Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Be Gentle

I have struggled with how to write this. How do I say this without sounding bitter, or desperate or angry. But it has been on my mind non-stop, and I'm feeling just fragile enough to write this and just brave enough to say it.

So, here is my story, what is it like living with infertility.

What can I say? It's seeing your life on hold, while you watch everyone's flying by. It's wanting something so precious, but increasingly elusive. It's wanting to hold a baby in your arms. Not someone else's baby, but your baby.

It's wanting to be pregnant. To be sick. To have swollen ankles. To stay up all night, rocking a screaming newborn.

And trying, at first casually, then slightly worried, frantically, desperately, and devastatingly, numbingly.

It's trying everything, absolutely everything. It's being on prenatals, just in case. It's thinking about what you will be doing next year for Christmas, you know, when you have a baby. And then next year. And then the year after that.

It's planning how you will announce the news. For Easter we will put the good news in an Easter Egg, around Mother's Day we will give a rattle as a gift, for Halloween we will dress up as a Bun in the Oven.

It was maybe silly, but you spent hours thinking about it. And hours thinking about names. Writing them down. Trying different spellings. Realizing that Atticus Scott Stewart had an unfortunate acronym.

It's mourning the life you dreamed. It's trying to adjust to the might nots. It's protecting your increasingly delicate heart. It's sobbing every month, because you were a little late, you thought maybe this time. Month, after month, after month. 72 months of trying, 2,190 days of hoping.

It's being poked and prodded, and giving up blood, and urine. Tests that hurt, tests that are embarrassing, tests that are scary.

It's bolstering your heart, preparing for the worst, and hoping, in the tiniest place in your heart, for the best. Because if you don't, and a babe in arms isn't waiting, you know you could lose yourself.

It's being desperate to give all your love to a child. Children. It's imagining picnics, soccer games, vacations.

It's wanting to comb curly hair, or maybe straight, and wash freckly skin, or maybe clear. And sing songs about boogie monsters, and smell fresh washed hair, falling asleep with a warm body next too you.

It's being afraid to say things out loud, because you might make them true.

It's uncertainty. Deafening uncertainty. Overwhelming fear, that you put into a box. And try not to look in to.

It's lonely.

It's rejoicing in other mothers, other babies, other lives. But still not wanting to hear about the ease of others conceptions.

It's constant guilt. Guilt for those 5 years you waited. Guilt that you went to school first. Guilt that you were 27 when you decided now was the time. Oh, how naive you were, that you thought you could control this. That you had your life planned out. You're guilty for your age, for the time you have waited between IVF. If only you did this last year, you would have had a baby now. Your eggs would have been one year younger. One year more awesome. It's the fact that you even talk about eggs. That's weird.

It's staying quiet when told, "Adopt, then you will get pregnant. Think positive, then you will get pregnant. Try acupuncture, then you will get pregnant. Now you have Lucy, you will definitely get pregnant. Be grateful, you are already have a baby." As if Lucy wasn't the sun that centers my world.
But, I dreamed of a family, of 5, then 4, then 3, then 2.

It's being positive for others, because they want you to be happy, but you really just want to say,"I'm devastated. I'm heartbroken."

It's being diagnosed with "unexplained," which basically means we don't know, which leads to, "we really can't say what will work and what wont." So it adds up to a high stakes guessing game.

It's shots, after shots, after shots, after shots. It's bruises, in various places, your heart being one of them. It's money that you don't have, but don't regret spending, but still don't have.

It's recognizing that nobody really understands that your dreams, although not quite dead, are at breaking stage. It's a limbo between joy and sadness, happiness and pain.

It's realizing that the treatments you are now doing, are the end of the line for pregnancy. And here you are 7 years older than when you first started this, when you thought you would be done, but really you are just beginning. It's telling Lucy she is going to have a little brother named Jack. It's hoping Lucy will have a little brother named Jack.

It's knowing that you can put everything you have left, into this last ditch effort, all your money, all your emotions, all your walls, and recognize that you can give it everything, but that doesn't guarantee anything. Only 40%.

