Please note that what you’re about to read is a very personal and painful experience compressed into a few measly sentences and paragraphs. Sharing this part of our life is meant to describe a journey… our journey, but it is not our intention to use this to encapsulate the experience. It is my strong opinion that no words or amount of writing could ever encompass all the feelings associated with the struggle of infertility. None.
I will never be grateful that we went through this. I will never look back with fondness that it happened. I will never have enough words for it and I do not believe that I will ever truly “recover” from it to the point where it no longer matters or affects us. Suffering from infertility is a disease, and as such it does not just leave you one day, nor does the pain it leaves behind. How one chooses to cope and go on living after their diagnosis is unique.
It is our choice to share this with you. It is our choice to be public about our journey. It is our choice to voice that what has devastatingly injured us and our relationship, did not beat us or defeat us. It is not our intention to minimize the experience of anyone else nor blanket it. It is our intention to simultaneously give those struggling with this disease the recognition it deserves and support in knowing that there is room for happiness, love, and a redefined “happily ever after” on the other side of your diagnosis. Please do not diminish our willingness to share our story with you with your opinions. We will never fully know how you feel in your struggle, please do not chastise us for the way we speak, handle, or heal ours.
At 15, I passed out in school from a painful period and was diagnosed with Mittelschmerz, which is when you have pain associated with ovulation. At 17, I took so many Midol pills to dull the period pain that I vomited for an entire day. At 19, I was erroneously diagnosed with cancer. At 21, I saw a doctor for bowel dysfunction and frequent urination. At 23, I was misdiagnosed with IBS. At 29, I had a laparoscopy to investigate infertility and pain. The procedure unveiled I was suffering from symptoms related to infertility, stage 4 Rectovaginal Endometriosis and Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS), and for the next 4-years, my husband and I would engage in the most difficult journey of our lives.
Endometriosis & PCOS
For most of my life I have been affected by symptoms related to Endometriosis and PCOS, and at 29, I learned that most -if not all- previous diagnosis were wrong. While I did find some comfort in knowing there were less “things” wrong with me, that ease would quickly fade when I realized suffering from infertility meant there was a strong possibility we would never conceive. The worst part of it, it would be my fault.
Struggling to conceive…
Following our infertility diagnosis, my husband and I began a 4-year cycle of trying everything we could afford to get pregnant. After my laparoscopic surgery, this led to several rounds of IUI, Fertility Drugs, Acupuncture, depression, hair loss, weight loss, skin discoloration and self-deprecating thoughts, but no baby.
Down the rabbit hole…
On our journey to “baby”, I lost myself and it wasn’t until I started to question the value in living that I could see just how far down the rabbit hole I had gone. In a moment of questioning your life, your legacy, and the value you bring to this world, you become worn down by feelings of sadness and grief. At least, I did.
I would go on to suffer from serious emotional despair for years, but I knew I wasn’t ready to give up on myself, and that’s when I decided to fight back. That’s when I decided to fight for my life, my happiness, and feeling like I deserved to feel more fulfilled than desperate, and that I would accomplish this with or without a child. That’s when I decided I would make it my mission to stop identifying as infertility and understand that this “thing” that had taken over my life, had left me feeling worthless, and like I had no femininity, no love, and no purpose, is not me. I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t contract it. It just is and it is in me.
Giving-up on ME was not an option.
I mean, let’s call a spade a spade. I was extremely depressed, hiding it from everyone, and yet, pretending like no one knew. I was a mess, and at the same time, I knew I wasn’t ready to give up on myself.
I can’t tell you how I knew. I wish I could say it was some great ah-ha moment. Or, it was a sign from God, or something someone said, or even some jarring thing that brought me back to life, but it wasn’t that grandiose. It was just a feeling. I became so tired of feeling unhappy, that I knew I needed something to change.
Year after year, month after month, day after day, hour after hour, second after sleepless, isolating, self-hating second, my entire life had become all about having a baby and there was no room for me. I had lost myself. I had lost my identity. I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t “Shannon trying to get pregnant” and FUCK, I became so tired of feeling like that. I was unhappy, and I knew I needed something in me to change. That’s when fighting back went from thought to action.
As dramatic as it sounds is as dramatic as it was.
