Shame. Hurt. Guilt. Did I try hard enough? Did I make the right choices? Did I abstain enough? Did I cut enough of this? Or that? Did I give up too soon? These are the thoughts that plague me nearly every day. I am content. I am happy. My days are full of running kids, refereeing sibling fights, and still, I struggle with infertility.
For years, I carried the burden of infertility without bothering anyone. I asked my husband to leave and have the biological children “he deserved?” Oy. The ridiculousness of that thought is just too much some days. Thankfully, he wasn’t hopped up on hormones at the same time and saw through my chemically-altered bravado. Then, one day, I thought a seemingly simple thought. What if I just forgave myself? I know that I did nothing to cause my infertility. It wasn’t something I chose. It was something that happened to me. My body simply wouldn’t, couldn’t produce a child. I tried hard. But I needed to give myself the blessing of forgiveness. There was no moving forward until I made my way through the process of forgiving, and henceforth, letting go.
It wasn’t instantaneous. It took years. Sometimes with self-work and knowledge, and sometimes through the simple grace of God. Forgiving doesn’t equal forgetting, but I was able to know that I did all that we could do, that we decided together to do, and ultimately, it just wasn’t meant to be. Once I was able to forgive myself, I was able to move forward. I was able to grieve the life I thought we would have. The perfectly spaced, perfectly healthy, perfectly blonde-haired, hazel-eyed babies. Approximately, two and one-half years spacing. The only thing we didn’t agree on is how many perfect cherubs we would have. That’s not what happened. And it’s exactly how it should be.
The grief work was far harder for me. I went through every stage of grief but was particularly hung up in the anger/bitterness stage of grief. I would sail along feeling that beautiful healing and suddenly there’d be a birth or pregnancy announcement and I was right back in the depths of bitterness. I wore it like a warm winter sweater. The kind that feels comfortable in all temperatures, that allows me to hide my deepest, darkest anger. I tried to hide it. In the moment, I thought I did it well. I didn’t. I hurt people. I hurt relationships. I have tried to make amends for those hurts, some were willing and understanding, others weren’t.
Ultimately, we had to decide what was more important to us. Having a family. Or having a biological family. Once we decided that we just wanted a family, that we knew we didn’t have to give birth to children for them to be ours, the true healing began. It was such a relief to put the trying to conceive behind me. I was able to clear my mind, stop feeling like a failure, and I never had to hear the words, “I can get you pregnant” again. We had mountains of paperwork, training, and research to conduct to help us discover the best way for us to become parents. I was finally able to move forward. To focus on being a mom. The relief of placing the process behind us and moving to something new was healing and renewing for both of us. We were able to repair hurt and heartache together. I don’t know that even we understood the pressure we felt until we put it behind us. It’s not that adoption is easy. It’s just different. There are still uncontrollable variables, but they’re not the constant physical disappointment.
Once we accepted our new reality, we were both happy. More relaxed. We focused on the aspects of adoption that we needed to. And while some of those things can be discouraging it was a welcome relief over the countless years of emptiness and longing. Excitement replaced hurt, anger, bitterness and we could finally have something to look forward to. That’s not to say that we didn’t continue to face challenges, we certainly did. But they seemed fixable, surmountable, and nothing like the agony of being told time and again that my body wouldn’t cooperate. Even though you know you can’t make those darn ovaries ovulate, you still feel it sharply when you see the negative line. You only have so many ways to soothe the hurt and pain in healthy ways. As we researched and filled out page after page of paperwork we got more and more excited. It finally seemed as though our dreams would finally come true.
Eventually, we learned to pray. To pray healthfully and effectively. It’s not that God needs you to have the perfect prayer. He knows your heart. For me, prayer was extremely cleansing and healing. It allowed me to focus on the blessings that we had in our lives instead of the shortcomings. When you’re of a certain age, it’s expected that you’ll produce offspring. When you don’t, there are many, many questions. Some days, I just prayed for the comments and questions to stop. Even though I’ve always been vocal and shared our story with others, it didn’t stop their lack of understanding, ignorance, and flat-out refusal to hear that we had already tried all the tricks, were seeing great doctors, and frankly, it just wasn’t happening. I prayed a lot.
Eventually, I started prayer journals. The cathartic practice of writing out what you’re feeling was so healing. Putting all my hopes and dreams out there, out loud. It’s good for the soul. For me, writing is like having a conversation with a good friend. Maybe even better because you can pour out exactly what you’re feeling without the risk of judgment. You can get it all out of your head. In many cases, reading back what I had written caused me to reevaluate my mindset. To find an attitude of gratitude, if you will. It’s not an easy process. And it’s not that I didn’t feel justified in being sad, angry, and disappointed. It’s just not a healthy place to stay. I stayed there much too long. So many years in pain, jealousy, envy. Had I found healthier ways to cope, I could have changed many years of my life. It is what it is. I don’t think I’m the norm. I think others find healing and happiness in shorter amounts of time, others take much longer and still cannot find a way to move past the need to have a biological child.