It's putting your faith in God. Completely. You have no other choice. You have been completely
humbled. But you recognize your way isn't God's way. And Faith is a hard road sometimes.

Be gentle. Infertility is a lonely valley, traveled by two people, clinging to each other with all their might.

72 comments:

Andrea said...

This was forwarded to me by a friend. Very powerful. Thank you for posting and having courage to put into words feelings that many women do not understand.

Lindsey said...

Thank you Andrea! I'm not that brave, because I put somewhere no one will really find, but it was so cathartic to write it out.

Lizzie said...

This was written so beautifully, clearly, & powerfully. It really broke my heart. I've been working in adoption for several years and have never had anyone describe infertility quite like this before. I hope I can always be gentle with my clients & anyone else who is traveling this road. Much love to you & your family in this journey!

Candi said...

Linds you are such a strong mama!!! I'm so sorry you have to go through this. Lucy is one lucky little girl to have you and Scott as her mommy and daddy.. I would love to do dinner or lunch again when you have time. Sending hugs and prayers to you!

Holly and Dave said...

tears fill my eyes as I read this, for you have put it so beautifully. nobody can quite understand unless they have walked that road, and even then, every situation, every person, every trial is different. It is so incredibly humbling, for nothing feels certain or controlled. One's faith is incredibly strengthened by being pushed to its limits. I could go on and on, but thank you for writing this. you are stronger than you think. much love.

Rashmi said...

Hugs Lindsey. Many many hugs.

Jennifer Tai said...

What a powerful, poignant essay. More people need to read this. Thanks for writing it, Lindsey.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! This is beautifully written. I also struggled with barrenness/infertility for seven years. I felt alone in the desert. Faith is hard but worth the journey. Keep faith & trust God's plan for your life. Know he wants to give you life...abundantly.

Bunn Salarzon said...

Dear Lindsey McDermott Stewart: I just shared your post on my Wall because, even in your own words, you spoke the words that I can't seem to get passed my lips ... without crying. It has been 3,544 days for me. *just breathe*

Carole said...

you took the words out of my mouth :(

megan said...

Beautifully written Lindsey.

D'On Marx said...

Beautifully written. It's nice to hear from those who are traveling down the same path as you. Thank you for this!

Kennedy said...

I just want to say thank you for writing this out. I know that I couldn't have been easy to share any of that. It was perfect though. This has never been my trial, but I am friends with so many that are living with this pain daily. Your words, "Be gentle," are a perfect reminder for me. I do my best to do just that, to love and not say the words that only wound. Again, thank you.

Shannon Wilkinson said...

Dear Lindsey,

It's me, Shannon. I had no idea and I'm going to call you today but I'm also going to tell you my story in a very readers digest sort of way.

I sobbed as I read your post because I could have written it and I felt every single moment of your pain because I have lived it. I was very lucky. There was a pot of gold at the end of a very long rainbow for me but every day of my life I know how lucky I am. And every day of my life for 12 years I heard people tell me to be thankful for the baby I had (Alyssa) and for that my miscarriages were God's way of taking care of a "mistake" (for the record I would have taken each and every one of those sweet precious mistakes no matter how imperfect others might have thought they were because to me they weren't mistakes, they were my precious babies that I had longed for so long to have). And every day of my life for 12 long years I watched my friends have their babies, I listened to them complain about being pregnant, I rejoiced with them when their babies were born and I cried every time a new one came along because as happy as I was for them, every time a new baby was born, a dream died inside of me. If one more person told us to relax I was going to scream, if one more person told me their story of trying for six months and how hard that was I was going to cry, if one more person told about such and such who had adopted and then got pregnant I was going to die. I could go on but you know this story as well as I.

I stopped going to baby showers, baby blessings, baby namings, baby births and anything that had the word baby in became a death sentence to another hope. Every test an insult, every probe a reminder of what I didn't have, every needle a curse and a blessing. When we finally found something that worked it wasn't what we had expected. We ended up having our last three babies using a donor route. My biology and Roger's unending love is how our family was made.

