For years I shared on this blog about our struggle with infertility, and that’s because we went through it for years. It took us nearly 4 years to get pregnant with our daughter, and man, infertility is no joke. Those 4 years were a nearly constant roller coaster of emotions, hopes, disappointments, plans, new plans, shots, pills, sonograms, pregnancy tests… and the absolute hardest part of all of it, for me, was the first few months.
I am a planner. And if I’m being honest, I’m also a little bit of a control freak. If I can help it, I go into absolutely any situation with my eyes wide open, armed with information and a plan. Unprepared is a word that I don’t like to be a part of my vocabulary and I’m an over-thinker to my core. I over-think about my over-thinking. What I’m trying to say is, I’m not caught off guard by much in life.
And infertility absolutely knocked me on my ass (sorry Mom). I didn’t expect it. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know what would happen or when. I didn’t know what to expect. And so every experience and every emotion for the next few months hit me like a baseball bat.
I didn’t have any control over this. *thwack*
I didn’t ever want this to be me. *thwack*
I didn’t know if it would ever happen for us. *thwack*
You get the picture. But as I came out on the other side of those early months, a bright spot among so much darkness started to become clear. When I decided to share for the first time what we were going through, so many people started to reach out to me and share their history with infertility or that they were also in the throes of it. All these women, quietly struggling with one of the saddest things a person can go through.
Eventually, with some time and perspective, I realized that among the many good things that would come from this experience, one of them was the ability to help others know that they’re not alone, and hopefully, make this whole mess a little easier for them.
And that’s why, looking back, I want to share what I feel are some of the most common misconceptions and myths about dealing with infertility. And if you find yourself suddenly on this road, I hope they help you avoid a few of the *thwack*s.
1. I Have to Take All the Advice
Sister… you will get advice. All the advice ever in the history of advice. Everyone will tell you what worked for them, what they tried, what their cousin’s dental hygienist tried, what some woman on TV said she tried, what they read about in an article that their old coworker posted on Facebook.
And here’s what you should do with that advice… Be grateful that people care enough about what you’re going through to want to help.
Here’s what you absolutely do not have to do with that advice… take all of it and try all the things.
It can be overwhelming and frustrating to get so much well-meaning advice, some of which is often conflicting. But understand that you are the best judge of what is right for you, and you don’t have to do anything just because someone suggests it.
If something rings true to you or feels like something you’re interested in trying or pursuing, go nuts. What we ultimately tried that led to me getting pregnant was something someone shared with me and I’ll be grateful for it forever. But I also got lots of advice and suggestions along the way that I knew weren’t right for us. And that is okay.
And besides, learning to smile and thank people for their well-meaning advice while secretly planning to ignore it is GREAT practice for when you do become a new parent. Trust.
2. If It Worked for Someone Else, Then It Will Work For Me
Here’s the other thing that I think is important about advice, and this might not be easy to hear, but the sooner you hear it, the easier this will all be.
Just because it worked for someone else, or lots of other people, does not mean it will work for you.
It might, and that is wonderful. But there are enough opportunities for disappointment on this road, so don’t set yourself up for any more. I know how easy it is, when you’re looking for any thread of hope to which you can cling, to hear others’ success stories, and to believe that it will work for you too. I get it and I remember that despair like it was yesterday.
But here’s the thing I want to make sure you to remember. Every single person is so different. The series of events that leads to a woman getting pregnant is so unbelievably complex and when something isn’t going exactly right in that process, it could be any number of things.
It’s so tempting to rely on others’ successes for hope, but my friends, trust me, that’s a shaky hope. Trust the road that God has you on and be patient.
3. I Have to Try the Treatment My Doctor Discussed With Me
There are doctors and specialists who are well-trained to pinpoint what is going wrong and try to correct it or even work around it. They are wonderful and they are there to help. The doctor I was seeing when we got pregnant was a true Godsend and I feel certain that without him we would still be on this long and painful road.
But… one of the biggest things you should know is that you have options. There is a very typical path and typical fertility treatments that a lot of people follow when trying to get pregnant, and because they’re so prevalent, they can seem like the only options. They are not. If the most common treatments feel like the right path for you, that’s wonderful. If it doesn’t feel like they’re right for you, then pursue another path.
