In the interest of keeping some form of chronological order to this blog, it is important for me to address the start of all of this madness. For some of you, you may be blissfully unaware what it is like to hear that you may never have children. Others of you can glean from watching the experience of others. For the rest of you that know on a personal level – well, I am not going to be telling you anything you do not know.
I’ll have to bore you with a little of my background to start. Growing up, I had very painful periods, but I assumed it was just what every other girl I knew complained about. It did seem a little odd to start having episodes where I would nearly blackout from the pain at age 12, but by age 22 I was nearly blacking out every period. Something clearly wasn’t right, but I went into my first laparoscopy fully expecting them to find nothing and confirm my suspicions that I just needed to toughen up.
Still groggy, I woke up to find out that they found endometriosis throughout my pelvic cavity. I was somewhat relieved – finally an answer to my pain! What I was not remotely prepared for was what this diagnosis meant long-term. I will never forget sitting in the exam room at my first post-op appointment, hearing the words that most women with my degree of endometriosis had difficulty getting pregnant.
At first, the walls caved in on me, the room became void of all oxygen. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I had dreamed of motherhood since I was a little girl. It was the “profession” I wanted the most when I grew up. Now that was in jeopardy? Those feelings were quickly replaced by a fantastic coping mechanism called “denial.” What the nurse practitioner was telling me was just based off of statistics – statistics that surely would not apply to me. I was a good, Christian girl. God would not allow such a tragedy to happen to me. Being only 22 and having grown up with little to struggle with, I was still living in the blissful naive bubble that if you do life “right”, bad things won’t happen.
What ensued over the next six years of my life was a sloppy madness, jumping between various stages of grieving while desperately wanting to hold onto the hope of motherhood. I married my best friend at age 24 and at age 25, we started trying to have a baby. Month by month failures wore thin on the both of us. We would take breaks and I would go on medication to slow the endometriosis and then go back on fertility drugs. We would pursue doing IUI’s. In the 3 ½ years of trying, we only had one positive pregnancy test, which quickly resulted in miscarriage. By age 28, the endometriosis had taken its toll and I was struggling just to function. We went into our last cycle knowing that if I did not get pregnant, it was the end of trying. A hysterectomy, with the option to later adopt, would be our next step just so we could get our lives back. When my period showed up, I wept like I had never wept in my life.
I remember leaving the house and watching everyone else carry on with their lives. Could they not see the nuclear bomb that had just gone off? How were they freely going about their day-to-day activities? I was suddenly thrust into a wasteland where nothing felt familiar anymore. Without my dreams, what was left to my life? I realized logically, adoption was a viable option, but in that moment it felt like everything I knew was gone. I had no idea who I was.
I had a lot of grieving to do. And, unlike grieving the loss of something that existed, I had nothing tangible that I was mourning. How do you hurt so deeply over something that never existed? Adding to the difficulty understanding the pain, I felt so utterly and completely alone. I did not know anyone who was irreversibly barren.
It has been almost seven years since my hysterectomy. I have come a very long way from that day sitting in my bathroom feeling like my life had ended. Infertility, though, leaves a lifelong scar. In addition to the common feelings of longing and jealousy when I see pregnant women, I sometimes find myself consumed with jealousy when I hear about a couple going through fertility treatments. I often feel guilty for that because I know all too well the difficulties that they are facing, but I am jealous of the hope that they still have.
In future posts, I will cover topics of things that I found most helpful in coping throughout this timeframe. I will also discuss things that loved ones should avoid when supporting an infertile friend. I wish this pain did not exist, but as it does, it is important to know how to handle it.
Occasionally, throughout this blog, I will post lyrics to a song that I have found particularly helpful. Coming across the song “Surrender” by BarlowGirl summed up exactly what I needed to do to move forward through the grief in this journey. I’ll post the lyrics next. But, the absolute best medicine to combat the agony of this road is to surrender to God’s will for your life. I do not mean to remotely indicate that this is achieved with ease, but it is truly the only way to find peace.
(Up next: The Phone Call)