One of the hardest parts of this journey has been the constant and often sudden ups and downs. I feel like I have constant emotional motion sickness. The highs that come with hope or a positive pregnancy test are followed by the lows that come with a failed cycles, a bad test result, the pang of envy when a friend announces a pregnancy, or a miscarriage. It's hard because I can't always predict what will hurdle me into the pit of despair, so I often don't see it coming. Things that destroy me one month cause only a passing discomfort the next, and things that I was able to handle one month break me the next.
I didn't see it coming when my low hit last month. This time it was a deep, soul crushing, ugly cry, struggle to get out of bed, LOW. I spiraled into a dark, dark place that lasted for weeks. I didn't expect it because what happened was far from my worst setback. But for some reason, this one attacked me deep in my heart.
After one miscarriage and two failed IUI cycles in the last six months I was finally ready to try again in December. The baseline ultrasound showed six follicles, which is a miracle number for me. I hadn't had that many follicles since 2015. So, I started to hope and get excited that this was finally the month when my dreams would come true. But when I went in for my follow-up ultrasound there was zero growth with my follicles, and at the ultrasound after that one, after ten days of injections and hope, the cycle was finally cancelled when it became apparent my follicles weren't responding. I was despondent. I felt betrayed by my body. I felt deficient- defective. I felt embarrassed for having hoped so much. "At her age- what was she thinking?" I imagined them whispering. I fell into a pit of unworthiness ("Do I even deserve to have a baby?" "Maybe this is what I get for having fun, traveling, and building a career instead of settling down earlier". "I'm such a fool for thinking I could have it all"). I was crushed by the shame of not being able to do what other women seemed to be able to do so easily, and for not being satisfied with the wonderful baby I already had. I was overcome with the hopelessness of the statistics, and I was plagued with self-doubt ("If I can't do this, maybe i can't do anything. Maybe I'm doomed to fail at my job, at my friendships, at my marriage"). I felt like I didn't belong to the tribe of women out there, all smiling with their families and commiserating over the burdens of child rearing. I tried to join the "We need wine to survive our kids" conversations, but inside I just wanted to shout at them for not appreciating every second of the gift they'd been given (And then I'd feel ashamed for being judgmental- ugh!). I felt like everyone would pity me or judge me if they knew what I had been through.
All these feelings spiraled around me and threatened to consume me whole, but I was determined not to let them win. I started to seek support from wise women in the form of books, blogs, and videos and I had a realization. Maybe this fertility journey isn't actually about a baby after all. Don't get me wrong- I want this baby with every fiber of my being, and I will continue to pursue that. But maybe this journey is about finding a truer and deeper sense of self-worth, self-acceptance, and belonging. Maybe it is about stepping out of all the anxiety and fear about things I can't control, and stepping into a more relaxed and present place. Perhaps my future child is guiding me towards a place of greater strength, authenticity, joy, and connection before she arrives. Maybe it's time to shift the focus of some of my energy inward, and to care for my own heart with the passion and commitment I one day hope to care for my child with.
One of the women who has had the greatest impact of my state of mind has been Brene Brown. Although she doesn't specifically address infertility, her work on shame, bravery, vulnerability, and self-acceptance has struck at the heart of the feelings and emotions that I have battled on this journey. I've included some links if anyone is interested in taking a look at her work.
Brene brown homepage
Brene Brown TedTalk vulnerability
Brene Brown shame
Stay strong ladies. Thank you for allowing me to be vulnerable with you, and thank you for sharing this moment with me.