I feel a bit like an outsider as I work my way through this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW).
On the one hand, I am on the other side of the mountain now. I’m carrying two precious little girls in my womb, they’re healthy, and all signs point to a positive and happy ending (or beginning, really).
On the other hand, though, I have a very real, and still very raw, connection to the world of infertiles. When you get right down to it, “unexplained infertility” will always be our diagnosis, and having children without some form of treatment just isn’t in the cards for us. Having children that are genetically Peter’s AND mine is also only a very slim possibility.
And so, I feel a bit like a fraud posting articles encouraging women to #startasking and talking about how my husband and I are the 1 in 8 couples dealing with infertility. I haven’t posted much at all, honestly, because it feels false now.
But as I said, infertility is our path to walk. We will always be an infertile couple, even after having children. And that presents its own unique set of problems in a way. So this year, instead of asking for understanding as we go through treatments, I want to take this week to get real about the questions that we, as a couple who is now Pregnant After Infertility (PAIF), have been forced to #startasking.
Will this pregnancy last?
The second I saw that second pink line finally appear on a home pregnancy test, my reaction was one of pure elation. And then that elation turned to fear. Now I’m pregnant. But that also means that now I have a pregnancy to lose. We have, thankfully, never suffered the pain of a miscarriage. But the fear is there and it’s so real. Having been in the trenches of trying to conceive for so long, we know all too well the stats on miscarriage. Every twinge, every pain brought fear.
When will the other shoe drop?
I asked a few friends who I’ve met through our infertility journey if they, too, always feel like they’re waiting for the bad thing to happen. Because it seems like, on this path, every tiny bit of good news is paired with something devastating. Every appointment, every phone call, we held our breath and waited for the bad news that was sure to come.
How will we raise these children?
Conceiving through a donor has made us reevaluate a question we thought we’d answered long ago. How we would raise our children was something we had talked about even while still just dating because it is an important part of starting a family, something we both knew we wanted to do. But now, instead of asking how we’ll handle discipline or when we’ll let them get a Facebook account, we’re asking how we should let our girls know about their origins and what’s the best way to reassure them that I’m their mommy even though they didn’t come from my eggs. I feel like we’ll be playing a massive game of trial and error on this one for a while. The one thing we do know is that we don’t want to shy away from the topic, and we don’t want them thinking we’re embarrassed or ashamed of what we went through to bring them into this world.
What if they don’t look like me?
Peter still expresses regret over the fact that our girls may not have my eyes or my nose or any other feature from me or my family. But within our family, of course we’ll deal with this. It’s the outsiders that worry me. What if they look clearly like a combination of Peter and someone else? What do we say if strangers come up to us and say they don’t look like us, or me? The question isn’t, “Will it hurt?” but rather, “How badly will it hurt to hear that?”
How do I handle the guilt?
Because of our infertility, I have crossed paths with many couples who were and are still struggling to conceive a child. I try to be supportive, but I remember all too well the internal “just leave me alone” dialogue that would start up as soon as anyone who was on the other side of IF tried to talk to me about not giving up. I hated them. And of course I hated me for hating them. They just wanted to help. They’d been there, they knew. But now that I’m one of them, I feel guilty even trying to discuss fertility issues with friends. Because what do I know, right? I’m one of the lucky ones.
Will parenthood actually be all it’s cracked up to be?
I truly believe that the answer to this is yes. It will be. But that there will also be times where it’s definitely not. There will be times when I question why I wanted this so badly. There will be times when all I’ll want to do is get away, get some peace and quiet, even for just an hour, because I’ll want to feel like the old Darla again. And then we’re back to the guilt question. Because of course I’ll feel guilty for crying over a lack of sleep when someone would kill to have a newborn keeping them up all night. I’ll feel guilty for just needing a moment to myself when I know too many women who would gladly give up all their free time if it meant they could have a child of their own. The Pregnant/Parenting After Infertility guilt is real, though it’s not something that’s talked about often. In fact, the Art of Infertility blog has a number of guest posts about that exact taboo topic, and it’s a fascinating read.
The questions I’ve had to #startasking myself as we now travel through a pregnancy journey after our infertility journey are terrifying ones to face down. Especially when I (naively) thought it would be a cake walk once I finally got pregnant. But as terrified as I am to walk this path and find out the answers to these questions, I’m also excited. My outsider status will always stand, I think. But Peter and I will have our family, and the four of us will take on the world together. That’s the one answer I do know for sure.