Every time I receive a pregnancy announcement, I’m filled with two vastly different emotions: sorrow and joy. Sorrow, because I have never once been able to announce a pregnancy of my own. Joy, because I truly understand how precious and miraculous the gift of a child is. With each announcement, the eruption of tears shifts from one emotion to the other—a session of ping pong, or a tug-of-war. What surprises many, including me, is the unchallenged winner: joy.
Sorrow still lingers, though. For five years my husband and I have suffered from unexplained infertility. That word “unexplained” is so maddening it’s comical. The definition is simple: “not explained or accounted for.” We tried everything from bromelain to guaifenesin, Brazil nuts to headstands. After hundreds of tests and outpatient procedures, a reason for our infertility could not be explained. Nothing. But I remain hopeful. Unexplained, I think, but possible.
We kept our infertility somewhat of a secret those first few years, so as not to burden our friends and colleagues with this story of sadness and loss. But in 2018 after the fourth year, I broke. Hopeful as I was that one day our prayers would be answered, I found myself incredibly lonely and entirely lost. We were putting ourselves through hell, and no one knew so no one could help us. Our home, once a lively gathering place, had been shuttered. Our daily activities went from bike rides and hikes to a dark cycle of sleep, work, eat, repeat. The only burden, it seemed, was the one we had been placing on ourselves.
That spring, I shared our story during National Infertility Awareness Week. I told my small social media world about our journey. The highs, the lows, the cost, the pain. A snapshot of the secret life we lived. The support I received was incredible, but something strange also happened. Pregnancy announcements became scarce. Our relationships with those who had children or were pregnant became strained.
An unexpected separation
Sharing our story, honest as it was, was pacifying. But maybe sharing my journey had made our fertile friends uncomfortable. I wondered if they kept news of their growing families from us because they didn’t want it to come across as gloating. We were the empty womb in the room, and many didn’t know how to respond.
That summer, my husband found out via Facebook that the wife of one of his closest friends was five months along. When he asked around, he realized everyone else had been told months prior. Everyone but him. In the fall, friends that we had known and been close with for years but now rarely saw surprisingly invited us to dinner. When we arrived they told us they were pregnant, and it seemed that was the whole point of the visit. After the new year, my best friend burst into tears while sitting in our living room. “It’s not supposed to happen this way. I’m so sorry,” she cried. She then announced that she was pregnant.
It wasn’t until my closest friend announced her pregnancy to me that I fully understood our story’s weight. Before I shared our story of infertility, I had just thought that the other couples had announced their pregnancies in the wrong way, disregarding our feelings entirely. But what was the right way to announce a pregnancy to someone with infertility? It wasn’t until I threw my arms around my tearful friend that I realized: there wasn’t one.
An unexpected revelation
A few months later we were at our local watering hole. One of the waitresses, also a friend of ours, was pregnant. I watched her from afar with admiration. She was glowing and cradling the life growing inside her. I teared up, happy for her growing family, overwhelmed at the miracle of life. Then, one of our other friends approached us and asked if we wanted assistance in asking our waitress friend to stop stroking her belly.
“It’s disrespectful,” she said, half-joking but with some level of seriousness. “She knows what you’re going through.”
I was confused. Until this point, I’d never fully realized that anyone could experience pregnancy with any reaction other than joy, regardless of who was carrying a child. Sure, I still felt sorrow with every announcement, wishing one day that I would be pregnant. But other people’s pregnancies never made me uncomfortable. They made me happy. More so, they made me hopeful.
When I explained this to my friend, she seemed surprised. She explained that she had known several women who struggled with infertility. “They never saw it the way you do,” she said. “They always saw another woman’s pregnancy as inexcusable.”
Tears flowed down my cheeks as she said this. I could understand firsthand the sorrow, the grief that comes with this condition. But not the hate, the “them against me” mentality. Women supporting women is a movement that has rooted itself very deeply in today’s society. From shattering the glass ceiling to the fight against assault, there is an outpouring of love and support—movements that keep pushing us forward. But somehow infertility’s battle against fertility continues to struggle. And it’s time for that to change. What we share in common is greater than what separates us.
To my sisters struggling with infertility: share your journeys, find comfort from those who have walked in your shoes, and celebrate their joy. Let others’ success motivate you to keep fighting. Shower those mommas with love and support, as they have their own struggles we know nothing of.
To my beautiful mommas: I love you, I admire you, I look up to you. You, too, struggle. Share this. I promise you are not alone.
Together we are strong.
Editors' Note: Making of a Mom is a Readers' Write column. Submit your story here.
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