Cheers, dear readers,
I have mentioned at various times here at our humble blog that grief is not linear, and it can hit you sideways when you least suspect it. Grief also has no time limit. When we suffer a loss, that is exactly what it is – a LOSS that can never be returned. If it is the loss of a loved one, we have the memories of good times with that cherished and missed individual. In the case of infertility, it is the loss of what never was, a “life imagined” as it were.
I was honored to be a contributing source of insights and information for the recent article called “Choosing (or Learning to Accept) a Childfree Life After Infertility” alongside many of my sisters that I have come to know in the infertility community. I thought this point was well-written:
“When someone loses a parent, child, or spouse, people understand that it takes time to grieve. Society also understands that the person who has lost their loved one needs support. However, the loss that comes with being childfree after infertility is invisible. You are also mourning — you’re mourning the life you imagined.”
I did want to add to that – that it is absolutely 100% true that one who suffers through infertility is mourning the life you imagined being a parent to an unknown and sometimes un-realized child. However there is also the loss of one’s offspring / the next generation in general, the loss of the dead embryos (as was our case – our potential children died unceremoniously in a petri dish), loss through miscarriage or even stillborns – where there was a young being growing inside the mother’s body. So thinking of this loss ONLY in terms of “the life you imagined” does not cover the actual full loss, and adds to the invisible (or “imaginary”) loss idea.
My friend and fellow Global Sisterhood sister Pamela Tsigdinos added:
“Thank you for speaking, plainly, on the loss aspect — this reality is so often glossed over or described in abstract. The children we conceived are still very real to me. I know how old they would be because two children (now 15 year-olds) were born to friends of mine at the same time our conceived embryos were due to be born…our children come alive again to me every time I give them a hug.”
Wow. That breaks my heart. And I so totally get it. Eric and I did not have the emotional strength to do the math on how old our children would be had our embryos survived long enough to be implanted in my womb to survive and grow and be brought into the world. I can’t bring myself to even now. I will say that we underwent our IVF cycles when I was 40 years old, or less than eight years ago. It shocks me at times how even though I feel I have healed so much and come a long way from the daily grief, something can happen to knock you mentally across the head and heart…
Just this past weekend, I had one of those “knock you off your chair” moments, and it deeply frustrated me. I was at a restaurant seated next to a nursing mother and her husband. I tried to take the seat facing away but that did not easily work out. I was emotionally 100% fine for about 20 minutes doing my best to focus on my lunch companion. But eventually the mother’s friend with a newborn came in and they both fawned publicly over the newborn (with nursing child still suckling on her breast). To my shock, I started to get hot in the face, my eyes welled up with tears, and I began to “lose it” uncontrollably. I had my friend switch seats so the situation would be out of my eyesight — but it was too late. I was a puddle and lunch out was now essentially ruined. I did not begin to calm down and get back to a place of balance feeling myself again until I got fresh air outside away from the scene and that restaurant.
This situation troubled me as I thought I had come so far! Also it inspired some anger in me as I knew that hormones were racing through my body as it was that time of the month for me – highly ironic indeed! My timely menstrual cycle that I have had since age 13 has never fulfilled its purpose in my life to bear children. It also reminded me how grief is most definitely not linear and still hits you gruffly when you least suspect it. It saddens me how people who have not gone through this experience of infertility don’t understand and don’t have much awareness easily at their fingertips for understanding this kind of real loss that many women and men experience. As you will see in an upcoming blog tour, as many as one in eight couples experience infertility. Part of the reason this is not in our collective awareness is many don’t speak of it due to feelings of shame, guilt, or even extreme sadness. A couple may not want to “unload” those feelings on their friends and family who may not be prepared to handle those types of thoughts, and as a result may say something not only unhelpful, but potentially harmful to the grieving and struggling couple.
Yet talking about these losses and difficulties is exactly the way out of the pain – by walking directly through it! This creates more awareness and understanding in society for the Dis-Ease of infertility, as well as support for those one in eight couples. I shared the above story with my sisters in the Global Sisterhood community. And the “I get it”, the “me too’s” and the general fantastic support, understanding and encouragement I received was nothing short of phenomenal and exactly what I needed. It reminded me that I’m human, and to be gentle with myself in times of stress, and to take time to reach out for support when I realize that I need it.
And to you, my friends, this post is a reminder to you that you are not alone. We are here for you at Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs. We get it. We understand your grief, your sorrow, as well as your joy! Go tell someone you love them today. Remember what makes you happy! Show your passion for life and living every moment! Time is a precious gift. Don’t squander it. Embrace it and your loved ones that are here on this earth while they still are!
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. I wish you the best on your journey.
This post is also available in: Arabic