You have to be your own advocate in this process. Ask questions. Ask more questions. Do your research and arm yourself with information. Get second opinions if you want to, and don’t feel bad about it. There are lots of fertility treatments with good success rates. Know your options.
4. I’m Not Normal / I’m Failing As a Woman
I gave this one two titles, but honestly I could have given it 17 because this same lie has a bunch of different ways of rearing its head, but trust me, it’s all the same lie — that because you aren’t able to pregnant, you’re not normal, not like everyone else, there’s something wrong with you, you’re failing as a woman, failing as a wife, unable to do one of the most basic things that God designed a woman’s body to do.
Oh, I struggled so much with this. Every time I thought it, the pain cut straight into me like a knife. If you’re in the thick of it, I wish I could just put my arms around you and hug you through it, because it hurts. It attacks your identity. You feel like you’re failing your duty as a woman, like you’re failing your husband, and like you’re just plain failing. The guilt and shame is real.
So hear me when I say this. You are made in God’s image, and you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your lady bits not working perfectly doesn’t say any more about the woman you are than it would if you dry skin or heartburn. Our human bodies are imperfect and sometimes things just don’t work exactly the way they’re supposed to.
So give yourself some grace. You are not failing.
5. Because Fertility Is Personal, I Should Keep It to Myself
Maybe it’s because the shame and guilt are so strong, but opening up about it is difficult. I never felt more vulnerable than when I shared that we were struggling to get pregnant. It is an intensely personal thing, and you don’t have to share it with anyone you don’t want to, but I am telling you right now… share it with someone.
Share it with close family and friends. Share it with a counselor or therapist. Share it with someone you know who is going or has gone through it. You can share it with a bunch of people, just a few people, or one person.
But whatever you do, don’t go through it alone. It is a desperately sad thing to be faced with, so find people who can offer you support through it.
6. I Don’t Know Anyone Else Going Through It
I was astounded to learn how many women I knew who were on the same path or had been on it. And knowing that I wasn’t alone was a game-changer. We had so many people loving us, praying with and for us, and offering us support in whatever way we needed it.
But the women who knew what it was like, the women who understood every last bit of the roller coaster… those were my women. My tribe. There is nothing like the support you get from people who KNOW.
It’s been estimated that around 10% of women experience infertility in some way. That is so. many. women. There are people around you who are struggling and who understand what you’re going through. And if you don’t know who those people are in your life or don’t know where to find them, then message me. You can be in my tribe. Trust me, it’s a good one.
7. If I Can’t Get Pregnant, I Should Adopt
This one is difficult and complex, so hear me out.
If you’re struggling to get pregnant, it’s very likely that at some point, someone is going to say to you, “Why don’t you just adopt?” And that suggestion can be really painful. No matter how well-intentioned, it can be loaded with guilt and shame and fear.
First, understand that it is okay to want a biological child. That is not selfish. Nearly every parent in history has wanted a child that shared their DNA, their characteristics, their traits, their appearance and personality. The suggestion to adopt can often feel like people are telling you to just give up on that dream, like it should be easy. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a biological child and continuing to try for one.
Second, adoption is an absolutely wonderful thing and I could not possibly support it more fully. There are children the world over who were born to mothers who were, for a multitude of reasons, unable to care for them. Bringing one of those children into your home and calling them your own is an incredibly selfless, noble and loving thing to do. I have endless admiration for my friends who have adopted or fostered, and I am so grateful that God brought their children to them in that way. It fills me with joy.
But… adoption also comes with many challenges. The decision to adopt a child has to feel like the right decision for you, and it has to be something you’re ready and willing to embark on. If you’re not able to conceive a biological child, and adoption feels like the right next step for you, that’s incredible. But if you’re not able to conceive and adoption doesn’t feel like the right thing for you, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
I have loved ones and friends whose families have come to them in all different ways… pregnancy, adoption, fostering or some combination of them. I also have friends who were unable to conceive and ultimately decided against pursuing a family in other ways. The plans that God has for you and your family are between you and Him.
But know this: The plan God has for your life is wonderful. Be patient with Him and be patient with yourself. Be patient with your body. It’s capable of something truly miraculous, and even when it feels like it can’t happen, it can. It can take time, but when it finally comes, in whatever way it comes, you will again remember that He works all things together for good.
And it bears repeating… if you’re struggling with infertility and would like help or just someone to talk to, please reach out to me. I’m always happy to talk with people about it and help in any way I can.