Infertility is like a slow death and painful death. First you dream of getting pregnant like every one else. And you shop and you joke and you make plans. Then you realize that something is wrong so you move on to drugs. And you still dream and joke and make plans but with a bit of trepidation...a little more caution. When the drugs don't work and you move on to more invasive things you still dream but you no longer joke and you stop making plans. With every miscarriage and every year that passes...every cycle when that little spot shows up on the toilet paper you know that one more month has passed you by, you realize it is like a cancer. One that has no promising cure...only the hope that they will finally find that which works for you and in your particular case. We rarely told anyone what finally worked for us and when we finally had our babies we just listened to everyone say that relaxing finally worked. My father says that having Livi set something loose. The truth is that these babies came after many years of struggle and more tears that I can count. 7 miscarriages, 3 IVF clinics, failed IVF's and slow realization that it might never happen and that I have wasted so many years.

I will call you later. I'm here though if you ever ever need someone to talk to. I understand. I won't say anything. I am just here to listen because no matter how much I can relate, every journey is unique and different. Your pain is not my pain and in some ways it is a haze for me now because I am on that other side but no matter what, I"m here. And we are close so we can do lunch. Or we can do dinner. Or you can stop by or I can come over. Just know, I'm here sweet girl. <3

Shan

Liz King Bradley said...

I have been blessed so greatly. When I was a young newly married woman people criticized us cruelly for the choice not to wait. Largely I made this choice based on the knowledge I had of women like you who found that they had less control over it than they thought and suffered incredible heartache from it. Thank you so much for opening up your heart like this. I have tried to explain this, but because I have not "been there, done that" as you have my credibility is different. Thank you so much for the vulnerability and strength you've shared, it makes a difference.

EB said...

This was spot on. Our heartbreaks can all be so different, yet they manage to be the same hurt. Beautifully written.

Tara said...

I don't know you, and you don't know me. But thank you for writing the words of my heart. I could relate to every.single.word.

Thank you. And my prayers are with you.

s + b said...

I'm so, so sorry that infertility is something that you and your family are enduring. I can't think of anything more humbling (in all the worst ways). Your honest is so refreshing; you are obviously someone who has taken a horrible challenge and has allowed it to make you into a better person. Very few people actually do that. You are a real inspiration to me.

Thanks for your post.

Lindsey said...

I can't adequately express what your comments have meant to me. I wrote this in a moment of extreme sadness, feeling very vulnerable and alone. I thought I would never share it with anyone other than my husband, and it has sat quietly, on this forgotten blog. I cried and cried over it, and then, suddenly, the skies cleared for awhile, and I felt at peace. It hasn't necessarily gotten easier, but I purged a lot of demons I have been holding onto for years. I'm touched that you shared your stories, your own heartache, your comfort, and kindness. While I have felt so alone, I now realize there is a community of women who experience this same kind of loss. Thank you for your strength and for coming over to this secret little place and sharing a piece of you. I think this is the power of women and sisterhood.

moosh in indy. said...

This was/is wonderful, not in the sense of your fragility, but that I understand every single word down to every drop of blood in my body.

I have a story too, one of 72 eternities, 72 heartbreaks and 72 failed hopes.

A very wise friend we have in common once told me "Everything will be okay in the end, if it's not okay? It's not the end."

Blooms & Co. said...

So beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a tender part of your heart. Its amazing how pain can make for such beautiful writing about the strength of the human spirit. You're a strong woman you will inspire and help other be strong that are experiencing the same thing.

Sell...Party Of 4 said...

what a powerful post reminding everyone to be gentle. life can be lonely and hard. thank you for sharing.

Jenn and Casey said...

Really beautiful. And really get this. We are in our third year of trying. Hoping. Fragile. Wanting.. It's so hard. Thank you for sharing.

Christa said...

