Struggling with the weight of infertility grief is an unusual type of pain. We grieve deeply for something that never existed. It seems to be hard for those who have never encountered this to understand. How can a person feel like their world has fallen apart when nothing was ever actually lost? Why can’t those with infertility simply move on? Why are they stuck in an endless cycle?
For me, infertility grief was expected. I understood that it would be hard to struggle to conceive. I had always wanted to be a mother and was saddened by the news that my dreams may never come to fruition. It seemed to me that it should be a unilateral grief that I would get over in time and learn to accept the losses, but fifteen years and two adopted kids later, I know that is not the case.
For a long time, I felt stuck in an endless cycle, unable to understand how to escape it. Eventually, I got to the bottom of the grief and learned how to step out of the web that was entangling me. I want to encourage any of those caught up in the pain that there is a way out.
- I learned it was normal. I had not lost a person as others who are grieving, but I had lost a dream. In some ways that is more difficult to wrap my head around. There is no grave. Majority of people, especially now that we have adopted two children, do not acknowledge my grief. There is nothing but an empty hole where a dream had been. I love my children from the deepest part of my soul and there are experiences that I was not able to share with them and that is still hard. I would have loved to have carried them in my womb, felt their kicks, and had been able to breastfeed them. Those are things I will never share with our children. So, there is loss and a reaction like grief is normal.
- I realized it does not follow the usual stages of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Pregnancy announcement. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Baby shower. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Pregnancy announcement… Over and over and over I cycle through the stages. The acceptance stage lasts just a few moments until the next pregnancy related thing comes along and then I am thrown right back in the midst of the pain again. There might be the five stages of grief but it doesn’t just simply end with acceptance. I had to learn that I would be retriggered and accept that the grief would cycle all over again each time. Now, I know to expect it and give myself the space to work through it.
- It does not mean I love my children less. This was a big one for me. I bought into the idea that my infertility would be cured with the birth of my children so when I was thrown head first back into the infertility grief cycle with the first pregnancy announcement after our son was born, my well being took a huge hit. I was consumed with worry that grieving my infertility meant I was rejecting adoption. After all, if adoption was to cure my infertility and the grief remained, was there something then wrong with adoption? Was I rejecting the children I had gained through adoption as not good enough to cure my infertility grief? Obviously, the answer to that is a resounding NO! There is a residual loss even after adopting our children. This loss still triggers the grief. That is to be expected and okay to experience. It does not mean I love my children any less.
- I let go of guilt. For a long time, I judged myself for the lingering pain. Shouldn’t I be over it by now? My life is filled with the joy of my children. I am fifteen years into this journey. Shouldn’t the pain have left by now? What is wrong with me? I have found that nothing is wrong with me. Proverbs 30:15-16 tells us that a barren womb ceases to cry out. The passage struck me. The grief of infertility is as consuming as the grave and fire. Neither ever have an ending in mind. They just continue to consume just as infertility has consumed my life. The grief says nothing about who I am as a person or how I should be experiencing it. I have no guilt in struggling with it. It is not for me to feel guilty about.
Infertility grief is one in which you never fully get over, but you can get unstuck. In realizing the normalcy of it, I have learned to rise above the circumstance and let it ebb and flow. It is going to happen time and time again. I have to take care of myself and not let myself get sucked under the weight of it all.
I know if I can do it, so can you. What are some of the things that have helped you cope with your infertility grief?
Sometimes, dealing with grief (or loss) requires looking beyond one’s self, This is not easy to do.