It’s simple. The first rule of Infertility Club is there is no Infertility Club. At least, that’s how it seems when you first find yourself with a wastebasket full of negative pregnancy tests. You can’t imagine anyone else is going through what you’re experiencing. But of course, you’re not alone. If you don’t have an infertility support group in your community, there are plenty of online resources available to you. Here are some of the things I wish I’d known when I first began doing battle with infertility years ago.
1. Get comfortable with what happens to your body when you visit the doctor. Whether the procedure is diagnostic or to help you get pregnant, it’s going to involve multiple people getting friendly, ahem, with your body. Remind yourself they do this for a living, and seeing your body isn’t going to horrify or amuse them.
2. Take care of yourself. Commit to improving your body through healthier eating and exercise. Don’t go to extremes, but if you’ve been wanting to drop ten pounds, let your pregnancy quest help motivate you. Taking care of yourself also means treating yourself. Once in a while, splurge on a banana split after dinner. Get a pedicure. Go away with your spouse for a weekend. Do the kinds of things that will be challenging after you become a parent.
3. You’re going to spend a lot of money on pregnancy tests. You’ll have your favorite brand. (My favorite was First Response, which I think of as the Cadillac of pregnancy tests thanks to its large price tag. I preferred this brand because it was reputed to give the earliest positive results). Here’s some advice: learn to love the dollar store pregnancy tests. Otherwise, you’ll be broke as a joke.
4. Other women who are going through infertility are just as crazy as you are. They’re peeing on sticks, breaking apart the plastic test cases to look at the strip itself, and weeping when their period arrives three days later than normal. Because this month, they knew–KNEW–they were pregnant. Find a sisterhood of women who are going through this torture, too. You don’t have to go through it alone.
5. You’ll experience every pregnancy symptom, often multiple symptoms, even when you aren’t pregnant. When we were trying to conceive, I had nausea, fatigue, lower back pain, “implantation pain,” and more around the time my period was supposed to show up. The symptoms would start, I’d get excited and start doing pregnancy tests, and then my period would arrive. Just be prepared for these symptoms and the fact that they make this roller coaster ride even more intense.
6. People won’t get it. Except for people who have experienced infertility (not being able to conceive after one year of unprotected sex), friends and family won’t understand how you feel. With hearts full of love, they’ll say the most awful things: “Just relax,” “Stop trying and it will happen,” “Adopt and THEN you’ll get pregnant,” “Have you tried this (herb, medication, thing I read about in Cosmo last week)?” Be patient, but remember you are in control of your personal information. These comments don’t require you to launch into an explanation or description of how your journey’s progressing. Sometimes, you will want to educate them by responding in an informative manner. Other times, you may choose to just smile and nod.
7. You may never know why you can’t conceive. Before we began trying to conceive, I thought it was fairly straightforward to diagnosis the cause of infertility. Run some tests here, take some blood there. Poof! You know the problem and can tackle it. Alas… if only it were that simple. We never found out conclusively what caused our infertility. Endometriosis is the likely cause, but plenty of women with endo get pregnant, even if it takes several years. I, however, did not.
8. Your idea of happily ever after is going to evolve. At the beginning, you have a very specific idea of what you want the outcome of your journey to be. However, it’s possible that a medical diagnosis may push you down a path you hadn’t previously considered such as egg donation, surrogacy, or adoption. It’s also possible that you may come to a point when you decide you’re finished with this struggle and choose to live child free, or child full as Justine Froelker so beautifully calls it. The point is this: the best happy endings are the unexpected ones. If we don’t learn to let go of our own specific visions of happily ever after, we may be destined to a lifetime of misery, of never measuring up. But if we’re open, we may find ourselves embracing a life that’s even more beautiful than the one we first imagined for ourselves.
What are some of the things you wish you’d known when you started out on your infertility journey?
Top image via Flickr by vidrio
Pregnancy test image via Flickr by http://www.homejobsbymom.com
Feet image via Flickr by gabi_menashe