For as far back as I can remember into my childhood, I have always wanted to be a mom. I got married young, and we were excited to begin our family. Jump ahead 11 years, and here we are, still trying to begin our family – just with an unexplained infertility diagnosis attached.
The frustrating thing about unexplained infertility is that in the majority of cases, it’s not really “unexplained” – it’s just not yet uncovered. In my case, I have several diagnoses that can all make it more difficult to get pregnant, but none of them actually make me infertile, and all of them have responded well to or been resolved by treatment. So I’m left with just a big question mark and a “well, let’s try this now.”
Yes, it’s aggravating and painful to the depths of my soul. But there is also some good that has come out of my 11 years of infertility. Some good that maybe would never have come if I had gotten pregnant when we wanted to.
I’m Not in Control
One of the first hard lessons infertility teaches you is that you are very much not in control. You can’t control when you get pregnant. You can’t control what your diagnosis is. You can’t control the timeline or the outcome. For someone who is a type A planner, this was extremely difficult to cope with!
So you end up seeking control in other areas to give yourself a sense of stability. Maybe those ways are not so healthy (like obsessively cleaning your house), and maybe those ways are healthy and productive (like making nutrition and exercise changes that support your fertility). Either way, grappling with the issue of not being in control of your fertility like you thought you were is an introduction to how much you really can’t control in general and learning some detachment.
The Workings of My Body
Faced with the mystery of what was wrong with my body, along with the frustration I felt when the first doctor I worked with made it clear early on that he had very limited knowledge, launched me into years of research. Over the past decade, I have learned so much not just about my cycle, the female reproductive system, and all its hormones, but also how they are impacted by the thyroid, stress, nutrition, and exercise. My knowledge has allowed me to advocate for myself in doctor's appointments, ask for tests and treatments, and even help other women walking the same path. And knowing how complex the human body is has given me an appreciation for my body, even when I’m ashamed of its brokenness.
Knowing how complex the human body is has given me an appreciation for my body, even when I’m ashamed of its brokenness.
The Importance of Rest
Learning how stress impacts health, hormones, and fertility made me realize the importance of rest. Now, I’m not good at rest. I’m a doer. I like to get things checked off my list and feel productive. But when you’re staring at test results that show your cortisol levels are very out of whack and knowing that you’re coming off five years of pushing through exhaustion for your teaching job, it’s hard to deny that you need to ease up a bit. It’s still hard for me to rest as it goes against the grain, but knowing that it helps heal my body makes it feel more reasonable to me. If I pop on a romcom and paint my nails in the evening, I’m supporting my hormones, not being unproductive.
Infertility causes a lot of unpleasant emotions: shame, sorrow, despair, anxiety, depression, overwhelm, fragility. Infertility also forced me to realize that I can’t carry all these heavy feelings on my own – I needed to share them with my husband. I needed to be able to say, “I’m really sad I got my period,” or “I can’t face going to this appointment alone. Will you please come with me?” Asking for help and showing my weak moments could never be described as fun, but it does make infertility more bearable when you’re not carrying the burden all by yourself.
It might sound weird that I gained a purpose from infertility, but it’s true. I did find a way to turn my suffering into something helpful for others, which also makes my suffering easier to bear. Over the past 11 years, I have met many women who have shared their struggles to conceive with me, and my experience enabled me to offer them empathy and advice. Recently, that purpose crystallized in an online infertility ministry and an in-person women’s support group at my church.
Some days, I can look back over the past almost 12 years and feel some gratitude for how I’ve grown because of my infertility. Other days, I’m just sad that I still haven’t been able to get pregnant. Infertility is full of ups and downs, and I hope that sharing some of my story can help turn someone else’s down day toward a more positive trajectory.
Support our cause and help women reclaim their femininity by subscribing today.