“But you have kids; you shouldn’t complain about infertility.”
Sometimes people are quick to put limitations on experiences. Infertility is one of those. Some think you can’t say you experience infertility if you’ve been able to have a child at some point in your life. While I do not want to diminish the pain of someone whose infertility prevents them from ever having kids, I must say that infertility does not mean never being able to have kids. It means that it is difficult for a couple to have kids. That being said, infertility takes many forms.
It may be a woman who experienced a childhood illness that ruined their fertility for life. It may be someone who has some hormonal or another issue that causes infertility that needs treatment. It may be the husband who struggles with infertility due to a low or non-existent sperm count. It may be women who get pregnant only to have miscarriage after miscarriage. It may be women who get pregnant with ease once or even numerous times, and then they can’t get pregnant again for some reason. No matter how or when infertility strikes a person, it is an incredibly challenging thing for any couple to experience.
To help anyone going through this experience, I want to provide you with a little humor and support. Here is a list of ten things that only people who have experienced infertility will understand.
Standing on Your Head
Whenever a person with infertility expresses their struggles, there are bound to be well-meaning people who offer advice to help overcome their infertility. Advice like “standing on your head after intercourse will ensure you get pregnant.” Because that is how it works, right? If you just stand on your head, your hormones and body will magically decide to work the way they are supposed to.
Some people will suggest foods to eat or supplements to take that will help you. Those things may help, but they may not. There are no hard and fast rules about what will help every person become pregnant because there are so many different reasons people struggle with fertility. Still, it makes me laugh at all the suggestions people give. I once had a relative tell me exactly how to ensure your wife became pregnant with a boy. They had researched it and done everything correctly. I laughed when his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Infertility is not always in our control, and I choose to laugh at the well-meaning advice people offer.
Tracking Your Cycle as if Your Life Depended on It
Any female who has experienced infertility has become a master of tracking her cycle. She will be able to tell you exactly how many days her cycle lasts, when she last ovulated (sometimes even taking tests similar to pregnancy tests to know), and she can tell you when she is expecting her next period. If that cycle lasts even one day longer than anticipated, the hope of being pregnant builds up exponentially. More often than not, the infertile woman experiences an extreme letdown when her period starts.
Yet, after a few days of mourning, her obsession with tracking her ovulation and period begins again. There are very few women who experience infertility who are surprised by a pregnancy. They are tracking the possibility like a stockbroker on the stock exchange tracks the latest stock trends. It is almost as if their life depends upon it.
Trying to Deflect Questions About Having Children
Almost as soon as a couple gets married, they start receiving questions about when they will have kids. Sometimes this question comes before the couple is even married. These questions may be well-meaning and fun, but once a couple starts experiencing infertility, the questions hurt. They become a constant reminder of something they are already aware of and wish they could change.
I have come up with my own list of responses to these questions. Sometimes, I will respond with something sassy like, “I have sex every night, but it just doesn’t seem to work” or “Do you really want to know about my sex life?” I sometimes give these responses to shock them and allow them to see how deeply personal and inappropriate their question was.
However, this type of response doesn’t work well with family members. I choose to be very honest with my family, but some people don’t want to discuss it with anyone, which is their choice. Instead, you can simply tell your family that it is a topic you don’t want to discuss.
The Pain of Baby Showers
I remember going to a baby shower and being incredibly miserable. Everywhere I looked, there were reminders of celebrating the upcoming birth of a baby. There were baby games, the word baby was said numerous times, and baby gifts. All of these reminders were of something I desperately wanted, but I couldn’t get. I left the shower sad and depressed, wondering what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I be happy for the couple that was having a baby? I should be able to go and celebrate with others, right?
One shower, in particular, was very hard, but I also learned something important that day. I left that shower with a different question in my head. Why do I do this to myself?
You can be happy for someone and send them a gift without going to the shower and torturing yourself. Admitting that it hurt me to go to the baby showers allowed me to take care of my own needs. Unless it is family or a super close friend, I do not go to the baby shower. I send a gift, but I do not inflict further pain on myself by forcing myself to go. It is okay to not be okay and to give yourself grace in those situations. You are hurting enough, don’t add to your own pain.
Hormone Medicine that Makes You Feel Crazy
A common form of treatment for infertility is hormone medicine like Clomid. Anyone who has undergone hormone therapy knows it can make you feel extra cranky, tired, and anxious. One day I was standing in my kitchen muttering “chocolate” with the obsession of a drug addict in need of a fix. My husband came home to a freshly made batch of no-bake cookies and a wife who was stuffing her face with the only chocolate in the house. I learned that not only is chocolate my go-to food when I am PMSing, but it is also apparently a necessity when taking hormone medicine.
