Last updated on Jan 22nd, 2021 at 12:08 pm
Things don’t always go as we plan.
I learned this adage early, at about age 13, when my parents divorced and my world fell apart. Their divorce, and the ensuing chaos, significantly impacted my ability to trust in marriage and family. I swore I’d never marry. I swore I’d never have children. I imagined instead a life of international travel and humanitarian work, somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Instead I got married on a cold January day in 1991.
Because we were in our 30s, my husband and I decided to start trying to have a family right away. He wanted a large family, and although I hadn’t previously allowed myself to dream, I too began to yearn for a baby, or two.
Several of my friends were also trying to get pregnant. It was fun. We drank coffee together and chatted endlessly about our future babies – they’d play together, they’d attend school together, they’d grow up together.
And just like that, my trust in marriage and family was restored.
One by one my friends got pregnant, while month after month I did not
Although I never received a definitive diagnosis, there was talk of low progesterone, or perhaps just a lazy ovary or two. Regardless of what the actual problem was, it was clear something was wrong because I couldn’t get pregnant.
I began my journey into the world of infertility treatments with hope and excitement, believing we just needed a little extra help. I was certain I’d be pregnant in a few months. I was naïve.
I became an infertile woman possessed
The first year of infertility treatments turned my body into a stranger. My life consisted of injecting myself with hormones, tracking my ovulation cycle and having highly scheduled sex.
During my second year of infertility treatments life stopped making sense to me. I began avoiding my friends and everyone else in their childbearing years. I began grocery shopping at midnight. And whenever well-meaning friends shared the legend of someone they knew who got pregnant while relaxing on a cruise after experiencing infertility, I imagined balling up my fist and punching them in the face.
Anger, envy and bitterness were not emotions I was used to feeling, but they enveloped me now. I also felt guilty and selfish, but I just couldn’t help myself- infertility was taking over my life.
The month we moved onto in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) was the same month I began to question what I’d done wrong in my life to be punished in this way.
I got pregnant after our first IVF attempt. I wanted to feel joy, but all I could feel was terror. My anxiety was intense, but I was helpless to stop it, even though I imagined my stress was like poison flooding my uterus. Superstitious thinking engulfed me, and the more I willed my brain to behave, the more it went wild with negative thinking, which only added to my stress.
I miscarried at seven weeks, on of all days, Mother’s Day. My anger turned from hot to cold on that day. I stopped caring. I felt dead inside.
I was on an infertility roller coaster that I despised, but was powerless to stop
The toll infertility took on my marriage was unimaginable. At least for anyone who hasn’t endured infertility. I felt abandoned by everyone I knew, including my husband. I now realise that he was suffering in his own way, but it never occurred to me that he needed my support as much as I needed his. I was so immersed in my own grief and my belief that no one understood my suffering, that in the midst of my own feelings of abandonment, I too was abandoning my husband.
For the longest time, quitting infertility treatments was unfathomable. I was on an infertility roller coaster that I despised, but was powerless to stop. As soon as we completed one cycle of IVF, I wanted to immediately begin another.
I was singularly focused. I was an infertile woman possessed.