry you too, if you give the things below a chance:

  • Have healthy boundaries.
    • Don’t go to baby showers! (Unless, of course, you enjoy torture.) You’ll spend the entire time trying not to cry and wallowing over, “When is it my turn?”, then you’ll sob the whole way home, and then you’ll probably spend the rest of the night in bed with ice cream, wine, sappy movies, and tissues. Explain politely why you don’t feel comfortable going, and send a gift. Buy yourself something nice too. You deserve it.
    • If your friend or family member just had a baby, it’s okay to tell them you need some space. When you’re feeling better, you can visit them. Or not. Do what you want, and forget “obligations”. Focus on keeping yourself together. They already have plenty of people fawning over them… who’s fawning over you? (Your partner better be!) You need love too, so give all the love in your heart to yourself and your partner — you and yours is what matters most. I know that sounds selfish, but you need to be selfish to survive this. If they truly love you, they’ll understand. If not, do you really need them in your life? You’re going through enough as it is. (Don’t be afraid to be a little harsh to survive! It took me a long time to learn this, and my mental health is better for it.)
  • Honor your feelings. Feel them with your whole being, unapologetically, so you can move past them and grow. If people seem to dismiss your feelings with their comments, politely tell them why and how it bothers you. Asking them to handle you with a little extra care while you’re struggling is okay!
  • Do what’s right for you, at the right time. You don’t have to share anything if you don’t want to. You don’t have to pursue treatment if you don’t want to. This is YOUR journey. This is YOUR life. Live it how you want, and listen to your gut!
  • Stay positive as much as you can.
    • You need to bottle up and hoard your emotional highs to last you through your lows — they’re coming, and they’re going to knock you down harder than you could ever imagine, when you least expect it. When you’re low, appreciate everything you have, not on the baby that’s still in the sky and not in your home. Focus on who and what is already here in your life, what can be celebrated right now… You’re breathing, you have a roof over your head, you have food in your belly, you have a loving partner, you have a loving family… etc, etc. Dedicating time, multiple times a day, to appreciate everything magical in your life makes all the difference in lifting yourself out of a fertility-related depression. This appreciation of abundance brings more abundance into your life! 😄
    • You’re not your diagnosis. Switch “infertile” to “I’m fertile.” You’ll notice I say “fertility” instead of “infertility” to keep the way I speak as positive as I can make it, even when talking about a distressful topic. Infertility is medically defined as a year or more of unprotected sex without conception. Infertility doesn’t exist. It’s all about timing and God having the best life in mind for you. It’s most likely (definitely) different from your original plans, but it’s infinitely better. What you’re going through now will pass, and you’ll be stronger than ever.
  • Communication with your partner is key. I remember there a was a long period of time my husband didn’t know which Lindsay he was coming home to that day — the miserable one or the happy one? Anything could set me off. The guilt I felt over not giving him a happy home doubled down on the dark intensity of the situation, sitting on my shoulders like an evil, black cloud of sludge (depression 😓, am I right?). It made me feel worthless… as a woman, a wife, and a mother-to-be. Now, I tell him when I’m starting to feel low (and that I’ll probably be a bitch), and he weathers it with me. He does everything he can to help me feel better. I’m so grateful 😭 Honestly, this fertility experience has made us stronger together in so many ways.
  • Remember, miracles happen. Life is a miracle. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard about or known someone diagnosed as “infertile” that had a baby anyway. When you’ve been hoping for what feels like forever, the hope can feel somewhat silly, like God’s laughing at you. Like all your praying doesn’t do anything. Believe it or not, He’s not laughing at you. He’s listening, and He’s answering your prayers in His time, not yours. Life always turns out better than we expect. Hold on a little longer.
  • If I didn’t have anyone to talk to who understood, how’d I get by?
