“Her voice interrupted the sound of traffic buzzing by on the street outside my office window. ‘We don’t know why it isn’t working,’ she said.
I looked down at my shirt. Navy blue stripes.
‘…but what we DO know is you cannot get pregnant.’
I close my eyes. Navy blue stripes….The rest is a fog I do not want to walk back into.
That was the last time I spoke to our fertility specialist. After years of trying to grow our family beyond just my husband and me — after tens of thousands of out-of-pocket dollars spent, hundreds of needle pricks, 100,000 miles on our vehicle, and countless tears— she called in the middle of my workday, a call I had taken too many times before, to tell me one last time that I was not pregnant. And even though she didn’t say it, I understood deep in my heart what she meant was, ‘and you never will be.’
I never heard from her or anyone on her staff again.
My husband and I met in 2004 and after 6 years of dating, we married on a perfect day in September. A day full of family and friends and so much love.
We knew we wanted biological children and immediately began trying. It wasn’t long before we realized we would need help and for years, each medical appointment was met with one challenge after another.
Surgery to correct a birth defect, then pills, ovulation test kits, self-injection of hormones, procedures, weekly lab draw appointments, waiting periods, and negative results were our life for 4 years straight.
We obtained second and third opinions. We told scarcely anyone. We lied to get out of events. We covered up constantly. We took gut punch after gut punch from people inquiring when the babies were coming and perfected ‘the look’ between one another and responses to escape the interrogations.
I was so close to breaking during those years, it really wasn’t a surprise when I finally did.
I was not alone.
I realize now I am not the only person in the history of an infertility diagnosis and years of treatment to never bring home a baby.
At the time, however, you could not have convinced me of anything other than our story being the saddest story you’d ever heard. At the time, in my heart, NO ONE had ever been as heartbroken as we were.
I know now I am not the only person who asked their partner to leave them under the weight of the guilt I felt. I know now I am not the only person who HATED their body for what it could not do. I see now we are not the only people who felt judged for their decision-making. Who felt shamed for ‘giving up’ or abandoned by their prayers and not worthy of the gift of a child… because that gift – according to society – is the only way we could possibly know REAL love.
I know now our decision to not build our family in other ways is no one’s business but ours and these decisions do not mean we didn’t want it badly enough.
I realize more and more each day while our hearts may still quietly ache for the children that never came, our lives are full. And happy. And purposeful.
Assisted reproductive science is incredible. A large number of people affected by infertility achieve pregnancy with the help of technology that improves each year.
Surrogacy and Adoption are beautiful family-building methods. But there is an amount of toxic positivity in the infertility community that demands you never give up hope. This is toxic because sometimes giving up is exactly what is needed to survive – a fact absolutely without question accurate in my story.
Not all family building options are created equal. None are exempt from possibility of failure.
It is important for stories that end without children to be shared and even highlighted. Those who’ve fought valiantly and will lose or have lost their fertility wars need stories of hope just as much as those who have or who will bring home children. Hope should be all-inclusive.
Life may not look exactly as we expected, but it is a good life. Nothing is wasted. The love I had tucked away for children that never came can be shared in other ways. This was a fact impossible to accept during the darkest days of our journey. But our family, friends, and my community… they all need loving on. And that’s what a mom does. I am a mother. Just a different kind.
Today, we live fully in a different direction. We live out goals and dreams we may not have had if the children had come. We have learned today’s life is not a consolation prize. It is whatever we choose to make it.
Part of my healing has come from giving back to what some of us call the ‘worst club with the best members.’ During our time trying to build a bigger family, I sought local infertility/family building support and it just didn’t exist in our local region.
The local support community I currently advocate for and work to build is inclusive of all seasons of infertility and family-building methods. We are peer-led, meeting monthly (in person and/or virtually), and we share laughter, occasional tears, resources, and tips. We know sitting across from one another has given life to our respective journeys and as someone who often sits with people still working to increase the number of people in their families, I know I am qualified – if only by being a small shred of hope if the number of people in your family doesn’t increase, life can still be good. That infertility – even if you fail miserably at it — is survivable.
The memory of that last phone call from my doctor and those navy blue stripes is never too far away. But today, rather than re-breaking my heart when it comes to mind, it serves as a marker in time for how far I’ve come. It reminds me even when I couldn’t see it, there was light in my story.
There is light in yours too.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kristen Solari from Modesto, CA. You can follow their journey on Instagram here and here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories about infertility here:
‘Why are you flying with such a young infant?’ He grinned, then walked away. My wife and I exchanged curious looks.’: Flight attendants pay it forward for adoptive couple after 9-year battle with infertility
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