Is This Normal? The Complex Emotions Behind Infertility - Part 1

July 21st, 2016
Is This Normal

INTRODUCTION

While you wish it to be different, the infertility process can quickly take over and become your “new normal.” As I underwent treatment, I remember questioning who I was becoming and changing into as a result of my infertility. I had many thoughts that I wasn’t proud of, and I was too scared to admit my guilty thoughts to anyone.

But one day, I finally stepped out of my comfort zone and confided in my cousin, who at the time was the closest person to me who also had gone through infertility. I spilled everything: how laser-focused I was on getting pregnant, how quick I was to judge my worth against other pregnant women, how stressed I was, etc... And worst of all – I was lonely and sure that no one could understand how I felt.

"And then she said the three words I needed to hear most: 'Yes, it’s normal.'"

A wave of relief washed over me. Some say they never had a problem finding happiness for their pregnant friends, or they never struggled with judgmental feelings, but personally I experienced the exact opposite. It seemed like every time I opened my mailbox, I would receive a flood of baby shower invitations. Every time I walked into Target, I felt my heart sink as I walked past the baby section, loaded with racks of cute, tiny clothes, plush toys, and lavender-scented baby wipes.

Do any of these situations describe you, too?

In this new 3-part blog series titled, “Is This Normal?” I want to dive into the deepest and truest feelings of a woman undergoing fertility treatment. Beginning right now, I want to walk with you on your journey, and let you know that yes, it’s normal.


PART I: My Walk with Infertility

I will never forget the day when one of my new “infertile friends” asked me to go for a walk with her. I was so excited I met someone who I could share my feelings with about infertility. Our new friendship grew as we bonded over our struggles with conceiving, which helped to defeat the loneliness that infertility had brought to my life.

One day she asked me if I would like to go for a walk with her. I thought she needed to talk about her feelings and the sadness she was experiencing due to being told by her doctor that she would probably never conceive. It was the complete opposite; she needed to share with me that she was pregnant. 

"I held my breath for what felt like forever."

In the coming months, seeing my friend’s baby belly pictures was hard. Just when I had one of those rare days where I wasn’t completely wrapped up in thoughts of my own infertility, I would see her cheerful smile as she cradled her growing belly. So long to a “clear mind” and hello to the familiar feeling of a broken and defeated heart.

I wanted to be so happy for her, but I couldn't help but feel the loneliness flood back into my body. I found myself alone again in my despair with being infertile. I am not proud of how I felt, but my heart was so broken and I felt so hopeless that I couldn't muster up genuine happiness when hearing about a new pregnancy.

And it wasn’t just hopelessness that I struggled with – I found myself overwhelmed with jealousy every time I saw any pregnant woman. Mixing all this jealousy and sadness of not being pregnant was definitely a recipe for a mental breakdown.

"But ladies, say it with me: 'It is normal.'"

It is normal to struggle to be happy for someone when you find out they’re pregnant, while you’re suffering from infertility. Yes, you may feel guilty for feeling this way, but it’s not easy to see a constant reminder of something that you want so badly. You may even find yourself removing your friend’s updates from your weekly feed just to cope.

Either way you look at this, it’s very important to dig down deep and try your best to recognize the importance of being there for your friend and sharing her excitement. I am not saying this is easy, but finding a good friend is also not easy. A good friend is hard to find, so when you find one, hang onto her. A good friend will always be there for you, and while it may not be your struggle with infertility that she can help you with, life is inevitably full of various challenges, and one of the best ways to overcome these hard moments is through quality time with and support from a great friend.

Note from Donor Egg Bank USA: Even more than traditional IVF, we find that women who have used, or have been encouraged to use donor eggs struggle with feelings of loneliness and defeat. If you need encouragement, inspiration, or want to learn more about the donor egg process from women who’ve already “walked the walk”, contact us at (855) 344-2265 or at info@donoreggbankusa.com to join our private Facebook sisterhood group.

About The Author

Melissa Butcher was a professor, recently promoted to a full-time stay at home mom. She enjoys life with her husband, two miracle children and two four-legged companions. She spends her days joyfully being a helicopter mom who loves snuggling and playing with her two mini tornados and using her teaching background to "play school," growing two future bookworms!

Comments

Hi Melissa

It's been a while since I've read an article regarding infertility and I had a recent curiosity to read your article . I suppose because deep down this feeling of inner sadness re not having my own biological child or any child child , egg- donated or adoption never really goes away .

My internal struggle since knowing I was going to struggle with having a child has so far spanned 5 years . I am now 48 yrs of age . I do not believe the internal struggle with the kind of emotions you talk about go away . However , with time somehow. , you learn a level of acceptance ( so long as you allow the time for you to know what choices you really want to make ) and this also really takes time . We have to not be hard on ourselves and not judge ourselves and know the choices we still can make to have a child , if not our own biological child whether this be by egg or sperm donation or adoption or allow ourselves to say that it is also ok if we do not have children , because this will somehow one day become ok , because this is what it is for no fault of our own .

One day , when the time is right , you will also be able to be happy for your friends when they have children . Though I'm sure it is natural for us always to have a twinge of wishing it could be us , time somehow becomes a healer and allows us to accept nature for what it is and what cards have been deAlt to us for no fault of our own . Having supportive people in your life , whether this be a partner of good friend is very helpful to our Gedling process .

I wish you the strength to continue with whatever is your chosen route and to continue along the path of acceptance whichever way it may lead .

All my very best and hope what I have written also normalises your own very true and honest feelings . Always be true with how you feel . It is always ok for us to do so .

XxxxxxxEssie

Submitted by Essie 1 year, 3 months ago

I want to thank you for this blog. I have the same feelings you had and while I always try to spin things to a more positive outlook, on the inside I'm falling apart with grief. Grief that I need to express more often I think. I look forward to reading more and for the support I know I'll get from this. Thank you so much,
Erin :)

Submitted by Erin 1 year, 3 months ago

RE: Erin
Dear Erin,
The grief you're experiencing is some of the hardest a woman can bear. I remember many times wearing a fake smile and the "I'm totally okay, it will happen" attitude, and the truth was, I didn't know if it would happen and because of that I felt a sense of grieving for something I may never experience. It became too exhausting trying to stay positive. It wasn't until I faced my true self and the feelings I was having that I found relief. No I wasn't proud of how I was feeling or the automatic jealousy I felt towards anyone with a growing baby belly, but by facing my feelings I was able to step out from the blanket of grief that covered me for so long and welcome the new "infertile Melissa," a Melissa that was transparent about her infertility challenges with everyone in her life. No more was I asked "when are you going to have a kid?" and responding with "we want to one day," but really wanting to say "don't ask me about my plans for a family because I don't want to start crying right here and breakdown about the broken heart I've had for months!" Instead, I candidly shared that my husband and I were going through infertility and were using assisted reproductive technologies to help us hopefully conceive. No more pretending I was having a "good day" with the identity of being infertile that consumed me so. Instead if I was having a bad day with it, I would let others know so that they could respect why I was being quieter than normal or not acting like myself. I found that the more open I was, the more support I felt. The loneliness I had blamed on my infertility for so long was dwindling away and replaced with love, care and compassion from others. I started reaching out to others who had or who were struggling with infertility and growing relationships with them. Not much about infertility is comforting except when you find someone who can whole heartedly relate to your struggles!
Erin, you are strong, you are courageous and you are a warrior! Be gentle on yourself! Rock that power of positive thinking, but when you have days when you're just too tired of being positive, wrap your arms around your heart and let your feelings be what they are, and know that you're feelings are normal. Sending you much peace and best wishes!

Submitted by Melissa B. 1 year, 3 months ago

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