My name is Lori and my husband and I are infertile.
Being infertile, I have often felt like, that is it, that is what I am, infertile. Not a wife, friend, aunt, writer, teacher, hiker, mom to Gizmo, etc. But infertile. It’s been a while since I felt this emotion in such a strong way, so I was surprised last night when this once constant and invasive feeling came on. Last night Michael and I were at church, and for the first time the church asked everyone to greet each other. Not an uncommon practice for church, but a first time for our church (or maybe it was the first time we were there early enough). So, I stuck out my hand, smiled and said, “I’m Lori”, and the next natural thing that wanted to come out of my mouth was, “and I am infertile”. And then, I started thinking (obsessing) about infertility, if this round of IVF would work, why the girl 3 rows in front of us is pregnant, why I feel this way, and before I knew it we were singing the closing song, and I was crying and Michael had no idea why except for thinking my 8PM date with hormone injections, had finally taken its emotional toll.
When I first found out we were infertile, it was like all my old facets had been plucked out of my character and “infertile” was smacked on. Everything I wanted to be encompassed the ability to have my own children. Everything. Nothing mattered anymore. The days were spent trying to figure out, Why me, a person who wanted to devote herself to being a mom, what kind of lesson am I supposed to be learning here? Is this even a lesson? Is this punishment? What if I do come out of this all encompassing black hole that I currently live in, what I am going to do that day and everyday for the rest of my life if I was not able to have children? Would I ever be fulfilled? Would I ever stop filling this crater size whole in my heart? Would I ever be able to stop looking at pregnant woman and have Michael turn to me, wipe away a tear, and say “one day babe, one day it will be us”? Will I ever be willing to stop trying to have baby, when will I know enough is enough, will I hear and be able to listen to God when he says, “you have tried enough”? Will I ever be able to be 100% happy for the loved ones in my life having little ones, and not partially jealous and envious?
Who I was was lost, being a wife, mom to gizmo, professional, aunty, friend it was like it did not matter anymore. The one thing that meant the most to me was taken away. When that happens, it’s like the lights are turned off and everything you want to see is there, but in the dark. It’s like when you have a bad day with your spouse, and no matter how many good things happen that day, they are not as good as you know they can be, because the person you share them with is not celebrating with you.
Depression hit hard when Michael and I first found out about our “issues”. We were sadly not alone in this. In the 1 in 6 couples in the US who suffer from infertility, depression rates for women, who are infertile, mirror depression rates of woman with Cancer and Heart Disease. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8142988)
I am not sure when the depression ended, but I know why it ended. I stopped fighting this path for my life and started embracing what it could mean. >My sister-in-law called me one day and said “Lori, we want this for you so bad, but embrace it, accept that you are having trouble with it, stop fighting it, embrace that you might never have children, embrace what that would mean, mourn it, cry over it,feel it”. If she had not been through years of trying herself, and if I did not know she genuinely hurt for us, I may have sloughed her ideas off.
But I listened. She said once I did I would start to embrace the things I could do without kids, the hole inside me would be there, but it would be less gaping. That the desire would be there to have my own biological children, but the joy in finding other things to do, to find other things to desire also, would come. I told her it sounded good in theory, but it sounded impossible.
But I did it, I mourned it, I cried over it, I had many fights with God over it. I went weeks without changing out of my PJ’s or stepping outside. I went further into depression than I had ever been. And then, I started writing about it, and soon I felt enjoyment from this once creative outlet that I loved, but had put aside. I started to feel free from releasing the many emotions that were wrapped up inside of me and causing me confusion, guilt, anxiety and bleakness. Then I started feeling a little more alive again. I started thinking about what a life without children meant and realizing that I had to accept it as a possibility and if I did, what would I do with my life.
Michael and I talked about it and found many things we would love to do, including adoption, but also without children. Traveling to Africa and working with the orphans out there. Spending Christmas with orphans instead of at home thinking about what we don’t have. Doing things with our career that we could not do with kids, travel more, give back more, spoil our nieces and nephews more. It’s not what we envisioned, but it got us out of thinking our life would be nothing without kids.
Then we were able to start thinking about what we were grateful for, and little by little, I started going outside again. I stopped crying every time I saw a pregnant woman. My jealousy and envy went down a few notches when my loved ones started getting pregnant, and my life had a new focus. I was building up me again, with the possibility that I would never be a mom. I never knew that was possible, but it was happening.
The envy, hurt, tears, “why us”, anger, sad, depressed, moments all come. I think they always will, but they are less frequent, and will continue to be less frequent until we have a baby of our own, adopt or stop fighting a path of childlessness.
For me, these are the things that worked in climbing out of my depressive state of mind. For others it might be different. But in general, from experience, I can say that by taking these steps, depression triggered by infertility can be manageable. Even more than manageable, infertility brings with it the ability to turn such a dark reality, into a positive catapult for things you might never have imagined or desired.
So last night, when I was at church, and the thought “I am Lori, and I am infertile” came to mind and sent obsessive thoughts through my brain until tears seeped through, I was a little surprised. But in a way it felt okay. I am infertile, it is not who I am, or what I am, nor do I want it to be a part of me, but now, it is a part of me, it might even be the worst part of who I am, but it brings out characteristics, interests, and feelings that I never knew were part of me, and for that part, I am strangely grateful.
For infertility support: http://incmoms.com/category/articles/infertility-resources