Another important part of healing is finding people like you. When your best friend is someone who can announce her intentions to become pregnant and it works, trust me, there is a whole other level of self-loathing and grief associated with that. Finding other broken people is such a relief. Broken dreams, broken uterus. In the early days, I didn’t know a single person in my real life that was struggling with infertility. Most people in my life proved to be incredibly fertile. Thankfully, I stumbled upon an online community in which I found my sisters. Women just like me, trying to build a family, feeling lost and alone, reaching out. It’s amazing to me that I was brave enough to reach out there. The internet in those days was super scary. But eventually, I formed real and true friendships with these message board ladies. I’m still in contact with many of them today, and for most of us, we have become exactly who we wanted to be.
There is much peace and healing in knowing that someone knows exactly what you are feeling. We are all unique individuals but feeling heard, actually heard, was such a relief for me. I’ll never forget when someone close to me showed up at my home. She was so excited to share someone else’s “new” diagnosis with me. Maybe this is what I had. Maybe I could do what she did and achieve pregnancy. It was, in fact, my exact diagnosis that I had shared years earlier. I had exactly what my doctors asked of me, very similar to what her doctors asked of her, she became pregnant. I did not. It was heartbreaking. All those years of opening up and sharing our story were completely lost on this person. It said a lot about where the relationship stood. It’s hard, but also a necessary healing.
It’s likely that you’ll find your own ways to heal. This isn’t meant to be an itinerary. You will have good days and harder days. For that, I’m truly sorry. The pain and disappointment of infertility is real. You are not alone. You are not oversensitive. It’s a loss. Knowing that you’ll never know the joy of conceiving and giving birth to your children is real. It’s hard. It will be harder for some, easier for others. It doesn’t mean it’s less in any way. Find your way, find your path, and start to heal. Breathe. And please find some grace for yourself and your spouse.
Find a pretty journal and start to journal. Getting those ugly thoughts out of your head and onto paper will help you process it all. Dig deep into scripture. Assign yourself a life verse. If you are struggling and can’t find one, you can borrow mine. Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” These words are a balm for my weary soul when I feel like I can’t go on.
Ultimately, the greatest healing has come from holding my children in my arms. Holding these hot, wiggling bodies as we read stories, watch family movies, or play board games is the absolute best experience. It doesn’t mean that life is perfect. But it’s pretty close. I still have moments where I wish that I had the ability to choose how to build my family and all that that would look like. But they are now moments in time and not lost days, weeks, months, and years.
We didn’t have a lot of things that normal families experience in their family-building process. No hospital rooms full of doting relatives and friends. In our case, two of our children weren’t even babies. They were toddlers. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t find the joy and laughter in how our family came to be. It is good, and we have great stories to share with our kids. It looks different. But who wants to have the same story as everyone else anyway? That’s so boring!
Give yourself a break. Take the time you need to process the life you thought you’d have, the life you do have, and all that comes with it. Try not to stress about the things that don’t matter, put others’ expectations of your life behind you, and grab hold of the life you have and live it to the fullest. The main takeaway that I’ve had is just because it doesn’t look like I thought it would, it is beautiful, it is good, and it’s very complicated.
The guilt may creep in at unexpected moments, it may dissipate forever. I think that depends on you, your situation, and your heart. There are no one-size-fits-all remedies, healing, cures. But I know this, you will find a way to put it away. You will find the right process to ease the pain and heartache. To ease the guilt, grief, pain. Eventually, the grief will dissipate and make way for joy, happiness, and so many tears. Good, healing, cleansing tears. It washes my heart, my soul, my face. It allows me to feel deeply the love and joy that comes with the hardest job on earth. It makes way for all the fun things that come with parenting. Temper tantrums, constant chatter, and endless love. Healing can and will come to you. You just have to find your way.
Visit Adoption.com’s photolisting page for children who are ready and waiting to find their forever families. For adoptive parents, please visit our Parent Profiles page where you can create an incredible adoption profile and connect directly with potential birth parents
Karla King is a passionate open adoption advocate, adoptive mom, foster mom, wife, reader, avid creator of food, a stay-at-home mom, and Christian. She loves taking care of her family, supporting others on the adoption journey, and watching the world through her children’s eye.