It is an honor to have my writing included in Emily R. Long’s book In the Waiting Time: Messages from Infertility Warriors. My letter posted below is one of 22 letters included in the book –letters written for, and by, individuals with infertility. I hope that our messages and our stories can help readers find community, validation, support, and hope as they navigate their infertility.
To my heartbroken friend,
Let me begin by telling you how sorry I am that you are experiencing infertility. I’m sorry you are hurting. I wish I could tell you some magic words to make all of this stop happening and to heal your hurting heart. But I can’t. After everything I’ve been through, I still don’t have the answers. Infertility is so hard and complicated. Instead, I will share some of my experience in the hopes that it will help you to feel less alone. I’m also writing in an attempt to give you hope that you will get through this, one day at time.
My infertility is a story of half agony, half hope. The agony was heavy, horrible, and heartbreaking. Hope was so hard to find at times that I wasn’t sure there was any left, but I knew I needed it to keep going. For so long I felt lost in a dark place with my heart broken, trying to collect all of the pieces and put them back together; trying to make sense of the mess around me and the uncertainty of my future; trying to keep functioning, despite feeling so broken, angry, and alone.
The grief I experienced during my years of infertility was overwhelming. Each and every cycle of failure was heartbreaking, and the accumulation of losses felt nearly unbearable. I grieved the loss of so many hopes and dreams; the loss of what I expected life to be like; the loss of my first pregnancy which was ectopic; the loss of friends who did not stand by me; the losses of time, energy, and money. My infertility was profound grief on so many levels.
I had some really, really hard days. At times I failed to see the point of my life at all. I didn’t want to move or get dressed. I didn’t want to visit with friends. When I was drowning in grief, I simply had nothing to say and making small talk was unbearable. In between episodes of intense grief, I felt numb. I would go through the motions of my day, without real awareness or any enthusiasm I might normally have. I would try to be “normal” at work, try to smile or make jokes… then I’d return home and stare at the wall. I felt like I was living a lie, like no one could actually see me and the pain I was in.
It’s almost easy to forget how hard bad days can be once they are over… I had a lot of ups and downs during infertility, and each time I found myself having really, really hard days again I was amazed that I even made it through days like that before. I looked back at previous dark days and I wondered how the hell I got through them.
The only answer I can come up with is: one day at a time.
I don’t know the secret to getting through bad days. I don’t know the secret to fixing a broken heart or surviving grief. But I know that all of these are experiences I had to work through. There’s no detour for getting around this kind of agony. There are things I did to help myself along the way… but in the end, the only way out of a hard experience is through it — one hard day at a time.
So one day at a time, I tried to take care of myself. I let myself feel sad. I sat around and cried. A lot. I turned down social invitations and ignored phone calls. I spent hours reading about infertility, about grief, about hope. I went to a support group, where I met and spent time with friends who understood what I was going through. I wrote in my journal. I blogged. My husband did his best to support me, and I was so lost in my own grief that I rarely even thought to ask how I might help him. Grief sometimes looks selfish, but it’s not; grieving is hard, personal work, and it must be done to find healing.
And one day at a time, I looked for hope. Everywhere. I learned to redefine what hope looked like when all hope was lost: what can I hope for now? I needed hope that my life would be beautiful again, that I wouldn’t always be living in the agony of infertility. And while we kept hoping for a living child, we were faced with the possibility of life without one, so we kept hoping that we’d be able to find peace with wherever life took us. I celebrated small things, everyday things. I went on walks and practiced yoga. I ate chocolate and drank champagne. I watched my favorite TV shows and colored intricate designs. I planted flowers and trees. I practiced gratitude. I looked for rainbows, for all of the good things in my life, the lights shining in the darkness: friends, experiences, moments.
Writing everything down like this makes it sound like I did a great job taking care of myself and navigating my grief, but that’s certainly not how it felt in the moment. It felt horrible and like it was never going to end. Trying to grow my family was the hardest thing I have ever done. I remember telling my mom that I wished I could just be sedated until it was all over, but that wasn’t an option. So I did what I had to do to continue on and get through each day.
I don’t know what you’ll need to do to get through your days while you wait, grieve, and hope; while you face hard decisions and an uncertain future. My hope for you is that you will be gentle with yourself and take care of yourself, one day at a time. Time is healing, and while infertility may always hurt some, it won’t always be this agonizing. No one knows how or when your infertility will be resolved, but you won’t always be in this dark painful place. In some way you will be able to move forward in a direction and things will get better. By taking care of yourself in many small ways, you’ll be able to get through this one day at a time.
It’s hard to be stuck in a place of half agony and half hope, and I know you might feel alone in the darkness — I often did — but there are others traveling alongside you right now, and there are those of us who have been there before. You are not alone. I see you. I feel your heartache, and I mourn with you. I’m holding light and hope for you, sending my love, and wishing you peace.