Hi Lindsey! I remember chatting with you ever so briefly about infertility issues when you shot our engagement photos. I just want to say thank you for putting this into words. All three of my married sisters have been unable to conceive. Many of them have found no definitive reason why. And it's not something we talk about openly, in our attempts to be gentle. So when women like you are brave enough to tell your stories online, it helps me better understand my own family. Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting into words the pain my loved ones feel. It helps me to be more gentle. And it helps me know, that if/when I'm in the same place, there are brave women and men who've walked that road too, and that I won't be alone.

Meagan said...

This makes my stomach ache for you and my heart break and my eyes cry! I know too many people dealing with this gut and heart wrenching pain. I'm going to retweet and share on fb!

Anonymous said...

I'm there too. Once when lamenting my guilt at waiting, at not trying right when we got married, another friend with a strong faith said to me "Who told you you were driving this bus?" It was her way of saying "God is in control and if it was His plan a little pill would not have stopped you from being pregnant. Her statement comforts me when that 'guilt' creeps in..I hope it does you too.

Leisha said...

Linked over through Kim and this hits me to the core. After many, many years of infertility and now having adopted, I wonder if my infertility friend will ever truly go away. It is still there and it still tugs at my heart strings. Hugs to you.

Amanda Edwards said...

Gosh, I am crying right now. I completely feel every ounce of pain and hurt you have written about. I think we have the same life! I have a beautiful son, who will be three in July, but still struggle daily. Thank you for bearing your soul. Know you aren't alone.

Christina said...

Thank you for articulating what is in my mind and my heart. Please know that you are not alone.

Erika said...

Your post was linked by mooshinindy on Twitter. I'm so thankful she thought to share and that I was able to read this. This was amazing to read. It resonated with my soul. Thank you for sharing.

mrs. r said...

Exactly.

Beautifully written. I felt your heart.

Kirsten and Steve said...

Amazing post! It captures every emotion that comes with infertility. Thank you for sharing.

Wendy said...

Thank you. You really captured what it feels like to deal with infertility.

Katie said...

Even after being a mom to 2 kids I feel so much of this still today. The pain of infertility is still very present and very real. Thank you for having the courage to write this and say what I know so many people feel. I hope your Jack finds his way to you soon!

The Blakes said...

Hey I originally saw your post shared by Becky earl who is my sister. Although we've only been trying for a year and a half you captured everything I felt. I'm dealing with secondary infertility and I can relate on so many levels. Were starting our first iui soon and so I feel like I'm just at the beginning of my journey compared to you. But I just want to say how grateful I am for women who refuse to be silent. Its more common than we think and as you can tell from the number of comments and people who share this how many people have been effected for good. I hope you continue to blog about this. I find it to be like free therapy to blog about my struggles. Anyway I'm rambling but I hope you know your post is traveling quickly and you amaze me!

Katie said...

Lindsey, my heart aches for you. I pray for you constantly and only can hope that a miracle happens for you.

newmarchmommy said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing your story.

Chris and Tara said...

This was so beautifully written. I'm technically about ten years into this but really only a few months and two IUI's in. This post helped me to see that there is support out there. I'm so sorry for your pain but so grateful you shared it. I don't know you but you'll be in my prayers from now on. Much love.

Amy said...

So true and so sadly powerful.

I struggled with 3 years of unexplained secondary infertility after the loss of our first born son (full term no reason). It was terribly hard and I hit bottom last August. I heard all those things ... especially the you will get pregnant now that you are adopting.

I'm 36 ... the fertile years have slipped by.

Sure, we went the adoption route rather than ART, but guess what? We were on the adoption wagon for 2 years with no luck ... two years.

Then, out of no where, I was pregnant.

It was (is) amazing. No reason. It was not because we were waiting to adopt. It was not because I believed it would happen (because I did not). I don't know how it happened, all I know is I'm grateful for each second this precious rainbow baby grows inside of me.

And terrified. And gentle to the feelings of those that may still be waiting and hurting and wondering if parenthood will ever find them. I hope will all I have that parenthood will indeed find us this time.

