Sunday kicked off National Infertility Awareness Week. The theme this year, “You Are Not Alone.” is a message that so many of us need to hear. Infertility strikes one in eight couples, but if you are the couple struggling with it, it can feel like you are the only one in the world.
I remember well the first time someone reached out to me and asked me how I was coping with it. I was caught completely off guard. The prior week I had reached one of my most depressed points. We had only recently entered the official world of infertility and I was completely overwhelmed by the road that laid ahead. I had no clue that anyone else would understand what I was feeling.
Although we had known for a couple of years prior to trying for children that we would most likely struggle, I held together a strong sense of denial that it would actually happen to us. I was a good Christian girl, in a good Christian marriage to a good Christian man. I was sure that God would protect us from enduring that journey.
I did virtually no research on what infertility would be like. To read about it would force me to accept that it could happen. I did not want to even let that thought cross my mind. I felt like if I only entertained thoughts that my faith would save us from the infertility struggle, we would be safe.
When we crossed over the infertility threshold, it felt like my world shattered. All of my hope that God would save us had ended in failure. I wondered where God had gone. I was angry at him for letting it happen. I felt very guilty about the pain that I was putting my husband and family through. I was scared that my most desired dream, motherhood, would be taken away from me.
I took all of the emotions I had, balled them up and tried to stuff them away. I held onto the thin strand of hope that if I just willed myself to be happy and have faith, God would make our infertility journey short. I am not sure where I got the idea that faith would make us exempt from pain, but I held tightly to that train of thought. Although my negative emotions threatened to overtake me, I thought by allowing myself to feel them it would somehow negate my hope that faith would be enough to rescue us.
Not having prepared myself for the road, I had no idea how common my thoughts and feelings were. When I felt like I could no longer contain everything I was feeling a friend swooped in and opened my eyes. She simply asked how I was coping with it all.
That simple question left me a bit stunned. Asking how I was coping meant that there was something tangible to cope with. I had never allowed myself to entertain that it was acceptable to have the feelings I had. That question validated that infertility was painful.
I have no idea if she even remembers that conversation. We were sitting outside on her front porch as our husbands chatted in the driveway. We had only been friends for a few months and up until that point I did not know that their daughter was the result of fertility medication. Once I knew that, I felt an immediate sense of understanding. She was asking this question because she had been in my shoes. No words were needed to explain how I was feeling. She knew intimately what the infertility road was like.
The weight of the burden that the isolation left was not something I was aware of until it was lifted off of my shoulders. After talking with her about what we were faced with, I walked away feeling lighter than I had in a long time. It was no longer a journey I had to walk alone.
In addition to easing the load I was carrying, I learned the importance of not only reaching out to receive support but also how invaluable it is to give to others. Her simple question has inspired me to be open with our journey and to connect with other women who are walking this path. Often I see that same stunned feeling that I felt when I first realized I was not alone it this reflected in other women’s eyes.
This year’s theme for infertility awareness week carries a priceless message. If you are of the one in eight couples struggling through this, know that you are not alone. Many of us have been where you are. Do not be afraid to reach out to us for support. We know the value of having others who understand the road from firsthand experience.
Equally as important, if you have already walked this road reach out to those who are still on it. Let them know that there are others who grasp how difficult the path is. Some, like me, may not realize there is a wealth of support even available. From experience I know that you may not always have the right words to ease the pain of a fellow sufferer, but the presence of your support will mean more than any words that you could speak. For me, being able to lend a listening ear has given my journey a sense of purpose. In a way it helps me repay the support I have received through the years.
The pain and grief of infertility is a universal one. Looking back in history all the way to Genesis in the Bible, we see the devastation of the diagnosis. Proverbs 30 talks of the barren womb as something that is never satisfied. It is a lifelong pain. However, it is not a journey we have to travel in isolation. Many of us are walking this road. Reaching out to give and receive support is vital. Together we can lighten the load and give our pain a purpose.
For those I am aware of who are struggling with this, please know that you are on my heart and in my prayers. I am always here if you need a listening ear. No matter how dark and difficult this road gets, always remember “You are not alone!”
More information about infertility can be found at the links below: