NIAW: The Ebb and Flow of Grief

There has been a lot of discussion recently on social media about infertility and the resolution of grief. I’m not going to summarize the many opinions and points of view, but I did want to offer my own perspective. There is no right answer to the question of whether the grief and pain of infertility goes away. For some it does; for others it doesn’t. For others it is omnipresent. For others it is a tiny footnote in their history. There is NO right response.

This year’s theme of National Infertility Awareness Week was “Start Asking.” I don’t think post is going to be on topic per se, but I guess it is my contribution to the topic. I don’t think we talk a lot about how it feels years after “resolving” infertility.

I have a child. He is almost 7-years-old. He delights us, makes us laugh AND infuriates us (don’t ask me about the entire bottle of glue on the floor this morning). I suspect our experiences and feelings are similar to many parents with a similarly-aged child. The thing is, I am still infertile.

I still have stage 4 endometriosis and a congenital uterine anomaly. Having a child cured none of that. I am reminded of it when I can no longer take BCPs to control my endometriosis because after 20+ years, they started to cause major pain and I must switch to progesterone pills which have their own delightful side effects.

I am reminded of it as I age and start to enter the “preventative exam” stage of life. I have none of the benefits that pregnancy and breast feeding are supposed to provide. I have all of the fears about what consuming and injecting fertility drugs for years may result in. What is yet to come?

As the mother of a tiny human well into childhood as opposed to babyhood, I should be over all this infertility stuff, right?

I’m not.

When Daniel was a baby, probably until he was a toddler, life was blissful. I was blissful. I had my long-awaited child and was happy. So happy. I knew I was still infertile; I knew I would never forget my journey or scars, but I was happy. Fulfilled. Delighted. Tired. I felt normal. Like a typical parent. I could pass. Siblings and our vision of our family were still possibilities.

Then, as he reached age two and three, my parent friends starting having their second or third children. And the grief returned. Life happened and we didn’t return to treatment – too busy mourning unexpected deaths in the family, job upheavals and other life issues.

And now Daniel is almost 7, and I feel – we both feel – too old to tackle the journey to have another child or the energy to parent. Opportunity passed. And the old grief is back. And the old bitterness. Because even if we did decide to go for it, it’s not like it is simple or inexpensive for us.

So it is an interesting dichotomy of seeing my beautiful miracle child and loving him and thinking of all the possibilities we had dreamed of and mourning them.

And I’m almost 39 and when I look in the mirror and see an older woman with wrinkles, eye bags and rapidly-proliferating grey hair, a less desirable woman, I wonder how infertility contributed to my perception of myself. When I think about not feeling much like a legitimate woman, I wonder about how those years of infertility contributed to that.

Maybe this post reads like someone choking on bitterness and unable to savor her blessings. Maybe that is true. I’ve always been more on the “glass half empty” side of things. I think my point is that what I have discovered is that infertility remains. It is possible to be resolved and suffering, happy and sad at the same time.  You can look forward and back, mourn and enjoy. The real point of this is YMMV (your mileage may vary). Maybe you achieve your child and never look back. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you do and remember how hard it is. Maybe you have miracle children after the long fight for the first one. All of those scenarios and feelings are valid.

My experience, my feelings,  happen to be different.

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7 comments

  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. My infertility was unexplained, and in fact I conceived my second child much more easily than my first. I have come to realize over the past few years that although infertility was a difficult experience that I went through for a portion of my life, it’s also something that’s in my past. It’s not a current part of my life. I do like to think that it has helped me to be sympathetic to those who are currently dealing with infertility, and to an extent it does. But lately I’m realizing that the hurt just isn’t still present for me the way it is for some people, even those who are doing family-building and haven’t had a baby in many years. This has caused me to distance myself from infertility communities a little bit, for fear of saying he wrong thing. But I also still feel connected in some way.

    1. I totally get what you are saying and that’s why I tried to emphasize that this was my reaction and that others will differ. Every journey is different and I wouldn’t wish my particular pain on anyone ❤

  2. I’m in that baby stage and I’m already recognizing the emotions of wanting another. All the while knowing how my body will never cooperate and having another one is essentially off the table we simply cannot afford it nor do we want to go through the emotions of the adoption process again. Of course I realize I can never say never, but i guess that’s not the point of this comment.
    What I’m trying to say is that I really respect your perspective. Looking forward I kind of expect that I’ll be very similar to what you’ve described for you.
    Thanks for sharing and for reminding everyone that all experiences are perspectives are legitimate and perfectly acceptable.

  3. I can identify with a lot of what you’ve said. I had faith that having another would be simple and I devoted much of last year trying to get pregnant. I felt like I came so close, but I just didn’t make it and ran out of steam to try again. My son will be four soon. On the same day I got a negative pregnancy blood test in December, I got a job offer. So after being at home for three years I am now busy in my new job.
    At the moment I am having a hard time with everyone with a second baby and people adopting babies too because it looks to me like it is not in our future. But a few months into this year I feel like I have given up and given a lot of the baby stuff away. It was hard. But the weight of all this stuff without a baby to fill it was just killing me.
    It is hard to move on.
    Some days are easier than others. I guess being busy does help.
    But I try to be happy with what I do have.

  4. I feel this too, that infertility is an ongoing experience physically as well as emotionally. I see the hole in our family and it aches along with what is probably endo (I should get that looked at already). Thanks for the reminder that all responses are ok and normal if healthy.

  5. This really resonates. Thanks for the reminder that we all feel differently, and we may even feel differently day to day and year to year…its a winding road, not a straight path out of the woods.

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