“I hope it’s like childbirth,” I said, through tears, to my therapist. “I hope that once I get pregnant, a hormone will be released that will make me forget how hard this is. I just want to forget all of this.”
My therapist, angel of logic that she is, reminded me that, well, no one forgets childbirth. (The aforementioned helpful hormone can make you a little more willing to do it all again, though.) There’s no hormone that sweeps away the trying-to-get-pregnant process though, as anyone who’s worked hard to conceive knows all too well.
Weekly cycles of medications that fogged my mind and made my hair constantly greasy, no matter how many times I washed it. Injections that left my body bruised and aching. Those torturous cycles of waiting – for my period, for ovulation, for a pregnancy test, for my period again – that just blanket everything in your life with this anticipatory quiet so heavy that all you can do is count the minutes and convince yourself you can hear your fingernails growing. And especially when that wait ends in another disappointment? The process sucks.
And I’ve decided I never want to forget it.
The other side of the frustration, fury, futility coin is covered in layers of growth and self-awareness I don’t want to lose.
A few of these new unintentional side effects that I treasure:
1. I have fewer fucks to give.
I learned about the limits of my capacity for bullshit and time wasters, and I know (most of the time) how to value my energy, where I want to spend it, and what I need to save it for. And I’m not sorry about that.
2. I can let things go faster when they’re not for me
This is a battle I’ve fought all my life. I’m better at changing direction quickly and adjusting to new plans.
3. My support system has been tested and proven
I’ve found great love and strength from leaning on the handful of family members and friends who had front-row seats to this struggle over the past few years. My relationships with them have deepened, and I learned about the courage and beauty that can come from asking for help.
4. I learned how to be an advocate for myself.
When dealing with a medical issue like infertility, the boundaries and unexpected hurdles can be numerous. Sometimes those challenges need to be questioned critically.
In the past, I’ve often found in myself the ability to unapologetically advocate on behalf of others, but struggled to do it for myself. That hesitation went quickly out the window when it came to coordinating the details of oft-painful (and, at times, traumatic) procedures, and navigating the grey areas of health insurance coverage, to name just two of the several points of contention that saw me forced to hold my ground. Backed into more than one corner, I defended my body, my finances, my instincts, my emotions, and my mental health. And it felt painful and wonderful – like using a muscle you haven’t in a very, very long time.
5. My marriage has been tested and came out startlingly well.
I don’t mean that I’m surprised that my wife and I are still in a healthy, good relationship, but I am filled with wonder that this shitty process has actually made us stronger. We’re better at listening to each other – especially when it comes to the hard stuff because we’ve had to process so much of it so quickly. We’re better at dividing and conquering, playing to each other’s inherent strengths and weaknesses in a way that benefits us both, rather than trying to change something about the other. We’re better at fighting – having the important disagreements and arguments out loud and right away. We’re better at supporting each other emotionally. We’re better at compromising. And I think this whole thing will have made us better parents.
I can already imagine that these hard-earned lessons are going to come in handy in my new role as a mother. Sometimes I wish the process had been easier, of course, but I’ll never stop being grateful that it wasn’t.