Recently, I’ve seen a few different articles from women who are bravely defending their reproductive systems and removing uterus from the list of appropriate things for other people to ask about. Finally! Right? I can’t even count how many times I was asked questions like, “when are you going to have a baby?” or “when are you going to have more?” I know that these people were excitedly anticipating little bundles (just as I was). But the thing they didn’t know is that the shrug or the polite smile I gave in response was a trained defense mechanism. These well-intentioned friends and family didn’t know that the first moment I got some privacy from that situation, I was in tears. And, I’m sure that they didn’t know that I was haunted by their question for days, weeks, months, years.
Getting asked these seemingly lighthearted questions was painful. But, as much as I hated being asked these personal questions, I wished other people knew what I was really thinking and what I was really going through. I wish, in those moments, I had the courage, strength, and grace to open up, raise awareness, and also help myself in the process. So, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week I am going to talk about my uterus.
Today, I am very very fortunate to be mommy to two boys and one child I never got to meet, but the pain of infertility and of miscarriage still haunts me.
When I married my partner, I knew that he had a medical condition that could prevent him from having children. At the time I was 100% fine with that and totally positive. I told myself that there were other options, like adoption, and everything would be great either way. We took the wait and see approach. “If it happens it happens.” Nothing did. We were still young, newly married and figuring things out, so not a big deal.
But over this time I noticed that there were things about me that weren’t how they were supposed to be. My cycles were random, unpredictable, and I’d often go months in between. My doctor diagnosed me with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Despite 1 in 10 women having this, I had never heard of it before. Like many other struggles women face, no one talks about it.
Knowing that I, too, had fertility issues was crushing. Now, our inability to have a baby, was doubled. And despite us both having low chances, I internalized our inability to get pregnant as being my fault. I became obsessed with pregnancy and babies, and every month I became more depressed. I was overly in-tune to my body, often making up symptoms and signs that could indicate I was pregnant. I can’t tell you how many pregnancy tests I took, “just to check.” I told myself it wouldn’t hurt, but it did.
I couldn’t go to the mall without coming home in a terrible mood. I saw pregnant women EVERYWHERE. My husband can attest to the constant tallies of pregnant women I commented on every time we went out. Bellies and babies, bellies and babies.
I read the statistics over and over again, but I never felt like 1 in 8 (the number of couples with infertility); I felt like I was the only one. I felt like everyone around me was easily getting pregnant, except me. I felt like no one in the history of the universe had felt this constant heartbreak. (For some crazy reason, women feel the need to sugar coat everything: conceiving, birthing, mom-ing, wife-ing etc. Maybe that’s because we are constantly judging each other? That’s a blog for another day.)
To the couples struggling with infertility:
You are not alone. I truly hope that you realize this, and I wish for you that you find at least one person that understands you. And for those times when you need to brighten your spirits, I highly recommend Best of 999 Reasons to Laugh at Infertility by Infertile Naomi.
To the couples coping with miscarriage:
I just have to say miscarriage is awful. It doesn’t matter how far along you are, losing a baby is HARD. For me, It didn’t matter that I was only a few weeks pregnant. I lost my child. I grieved for that child and still do. You need to grieve. In fact you DESERVE to grieve.
To the friends and family:
If you aren’t sure about someone’s plans for a family, don’t ask. They probably aren’t sure themselves, so they can’t really even answer your questions. Please don’t comment on how they will be great parents someday or how they need to have more babies (infertility can strike after having children, too).
If you know someone who is grieving over their miscarriage, be open to whatever it is that someone wants to talk to you about. Be supportive and try not to make comments that use the words “at least” and “you can always.” Don’t be afraid to talk to them about the baby they lost. As uncomfortable as it may be, I love when my friends and family recognize and remember my child. As a mother it is far less painful to talk about my loss and my pain than it is to feel like my child is forgotten.
Let’s all be more mindful about our questions and comments. We never know what another person is going through. Even if you’ve struggled with infertility yourself, your story is different than mine and different than theirs.
I hope that my story reminds us all to be more mindful of our actions and words. I hope that I’ve made some of you feel a little less isolated. I hope that I’ve made others feel a little bit more comfortable with infertility. I hope that together, by talking about infertility, we can break the stigmas. And, I hope that you will #flipthescript and share your story.