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“When are you going to feel normal again?”
These were words my mother spoke to me when I called her for the zillionth time today crying my eyes out.
I know she didn’t mean it maliciously, but my goodness, did that sting—and the reason it stung was that I have no idea what normal even feels like anymore.
Is normal crying every two seconds from something that triggers you about not being a mom? Is normal being happy one moment, angry the next, and then sad right after? Is normal being joyful for your friends with children but extremely envious at the same time? Is normal questioning every single thing you did in the past that may have led up to your diagnosis? Is normal to be mad at the world that this happened to you? Is it normal to feel so lost, isolated, and alone?
You see, today I came home from seeing my reproductive endocrinologist (RE) where we discussed yet another failed round of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
This one felt even direr than the last as it was a final go at trying to be able to be pregnant and carry a child myself.
After two years, a ridiculous amount of medications, injections, surgeries, intrauterine insemination (IUI), and IVF rounds (four each to be exact), this was the end of pursuing treatment for my husband and me. Our final attempt was with the use of donor eggs to see if that would give us healthier embryos.
We really thought surely, this must be it.
We felt we had already been through enough. We knew my eggs were pretty much useless now due to my diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve—so surely God and the Universe will make this happen, right?
But alas, here I am, two weeks after that failed donor egg cycle, processing what normal even means. The thing is, this is now my current normal. There is no going back to what was normal for me pre-infertility.
Infertility will do that to you. It will turn your world upside down, shake it completely up, and tear you off of your path in life. It comes at you unexpectedly and fast and kicks you in the ass.
As soon as you start struggling to have a child, I feel that is when the grief and trauma process starts to kick in. And right after a first failed treatment, the reality that this all may not work out starts to really sink in.
It may not sink in fully, but that tiny shadow of doubt creeps into your once excited heart and makes itself nice and cozy. It wraps itself up in your hopes and dreams and shows itself every single time you begin a new medication, new treatment protocol, a new round of IUI or IVF, or hear about another person’s success story.
I am not sure if for most people it’s after the first failed round of treatment or after multiple ones, but I know for me after my first failed IVF round, the wind was knocked out of me. I thought for sure with all the science in the world and the medication I was taking it would happen. We would get pregnant and have a happy, healthy child in the end.
Wow, was I naïve.
While I have been through heartbreak before from breakups and loved ones lost, this—the heartbreak I would soon learn to be infertility—has been the hardest to navigate and the most difficult to process.
The grief that comes with infertility is all-consuming.
As soon as you start treatment, you need to grieve never having that moment of shock and surprise of getting pregnant “the natural way.” You lose the wonder and fun of it.
By the time you seek treatment, you probably have already tried scheduling sex, timing ovulation, taking your basal temperature, changing your diet to try all the foods that are good for fertility. You’ve Googled every single article there is about how to sleep, eat, talk, exercise, and behave to get pregnant—and taken everyone’s advice, even from the stranger in line at the store who saw you buying a ton of pineapple and shared what worked for them.
Then when all else has failed, you ended up in a RE’s office usually upon referral from your OBGYN who has no answers for you except, “Just get drunk and have fun and you will be pregnant in no time.” (Yes, that was said directly to me while I was in tears about not being able to have a child.)
And let’s talk about that RE’s office. You walk inside and the walls are filled with baby pictures, thank you cards with babies on them, and holiday cards of families. You think, “Wow, if the doctor has this many babies who are success stories, I am in the right place.”
Though today, leaving my RE’s office, I can’t help but feel now that it’s similar to walking in to buy a new car, seeing the trophies of the dealership’s successes on their walls, and having the car salesperson try to sell you this new car, for the new you, and your new life you will have while driving it.
I know that I am still processing my recent failed cycle and that this clouds my vision. This will take time to heal and move through.
While I don’t have any silver lining things to say about my journey due to how I currently feel, I can say this: infertility is one of the most isolating, difficult, devastating things a person can go through.
At the same time, it will show you what a badass, strong warrior heart you have.
It will break you, crush you, leave you wondering what’s next. At the same time, you will find the strength you never knew existed to keep going every single day.
You will hear other women’s stories, and see you aren’t as alone as you think.
And maybe, just maybe, one day, the pain will lift slightly and you will be able to feel that joy and wonder again at what life will bring your way.
But while you are in it, allow yourself to be in it.
And remember, everything you feel at this moment is normal for what you are going through.