Our contributor, Kara Stout, shares her personal experience with infertility and how she finds hope amid the struggle. Read on for her insightful advice and recommended practices.
To the woman who struggles with infertility, I’m so sorry and I understand. I know all too well what you’re going through, and it sucks. It’s hard, both physically and emotionally. Actually, it being “hard” is a complete understatement. Each month, we realize it’s another month not pregnant. It’s so discouraging and heartbreaking. You feel nervous but still hopeful. Yet, at the same time, you try to protect yourself from the sinking feeling you get when you see that negative result.
You feel like you’re the only one sometimes because every time you turn around, there is another pregnancy announcement. But, the more I’ve opened up about infertility, the more I’ve had encouraging conversations with women who’ve gone through it, know someone who has or who is currently going through it. Infertility is a topic not talked about often enough. We don’t have to struggle alone and in silence. Starting conversations where we’re not ashamed of our struggles can lead to relating and connecting to another person’s pain—whether it be infertility or not.
To explain a little about my infertility journey, we’ve been trying for a couple of years. I’m 35 (no idea how that happened!), and age can make it harder to conceive. Six years ago, I had a carotid artery dissection. My doctors strongly encouraged me to not get pregnant for at least a year. Well, this scared me into not trying for several years. Now, I’m ready and a few years older, and having a difficult time getting pregnant. The doctor said I look really healthy; the issue is my egg count and quality, according to the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test. My number is lower than they’d like, lower than it just being age-related, too. This was hard to hear. I felt like my body was not working properly for a woman.
So, we jumped into treatments. I was on Clomid, tried an IUI and a ton of medications, which is so hard for me because I rarely take medication, so I felt very medicated. I also tried acupuncture and Chinese herb teas for several months. Nothing yet. And now we are talking about starting the IVF process soon.
Starting conversations where we’re not ashamed of our struggles can lead to relating and connecting to another person’s pain—whether it be infertility or not.
We have also talked about adoption. My husband was adopted, and while he appreciates adoption and is obviously open to doing that, he really wants to experience that biological connection he’s never had. So, we aren’t giving up just yet on a biological baby. Not to mention, adoption takes so much time and even more money than infertility treatments.
Honestly, it’s so scary. The shots, the hormones, the procedures, the decisions, the unknown, it’s so overwhelming at times. The biggest challenge is not knowing if I will ever get to experience pregnancy and wondering when I will be a mother. However, I’ve found certain practices that have given me hope through infertility. I hope so much that these will be helpful and of value to you as well:
- Praying: For me, prayer has been my number-one source of comfort. Knowing that I’m not alone in this struggle, that God is with me, allows me to release my grip on something I just can’t control. I have several favorite Bible verses I reread often, like this one: “When doubts filled my mind, Your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.” – Psalm 94:19. God promises to be close to the brokenhearted, and I do believe He works all things—even the worst things in life—for good. One last saying that I find encouraging is this: “There is something comforting about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing.”
- Being there for others who are struggling: The more I’ve opened up about infertility, the more others have, too. You don’t know who else is suffering, so the more we share about pain and struggles in our own lives, the more we can genuinely and empathetically be there for one another. It’s a way to use our heartache and pain for good. It’s funny that we’re all more connected than ever before because of the Internet. Yet, we seem less and less truly connected to people around us. We are missing out on deep, close relationships where we can be open and honest with each other. And I think that starts with just being real about life and having the courage to start a conversation.
- Accepting that it’s not in my timing and trying to release my expectations: I’ll be honest, this is a tough one for me. Having unmet expectations gets me every time. I’m working on this. I have to let go, I have to accept when things don’t go according to my plan or timeline, and I have to make an effort to still be happy regardless of these circumstances. Don’t get me wrong. I allow myself to cry and be sad. It’s OK to be heartbroken, it’s OK to cry and not want to get out of bed for a day. Allow yourself those emotions. But, I encourage you to then take the steps you need to move forward in hope again. A good friend once said to me that instead of considering when it’s the best timing for me, consider the timing of when the child is supposed to come into this world, the friends he/she will make, the schools, the time period they are supposed to be on this earth. This, for me, helped a lot in accepting that it’s just not my time.
- Educating myself on infertility: Although getting pregnant is not in my full control, that doesn’t mean I can’t put forth the effort to learn what I can do to try and improve my chances. Like learning what foods are great for fertility and which foods to avoid, talking with doctors, getting second opinions, reading credible resources, staying healthy and having a positive mindset.
- Reminding myself that I’m not broken, that I’m not a failure: It’s easy to feel broken. I think it’s easy for women to feel like failures with the amount of pressure we put on ourselves. It’s hard not to sit in those thoughts of feeling like something is wrong with me; as a woman I should be able to carry a child and become a mother. But, if you ever feel broken or have these thoughts, please remember this: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling, beautiful in every way” – Song of Solomon 4:7.
If you feel like sharing, please join in on the conversation about infertility. What gives you hope?