There are many stories of women screaming at their husbands or crying for no apparent reason when they are taking hormone medicine. Many husbands wonder if the change in their wife’s behavior is worth it to have a child. It is kind of funny the medicine supposed to help you get pregnant also makes it so the couple can’t stand each other. Oh well, whether you want to be around each other or not, you have to try to make a baby to give the crazy pills a chance to work.
The Right Way to Pee on a Stick
Women who do not struggle with fertility only have to worry about peeing on a stick a few times in their life. They do it when they think they are pregnant, and that is it. For some women, that means they may only pee on a stick two or three times in their life. The same is not true for a woman who experiences infertility. She really should buy stock in ovulation and pregnancy test companies for the number of tests she has bought in her lifetime.
I bought so many tests I even started buying disposable plastic cups. You can only pee on a stick and have it splatter everywhere, all while wondering if you are doing it properly a few times before you find a better way. Then you read the directions over and over again and realize it would be more accurate if you peed into a cup and then dipped the test into that. Now, you just need to get toilet paper neatly folded and placed onto the toilet tank to ensure the test has a resting place and doesn’t get your bathroom even more disgusting. Great, you are now an expert at pee tests. Just what you always wanted to become an expert in, right?
A Planned Sex Life
Before I struggled with infertility, making love to my husband was very emotional. We would feel inspired or in the mood, as some would say, and make love. After struggling with infertility, it became a planned event. It was every other day during the right time of the month so that sperm can build up. During ovulation, it was required to have sex that day. It didn’t matter if one of us was not in the mood or tired; we were doing it.
This planned sex life can be extremely challenging and make a beautiful expression of love feel like a chore. Not that you can’t spice it up or have fun with it; it just has to be planned with the precision of a lab experiment. It almost feels like the stars have to align in order for the female to get pregnant, and the couple is waiting for that exact moment to act. There are no longer inspired love-making sessions. Of course, some might say this prepares you for the busy schedule of a parent. Still, I would have to say the obsession of knowing how often you make love and when you should make love is much worse with infertility. At least with parenting, you can make love when you have time and want to. You aren’t waiting for the exact right moment or thinking about it all the time.
This section is in no way meant to disparage parents from complaining, but when a parent complains about the challenges of parenting to a person experiencing infertility, it can trigger some extreme emotions. At the height of my emotional struggles due to infertility, I would hear parents complain about their kids and think to myself how I would gladly trade struggles.
Some parents even jokingly say, “You want a kid?” They usually say this in a moment of frustration or jokingly, but I always respond, “Yes.” I will gladly take your child off your hands. I still respond this way today. Parenting is hard, absolutely, and some days are a struggle, but the blessing of being a parent is not one I will ever take for granted.
Knowing the Joy of Being a Parent
This one stems from the last one. When you struggle with infertility for years and finally get a child to raise, either through birth or adoption, then you do not take that blessing for granted. I struggled for three and a half years to get pregnant with my first daughter and then four and a half years for my second daughter. After that, I was never able to get pregnant again. My daughters are precious to me because I worked very hard to get them into this world.
I try not to spoil them, but at the same time, I want them to know how much they mean to me. Every struggle and hard day is easier to put into perspective because I know I wanted them and still do. Both my girls had colic and cried almost their entire first year. It was exhausting, but I would look at them during those peaceful moments when they slept and rejoice that I had them in my life. This is what I would call one of the blessings of infertility. The knowledge that you really, really wanted your child.
You Find Other Ways to Parent
My sister struggled with infertility for years. Over a decade, she waited for the opportunity to be a mother. However, while she waited, she found other ways to parent. She invited children into her home who needed a safe place to go. She would let them play video games, give them food, and love them while their parents worked. She did this because her mother’s heart yearned to bless the life of a child.
Many other people who struggle with infertility become teachers or volunteer with children in order to help bless the life of a child. They become amazing aunts and uncles or godfathers and godmothers. Whatever way possible, those who struggle with infertility will still find a way to parent. I taught a children’s Sunday school class and was very blessed to have those children in my life when I needed them.
No doubt about it, infertility is hard and can make a person feel very defeated. Just remember that you are not alone in this journey. There are ways to deal with the challenges, and there are benefits to experiencing infertility. I know that I have a lot of empathy for people after having experienced it myself. I know the pains of diminished or dashed hopes, but I also know the joy of finally getting a child. My hope for you is that you will know that joy someday, and the journey will be worth the reward.Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.
Jennifer Autry has enjoyed the greatest job in the entire world for over 16 years now, being a mother. Becoming a mother was not easy for Jennifer. Although she does not have anywhere near the number of children she wanted, she is grateful for both her daughters and the foster children she has cared for. Jennifer is passionate about writing and helping people. The adoption community is near and dear to her heart as she still holds out hope of adopting someday. You can find out more about Jennifer and her latest projects at jenniferautrycreates.wordpress.com.