“When are you going to have kids?”
I can’t count how many times we’ve gritted our teeth and casually responded to an innocent and well-meaning question like this. The truth is, we don’t know if we will ever be able to. Infertility has taken that certainty from us.
Our journey to parenthood has looked nothing like what we imagined. When we first started trying, we were filled with so much hope and excitement for the future. That turned to worry and fear as the months went by and has ended up being something that brings no joy at all.
We were given a diagnosis of unexplained infertility after trying for a full year. Over the last couple of years, we’ve tried medicated timed cycles, we impatiently waited for our clinic to open back up again after closing in March of 2020, had a cancelled IUI cycle, 3 subsequent failed IUI’s, and a round of IVF which yielded some worrying results during retrieval. I remember the sick feeling I got after the call with the embryologist, realizing there was something additionally wrong than just our “unexplained” diagnosis would suggest. I obsessively compared our results with others while waiting for the follow-up consultation with our doctor. Turns out, our combined genetics just yield poor results. I spent a long time processing that particular grief and had a hard time finding a way to move forward with the FET of our one, precious, miracle embaby. I was paralyzed with fear. “What if this doesn’t work? We only have one shot at this”.
After some time spent in therapy and riding out the grief cycle, we have finally settled on a protocol for transfer. This will include an aggressive medication protocol and an ERA first to ensure that we give our embaby the best possible chance. We are also preparing for the possibility of having to undergo another round of IVF.
“Sometimes we can’t do it alone and that is okay”
These last 3 years have broken us, over and over again. We felt like we weren’t doing enough or weren’t deserving enough. We felt like we were failing and that feeling quickly took over our lives. Month after month of heartbreaking negative tests, countless appointments, long days of travel, side effects from medications, and multiple treatments have become our reality. Watching others so easily conceive around us made us feel left behind, like we were being forced from a club we so desperately wanted to be a part of.
I remember very clearly the moment that we realized we couldn’t live like that anymore. We very intentionally learned to focus on and remember what made us happy, outside of our dreams for the future. We have slowly learned how to embrace the unknowns and how to continuously look for hope in a future we have no control over. For me, this took an infertility therapist and connecting with the infertility community. I am the biggest believer in seeking out help when you can’t cope with something heavy. Sometimes we can’t do it alone and that’s okay!
I will never ever be grateful for having to go through this but I have learned to look for the smallest bits of light and positivity in the darkness.
I choose to be thankful for the lessons this has taught me:
Grief and joy can co-exist
I have learned to love my husband more than ever. He has put the broken pieces of my heart back together more times than I can count and he can always make me smile even on the worst days.
I have learned that our support system is even greater than we could have imagined. That those special people that we shared our struggles with, would bring so much comfort and help us through days we never thought we could manage.
I’ve learned that being vulnerable and speaking up is HARD but staying silent and hiding our struggles were far more damaging.
I’ve learned that it’s more than okay to put myself first. To ask, “what do I need to be okay at this moment?” It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself, especially when you’re trying to find your way through something so heavy.
I’ve learned that grief and joy can co-exist. You can live in this space of feeling these conflicting emotions all at once.
In spite of all these lessons and the moments of joy that we’ve found, this hasn’t gotten any easier.
The ache of something missing in our lives is still incredibly painful and there are no guarantees that we will ever become parents. That’s the scary side of infertility. We can spend tens of thousands of dollars on treatments and years of our lives and still not be successful.
But we choose to be grateful for what we do have and we take comfort in knowing that we will exhaust every option to build our family.
I’m reminded that I can get through this every single time I pick myself up off the floor, dry my eyes and begin the cycle of healing all over again. After each failed cycle, painful treatment, or triggering situation that I’ve survived, even if I didn’t know how I would at the time. What’s more, I’ve made a considerable effort to do so with as much grace and kindness as I can muster.
Getting through the bad days
Well, I certainly have never had a glass or two of red wine when I’m having a bad day…not me, never 😉
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what I need to help cope with my worst days because I find that it changes from situation to situation. What I can say with certainty is that I have gathered, through trial and error, a lot of tools that work for me. Sometimes I cling to community, other times I need solitude. Sometimes I need to vent my emotions and other times I need to disconnect. I just keep asking myself what I need and trying things until my heart feels less shattered.
The one constant through all of these situations is my husband. I lean on that man more than anything else and he is always there to give me strength when I have none left. (If you can’t tell, I’m kind of obsessed with him!!)
It changes you…
Oh gosh, I hardly recognize who I was before.
I’m certainly no longer an optimist. I believe your heart bears the mark of so many heartbreaks and disappointments. Instead of having a headspace full of positivity, I simply push out negative thoughts and remain open to what may come. It feels safer in our current situation of complete uncertainty.
I’m also a lot more self-aware, can easily recognize my triggers and I’m much more confident when it comes to setting boundaries for my own mental health, regardless of who that may upset.
I’ve also become a person who lives each day with an undercurrent of sadness and grief. The person of easy joy that I was before infertility has faded to the background. I hope that one day when we’re no longer in the “middle” of our infertility journey, I will be that woman again. But for now, I simply focus on the fact that I always have something to smile about each day, even if I have to look extra hard sometimes.
The outpouring of support we’ve received since opening up about our struggles has been truly humbling. There have so many people who have reached out with similar stories, gifts, offers of places to stay, rides to appointments, or simply to let us know they are here for us and love us. It has made existing relationships even stronger and has created new ones. I will always treasure this aspect of our journey; we are truly surrounded with so much love.
Now for those negative comments…well they still hurt a lot. It doesn’t matter how much personal growth I claim to have, it hurts every single time. But the truth is that those people are never going to understand or be the support we need and so they aren’t worth my time or energy. So, I process those comments in whatever way I need and then I move on and try not to give it a second thought.
Hi, I’m Holly
I’m 28 years old and a proud farm wife. My husband and I have been together for 10 years and married for 3. We live on our farm in rural Manitoba where I feel so blessed to live with such beautiful scenery every day! We have 2 very spoiled dogs; Grover, our 14-year-old poodle terrier mix, and Trigger, our almost 3-year-old Australian Shepard.
We have many nieces and nephews (both by blood and through friends that feel like family) and most of our friends and family live close by so we love being able to see them on a regular basis.
I love to create tasty things in the kitchen, run half marathons (something I miss so much since starting ttc), garden, curl in our local league, read and help out on the farm. I have an obsession with indoor house plants and re-decorating our house multiple times a year. I’ve recently taken up cross-stitching…Covid hobbies am I right!? I love travelling but even more, I love having a home that I miss when we’re away. I’m definitely a homebody and an introvert, someone who loves genuine connections and conversations over huge groups of people.
That’s me in a nutshell!