Will It Ever Stop? The Pain of Infertility
by Jo Anne Nelson
I recently learned that a close family member is going to have a baby. They called to share their news excitedly with my husband and me. “Our first try and we got pregnant!” A knife to the heart.
After almost twelve years of trying to have a baby and not succeeding, my husband and I adopted a baby. I have been utterly thrilled to have our daughter and have felt that every urge I had to be a mother has been fulfilled. I grieved my inability to get pregnant and accepted that it will not happen for me. I have been at peace with this knowledge.
My path to getting to this point was not simple. Like many women, I sobbed each month when I started my period. I raged against the unfairness of life, my inability to do something so seemingly simple as getting pregnant. I chilled out and let go. I availed myself of so many remedies that I am a walking encyclopedia about fertility and mainstream and alternative treatments.
I endured innumerable comments from people who were often well meaning but completely clueless—“You just need to relax,” “You’re not trying hard enough,” “Once you adopt you’ll get pregnant, you’ll see.” Actually, not very many people get pregnant after they adopt. Yes, we all know about someone who knows someone who got pregnant, but in reality, the statistics are low. And telling me that I was not trying hard enough is simply beyond comprehension.
I had to deal with the pain of being near babies and wondering if I was ever going to have one, other women’s joy about being pregnant, attending baby showers. There were times when it was unbearable. It felt like rubbing salt in a wound. While I was very happy for those who had children or had just found that they were pregnant, waves of emotion rolled over me about my own inability to get pregnant.
In time, I grieved to the point that the impact lessened, and found that the process of adoption helped me heal much of the pain. I treated it as if it were my pregnancy and labor. The challenge in the beginning was to surrender to the need to be fully scrutinized. While I intellectually understood the need, I railed against the fact that no one would bother to look at my finances with a fine-tooth comb if I got pregnant. Or do a background check and run my fingerprints through the FBI database. I knew it needed to be done, but it didn’t lessen the pain.
Once our daughter was born and we bonded, any remaining pain associated with not being able to get pregnant fell away. Occasionally I thought about the possibility of getting pregnant once I was so happily in motherhood and “relaxed,” but with each passing month that seemed less likely. I reached a point about a year ago where I became clear that it is not going to happen for me, and I am okay with that.
So I was stunned to find that with the news of a pregnancy on the first try I was happy for the couple and incredibly sad. It felt petty and small, and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to ignore it, but found that I needed to acknowledge it and grieve it. But I am left wondering, will this ever stop?
I don’t want to live my life revisiting this pain over and over again. I have given far too much time to this already. Tracking my cycle, taking my temperature, watching my diet and exercise, monitoring my sex life, on and on. I don’t want to waste another moment on it.
I want to joyfully share in others’ good fortune, and not feel like I am being insincere by expressing joy but feeling pain. I want to revel in my great fortune that I have a healthy, happy, beautiful daughter who is the joy of my life. I want to move on and leave this pain behind. Is that too much to ask? Am I being unrealistic? Do I just need to acknowledge that this will show up periodically?
Rather than take my typical route of trying to figure this out on my own, I am reaching out for help. For those of you who have struggled with infertility, what have you experienced? Is this something that goes away, or will it continue to rear its head from time to time? I look forward to hearing from you and thanks in advance.