Grief

My infertility is profound grief.

My infertility is constantly grieving for the family I desire to have with Matt, for the children I long to hold in my arms and share my life with. It is constantly grieving the loss of what has not happened yet, what could have been each and every cycle, and what may never be. It is grieving the loss of hopes and dreams for my family and my future.

My pregnancy loss is forevermore grieving the loss of our child who we never met, but wanted and love still with all of our hearts. It is grieving a life cut way too short. It is grieving what was and what should have been.

My infertility is grieving the loss of what I once expected for my life — what I thought this part of my life would be like; what I thought conceiving would be like; what I thought pregnancy would be like; what I thought the timeline of my family’s growth would be like. It is grieving the loss of the certainty I used to have about my future, and the innocence I once had.

My infertility is grieving every day, every month, every year. It is grieving every failed cycle and every failed treatment, and all of the time, money, energy, hope, and love that went into each and every cycle. It is grieving the months passed waiting for the next treatment to begin. It is grieving at every step as we’ve moved on to more and more advanced treatments.

My infertility is grief that builds over time. Every month that goes by is harder than the last for me. Perhaps when our infertility is resolved in some way and we have been able to move forward in our lives, the grief will stop increasing… but until then, it accumulates despite our best efforts to work through it.

The grief of my infertility is very complex and layered… in addition to the losses of our hopes and dreams for our family, infertility brings an enormous load of secondary losses that are not always obvious or apparent to an outsider. Infertility has caused the losses of my sense of sense, friendships, control, privacy, normality, and the perception of myself as “healthy”.

My infertility is grieving the loss of my sense of self. As I struggle through treatment side effects and the powerful waves of grief following each and every failure, sometimes I hardly feel like I know who I am anymore. The surreal experience of infertility and all of the emotions that come with it leave me questioning who I am and what’s happening.

My infertility is grieving broken relationships that have not withstood my infertility. Losing relationships during my infertility is pretty much the last thing I expected, but it’s happened and it’s heartbreaking. Unfortunately not everyone is able to sit in the darkness of grief with someone else.

My infertility is grieving the loss of control. We live in a day and age where our fertility is usually under our control… most people decide when to have children, are able to conceive within a reasonable time frame, and carry their baby to term. But infertility means that we have lost the ability to decide when and how to bring children into our family — regardless of treatments or other options we might pursue, the outcome is out of our hands.

My infertility is grieving the loss of the freedom to plan and live as we please. Our treatments, appointments, and medications are scheduled around the calendar at the doctor’s office, and as a result, our work schedules and lives in general are dictated by our treatments. I’ve even been put on birth control pills at times to align my cycles to their ideal dates. Infertility is also grieving the inability to plan anything beyond the next treatment — we don’t know if and when I’ll be pregnant, or if and when we’ll need to have appointments, or when I might be experiencing miserable side effects from medications. All of this makes planning anything from a night out to a holiday away difficult.

My infertility is grieving an extreme loss of privacy — of my body and of trying to conceive in general. Usually making a baby is a very private and intimate event, but treating our infertility and sharing about our experience has eliminated any and all privacy we once had. Infertility treatments have brought me to the exam table stirrups more times than I can count, and I have been poked, prodded, and ultrasound-wanded over and over. There’s no privacy anymore in our efforts to conceive; we’ve literally been examined under a microscope. Additionally, even though it has been important, sharing with others about my infertility has led to a loss of privacy too — people know many, many more details about our efforts to conceive than they would if I were fertile.

My infertility is grieving the loss of normality. “Normal” people conceive without trouble and carry their babies to term, but infertility, pregnancy loss, and treatments for infertility have thrown us into a surreal world — these experiences are not normal. It’s not normal to have an ectopic pregnancy. It’s not normal to be try to conceive for three years and not have a baby. It’s not normal to go through 14 cycles of treatment without success. It’s not normal to have injections every day, or have embryos created in a lab and stored in a freezer. It’s not normal for my friends and family to know intimate details about my cycles or doctor’s appointments. Grieving this loss of normality is so huge that one major benefit of going to our infertility support group is hearing others discuss their infertility — it helps to normalize our own experience and makes us feel not so alone.

My infertility is grieving the loss of a perceived healthy body. I am in perfect health in seemingly every other way… but infertility means something is in fact, medically wrong with us, even if there’s not a clear answer about what it is. Grieving the loss of my perceived health has been a frustrating, confusing experience… I feel healthy, but I’m an infertility patient with a calendar full of appointments and procedures and a closet full of medications. Aside from treatment side effects, I don’t feel sick physically, yet our failure to conceive over and over continues to prove that my body isn’t as “healthy” as it might appear to be.

My infertility is processing all of this grief — both the primary losses of our pregnancy and our family, and also the secondary losses that hit from every direction. My infertility is sitting with grief, time and time again. It’s letting grief overwhelm me when necessary. It’s crying until my eyes hurt, my head hurts. It’s asking Matt to sit with me and letting him wipe my tears. It’s telling Matt to please let me sit alone, quietly in the dark. It’s writing and writing and writing. It’s distracting myself with a book, movie or TV show, because sometimes I need to take an intentional break from grieving. It’s making myself get up, get dressed, go outside, text a friend, get back out there. It’s feeling exhausted because grieving is hard work. It’s wanting to feel happier, wanting to feel hopeful, wanting to feel optimistic, but knowing deep down that those feelings will only come once I work through some of my grief.

It’s been said that grief only exists where love lived first… While this may or may not be true for all kinds of grief, I do think it is true for the profound grief of infertility. Matt and I want to build a family together because of the love we share, and the love we want to share with children. We’re full of grief for the pregnancy we lost, the family we’re hoping for, and the unknown direction of our future. While we hope, and wait, and try again, we grieve the absence of our children with great love.

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