WeLuvOurTwins said...

This is word for word the story of our infertility...thank you for sharing!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is thank you for finding the words the way I never seem to be able to.

Anonymous said...

thank you. everything you wrote was as if you were inside my head, stealing my thoughts.

Janni said...

Thank you for finding the courage to write what I couldn't. I've often thought how I would express myself and explain what the journey was like for me, but just couldn't find the right words. You have explained it so perfectly and I hope that others find the courage and strength to keep on. I have 1 five year old son. We were trying for almost 3 years. The emotional journey after having had 1 is just as hard. I was told I didn't have many eggs left at 30 years old and I needed fertility treatment to get pregnant. It was so easy the first time and I regret taking everything for granted, even though I didn't realize it at the time. God has blessed me with my miracle baby that I am expecting this August '12.

Anonymous said...

So perfectly said. It's your story + my story = knowledge that although it's a lonely journey, you aren't alone. Thank you.

Danielle said...

I have also experienced loss and longing. Although in slightly different circumstances, I share your pain. I appreciate your strength and incredible ability in putting your feelings into words. Prayers are coming your way!

Samantha Murphey said...

Absolutely beautiful. It makes me want to think twice before I wait too long to start trying. It's a struggle so many of my friends deal with. Thanks for your courageous post.

Anonymous said...

This is amazingly and beautifully written. You have touched me so much more than i ever thought words could. I hope that some day you are able to come to peace or an end to your journey. I have been on the infertile train for 4 years....
And trying, at first casually, then slightly worried, frantically, desperately, and devastatingly, numbingly.
^^^this describes the journey so well....and means so much to me...because it describes my life to a T. Thank you for writing this...for being so eloquent in your feelings. You have spoken true for so many women on this same journey!
Good luck.

NightCandy said...

That was beautiful and moving.

I've fallen head over heels for a man who wants kids. He's the love of my life, but I am 41 now. I don't even know if I can do this. He says it's not a dealbreaker, but I feel terrible for being so old and not being able to make him any promises. It doesn't even matter if you've already had X number of kids, one or a dozen, if you don't feel you're done but Nature says otherwise. (I do have older kids, but the 6 years between the last two were NOT on purpose... And that scares me terribly now. I don't have 6 years to try.)

Marie said...

Wow! I don't know what to say besides Thank You. Thank you so much for sharing so many of my feelings as well as yours. And thank you for being such an excellent writer and all the work that has gone into that, to be able to share this with so many.

jeanette said...

My dear sweet person that I have never met. THis pain that you share, I share, except my context is different. I have dealt with divorce. So many of your feelings of hoplessness and sadness and questions have accompanied my story as well and many others. Please know with all the tenderness I can send to a stranger over a blog that many of us share the same pains and hurt just outlined differently. The feelings are there even if it's infertility, divorce, sickness, death, etc. You aren't alone or unique. Dont take this the wrong way please. May we all remember to be gentle with each other. Not sure if that made sense but I just had to try and comment.

Mary said...
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Mary said...
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Mary said...

THANK YOU, Lindsey, for putting into words so many of the things which are all too familiar to me but which I seldom express. Hugs.

SMorgan said...

I don't know you, your blog was posted to a friends fb profile and it caught my eye. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful post. I'm openly weeping as I read this because my beautiful daughter is curled up asleep on my chest and I think of how incredibly blessed I am to be in this rocker tonight. I lost my first pregnancy after 2 years of trying and tests and doctors and so many people had "helpful" advice. It just broke my heart on the inside as I smiled and thanked them. I hope that everyone reads this and finds a sliver of understanding so they may be better friends/loved ones to those going through this lonely and troubling path.

Anonymous said...

You said it perfectly! I have often thought of ways to express my feelings in words. I have never been one to open up. As I read, tears filled my eyes because I feel like this is my story. I don't have any children. Everyone jumps to say that the best thing to do is to adopt. What they don't understand is the heartache that you feel, which is expressed so beautifully in your post. Thank you for sharing and helping me realize that I am not the only one who has gone through this up hill battle. :)

Arlene said...