My poor husband had no idea what to do with me. He wanted to help but I was so distant and untouchable in my feelings, I couldn’t reach me, so there was no way he could have. It’s difficult – the whole thing is just “difficult”. It’s like trying to identify a solution to a problem you don’t understand, and yet is within you. It’s even more difficult when you realize You didn’t do anything to cause the problem. There’s nothing you did wrong and still, you accept blame, and in doing so, suddenly you arrive at a place where you don’t like yourself anymore. What?
Mentally, I imagine it’s similar to people who say they’re terrorized by ghosts. They can’t really explain what it is or what it looks like, but their experience exists and thus, the terror in it. Infertility is my possession, my ghost, my poltergeist. I can’t see it, but it is there, haunting us. Our experience is very real, and in it so is the terror. Yet, there is no real explanation as to why this happens to you -not someone else- and still, you must get to a place where you understand that while there is no reason for it, it did. It exists, no matter how irrational it feels. It’s there. It’s very difficult to accept something you believed was a biological right is not for you. It’s haunting.
It’s haunting to experience infertility and it is haunting to yearn for a life you’d swear was just within your grasps, but you only imagined. To say it is a mind fuck is putting it mildly.
I’ll say it again. There is no real explanation as to why infertility happened to us, but it did. When I got to a place where I not only knew that I wasn’t ready to give up on me but also that I wouldn’t give up on me, was the same time I decided I needed to accept this. OK – not for self indulgence, redundancy, or to hammer my feelings into your head, but to let you truly soak in how hard it is to get to a place of acceptance I will say it again… there is no reason why infertility happened to us, but it did, and for us to move on instead of self-destructing we needed to accept it.
The day I realized this and it truly settled in my brain and I accepted it my heart… Woah! Let’s just say I cried a fuck-ton that day, that week, and for a really long time thereafter. I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me a long time to fully grasp infertility was real in our life. Who the hell wants to accept defeat in the face of something they so desperately want? We sure as hell didn’t! So, no. I don’t feel completely ridiculous for holding hope that we would successfully conceive. Again, it’s very difficult to accept something you believed was your biological right is not and again, to say it is a mind fuck is putting it mildly.
Infertility Sucks, You Don’t!
After realizing I could no longer play the role of “Sad Shannon”, I decided I needed to take action. I started sharing our story on social media and talking publicly about infertility and it started to make me feel better. To take it a step further, I started doing some research. I sought out varying perspectives, both western and eastern, and what I learned was infertility is a disease. I didn’t ask for it and I didn’t contract it. It is in me but it is NOT me.
Learning infertility was not my fault… well, this changed my life, my perspective, and who I was. Learning this helped me to de-identify from the label I had accepted for the years – that somehow I was defective. Learning this helped me to stop blaming myself. Learning this helped me to understand it is possible to come back from feeling like your life sucks and realize Infertility Sucks, You Don’t. Learning this pushed me forward, allowed me to find acceptance, and allowed me to grow compassion for me in a place that had previously only held contempt, pain, and suffering. Learning this allowed me to see the true joy helping others brings to my life. Learning this helped me to take a giant leap outside of my comfort zone and hire my very first Life Coach, which you can read more about here. Doing this would ultimately help me to identify all the roadblocks, language, and behaviors I was using to hold me in an unhealthy and limiting pattern, but also introduce me to my passion for Life Coaching.
There is no question that I will never be grateful for the pain and suffering this disease has brought to our life. I will never stop wanting our child. I will never stop wishing to feel the kick of our child in my womb. I will never stop imagining what he or she would look like, act like, or who they would become. I will never be able to replace the vacancy inside. I will never stop yearning that each month is when I miraculously wind-up pregnant. And yet, considering all of that, it doesn’t mean we don’t move forward. It doesn’t mean you can’t move forward. It doesn’t mean you can’t transform your pain into something else. It doesn’t mean you can’t stop the repetitive cycle you’re in now that causes you to damn yourself, identify as this disease, and make you believe that while you may never give up hope or stop trying to conceive, that you can’t find compassion for you. You can.
Wanting something that means so very much to you doesn’t go away. I know this, my husband knows this, and we would never suggest otherwise. But, I can tell you that if you want it to, the compassion you have for yourself, your partner, and how you treat your wounds in this journey can get better… all you can do is try.
To work with Shannon directly, you may contact her here.