What I Learned on the Journey of Infertility
Infertility is a silent trauma that stole a part of my life. I call the price I paid to become a mother the angels’ share, like this fraction of whisky that evaporates from the cask over the years.
The journey came with a cost — pains, doubts, missed opportunities — that can’t be fully recovered. It also led to discovering dark sides of myself and feelings I wish I had never experienced. Anger, shame, sadness, desperation, disgust, lack of hope, emptiness, lack of sexual desire, and exhaustion, to name a few.
Six years ago, I welcomed my daughters after years of effort. Like many victims of infertility, I felt less of a woman. This impression lasted over time. I am still comparing myself to seemingly perfect mothers.
At that time, the struggle to create a new human life had become the primary — if not, only — project in my life, killing every other desire and opportunity. I sacrificed trips and turned down promotions. I could not afford to give my best at work and at my ob-gyn practice at the same time.
Parties with friends shortened, then stopped as I was too exhausted and nauseous. Plus, I was uncomfortable to hide in the loos to shoot hormones in my belly. But I couldn’t talk openly with my friends about it.
Hormones shots come in the shape of injectable pens that must be kept refrigerated for several days. When traveling on business, that’s a puzzle to deal with, as are daily visits to the lab or the gynecologist.
The inside of my elbows colored in blue, yellow, and brown as my veins exploded under the continuous charge of blood tests. I couldn’t embrace life in full and enjoy my journey.
Three years of constant battle have rewarded me with the most beautiful gift of all: a pair of pretty little girls born out of twelve hormone therapies — 6 I.U.I + 4 I.V.F. + 2 failed procedures. That represents hundreds of shots in my belly, thighs, butt, and arms. Along the way, also befell one miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. I visited the O.R. a dozen times. More than once, I wondered, what if nothing ever works for us? What if it was not worth it? What if I poisoned my body with all the chemical stuff I fed in it?
Doubt is part of the whole thing. But as anxious as I was, I tried my best to hide it, so my husband remained faithful in what we were doing. I was too scared he would call off the entire process out of desperation.
Infertility has changed me and my behaviors forever. Today, I am different. Less optimistic and lighthearted than I used to be. Although I never was a party girl, I feel more serious, as if I keep carrying a weight somewhere deep inside of me. As a tennis player, infertility also made any return to sport unthinkable.
What has gone has gone forever. I can only mourn those losses:
- Job and recreational opportunities
- Serenity about maternity and motherhood
- Ability to decide for me
- Happiness of announcement
- Baby time, as I will never have another child
- Time spent to rebuild self-confidence, body trust, energy, beauty, and self-love
Because we managed to have babies, I believed I couldn’t complain about my journey. Heading back to work full time less than six months after my twins were born didn’t offer me any room to reflect. Plus, time is the only thing twins divide by two; the rest is a multiplication.
Only now, I acknowledge what a challenging path it has been. I am slowly beginning to embrace my transformation, as a woman, as a wife, and as a human being. Today, I can come around this experience and make peace.
Redefining my boundaries and expectations in life takes time. It requires self-awareness and open talks about infertility. Thanks to Michelle Obama’s Becoming, I realized I was neither alone to feel the way I used to feel.
If I were to start a file on things nobody tells you about until you’re right in the thick of them, I might begin with miscarriages. A miscarriage is lonely, painful, and demoralizing almost on a cellular level. When you have one, you will likely mistake it for a personal failure, which it is not.
A former First Lady of the United-States talking about her struggles with fertility is somewhat empowering. “Fertility is not something you conquer,” she adds before writing about her loneliness and fears. I can relate to most lines of Becoming’s Chapter 13.
The most powerful of all lessons those years taught me is to open up about my experience.
As a society, we need to talk more about fertility issues. The journey of conceiving, bearing, and parenting a child is smoother with advanced sexual education for both men and women.
If you’re on the path now or if, like me, you’re through it but need healing, please talk. Tell your entourage whether they are family or colleagues. Tell your key people and ask them to spread the word for you. Don’t remain in the dark, with your doubts and guilt. Don’t stay locked in shame.
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I am a writer, speaker, Paralympian, mother of twins, and constant dreamer. I earned bronze in singles and doubles in Beijing 2008 as a wheelchair tennis player.