By Amy K
Infertility is pain. Endometriosis is my living hell, and cysts are the M&M’S on my poisoned ice cream.
Since my diagnosis, all I’ve known is pain. The first understanding I had of my diagnosis was physical but I still had hope that there were “plenty of good fertility years to look forward to.” Little did I know how future surgeries and relapses would affect my days ahead.
Several years later, after my first surgery to remove my ovarian cysts, I had hope again that the pain and scare of something more life-threatening would be removed as well. After five more years, I had two more surgeries with the hope again to get “well”. I was thankful to have been taken care of by the same doctor for each surgery and still to this day. If I hadn’t already been “poked and prodded enough”, my husband and I made the difficult decision to begin fertility treatments to try to get pregnant. After several years, three specialists, hormone treatments, medicines and countless tests we decided to end the fertility roller coaster. Our decision was based on our personal situation, and we realized that we were trying to force something that wasn’t natural, for us. Then, the relapse happened– excruciating physical pain, hospital visits filled with heartache and emptiness. Forgetting, at the moment, that the physical pain was at times unbearable without medication, my heart was broken to the reality that I may never hear the cries of my own child in my arms. Already not having a connection or knowledge of my own birth family, I realized that I may never share the features of my own with another human being. After all, aren’t we naturally drawn to connect with others? To want my own child is just… natural. To this day, I hurt when I hear the sound of another baby crying and feel the urge to take care of them. The announcements of friends and their due dates would cause me to question life choices; because although I wasn’t unhappy for them, it was a reminder of another form of pain and emptiness. I searched for way to show joy for them, but I prayed for the desire of being a birth mother to go away for myself.
My infertility can be described through the definition of endometriosis- painful. Specialists say that although it can be treated with pills and anti-nausea medication, it may only be healed or released during childbirth. But then again I also can’t get pregnant because (even when the cysts are out of the way) the endometriosis is inflamed and blocking my uterus. Calling it an oxymoron would be the irony of the nightmare.
When you’re sick in any way, most of your friends and family don’t know how to help. It can be a lonely place at times. For the friends and family who have supported and prayed for us, I am forever grateful. Not everyone can or will understand. I would hear “you’ve changed” or “you’re sick again?” They didn’t know my pain because it’s not their pain to bear or maybe they were dealing with their own battles. The truth was, I didn’t always know why I felt sick or had to “pull it together”. Instead of giving them my story, I would try to be strong or just push under the rug how I was feeling.
Living through the pain was my next stage, or so I thought. A friend of mine said, “Amy, this kind of pain is not normal.” To me, it was. I would always say, “there’s other people who have it worse, so I can suck it up and deal.” It was a moment of realization that brought me back to a time when I would fight harder. I had given in to regular hospital visits, pain pills and burning myself with heating pads as normal, mainly to try and get pregnant. I had given in again to the pain, the loneliness, to the heartache of a missing piece in my heart. The longing and desire to share life with a little one that I could call my own had become life altering and unbearable. I went from being an outgoing, daring and vibrant woman to being reserved and distant. It affected my marriage (which has now been healed), my work environments, friendships and my day-to-day tasks. I didn’t want to hurt anymore, and I didn’t want others to see the pain. I didn’t want to burden anyone else. I wanted the desire of trying to get pregnant to go away. I knew that I could handle the pain if I was able to get pregnant, but the reminders of the reality that it may not happen were more evident than ever before. Although I do believe in miracles, it may never be my journey to bear my own child. My miracle may come in a way that I can’t plan.
In the process of writing my thoughts, recently, a friend asked, “What does it really feel like to have the pain and loss of infertility?” I told her to imagine that I was drawing a circle, as I visually drew it in the air. I placed it up against my body and told her that the empty space within this circle is how the pain of infertility feels. It’s more than a longing or a physical or emotional pain; it’s a missing piece. The missing piece is real for me, but I don’t have to feed it with more negative thoughts. I can continue to grieve the missing piece as I find my strength again.
Now, I’m not just living through the pain but coming alive again. I’ve shocked myself with how open I have become through this process. With the encouragement of an amazingly strong friend, I am now able to share my story so that others (maybe you reading) know that you’re not alone. This process has been incredibly freeing. I’m learning that it’s okay to cry, and it’s okay to fight the pain with rest and taking care of myself. Today can be just as much of a new day as tomorrow. I am strong. I am courageous.
I am incredibly grateful for the life I have and feel so blessed beyond what I deserve. It might be hard for someone else to understand the feeling of an ’empty loss’ from a woman of infertility, but that’s okay. I know that this is my battle, but I hope to help others who deal with infertility and female pain to know that they are not alone. I’m not perfect, and I don’t handle each day with as much courage as I want to live through, but I am reminding myself every morning to be alive in the strength that I do have, to fight through the pain when my body is telling me otherwise. I find my strength in God, my husband, dearest friends and music.
As I pray through my own healing, I think of so many who may read my story and think, “That’s my pain too.” Some days I feel strong, and other days I seek courage to be stronger. I encourage you to share your story, to know that you’re not alone, and to know that there is power in the journey of finding your own strength. Cling to the loved ones who want to support you in whatever way they can. You are strong. You are courageous.
Amy K grew up in North Central Florida. She has been married to her best friend, Matt, for almost 8 years. She loves to travel, spend time with friends and family, sing, listen to Matt play guitar, and play with their Dogs (a Shih-tzu and a Lab mix).