    • Kate Street. Oh, God… thinking about Kate Street makes me so emotional. Even though I didn’t know her personally, I felt like she was the only one who got me, you know? She’s that rare soul who, when out of the woods, felt compelled to guide other women through their journeys and be a beacon of hope. What a gift! I don’t know how I would have survived without her, especially since she came at fertility from a similar spiritual perspective to mine, which is hard enough to find as it is. She wrote What All Spirit Babies Want Their Mamas to Know (which I read… it was awesome), and she has a YouTube channel (which I watched… it was also awesome). She even has a website, lovefrombaby.com. She had another website (that broke my heart when I realized she took it down), where she would post “Hot Mess Ministries” sermons every Sunday (which, thankfully, are still on YouTube even though the accompanying website is gone) that I dutifully watched like clockwork, and where she would pull tarot cards for women who needed some guidance in the comments of her posts. Unfortunately, I don’t believe she’s active anymore online (at least when it comes to fertility), but she’s left all these resources for you to continue benefiting from if you’re interested.
    • Spirit Babies: How to Communicate with the Child You’re Meant to Have by Walter Makichen (spiritually-based)
    • Stories of the Unborn Soul: the mystery and delight of Pre-Birth Communication by Elisabeth Hallett (spiritually-based)
    • Wait and See: Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans by Wendy Pope (memoir, based on biblical scripture)
    • Period Repair Manual, Second Edition: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods by Lara Briden ND
    • During one of my particularly low episodes, I was desperate to have something to hold on to. Amazingly, I found this YouTube video: Gabrielle Bernstein: The Universe Has Your Back | SuperSoul Sessions | Oprah Winfrey Network. It felt like my spirit zoomed in, and Gabrielle Bernstein spoke directly to me. She somehow, magically, fit every possible horrible feeling of fertility, and then put a spin of hope on it, in only 19 minutes! Please watch this. Trust me… It will lift you up, even if you don’t think it will.
  • I recommend avoiding mom-YouTubers’ and mom-Instagrammers’ content, unless you’re using these resources for a spiritual visualizing/manifesting technique. Otherwise, they could make you feel more isolated and out of the “mom club” if you’re in one of your lows. My favorite mom-YouTuber is Hayley Paige Johnson, who I’ve unfollowed and followed probably almost ten times between my various highs and lows, and who I’m currently, officially following again. Sorry, Hayley! It’s not you, it’s my depression. I’ve actually wondered if mom-influencers notice women unfollowing/following them sporadically. If you’re a mom-influencer and you’re reading this, fertility could be the reason!
  • Looking at baby clothes/items (and buying them) might be a bad idea (again, unless you’re practicing a spiritual manifesting technique). If you feel like it’s right for you, great. If there’s any part of you where it doesn’t click and you’re like “ehh…”, don’t do it. If in the end, you decide not to have a child, you’ll have to donate the baby/maternity items you bought.
  • Find your good thing that makes you forget all the bad things. My husband and I started doing these special date nights where we drink and listen to our favorite music, just talking for hours. It’s a total blast, and having those nights with him is worth the wait for a baby. I also love doing my makeup, or online window-shopping for makeup without buying anything. My brain goes completely quiet, and I don’t think about babies at all. Writing works, too, if I’m “in the zone”, and reading works if it’s the right story where I can’t put the book down. Luckily, there’s no mental sweet spot required for drinking with my husband or playing with makeup. 😊
  • It’s okay to have a drink. (In my opinion. I’m not a doctor!) When it comes to fertility treatment, you’re advised not to drink. Um, excuse me? How can you not drink during a time like this? Think about it… Women normally don’t find out they’re pregnant until at least their missed period, which is already considered four-weeks-pregnant by OBGYN’s. In that time, a woman not undergoing fertility treatment has already possibly drank heavily and/or smoked. When you find out you’re pregnant, you stop. Enjoy it while you can!
  • Have realistic expectations.
    • Will you get pregnant this cycle? Maybe. Maybe not.
    • Did that pregnancy test turn positive after you walked away from it when it already read negative? No.
    • If you squint hard enough or look at it under the right light, will you see the second line? Probably not.
    • Will you need to go to fertility? Maybe. Maybe not.
    • Is there a chance you might not have a baby? Yes.
    • Will you be okay either way? YES! (I know from my own experience, this is really hard to hear. In time, you’ll find relief.)

You’re probably thinking you’ll never see the light at the end of the tunnel, but you will. This is something you’re going to come to on your own eventually, no matter how many times someone says it to you, and no matter how much it annoys you:

Whether your baby ends up in your arms, or you realize you’re happy without one, you’re right where you need to be in this moment. You can do this. Enjoy your life.

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