Monday, October 4, 2010

The Fertility Factor

This may be my first "controversial" posting.  I've struggled with writing this post for awhile now, but feel that I need to give another perspective.  That's the whole point of my blog afterall -- writing to make you think. 

I have been blessed with two beautiful children and a third on the way.  Ever since I was very little, I knew I wanted to have children.  Some people know they want to be rich or famous, some people know they want to be doctors or lawyers or police officers.  My goals were never so lofty.  My desire was to be a mother.  I remember when I was younger, I figured by the time I was 25 (an old age in my mind), I'd be married with two kids.  Obviously, life didn't work out that way for me and I am VERY grateful for that.  Being an older mom has its challenges for sure, but I am so glad that I am the age that I am.  We're financially stable, I've lived a bit of life and learned a little bit of wisdom along the way, and I was ready for my life to change. 

Of course, by the time I was 31 and we were discussing conception, I had no idea if I even COULD conceive.  By that time, I had watched many of my friends successfully conceive, start families, even have more than one child.  I had also seen several friends struggle with conception.  Some struggled for a few months, some struggled for a few years, and a few had to use fertility treatments.  Some of these friends I was very close to and almost intimately involved in their fertility journey.  I listened as they shared their deepest feelings about their struggles, I watched as they injected themselves with drugs, I hugged them and waited with them as the trying turned into failure, and I cried with them as those failures turned into successes.  But most of all, I learned.  I learned what it meant to want something so much and not be able to have it.  I also learned that in a life where we think we can control everything, that sometimes the toughest lesson is realizing that we really have no control at all. 

I haven't had the easiest life.  There are so many details of my childhood that I'd rather forget.  Even if I wanted to share them all, it would take me a year of posts (or more!) to recount them all.  And even if I did try to explain my story, some of it is so unbelieveable it probably wouldn't sound real.  At this point, 6 years in, my huband only has a vague understanding.  He knows my mom (who validates me) and he's met my dad (the source of the problems), and there are times I think even he doesn't believe it all. 

The last five years in particular have been incredibly challenging.  I've suffered unimaginable loss and experienced enough sadness to last me a lifetime.  Definitely more than my fair share I'd say.  Of course, I've tempered that sadness with unimaginable joy -- marriage to my soulmate, birthing my children -- it all evens out in the wash I think.  Every experience teaches you a life lesson whether you want to learn it or not. 

It also teaches you empathy. 

I find the people I'm most drawn to in life are the people who've suffered.  Not that I seek those people out.  But when you are around people that "get it", you find that they get you.   Everyone wants to be around people who understand you, who care about you, who don't judge you.  It is my personal opinion (and experience) that someone doesn't need to have experienced the EXACT same things as me to "get" me.  They just need to be empathetic, and we all learn empathy in different ways. 

I have a few friends struggling with fertility issues right now, and it is painful to watch.  My one friend has been trying for 8 years and has finally started with fertility treatments.  I'm excited for her as she begins this next chapter.  There are a few others who are struggling and I'm praying for them as they make their way through their own journey, and waiting patiently to celebrate with them as those struggles become successes. 

So why is it that I feel guilty because I haven't experienced the EXACT same thing?  Why is it that some of these women have actually said to me "oh you can't understand what this is like for me"?  Because no one life is the same, no one's experiences are the same as another, and no fertility issue is the same as another.  So even if I DID experience issues with my fertility, chances are I wouldn't be able to "get" what someone else is going through anyway.  And why is it that a woman struggling with infertility thinks that a woman who doesn't struggle can't possibly understand?

Despite the fact that I have experienced miscarriage, I have not experienced 10 miscarriages, so I have no idea what that feels like.  I also have no trouble conceiving, so I have no idea what it feels like to be told that the only way I will ever have a baby is if I pay $10,000 to the IVF doctor for scientific treatment.  I haven't had to make the decision to dispose of my fertilized eggs that are being kept frozen, and I haven't had to rearrange my work schedule to ensure I could make it to the clinic every morning for blood work. 

But I HAVE experienced loss.  I would give back every positive pregnancy test if I could just see my sister one more time.  Not that I would trade my children away, don't misunderstand.  But I would take my sister being alive for a little bit of struggle with my fertility.  I would struggle with my fertility if it meant I could spare my mother the pain of losing her child AND her only sibling.  I would take a bit of struggle if it meant I didn't have to hold my new husband as he cried while saying goodbye to his father. 

So while you make me feel guilty for my fertility success, or tell me "I'm so lucky" because I don't know how it feels, or ignore me and throw away our friendship because you just can't bear to look at my pregnant belly or hear about my babies, think about this:  I've more than paid for my fertility success.  Maybe God decided I've suffered enough for one life so this ONE thing gets to be easy for me.  You know the saying "God only gives us what we can handle"?  Maybe he knew I couldn't handle yet one more struggle, one more setback.  Maybe He realized that I was maxed out and so this gets to be one thing I don't have to worry about.  And because of my life experiences, why don't you realize that I DO get it.  Probably more than the woman beside you in the fertility clinic gets it. 

This is why I've chosen birth education and support as my career path.  No matter how and when conception happens, it's a miracle each and every time.  Each life is precious, and I want to be there, to ride the highs and lows of conception, pregnancy and birth.  I want to witness and support the journey. 

This is really why I'm "lucky".  I'm lucky because I get to do what I want with my life.  And I definitely don't feel guilty for that. 


At October 5, 2010 at 12:24 PM , Blogger Sarah Smith said...

Wow, what a brave and powerful post! Thank you for your honesty, Shannon.

At October 11, 2010 at 9:08 AM , Blogger Sheila's Adventures said...

Thank you for this. It makes you stop and think.

At November 14, 2010 at 9:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Shannon...of course you made me cry! Mom

At May 23, 2011 at 9:20 PM , Anonymous Natural fertility said...

Your post could be an inspiration. Anyone who reads your blog would stop and think. You does give an impact to every ones life. In case you have fertility concerns, I found this site that maybe helpful.


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