Powerful. Poignant. Sobering. Thank you.

Jessica said...

I cried right through this post because it brought back every single memory of my years of infertility. You said it far better than I ever could have.

sunnymama said...

Thank you so much for this.

heather said...

I can't thank you enough for your courage and your amazingly beautiful expression of the horrible pain and longing of IF. I want to share this link on my FB profile...but I'm not even brave enough to share someone else's words about the pain and rawness that I feel. Not yet, anyway. Thank you so much for putting into words these feelings and experiences. I am in awe of your beautiful way with words and grateful to you in a way that I can't even fully articulate. Thank you.

Jenny said...

Your post is so spot on for what I am feeling. It is so hard to put into words what I am feeling. Especially when everyone around me seems to be getting pregnant so easily. Our infertiltiy is explained (male factor), but that doesn't make it any easier. In fact, knowing that it is something my body has no control over brings on a completely different set of emotions. We haven't reached the IVF stage yet, but that decision is nearing in the next few months. I wish you the best in expanding your family.

al + sar said...

You don't know me but I have friends who know you (Abby Clinger Degraff, Becky Stoker Grimnes, Jane Garner Harmen, etc) and this post was forwarded to me because of what I am going through with infertility. Thanks so writing this - you put all my thoughts and emotions into the words that I've been struggling to find. Thank you and good luck! Fertility issues are seriously horrible but you are not alone! :)

Jana said...

Very well written! Next week is Infertility week and I would like to write my story so your post is an inspiration.

Thank-you!!

Lindsay said...

Amazing story. Thanks so much for sharing. You have truly hit the nail on the head with how you described our journey.
Sending prayers and baby dust your way! :)

Heather said...

Perfectly said. Every single word of it.

loveunderstands said...

Thank you for writing this. You've captured my heart.

taradawes said...

This is perfect - I don't really think anyone else could put it better.

Stephanie said...

Beautifully written. I'm at the two-year point of trying, and I find myself spinning my wheels...do I keep waiting and hoping? Or do I figure out what my life is going to be "instead"? I'm so afraid that I won't do anything but wait and wait and wait and then be filled with regret because I didn't DO anything. Anyway, thanks for putting it into words.

Mindy said...

Thank you for this.

I found this post pinned on pinterest, and I'm so glad I did.

Thank you for making me feel understood by exposing your similar heart. I appreciate your bravery, and pray for your journey.

Anonymous said...

This is written perfectly. There's a unique group of women that this post applies to and it hits home for me...hard.
It's hard to talk to people about what you're going through because they just don't understand.
Every month when the test says negative, I feel like less of a woman because I can't do that one thing women are MADE to do.
It breaks my heart that any of us have to go through this but I appreciate you sharing, stay strong & good luck-

The Xaviers said...

This is an amazing and liberating post. From start to finish, you have inadvertently released your pain and others, incliding mine. My name is Danielle and I am a member of Conceivable Dreams The Coalition to have IVF funded by OHIP and to everyone out there know we are not alone. Whether we have the Governments support or not and until we do, we at least have each other. I just wanted to say Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this post and sharing.

Anonymous said...

You gave words to my pain I have tears in my eyes hidden from everyone... after 7 long years of struggling with infertility, 1 ectopic pregnancy, 1 still birth in 7 month and answering every one why we are not pregnant the journey seems to have no end.. The worst part is you have to strong and smiling behind tears for everyone supporting you. It's a constant process of heart break then pick up the pieces of broken heart and move forward towards next treatment and next month... Faith simple word test the endurance
Thanks for posting and sharing ur feelings with us.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you. I have read the blog and all the comments and found a peace I have not been able to find yet. I am a coward. I keep it in. I am afraid of my failure. I am afraid to make others uncomfortable in my grief. I am afraid to keep on and I am afraid to stop. I never imagined it would be like this. Thank you all for being my voice. Maybe someday I won't be anonymous.